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, July 11, 2010

Don't be fooled by CCA:The truth about private prison accreditation.

Below is an excerpt from the CCA press release about their recent American Correctional Association facility accreditations (don't mistake it for "News"). An analysis of that announcement by the private prison experts, Private Corrections Working Group, follows:


Nashville, TN (Vocus/PRWEB ) July 9, 2010 -- Five correctional facilities operated by CCA have been successfully recommended for re-accreditation by the industry-respected American Correctional Association (ACA), maintaining the company’s average accreditation score of 99.3 percent, which is consistent with last year’s average.

“For seven consecutive years, our average ACA score has exceeded 99 percent,” said Don Murray, CCA managing director, Quality Assurance. “We are fully committed to maintaining excellent operations as the best full-service adult corrections system in the nation.”

Accreditation by the ACA is a “stamp of approval” from the leading national and international authority on correctional standards. Accredited facilities must meet 100 percent of more than 60 mandatory standards and comply with 90 percent of approximately 480 non-mandatory standards. These standards assess administrative and fiscal controls, staff training and development, physical plant, safety and emergency procedures, sanitation, food service, and rules and discipline....

(go here if you really want to read more of that. Otherwise, move to the response below)


(This was also issued as a press release, in direct response to CCA's, on the same PR website they posted their news. I know these guys - they know what they're talking about)

CCA Pays Over $22,000 to American Correctional Association to Claim “Stamp of Approval” at Five Private Prisons

July 9, 2010

On July 9, private prison firm Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) announced that five of the company’s prisons had been recommended for re-accreditation by the American Correctional Association (ACA), which CCA described as a “stamp of approval.” CCA did not mention that it had paid over $22,000 for those five accreditations, that CCA employees serve as ACA auditors, that CCA is a major sponsor of ACA events, or that ACA-accredited CCA facilities have experienced major security problems.

Nashville, TN (PRWEB) July 9, 2010 -- On July 9, private prison firm Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) announced that five of the company’s prisons had been recommended for re-accreditation by the American Correctional Association (ACA), which CCA described as a “stamp of approval.”

The ACA, a private non-governmental organization composed of current and former corrections employees, offers voluntary accreditation of detention facilities based on the ACA’s self-created standards. There is no oversight or regulation of the organization beyond its own staff.

It is disingenuous for CCA to describe ACA accreditation as a ‘stamp of approval’ when the ACA, a private organization that sets its own standards, accepts payments and donations from CCA.

The ACA’s president-elect, Davidson County, Tennessee Sheriff Daron Hall, is a former CCA program director, and at least two CCA employees serve as ACA auditors – CCA warden Todd Thomas and company vice president Dennis Bradby.

The ACA provides accreditation services to correctional agencies, both public and private, for a fee. As stated by the ACA, facilities that seek accreditation must “pay an accreditation fee.” The organization relies heavily on such fees. For example, in 2008 the ACA reported receiving more than $3.83 million in accreditation fees – over 40% of the organization’s total revenue for that year. Facilities that fail accreditation can re-apply, and the ACA provides waivers for failure to meet certain accreditation standards.

According to a letter posted on the ACA’s website, effective as of January 1, 2009, the cost of accreditation is “$3,000 per day, plus $1,500 for each auditor on the audit team regardless of the size or type of facility.” Thus, at a minimum, CCA paid $22,500 to the ACA in order to obtain re-accreditation at five of the company’s prisons as announced in CCA’s July 9 press release. Last year, CCA paid at least $63,000 to have 13 of its facilities accredited.

ACA accreditation is based largely on documentation provided by the correctional agency being examined, and whether it has certain policies in place – not necessarily whether it follows those policies in practice. Thus, some ACA-accredited CCA facilities have experienced significant problems despite being accredited. For example, earlier this year two prisoners were murdered at CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, which is ACA accredited; CCA’s ACA-accredited Idaho Correctional Center is presently the subject of an ACLU class-action lawsuit that describes systemic violence condoned by CCA staff; and both Hawaii and Kentucky prison officials removed their female prisoners from the CCA-operated Otter Creek Correctional Center in Kentucky, which is also ACA accredited, following a sex abuse scandal in which six CCA employees were charged with sexually abusing or raping prisoners.

One former CCA employee, Donna Como, who served as an accreditation manager, candidly admitted that she helped falsify documents for an ACA audit. “I was the person who doctored the ACA accreditation reports for this company," she stated in December 2008, referring to her employment at the CCA-operated Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Facility.

In addition to the tens of thousands of dollars that CCA pays to the ACA for accreditation, CCA is also a major sponsor of the ACA’s biannual conferences. In August 2009, CCA sponsored the main banquet at the ACA’s 139th Congress of Corrections held in Nashville, Tennessee – where CCA is headquartered – and has been a major financial supporter of other ACA events. +

“CCA proclaims ACA accreditation of the company’s private, for-profit facilities as a badge of honor and an indication of the quality of CCA’s services,” said Alex Friedmann, president of the Private Corrections Institute and a former CCA prisoner. “Yet CCA basically buys accreditations by paying tens of thousands of dollars in fees, CCA employees serve as ACA auditors, and CCA is a major financial sponsor of the ACA’s conferences. It is disingenuous for CCA to describe ACA accreditation as a ‘stamp of approval’ when the ACA, a private organization that sets its own standards, accepts payments and donations from CCA. That is simply a stamp of CCA getting what it has paid for.”

+ The Private Corrections Institute had a paid booth at the ACA convention in August 2009, where PCI members distributed literature opposing prison privatization.


The Private Corrections Institute (PCI),, is a non-profit citizen watchdog group that educates the public about the significant dangers and pitfalls associated with the privatization of correctional services. PCI maintains an online collection of news reports and other resources related to the private prison industry, and holds the position that for-profit prisons have no place in a free and democratic society.

For further information, please contact:

Ken Kopczynski, Executive Director

Private Corrections Institute

1114 Brandt Drive

Tallahassee, FL 32308

(850) 980-0887

Alex Friedmann, President

Private Corrections Institute

5331 Mt. View Road #130

Antioch, TN 37013

(615) 495-6568