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:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

There may be hope for Globe yet.

This is the best news I've had today. Note how this group isn't just looking at economics - they're seriously questioning the ethics and effect on the character of the community if they host a private prison in Globe. You folks are going to do alright by those kids in your town whether or not you win this fight, because at least they will come to value that your reasons for resistance have to do with much more than finding any old means of subsistence. By your example they will learn that it isn't moral - nor is it a blessing from God - to profit off of the perpetual victimization that divesting from treatment and investing in incarceration assures. Rock on, brothers and sisters of Globe. Rock on. You too, Holly Sow - well done.

Citizens become active against prison proposal

Posted: Wednesday, Aug 4th, 2010

BY: Holly Sow/Staff Writer

GLOBE — A group of local citizens have formed to voice their opposition to the proposed 1,000-bed for-profit private prison in Globe city limits near the Gila County Fair Grounds. The group rejects the private prison as an economic development project for the area declaring that “promoting Globe as a ‘Prison Town’ is not in the best interest of the community.”

The group argues against the idea of private prisons based on a number of findings regarding the effects for-profit prisons have on local economies as well as a universal questioning of the ethical motivations of incarcerating people for profit.

From an economic standpoint, for-profit prisons are not comparable to state-run prisons in that private prisons are businesses, which are accountable to shareholders. Although Emerald Corrections, the private prison operating company that has put in the bid to ADOC for a 1,000-bed prison in Globe, has promised competitive, well above minimum wage compensation for its employees, statistics show that most private prisons pay lower wages or at minimum wage in order to cut operating costs and increase profit. One study showed that in order to reduce costs and increase profits, those who are in direct contact with the prisoners (the bulk of the jobs that would be open to the local working force should the prison be built) are the ones who earned the lowest wages.

Moreover, the group finds the profit motive of private prisons at odds with the rehabilitation function desired from such correctional institutions. Many argue that for profit motives may lead to reduced efforts to correct behaviors, treat substance abuse, and offer skills necessary to reintegrate incarcerated persons into the community. For-profit private prisons make money off of prisoners. It is not in their best interest, therefore, to try to reduce the number of prisoners, but rather they welcome the steady flow of incarcerated people in the equation prisoners equal profit. This raises the question of whether private prisons have an incentive to assist people in their efforts not to return to prison.

Another question raised is whether or not private prisons are in fact as profitable as they like to appear. A 2001 Report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy revealed that for-profit private prisons, especially larger ones with 500+ beds, are often the recipients of economic development subsidies provided by local, state, and federal governments. Combine the government funded subsidies with the relatively low wages and the limited ripple effect of the private prison business, what often appears like an excellent economic development opportunity to a community may not always live up to the promised expectations.

Furthermore, statistics show that many large private prisons tend to be financed through government-issued securities (lease bonds) which do not require voter approval. The issue of lack of oversight is another critique point of private prisons. Because private prisons are accountable to their shareholders, not the public, quality assurance in business practices often lacks transparency. Private prisons are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act.

The local group opposed to becoming a ‘prison town’ is asking citizens of Globe to look deeper into the for-profit prison business and consider the negative effects such large prison would have on further economic development of the city of Globe. They are asking the Globe City Council to pass a new resolution that “unequivocally opposed an Prison Project in or near the City of Globe.”

For more information or to become involved in the group, contact Jim or Kelly Moss at 928-425-9282.

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