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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Friday, March 19, 2010

CCA and Tennesseans for Improving Public Accountability

Report says Metro is lax on CCA

Report calls for revisiting jail contract

By Jaime Sarrio • THE TENNESSEAN • March 17, 2010

Metro Nashville officials don't properly penalize Corrections Corporation of America for apparent contract violations in running the city's jail, claims a new report released Tuesday by a Tennessee-based watchdog group

The report from Tennesseans for Improving Public Accountability says the Nashville-based company potentially violated its contract in the way it handled an inmate's suicide and an escape, among other incidents. Metro imposed no fines and withheld no payments as a result of these incidents, the report says, which calls on Metro to revise its contract to allow those measures and get tougher on CCA.

"When prisoners are treated in a less-than-humane manner, that reflects badly on not just the organization doing the immediate treatment, but also on the people that are paying them," said Toni Hall, volunteer director of the group. "If you hire someone to do a job for you and they do it badly, you want to have a contract that allows you to do something about that."

Metro's sheriff says many of the concerns raised in the report have been addressed. CCA hired a new warden, and staff from the health department are working inside the jail rather than reviewing situations from afar.

Metro government first contracted with CCA in January 1992 to run the 1,092-bed jail, which is mostly used for prisoners serving one- to six-year sentences.

This report is the latest in a series of hits against the private prison provider.

Last week, CCA was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union over claims an Idaho jail operated by the company is so violent, inmates call it "gladiator school." Last year, the company was sued by a Metro police officer shot by a man who escaped from a CCA facility and by a group of 23 female inmates who claim they were raped at a Kentucky prison.

Sheriff: Changes made

The report highlights several high-profile incidents at the Metro jail as examples of contract violations.

In the death of Terry Battle, an inmate who died from pneumonia, the report suggests that CCA violated its contract by not providing up-to-standard medical treatment to prevent the death.

In the case of William Williams, an inmate who hung himself in November, the report alleges the company did not offer the appropriate psychiatric care. Williams killed himself two hours after being treated for a slit on his wrist, which he said was from a fall.

Metro Sheriff Daron Hall said CCA and the city have made changes to improve the care of Metro's prisoners. The sheriff's department is also now reviewing all "use-of-force cases," he said.

"We need to look and see what's been going on last 12 months and what's working," he said of the report's recommendations to add additional outside staff. "I think we need to evaluate how the monitoring is going now — as far as I can tell, it's improved dramatically."

Inmate Ricky Escue, who is serving a six-year sentence for DUI, said he hasn't seen a big improvement in the conditions. His biggest complaint is the inconsistency from officer to officer.

"Every officer has different rules and guidelines," he said. "You never know whether you're breaking a rule or not."

A CCA spokesman e-mailed The Tennessean a response to the report, saying that Metro has always held the company to a high standard of performance and questioning the watchdog group's motives.

"The selective use of salacious excerpts from past news articles, unsubstantiated individual accounts, and other partial information on which to base its claims should cause readers to question the merits," CCA spokesman Steven Owen said.

Tennesseans for Improving Public Accountability's director said she would not reveal the authors of the report out of fear of retaliation. She said one is a Metro employee, one is a state employee, one has a relative working at CCA and one is a former CCA employee.

Longtime CCA critic Alex Friedmann, a former prisoner who now works with the Private Corrections Institute, a nonprofit that opposes for-profit prisons, confirmed that he provided some research and information for the report.

Jaime Sarrio at 615-726-5964 or

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