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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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Raising questions about Corplan/Emerald: It's About Time.

Revisiting Globe’s prison proposal: Companies behind project have a questionable past

Modified: Wednesday, Jun 9th, 2010

BY: Holly Sow/Staff Writer
GLOBE — At two consecutive city council meetings in April, the Globe council members heard from a group of men representing three corporations: Emerald Correctional Management, Corplan and Cuny Corporation. These men addressed the council regarding their desire to put in a bid with the Arizona Department of Corrections to construct a private, 1,000-bed prison in the City of Globe. The men presented estimates of economic growth that sounded almost too good to be true. According to Mike Moore of Emerald Corrections, “the city could get a monthly revenue check per inmate per month but it would depend on the monthly per diem that the state pays. It does pay and it’s a sizable number.” The group of business men went on to say the entire project would be $60 to $100 million in construction, and the goal would be to hire local workforce for 70 percent of the construction. They also promised to help the city with expansion of the sewer infrastructure.

The city council took two hours to reach a decision, but in the end, a 4-2 vote in favor of supporting Emerald Corrections’ bid to build the prison was approved.

A deal too good to be true? Well, there might be more than meets the eye.
Case Study: Hardin, Mon.

In 2004, Mr. James Parkey of Corplan - the same James Parkey who spoke to the Globe city council - proposed the construction of a private prison in Hardin, Mon., a small rural city suffering from economic stalemate.

A team of experts spoke to the city officials, selling them hope of economic prosperity through the private prison business.

The 450-bed prison was supposed to generate 150 secure jobs and at least $100,000 in annual per-prisoner revenue. The companies involved, Corplan as the developer, Cuny Corporation as the civil engineer of the project, and Civigenics as the prison operators, promised to realize the project from start to finish. To pay for the prison, the city of Hardin would have to conduct a bond sale.

Prior to the construction, Parkey promised the city officials an economic feasibility study, which was carried out by Howard Geisler, a consultant specializing in prisons, and who had worked together with Parkey in a number of other cities. The study presented facts and figures that a Montana state auditor later described as providing “little methodology” and lacking “historical data to support anticipated prisoner counts.” The auditor went on the say the report made “a number of assumptions made related to financial viability that appear to be unfounded.”

The prison was built, and the three companies involved received their payments and Hardin prepared itself for its first prisoners. In this case, however, they built it, but no one came. Hardin became so desperate to get prisoners in their prison, that they requested taking sex-offenders and later even Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Since the prison had been built for less high profile inmates, with 24-bed cells, Hardin’s requests were turned down. Hardin’s detention center never received the expected prisoners and the city has been in bond default for the last two years. A post on the detention center’s website reads, “any person or parties interested in operating or leasing space in the Hardin Detention Facility should contact...”

“Do a lot of research”

The pain is still throbbing in Hardin, Mon. After contacting the executive director of economic development and the mayor, the only comment given was “do a lot of research.” Hardin, Mon. is one of the most prominent cases, where Corplan and its partners have left a city with an empty prison. Corplan’s website lists a number of sample prisons that they have built that are surviving. However, it does not list Hardin. Neither are a number of other cases, where things ‘went wrong,’ including facilities in LaSalle County, Texas, Pioche, Nev., Lindsay, Okla., McLennan County, Texas, Las Cruses, N.M., and St. Luis, Ariz. In Willacy County, three county commissioners who were working very closely together with Corplan were indicted on bribery charges.

Parkey’s and Corplan’s actions have caught attention in the media. Dan Rather reported on a few cases, especially the prison in LaSalle, Texas.

Frank Smith, of the non-profit organization Private Corrections Working Group, has been following Parkey and Corplan over the years. Smith warned that the economic feasibility report must be read very closely and to expect that there may be exaggerations or left out aspects. The economic feasibility study “sells” the project more than examines it in some cases. When asked why nothing has been done legally against Corplan, Smith named a number of small factors that may be reasons why is some cases nothing was done.

In Globe’s case, Corplan, Emerald Corrections, and Cuny Corporation have asked for support for a bid in response to a request for proposals put out by the Arizona DOC. In Hardin, the three partner corporations told the city that the prison operator, Civigenics, would provide the service of having prisoners housed in the facility. This could be a major difference in the success or failure of the proposed Globe project. The Arizona DOC will be awarding the contracts for the prisons by June 30, 2010.