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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Monday, February 7, 2011

Hawaiian prisoners coming home.

It's about time. This should put Thad's letter below into perspective.


State Retrieves Inmates From Private Prisons
Courthouse News
February 1, 2011

HONOLULU (CN) - Hawaii's new governor, Neil Abercrombie, kept his promise last week by bringing 243 inmates back to Hawaii from Arizona prisons run by the Corrections Corporation of America. Abercrombie acted after more than a dozen inmates filed lawsuits claiming they were subjected to brutal treatment inside CCA prisons.

Hawaii, which has been strapped for prison space, has relied on two CCA prisons in Arizona to house its inmates: roughly 1,800 Hawaiian inmates at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy and about 50 at Red Rock Correctional Center.

But the Hawaii Department of Public Safety had to investigate CCA and intervene after a string of incidents brought inmate lawsuits alleging assault and battery, criminal indifference, cruel and unusual punishment, retaliation and negligence. One complaint claimed that even the warden joined in.

In December, 18 inmates at the Eloy prison claimed to have been "beaten and assaulted, including by having their heads banged on tables while they were stripped to their underwear and while their hands were handcuffed behind their backs," by a group of prison guards and "the warden himself."

According to that complaint, guards "deliberately destroyed and failed to preserve evidence of their wrongdoing, including videotapes," and "deliberately falsified reports," including threats of harm to inmates' families and death threats to inmates if they told anyone of the beatings. (Here is Courthouse News' Dec. 15 report on that lawsuit.)

Then in January, a Hawaiian inmate at Saguaro sued CCA, claiming a guard forced him to give the guard a blow job in his cell.

Both lawsuits were filed against CCA. The 18 inmates also sued Hawaii, seeking a protective injunction; they claimed that Hawaii's Public Safety monitor, on site at Saguaro, allowed the prisoner abuse incident to go unchecked.

Gov. Abercrombie brought the inmates back on Jan. 19-20, placing most of them at three Oahu facilities and 26 on Maui and the Big Island, according to Hawaiian news reports.
Public Safety Chairman Will Espero said: "If we're going to spend $60 million a year to house inmates, I'd rather spend it here in Hawaii."

Other states are using lockdowns - confining prisoners to their cells for a day - to save money by sending staff home during the lockdowns.

States use private prisons to try to reduce prison costs, particularly on salaries and benefits, as it relieves the states of pension obligations.

"If any state prison system needs relief, it's California's," Reuters reporter Jim Christie wrote last week. "The matter of its notorious overcrowding has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which could back a lower court's order to reduce the states' roughly 147,000 adult inmate population to 115,500 - still a tight squeeze in prisons designed for 84,000."

California is housing 10,300 inmates in CCA prisons, Reuters reported, and may increase that numbers to 12,850 this year. But California's prison guards union has immense political power, and surely will fight any efforts to reduce hours or benefits for prison guards.

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