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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Avert another tragedy. Take action against prison privatization.

-------------from the American Friends Service Committee-Tucson-------------


The bids for 5,000 new for-profit prison beds in AZ are on hold, thanks to YOUR action. But we need to make sure that action is taken immediately to prevent another private prison disaster.


The Arizona Silver Belt newspaper reported yesterday:

“The Arizona Department of Corrections has confirmed that any decisions over bids submitted by four companies to build private prisons here in our state have been delayed because of security issues raised about a privately operated prison in Kingman last month where the breakout of three violent convicts occurred on July 30.

Barrett Marson, Director of Communications for the state agency, told the Arizona Silver Belt, efforts to add an additional 5,000 private prison beds has been stalled because of concerns which have developed on how the medium-security private prison was being operated in Kingman. He said representatives of each of the four companies that submitted proposals to build and operate private prison complexes housing ADC inmates will be called in for more questioning about their proposals.” (“One bidder owns Kingman prison where breakout occurred; Globe prison and others on hold,” Arizona Silver Belt, 8/25/10)

Congratulations and thank you to everyone who contacted the Governor and Director Ryan! Your voices made a difference!

But we cannot let up the pressure until all our demands are met. Please contact the Governor again and make sure she and the state legislature take immediate action to protect us from this irresponsible industry.

What YOU can do….

Contact Governor Brewer:

  • Tell her that you are glad that the Department of Corrections has called an immediate halt to all bidding processes involving private prison operators
  • Ask that she go a step further and institute a moratorium on new private prison beds until the issue has been thoroughly studied and legislative action taken
  • Request that the Legislature immediately hold public hearings to address the problems with for-profit prisons in Arizona
  • Suggest that the Legislature also enact other cost-cutting measures that not only save money but enhance public safety, like earned release credits, amending truth in sentencing, and restoring judicial discretion

Governor Jan Brewer

602.542.4331 or 800.253.0883 ph,

602.542.1381 fax.

Make a comment online at:

**If you can blind copy or cc us, we will have a better idea how effective this initiative is. If you receive responses, even boiler-plate ones, please forward those to us, if possible.

Why Arizona should SAY NO to for-profit prisons:

1. For-profit prisons have histories of escapes, disturbances, prisoner abuses, financial mismanagement, and other scandals.

The Kingman escapes come on the heels of a riot at the same facility in June in which eight prisoners were injured. A prison run by Corrections Corporation of America in Eloy was recently on lockdown after prisoners from Hawaii rioted over an Xbox video game. When a staff member attempted to intervene, he was severely beaten, suffering a broken nose, broken cheekbones and damage to his eye sockets. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) found a significantly higher rate of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in private prisons (66% more) than in public prisons. Inmate-on-staff assaults were 49% higher in the for-profits.

For specific information on these major problems, please see the attached “Rap Sheets”or go to:

2. You get what you pay for.

For-profit prison corporations are primarily concerned about the bottom line and making money for their CEO’s and shareholders. The companies cut corners everywhere they can, but primarily on staff pay and training.

The result is a facility with high turnover rates, where the staff is inexperienced and the prisoners have nothing productive to do. Such a prison is unsafe for the inmates, the guards, and the surrounding community.

Finally, there’s no evidence that private prisons can do it cheaper. Maximus, an independent, reputable research firm, compared cost savings in Arizona's public and private prisons in 2006. It determined taxpayers were spending an estimated $1,526,289 MORE annually on two privately run prisons.

3. Less Transparency and Accountability.

For-profit prison companies are corporations doing the job of government without any of the checks and balances that keep government accountable to the people. In the case of the Kingman escapes, which occurred at 9:00 pm, MTC waited until 10:20 pm to notify The Mojave County’s Sheriff’s Office. Another 80 minutes elapsed before MTC notified state officials with the Arizona Department of Corrections. The media wasn’t alerted until mid-morning the next day, and thus the public was not informed about the dangerous escapees until that time.

There is an inherent threat to democracy when an institution with so much power over the lives of so many individuals is immune to any public accountability.

Caroline Isaacs

Program Director,

American Friends Service Committee

Arizona Area Program

103 N. Park Ave., Suite 111

Tucson, AZ 85719

520.623.9141 p/520.623.5901 f

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