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:

Monday, January 11, 2010

CCA: More Sexual Abuse of Prisoners.

So, small town Arizona - are you sure this is who you want to have as your grandchild's employer - or you niece's incarcerator? Want the CCA warden to be your mayor? You can someday be known like Otter Creek will be - as that town where all those women were raped in prison. 

If we as individuals aided and abetted in multiple sexual assaults and/or covering them up, we would - and should - be prosecuted. But as a corporate entity, while Corrections Corporation of America has the rights of a human (more than prisoners, I would say), it seems to have to take no responsibility for its actions whatsoever - maybe a little hit in the cash box once in awhile.

The summation that the main source of all the sexual abuse is that there weren’t enough female officers at Otter Creek presumes that their male officers can’t and shouldn’t be trusted to conduct themselves professionally without a constant check on their behavior in place, preventing the opportunity for sexual abuse to even arise – which there should be, both for theirs and the prisoners' protection. But what’s the point of having male officers if they can’t be trusted unsupervised and are really sexual predators in the making? There's more going on than that. What about prisons or law enforcement attracts or produces brutal, exploitative people like them? 

The “solution” to the problems at Otter Creek  strikes me as ludicrous - rape isn't just about sex, it's about power, control, violence. There's no reason to believe that swapping genders of prisoners at Otter Creek will prevent further abuse of prisoners; I fully expect the men to be abused there as well, just in different ways. The problem is in the contempt they have for prisoners and the whole culture of incarceration. It's also embedded in the primary purpose of the corporation: to confine and control the greatest number of prisoners at the least possible cost for the greatest possible profit to shareholders (they give a cut to the host town, too, of course, to make sure they keep everyone’s hands equally bloody). That’s it. That’s what they do. That makes anyone who enters their facility in the wrong color jump suit a source of revenue, not a human being. 

Isn't having this charming monster move into your community more of a threat to public welfare and safety than the "prisoner families" that so often get trashed in local rags and private prison resistance movements? CCA can corrupt everyone, even those who resist...they will, if you let them. I'd argue that in engaging the resistance primarily around issues of economics and public safety (the town's, not the prisoners'), they've already corrupted the debate by avoiding the human rights implications of profiting from the oppression and exploitation of mass numbers of people. Punishment is problematic enough as it is when just the state does the job. 

This stuff with Otter Creek is glossed over in this article (though that's our Ken from PCWG giving them hell). There's no excuse for allowing CCA to continue to operate anything there. If you’re living in a town they have their sights set on for a prison, beware. The devil talks up a sweet deal and makes it go down easy with cold hard cash and visions of a thriving town and stable middle class – but you can bet that given who’s selling, it’s still going to land you in hell if you buy it.


January 8, 2010
By Stephenie Steitzer

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Steve Beshear announced Friday that the state will move more than 400 women prisoners out of the privately run Otter Creek Correctional Center, amid allegations of sexual misconduct by male workers there.

The women prisoners will be transferred to the state-run Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Fredonia this summer — and the nearly 700 male inmates there will be moved to Otter Creek in Eastern Kentucky, which has 656 beds, and other prisons in the state, he said.

At least six workers at Otter Creek have been criminally charged with sex-related crimes involving inmates at the facility, run by Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America.

Kentucky State Police spokesman Mike Goble said Friday that state police expect to present another case to a Floyd County grand jury next month.

“There is no place for this kind of behavior in our system,” Beshear said Friday.

He said the move would save taxpayers “millions of dollars” a year because the state would pay CCA less per day for males than females.

But Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown acknowledged the private company that operates Otter Creek could end up making more money off the deal, because the state would likely house more male prisoners at Otter Creek than it had female prisoners.

Ken Kopczynski, executive director of the Private Corrections Institute, a Florida-based anti-privatization group, said he believes the deal rewards Otter Creek for failing to protect female inmates from alleged sexual abuse.

He said the state should've sanctioned Corrections Corp. of America for not being able to meet the terms of the contract struck last fall, which included minimum staffing levels and female worker ratios.

The state's contract with CCA allows the state to fine the company up to $5,000 a day, but it has never imposed any staffing-level sanctions.

“It's an abdication of the state's responsibility first off to hold the vendors to the contract and then to reward them for bad performance,” Kopczynski said.

Corrections Corp. of America has been under fire since last summer after multiple inmates at Otter Creek made allegations that they were sexual assaulted by corrections officers and other workers there.

A Department of Corrections investigation found that authorities at the prison failed to investigate seven alleged incidents of sexual contact between workers and inmates since 2007.

In four of those cases, the workers involved were fired. But investigations, required under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, were not conducted.

The state of Hawaii moved its nearly 200 women prisoners out of Otter Creek, in part because of the incidents. Kentucky officials, however, extended its contract with CCA for one year last fall.

Brown said officials are in the process of renegotiating its contract under the new arrangement. He said he hopes to have the contract in place by July 1, the start of next fiscal year.

Beshear attributed some of the problems at Otter Creek to the lack of female corrections officers and said that because the state pays more than CCA, it would have an easier time recruiting female corrections officers to work at the Western Kentucky prison.

However Corrections Commissioner LaDonna Thompson said she doesn't expect to hire additional officers and would instead transfer female workers from nearby prisons if necessary.

“We think this change will pay off in better management for inmates,” Beshear said.

When the state extended the Otter Creek contract with CCA in the fall, it said it was requiring CCA to raise its ratio of female workers.

Brown did not answer when asked whether CCA was having difficulty meeting the new requirement.

“All I can say is we presented CCA what our intent was and asked them to partner with us,” he said. “They are very much on board in that effort, I can tell you that.”

CCA issued a statement Friday applauding the new arrangement.

“CCA welcomes the opportunity to continue meeting Kentucky's correctional needs at Otter Creek,” said Steve Conry, a vice president of operations.

The new arrangement could benefit CCA because the state likely will fill all 653 beds — including the 180 have been vacant since Hawaii pulled its inmates last year.

But Brown and Beshear said taxpayers will still come out ahead by as much as $2.2 million annually after the first year, even if CCA's contract grows.

“They may come out with more, but nothing they come out with is going to be to the detriment of the commonwealth,” Brown said. “The governor has already indicated that right now we are going to be operating … at less funds than we had before. I certainly don't have any more money to give away.”

Justice Cabinet spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin added later that the state also would save money by pulling female inmates out of local jails, where the state pays counties a per diem, and housing them at the Western Kentucky center.

The state will have to pay to modify the plumbing there to accommodate women prisoners; officials didn't have a cost estimate Friday.

Reporter Stephenie Steitzer can be reached at (502) 875-5136.

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