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:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

“Who’s Guarding the Private Prison Guardians?

This summary of the ASPC-Kingman escape and related concerns regarding MTC comes from the guys at the Private Corrections Working Group, whose list-serve keeps us posted on the private prison industry.


August 9, 2010

Who’s Guarding the Private Prison Guardians?

For Immediate Release

At about 9:00 p.m. on Friday, July 30, alarms began to go off at the Management and Training Center’s (MTC) Arizona State Prison at Golden Valley, near Kingman. Other alarms appeared to be defective and didn’t sound. Only when an evening count was taken was it apparent that three extremely violent inmates had escaped.

The Mojave County’s Sheriff’s Office was finally notified of the escape at 10:20 p.m. Another 80 minutes elapsed before MTC notified state officials with the Arizona Department of Corrections. The media wasn’t alerted until mid-morning on Saturday, and thus the public was not informed about the dangerous escapees until that time.

Casslyn Mae Welch, the first cousin and fiancée of prisoner John McCluskey, allegedly had been caught smuggling drugs into the MTC-operated prison. That night she threw bolt cutters over the fence to McCluskey and his partners in the escape, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick. Welch then distracted a perimeter guard to cover their getaway.

Province, a neo-Nazi, and another recent parolee had stabbed a robbery victim 51 times in 1991. Renwick ambushed and killed his ex-girlfriend and her father in 2000. McCluskey had attempted to kill a man and an arresting officer in 2009, but his shotgun jammed.

Around midnight on July 30, McCluskey, Welch and Province hijacked a semi-truck parked by the highway in Kingman, kidnapped the drivers and forced them to drive to Flagstaff, 150 miles away. They released them about 5:00 a.m. on Saturday and then fled, possibly aided by another accomplice.

On August 1, an alert sheriff’s deputy in Rifle, Colorado spotted Renwick driving a Ford Bronco. A quick-thinking police officer chased and disabled the SUV after shots were fired at his cruiser, capturing Renwick.

Three days later a pickup belonging to Gary and Linda Hass, a 61-year-old vacationing Tecumseh, Oklahoma couple, was abandoned in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Their cremated remains were found at a burned-out camper a hundred miles east in Santa Rosa on August 7. Forensics evidence has tied their deaths to the MTC escapees.

Police used On-Star to locate the missing pickup. From there, the police believe the killers headed north to Yellowstone National Park. Tracy Province was captured in Meeteetse, Wyoming on August 9 – eleven days after the escape. A massive manhunt for Welch and McCluskey continues, concentrated in Yellowstone.

Arizona Dept. of Corrections Director Charles Ryan laid the blame for the escape at MTC’s feet. “My concern is that the staff at this prison may have been lax in doing their job, and that probably created the opportunity so that they could escape,” he said.

On Memorial Day there had been a riot at the MTC-operated Golden Valley facility. News of that disturbance also was delayed, and the scope and severity of the incident were substantially minimized. Additionally, MTC’s Marana prison near Tucson rioted on February 10, 2010, resulting in injuries among both prisoners and staff.

Although it’s a small corporation, since 1995 over a dozen prisoners have escaped from MTC facilities in Utah, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and Eagle Mountain, California where two inmates were also murdered during a race riot.

There has been no explanation regarding MTC’s responsibility for uncorrected security failures and the amateurish lack of timely notification that may have prevented this most recent tragedy. It is yet another example in a long history of lapses and failures of oversight that is pervasive in the private prison industry, where the motive of companies to generate profit by cutting corners leads to incidents that endanger public safety.

Until for-profit private prison companies and the lawmakers who support them are held accountable, avoidable tragedies such as the recent MTC escape are certain to recur. Unfortunately, any reforms will come too late for Gary and Linda Haas.

The Private Corrections Working Group (PCWG) is a non-profit citizen watchdog organization that works to educate the public about the significant dangers and pitfalls associated with the privatization of correctional services. PCWG 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 more information, please contact:

Ken Kopczynski, Executive Director

Private Corrections Working Group

1114 Brandt Drive

Tallahassee, FL 32

(850) 980-0887

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