Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.

Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.

Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.

I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.

In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.

I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.

I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281.

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Early Release: Call ADC, Governor, Legislators.

(Update December 27, 2010,

or refresh at the top of the page if you're still landing here -

there's still no early release of state prisoners this year.)


Just a reminder that there will be another special session to finish dealing with the budget this month - so if you're concerned about early release opportunities for family or loved ones, start contacting your legislators and the governor's office this week or weekend. Emphasize how much your family needs them home, or how much progress they've made in their recovery in prison, etc. - make a human connection, though.

Another good letter-writing strategy is to send a copy of an open letter to Governor Brewer regarding early release to the media. If you are part of a group, like the Unitarians in Surprise - or even if a few of you want to write something collectively and identify yourself as being affiliated (members?) with Arizona Prison Watch - sometimes having an organizational connection helps.

You might also want to put a bug in their ear at the AZ Department of Corrections that you're asking for early release - send all those questions to Betty Cassiano at the Constituent Services Office (602-364-3945). Or, cc all your correspondence to your legislators/governor to the ADC each time you send something, so they know what folks are hitting lawmakers with.

For those of you in Representative Cecil Ash's district (18): he's a good man who has already expressed his support for criminal justice reforms and working with family and other constituent groups on issues of concern to us in the next regular session.

This is what they're doing in Wisconsin; looks like they have some useful ideas for us to try to adapt:


Madison Capitol Times: Democrats want to reduce state’s prison population

By STEVEN ELBOW | The Capital Times | | Posted: Thursday, December 3, 2009 6:10 am |

Democrats seeking to reduce Wisconsin's prison population are reintroducing a batch of bills vetoed by Gov. Jim Doyle this summer. This is a picture of an inmate at a prison in Arizona, which is considering turning over its prisons to private companies. MATT YORK | Associated Press

This summer, Gov. Jim Doyle made a controversial decision to roll back truth-in-sentencing legislation and let up to 3,000 nonviolent inmates out of prison early to save the state the $29,000 or so it cost to house each of them every year. Fellow Democrats in the Legislature hoped that Doyle would also sign into law measures they introduced to further chip away at the state’s burgeoning prison population, but Doyle vetoed many of them.

Now Democrats are re-introducing those measures. It’s unlikely that they will pass as written, but legislators hope they will provide a starting point to keep the debate going, possibly through several legislative sessions. Doyle, after all, has decided not to run for re-election and will only be in office for another year.

“Obviously because these specific proposals were vetoed, we’re going to have to work with everyone to fashion policies that we can move through the Legislature and have enacted,” says Rep. Joe Parisi, D-Madison, chairman of the Assembly corrections committee.

The measures, introduced in both the Senate and the Assembly, are intended to keep inmates from landing back in prison after they have served their prison sentences but while they remain on extended supervision, which has become a key contributor to the prison population explosion. One provision would cap at 90 days the amount of time an offender would spend in prison for rule violations that don’t constitute a new crime.

According to a study by the Justice Center of the Council on State Governments, a nonpartisan Kentucky-based association, the average stay for such violations in 2007 was 18 months, costing the state $99 million that year.

The Justice Center, which has successfully helped other states, including Kansas and Texas, reduce prison populations, made several other recommendations that Democrats included in the 2009-11 budget. But Doyle vetoed those, saying Department of Corrections officials need a free hand to determine who should get out of prison.

The proposals would have limited the time offenders spend on extended supervision to 75 percent of the time they spend behind bars, required the Department of Corrections to reduce recidivism by 25 percent by 2011 and expanded community-based mental health and job placement services.

While Doyle allowed $10 million for community-based services, Democratic lawmakers wanted $20 million more — $8 million to bolster mental health services for severely mentally ill offenders on parole or extended supervision, and $12 million for transitional employment programs — as another means to keep offenders who have been released from re-offending.

We have to break the cycle of people being released into the community and being unsuccessful and landing back in our prison,” Parisi says. “That’s the main driver of our prison population right now.”

Truth-in-sentencing legislation in 1999 abolished parole and replaced it with extended supervision, making it mandatory for inmates to serve out their entire sentences. Since then, the prison population has grown by 14 percent to about 22,500 and is projected to climb another 25 percent by 2019 if nothing is done to stop it. The further increase is expected to cost the state $2.5 billion in construction and operating costs.

Some Republicans howled at Doyle’s decision to let nonviolent offenders out of prison before reaching the end of their jail terms, but one key lawmaker says such measures were inevitable.

“At the time truth-in-sentencing was passed, and I voted for it, most knowledgeable people felt that there would be some follow-up legislation to prevent that bill from becoming too expensive,” says state Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, the ranking Republican on the Senate corrections committee.

He says he doesn’t go along with law-and-order Republicans who oppose letting anyone out of prison before their sentences are served. And he says Doyle’s move will allow the Department of Corrections to hold the line on the prison population, but do little to reduce it.

“Something should be done,” Grothman says.

But he doesn’t support proposals that would cost more money. For instance, he says, while inmates with jobs are less likely to re-offend, the $20 million for community-based services is unnecessary. The Department of Corrections, he says, already has enough employees to provide those services now.

“I’m sure Doyle did the right thing in vetoing them,” he says of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative proposals. “Obviously we’re broke.”

The Justice Reinvestment Initiative proposals aren’t the only pending legislation that deal with inmates.
Another Assembly bill would allow felons who have been released from prison to vote while they remain on extended supervision. Currently offenders are barred from voting until they have served out their entire sentence.

Parisi says the measure would save money by eliminating the felon lists that poll workers have to use to verify voter eligibility and also reduce lines on Election Day by making the polling process less complicated.
In addition, he says, studies have shown that former inmates who are allowed to vote tend to be less likely to re-offend.

And there’s also a racial justice component, Parisi says. Wisconsin has one of the nation’s worst track records in disproportionately locking up blacks, who make up nearly half of Wisconsin’s prison population while constituting just 6 percent of the state’s population.

“Since the criminal justice system targets blacks, it also disproportionately disenfranchises them,” Parisi says.
The measure has support among many Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature. All 18 co-sponsors in the Assembly are Democrats as well as four co-sponsors in the Senate. The bill passed the corrections committee on a party-line vote, clearing it for further debate in the full Assembly, but it is unlikely to garner wide bipartisan support.

Rep. Karl Van Roy, R-Green Bay, the ranking Republican on the Assembly corrections committee, was not available for comment. But he told constituents in a statement posted on his website that giving released felons the right to vote would allow them “to forget the reason why they lost their right to vote in the first place.”

“When you choose to commit a serious crime against society and you are found guilty by a court of law, you must forfeit certain rights for a prescribed amount of time in order to repay your debt to society,” he wrote.
Another bill introduced in the Assembly would dent county budgets. It would require that inmate phone charges in county jails not exceed rates charged by the state Department of Corrections.

The bill would come at a time when Dane County has already reduced phone charges for inmates. In 2007, the County Board voted to stop the county from profiting on inmate phone calls, which cost inmates $4.25 for a connection fee plus up to 50 cents a minute. This year, the charges are expected to bring in just over $800,000 for the county, but next year, when the new contract with the jail’s phone service provider, Inmate Calling Solutions, goes into effect, those rates will drop to 33 cents a minute for a local call and the connection fee will be eliminated. That would earn the county about $476,000, the 2010 county budget projects, which officials say is just enough to cover costs.

Under the state bill, the county would have to further reduce its rates to 12 cents a minute for in-state calls and 18 cents a minute for out-of-state calls with no connection fee — the rates currently charged by the Department of Corrections.

If passed, the law would have no impact until the county’s new contract with Inmate Calling Solutions expires in 2012.

At a time when the county is already trying to pinch pennies, the bill, which has had a public hearing but not a committee vote, would put a further burden on county taxpayers, according to Capt. Jeff Teuscher, Dane County jail administrator.

“Someone would have to absorb those costs,” he says. “In all likelihood, if that bill would pass, then that will be Dane County taxpayers.”


A series of bills introduced in both the Senate and the Assembly deal with getting inmates out of prison or keeping them from returning after being released. Provisions would cap at 90 days the amount of time an offender would spend in prison for rule violations that don't constitute a new crime; limit the time offenders spend on extended supervision to 75 percent of the time they spend behind bars; and require the Department of Corrections to reduce recidivism by 25 percent by 2011. Another measure would add $20 million to the budget for community-based mental health and job-training services.

The proposals have virtually no change of passing as written. They were included in the state budget last summer and Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the limits on prison time, and reduced $30 million Democrats wanted for community-based services to $10 million. But Democrats say re-introducing the bills provides a starting point for compromise measures.

Assembly Bill 353 would allow felons who have been released from prison, but remain on extended supervision, to vote. Currently, offenders are prohibited from voting until they have served their entire sentences.

The measure has Democratic support and passed the Assembly corrections committee on a party-line vote.

Assembly Bill 144 would prohibit county jails from charging inmates more than the state Department of Corrections does for phone calls. The legislation would likely affect revenues at nearly every jail in the state. The office of state Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, the author of the bill, reports that every jail that responded to a survey of phone rates charges more than the new state rates of 12 cents a minute for local calls and 18 cents a minute for out-of-state calls, with no connection fee.

The bill has received a public hearing, and Kessler has added an amendment that would allow current jail phone contracts to expire before the requirement kicks in. But the corrections committee has not voted on the proposal.

Assembly Bill 448 would require those held in a prison, jail or a juvenile facility to pay a portion of medical or dental care, through deductibles, coinsurance, copayments or other charges.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Mark Radcliffe, D-Black River Falls, and has three Democratic and three Republican co-sponsors in the Assembly, plus one Democrat and two Republicans in the Senate. The bill is opposed by Rep. Joe Parisi, D-Madison, the Assembly corrections committee chairman, who is unlikely to allow a hearing on it.

Assembly Bill 345 would prevent the state Department of Corrections from entering into any agreement to house detainees from the Guantanamo Bay naval base. Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, who introduced the bill, says it would make Wisconsin a "Terrorist Free Zone."

The proposal has Republican support, but Parisi says the legislation is unnecessary since there has been no talk of housing inmates from Guantanamo Bay in Wisconsin's prisons.

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