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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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Heads up Wickenburg: CCA strongarming in NV.

Sorry to be so slow on the draw these past few days - should have posted this sooner. It comes via Ken at Private Corrections Institute. Looks like they tried to do their part on this one. I trust the guy with no profit motive at stake in these kinds of deals. That would be Frank. Drop into their website and get on their mailing list if you're interested in all the current news in private prisons. I'd be posting ten things a day if I put up all the sutff they cover on CCA around the world.

Anyway, this is a warning to the folks holding out for a better future than a prison offers their kids and grandkids in Wickenburg: if the projection of an eventual 26,000 prisoners in the area is accurate, then CCA has a lot riding on this deal. They already know who can't be bought, and they're going to come after you with every piece of weaponry they have to get what they want out of your town, beginning with their charm as they dig through your backgrounds and slowly undermine your public credibility. Commit to this now or get out, I'd say. Be prepared to back each other up. Make sure your neighbors know that your freedom to resist this industry's designs on you down the road is what you will be fighting for. They have designs on us all because we criminalize our poor and privatize our public services in Arizona, and we appear to be willing to go to great expense to do so. Our dominant politicians and lawmen are racists and corrupt, prosecuting their political opponents - be they judges, journalists, or street protesters - to the fullest (usually losing at county expense - look out Gandarilla, I bet you're next.). 

Once again, I'd ask who's going to fill all those immigrant detention beds when we've deported or naturalized our surplus labor? These folks have an investment in perpetuating crime and punishment.

I'd probably try to contact this woman if I was facing down CCA in Wickenburg. She knows the price of resistance. I suspect this woman knows that complicity would have cost her and her community a great deal more...Here's the website she seems to be associated with: the Pahrump Life. There's on-going litigation, tohugh, so thye may not be able to talk. You should assume that any contact you have with them anyway - even visiting the site - will be monitored by CCA's legal mercenaries and Nye County authorities. 

This is an industry that specializes in and profits from controlling and hurting people (especially, in the case of immigrants, people who haven't really done much to harm others). Take them seriously, but don't let them take you over. Plenty of communities have fought them off before, and Frank and Ken are still kicking. 

Power to the People of Wickenburg. And to the CCSC.


Pahrump Valley Times, NV

Dec. 09, 2009

The litany of lawsuits filed by the Concerned Citizens for a Safe Community and Chairman Donna Cox could come with a hefty price tag.

Corrections Corporation of America and Nye County have both filed claims against CCSC for court costs totaling over $7,500 in the wake of the unsuccessful federal suit brought against them in an attempt to block the federal detention center project.

U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson dismissed the case Sept. 30. A suit by CCSC against the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee is still proceeding in U.S. District Court. There is also a newly-filed case in state court against Nye County over alleged Open Meetings Act violations (see related story above).

CCA submitted a bill for $4,446.66 that included $3,996 for printed transcripts by the court reporter.

Nye County submitted a bill of $3,098.65 for court reporters for transcripts.

Much of the transcript costs involved depositions by Donna Cox, chairman of Concerned Citizens. The county bill also includes a 226-page deposition of Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo, for $650.15.

The CCSC attorney, Nancy Lord, filed a motion asking the court to review the request for court costs as inappropriate.

"The objection here is to the taxation of these costs to these plaintiffs, who everyone involves known [sic] are without funds, have paid their attorney by passing the hat at meetings," the motion reads.

The motion adds: "CCA is a multi-million dollar corporation who could afford to pay nearly $7 million for land before its deal was final and Nye County is a county government. The $7,000 in costs will mean little to either of them, but it [sic] the taxing of costs will devastate plaintiff Cox."

The motion claims the recovery of costs is an attempt to frighten CCSC into giving up its case against the federal detention trustee.

"Donna Cox has neither income nor assets and both defendants are well aware of this," the motion said. "She stated that the organization keeps its money in a paper bag at the home of Ms. Stern and that it is never more than $100. Counsel is paid her very discounted fees by passing the hat at some of the meetings," Lord's motion said.

There is no mention of recovering legal fees. The motion claims that while the CCA attorney was paid by the hour and Nye County legal counsel was on a salary, Lord was working nearly pro bono, or for free.

Lord makes mention of a 9th Circuit Court case that district courts should consider the financial resources of the plaintiffs in awarding fees to a prevailing defendant.

"In this case the costs are more than this plaintiff could ever hope to pay and will only result in an uncollectible judgment on her credit report. In contrast, the awards of a few thousand dollars will mean nothing to the wealth of CCA and Nye County except a mean-spirited victory," the CCSC motion said.

In a letter to CCA attorneys, Lord said Cox lives on her husband's disability which can't be the subject of a lien. Lord claims CCSC members Christina Stern and Jeff Wiest weren't listed as plaintiffs during a scheduling conference and shouldn't be subject to paying court costs. She also attempts to resolve Judith Holmgren from paying court costs.

CCSC doesn't object to the fact the defendants spent those costs. But the motion claims, "The costs incurred in this case were the direct result of defendant CCA's deliberate efforts to increase the amount of time spent on collateral matters, lengthy objections during plaintiff's deposition of Sheriff DeMeo and the like."

The motion criticizes CCA attorney Paul Shpirt for running up the clock on the court reporters time during the depositions. Costs for depositions should be split between both parties, Lord's motion said, adding both Nye County and CCA could have shared copies of depositions.

CCSC held a good faith belief there was desert tortoise habitat on the proposed site, the motion said, the basis for the federal case, which alleged violations of the National Environmental Policy Act.

The suit wasn't frivolous, CCSC claims. If Nye County allowed the plaintiffs the chance to redress their grievances against the detention center by public objection, there would be no need for litigation. Lord refers to CCSC as "a rag tag citizens' rights group."

The motion also makes reference to the request for a change of venue in the case against the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee by CCSC, which claims the Nevada federal bench had a great need for the federal detention center in Pahrump, which would no longer require attorneys to travel as far as Safford, Ariz., to meet with their clients.

In their opposition, CCA attorneys said the time for the concerned citizens group to file objections court costs lapsed Oct. 23.

The response by CCA said the concerned citizens group cited the court's inefficiency as the reason costs had to be incurred as well as attacks against the defendant's litigation strategies. But an objection to the costs must be grounded on clerical or calculation error, CCA said.

"Nowhere in plaintiff's motion is there an argument that the costs are inaccurate or miscalculated," CCA said.

Nye County's opposing motion makes the same point.

Accusations the entire Nevada federal bench is biased, based on a declaration by Frank Smith of the Private Corrections Institute, an anti-prison privatization group, are baseless and have no factual support, CCA claims.

"Plaintiffs' argument appears to be that because this court did not rule on plaintiff's numerous frivolous motions to correct a multitude of mistakes made in their pleadings and complaints in an expedited fashion, it contributed to the costs of the litigation," the CCA response said.

At the same time, CCA points out a contradiction by the Concerned Citizens who go on to claim the depositions and discovery will aid them in their subsequent case.

Neither Cox nor CCSC filed for pauper status with the court, CCA said. "In fact, in her deposition, Donna Cox testified she owned a new truck and a large motor home."

The company requests the court disregard the claims by CCSC until a debtor's examination is scheduled by the court, at which time assets owned or controlled by the plaintiffs can be identified to satisfy the judgment. Lord threatened to seek sanctions against the CCA attorney if there is a debtor's exam.

Nye County claims Lord intended to mislead the federal court by being intentionally ambiguous about whose interests she represented. She asserted in a hearing on discovery that CCSC had no members, the county said.

"Nonetheless," the county said, "several persons have put themselves out in the public as members of this association and parties to this litigation on their own weekly television show."

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