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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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

To be - or Not to Be - a Prison Town: Wickenburg

Upcoming Events

December 10: International Human Rights Day.
December 15: Begin 5th Special legislative Session.

December 17: International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (Tucson Memorial).
December 18: Sex Workers Outreach Project Protest at the AZ DOC in Phoenix.


The remark near the end about how most communities that house prisons don't even know one is there - that's the reason such horrendous abuse goes on in prisons and other state institutions - they're just set out in the country and ignored by the few people who stand to benefit from their presence: the townspeople, many of whom can't honestly claim ignorance once they start working there. 

Those jobs take a toll for a reason - it's not all because the prisoners are so bad. It's the nature of what one has to do - lording the threat of violence over others all day to keep them in a horrible place away from their loved ones. Those are human beings they're talking about storing in their backyard as if it was a toxic waste site...That could be my family member - or even me. I sure hope that if Wickenburg takes on this prison, they do a better job than most towns do. At least they better not plan to pretend it isn't there. That's how people die.

This is where the insidious nature of being a prison town really begins to manifest - when people are deciding what reasons they have for and against it. If they aren't against it already on ethical grounds, they'll be suckered by the pitch they get once CCA comes to town: they have a pretty package all ready to sell. Only solid values and deep roots can withstand the promise of their hard cash in a recession...
Wickenburg Sun
December 9, 2009

By Janet DelTufo, Assistant Editor

At least 40 individuals from the Forepaugh area attended a Town Council meeting earlier this week to express their concerns regarding a proposed prison project in their neighborhood.

Three people were chosen by the group to speak to the council about its opposition during the call to the public portion of the meeting, including Elbert Bicknell, Jane Nash and Frank Smith of Private Corrections Institute, an out-of-state organization that works against the private prison industry.

Bicknell spoke about his concerns regarding overall prison safety, rate of pay private prison guards receive, lack of background checks on private prison employees, drugs coming through town and abuse and violence at the prison.

Nash told the council that she has lived in the Wickenburg area for the past 30 years and through most of those years she has promoted tourism in Wickenburg.

“One point I would like to make is that I think tourism would be adversely affected by a prison in our community,” Nash said. “Every city with a prison becomes known as a prison town.”

Nash also said she wanted to address the problem with resources in the area, such as water and fire protection.

“We implore you to listen to us,” Nash said “This is not a complete representation here this evening, and there are many more people concerned about these problems, and we hope at some point to have a hearing with you folks and the CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) people.”

Smith, who referred to himself as the “outside agitator” from Kansas, said he has been studying private prisons for years and that he comes to communities who ask for his help.

“Rather than being an asset to communities, these prisons end up a serious economic drain,” Smith said. “This prison will hurt the community of Forepaugh and adjoining communities. It won’t hurt Wickenburg so much, but it won’t do much for Wickenburg either.”

Then speaking in favor of the prison project was Alan Abare and Rome Glover of the Wickenburg Economic Development Partnership.

“I work in Wickenburg and live in Congress, and the economic partnership believes it is important to note that it is appropriate for people to have concerns,” Abare said. “Anytime there is a new large employer, especially a prison, there is a concern. We are concerned too, and we don’t want to bring anything into the community that will hurt it.”

Abare said most communities that house prisons don’t even know the prisons are there, and that CCA would be starting its prison guards at $15-$16 an hour.

Mayor Kelly Blunt was not in attendance at the meeting, but Vice Mayor John Cook told the contingent that it would get an opportunity to have a meeting with the council at the Community Center at a later date.

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