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

The price of private prisons: Idaho's lesson.

EDITORIAL: Why did Idaho let things get so bad at ICC?

Posted on: Thu, 18 Mar 2010 14:35:05 EDT

Mar 18, 2010 (The Times-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --

Idaho has two prison systems. One, run by the Idaho Department of Correction, is the tightest ship in state government -- an organization that understands how to maximize taxpayers' dollars and still keep the public safe.

The other, run by the for-profit, Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, is a trainwreck.

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union sued state prison officials and CCA over conditions at the state's only private prison, the Idaho Correctional Center in Kuna. Violence is so rampant that the ICC is known among inmates as "gladiator school," according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boise.

That's probably the worst-kept secret in Idaho. ICC has seethed for years with out-of-control inmates, rampant gang activity and inadequate supervision.

Stephen Pevar, senior attorney for the ACLU, said he has sued at least 100 jails and prisons, but none came close to the level of violence at ICC.

Guards use violence to control prisoner behavior, forcing inmates to "snitch" on other inmates under the threat of moving them to the most violent sections of the prison, ACLU-Idaho executive director Monica Hopkins said. The group contends the prison then denies injured inmates medical care to save money and hide the extent of injuries.

An Associated Press investigation of the ICC last year found essentially the same conditions described in the ACLU lawsuit. Clearly, IDOC -- strapped for resources because of successive rounds of budget cuts by the Legislature and holdbacks by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter -- hasn't done much about them.

ICC houses about 2,000 prisoners. The ACLU contends it is understaffed, with sometimes only two guards on duty to control prison wings with more than 350 inmates.

CCA is a company with a troubled legal history. It has faced numerous lawsuits from employees and inmates at the Idaho prison and elsewhere.

In 1999, the company settled for $1.6 million in a class-action lawsuit brought by inmates at a private prison in Youngstown, Ohio, who said they'd been subjected to excessive force from guards. The company also has paid out millions of dollars to settle dozens of individual lawsuits brought by inmates, family members of prisoners and employees.

And at Kuna, CCA just isn't getting the job done.

It's time for IDOC; its director, Brent Reinke; the Idaho Board of Correction; Otter, and the chairmen of the state House and Senate Judiciary committees to realize that fundamental changes must be made at ICC -- and that the conditions described in the ACLU lawsuit merit reconsideration of whether the state's business relationship with CCA should continue.

If they don't, a federal judge may make those decisions for them. The ACLU often prevails when it sues corrections systems and providers over jail conditions, and even when it doesn't it forces changes that are frequently expensive for the taxpayers.

Conditions at ICC should never have deteriorated to this point. But now that they have, it's the state's responsibility to fix them.

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