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, February 14, 2010

Arizona Republican Tax Shift Shuffle

(From Friday, Feb 12 - just moved this up so it greets everyone Monday morning, instead of the nonsense from Pearce. It may bounce around a few more times. Anyway, I expect to see you all at the legislature. Don't let them vote in those tax cuts for the rich without lodging your protests...) 

The real story here is not just the sales tax hike everyone is talking about (which disproportionately hits the poor, working and middle classes) - it's the tax cuts for business and the rich that are to follow. 

I think the media obscures the stark reality - here's the vision our GOP state leadership has for us:

They want to make higher education less affordable for more middle and working class Arizona families at a time when we need it the most; 

Instead of reducing all the social, economic, and human costs of crime and punishment, they plan on filling at least 5,000 more prison beds in the state in the next couple of years (which towns are competing with each other to host, in order to have such wonderful jobs without college degrees); 

They're going to slash vital resources to people (again) living on the edge (inevitably pushing some into $22,000+/year room and board - at our grandkids' expense - at the AZ Department of Corrections); and 

They'll keep screwing the teachers over (for resisting them to begin with) - making those "difficult choices" to save the state from this "budget crisis" (caused by the greed of the wealthy few - like them - not by the poverty or crimes of the many. Remember?). 

In the process, with a sleight of hand, they'll shift the tax burden even further off of those profiting from our labor or incarceration - encouraging more of their kind to move here on our dime, requiring more of us to supply them with low-wage labor for their service sector. The only belts the Governor and Legislature have been tightening are the ones around our necks. Their own are stuffed with money - and guns. Let's just ask them to "walk all over us, please".

Is Arizona really going to go for this? Are the cops and firemen still on board with all that? You guys are union - aren't you? Doesn't that mean anything here? Most people in this state have surrendered, it seems. You're catching on to what's really happening, aren't you?

I know they didn't get to every last one of you.

You should at least wonder what's in store for your kids here, if this is really still the direction we're going. I frankly think the folks following Pearce's wagon train are going to run off a cliff before November - first they have to shake good old Sheriff Joe loose, though. That still gives them a lot of time to do some damage, so I think we need to intensify resistance now, rather than later. This budget deal they made is going to get signed into law this week - next Monday at the latest. 

I think this strategy the Republicans are employing across the country - with their budget "crises" and hysteria about health care reform driving us all into ruin -  is shock and awe, or disaster capitalism - something like that. Someone's coined the term to describe it already. They're trying to ram as much garbage down our throats at once while we're still stunned from the last round of cuts and anti-working class legislation. They dragged us off to war, raided all the cupboards and hoarded all the goods, then blamed Medicaid recipients and people who wanted All-day K for being the cause of revenue shortfalls (see how that sounds compared to framing it as a "budget deficit"? Defining the problem and prescribing a solution is pretty tied up in the language we use, which the media plays a big part of manipulating, and we so seldom cue into). 

Now they're trying to take their tax cuts out of our elderly and disabled (though we oddly submit to paying for them to live and die in prison); they're all like bullies on the playground. With guns. The AEA shouldn't be deluded into thinking that they've already been hit hard enough - they're going to make sure you're finished off by the end of this legislative session, which you will be if you don't get back on your feet and resist this tax burden shift - this is all landing right on you and your kids.

Good for Senator Davis. Not a single Democrat should support this tax shift. Not a single one - I'm sure they understand what it's all about - a few have tried to articulate it. But enough will vote for it to make up for the libertarian resisters, because they've already made their deals, selling out one set of constituents for another - trying to do the most for the common good. And they'll answer us by wringing their hands about being powerless against the Right all the while. 

We'll always be outgunned and too poor, but it doesn't mean we should give up the fight. Progress may take generations to see, but depends on our persistence and commitment. This IS The Revolution. It's happening here and now, and is on-going, as the global struggle for justice and liberation have always been. 

As for our resources these days - all this blogging is pretty much free - free for me to do, and for the public to use. That's the awesome thing about all these new Prison Watches going up around the country (sorry, I haven't kept up my links, but will update them soon with new states). Me and my friends aren't an organization or registered charity, and don't have to deal with donations or anything; we count up our change every couple of months, basically. The biggest expenses I have with my three blogs are the P.O. box, postage to prisoners, and an occasional ink cartridge and paper. I'd be on-line and printing stuff anyway, so it's hardly anything out of my pocket - I could probably do this with ten or fifteen dollars a  month. 

And it's not all on me - when I get sick I can take time off. Anyone else can help author and edit the sites themselves - from anywhere in the world, really - as long as they can access a computer and the internet. It takes time and research - and being on good list-serves - but we don't have to sit around and wait for someone else (someone with "authority") to tell us they're fixing the problem, after who-knows-how-many-more people have died...

This is the easiest program to learn. Just remember if you take it on, once it's out there, it's almost impossible to shake loose from being Googled with something you said or wrote; you don't want to cringe when you come across it again. I do sometimes. It's also evidence that will undoubtedly be used against you, if you really cause a fuss, so be sure that what you write is something you're willing to answer for. Freedom of Speech only goes as far as they let it. It may cost you a lot.

Anyway, from what I've seen, it's about to get worse before it gets better for prisoners and outlaws, so if you're out there thinking that you have some state prisons of your own to watch - or maybe you want to see what's happening with elderly prisoners, or those across the country seeking compassionate release or hospice care - drop any of us prison watchers (here or at the Prison Reform Community Center) a line. I'm still buried in both email and snail mail right now, but be patient - I'm working my way through. I'll be back up to speed in a couple of weeks.


Ariz. Senate Backs Vote On Sales Tax Hike
POSTED: 5:18 pm MST February 2, 2010
(Excerpt from AP Story)

..."The public are not getting the message that we are going to (both) raise their taxes and cut services," said Sen. Debbie McCune Davis, a Phoenix Democrat who voted against the referral.

The legislation's fate is in question in the House, where majority Republicans and minority Democrats can't even agree on what process to use for their budget work.House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said many GOP representatives are reluctant to vote for the sales-tax referral before the Senate votes on a House-passed tax and jobs bill. It would provide immediate business tax breaks for creating new jobs and future general tax cuts. Meanwhile, many House Democrats say the sales-tax referral wouldn't do enough to protect services and that its passage may only serve to provide money for Republican-pushed tax cuts.

According to Secretary of State Ken Bennett, the Legislature has until Feb. 16 to authorize the proposed May 19 special election.Because lawmakers have been debating Brewer's sales tax proposal for nearly a year, the current budget already includes $8 million to pay for holding the election. Legislators first considered a sales-tax referral last summer, falling just short of sending the issue first raised by Brewer last March to a fall special election ballot. Minority Democrats balked at that version because it would have been accompanied by long-term tax cuts sought by majority Republicans. Democrats later balked at a subsequent Republican push to also ask voters to relax voter-approved spending mandates...."

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