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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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

AZ Private Prison Watch: RFP Finalists.

The Arizona Department of Corrections has named their finalists in their quest to add more private prison beds to our massive inventory of human storage pods here. Any town who invites these snakes into their economic development plan deserves what they have coming to them - they'll end up with abusers and rapists wearing badges in their communities, and lose their collective souls like Eloy did when it was bought by CCA. It's just a shame that it's the kids who end up having to pay for the decline of their community once it becomes a prison town.

Globe lucked out here, by the way -
Congrats to the Town of Hospitality; no plans for a prison there in all this. Our condolences to those of you still in the running for a prison in your backyard, however. There will be public hearings in your community, though, so it's theoretically not too late to stop it.

Here are the rap sheets from Private Corrections Working Group on each of these prison profiteers:

Geo Group
Corrections Corporation of America
Emerald Correctional Management
LinkLaSalle Southwest Corrections (not much of a track record yet, I guess...)
Management & Training Corp

-----------------from the AZ Republic--------------

Arizona to expand private prisons
Bob Ortega
July 11, 2011
Arizona Republic

This month, and possibly as early as next week, the Arizona Department of Corrections is expected to recommend what company or companies should be awarded a contract to provide 5,000 new minimum- and medium-security prison beds.

That contract, put out to bid last January, is moving forward even though, after years of steady growth, Arizona's state-prison population has leveled off for the past year and a half - and even though all five bidders have checkered records of managing other private prisons.

Plans to add 5,000 new prison beds first surfaced last year as part of an unprecedented and massive bill legislators passed to privatize the entire state prison system. That ambitious privatization plan fizzled when no corporations showed any interest in a wholesale takeover. The proposal for 5,000 new private-prison beds survived, however.
Growth projected

At the time, based on growth rates, the Department of Corrections projected that Arizona would need another 8,500 prison beds by 2017. But since the end of 2009, when there were 40,585 inmates in the state prison system (including five private-contract prisons), the daily inmate count has fallen 1 percent to 40,181 at the end of June.

The Department of Corrections was the only major state agency to avoid a budget cut for the 2012 fiscal year, which began Friday. Its budget rose $10 million from last fiscal year, to $1.06 billion.

Some observers say that, given tight economic times, the state should reconsider paying to build more prisons.

"I don't think there's a need for it," said Rep. Cecil Ash, R-Mesa, who tried unsuccessfully last legislative session to promote sentencing reforms.

Ash noted that Texas, Missouri, South Carolina and other states have managed in recent years to reduce their prison populations and their crime rates at the same time.

He says Arizona should move in that direction instead of expanding private prisons.

A variety of federal and state studies have shown that Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Kansas, Michigan and other states have managed to reduce both their crime rates and their prison populations by increasing alternatives to prison for some drug and nonviolent offenders, and creating more flexible sentencing practices.

The plan for the new beds was part of Gov. Jan Brewer's executive budget in 2010. The Governor's Office did not return calls seeking comment on the need for the contract.
Over capacity

Corrections Director Charles Ryan said that even with prison population growth tailing off, essentially all the state prisons are over capacity.

"There are temporary beds that have been there 30 years," he said recently, at the state prison at Florence. The new beds would allow the state to eliminate many double bunks in cells or overcrowding in dorms that weren't built for the number of prisoners they now hold, he said.

Ryan also said he doesn't expect the number of inmates to stay level indefinitely.

The department didn't offer any theories as to why the inmate population has stayed level of late.

In any event, Ryan noted, the state's request for proposals would phase in the beds, with 2,000 to be filled by April 2013, and the remaining 3,000 to be completed by April 2015. The request notes that everything is subject to the legislative appropriations process.

All five companies that bid on the project have experienced escapes and other issues at other prisons they operate. All of the companies are supposed to disclose, in their bids, any escapes, homicides, assaults on staff or inmates, riots or other disturbances, and various other issues at any prisons they operate. That history, however, accounts for less than five percent of the point total in the criteria used to evaluate the bids.
The bidders

Those companies are:

- Geo Group Inc., of Boca Raton, Fla. A publicly-traded company, Geo operates about 80,000 prison beds at 116 federal, state and local prisons and treatment facilities in the U.S. and three other countries. It reported $62.8 million in net income on $1.27 billion in revenues for its most recent fiscal year ending Jan. 2. It operates three prisons under contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections: the Central Arizona Correctional Facility (medium security) in Florence, and the minimum-security Phoenix West and Florence West prisons.

Geo has had at least 27 escapes in the past seven years, according to press accounts, including one three years ago that led to a murder in a convenience store in Houston. In 2007, Texas canceled an $8 million contract with Geo and closed the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, citing filthy conditions. The company is currently fighting a suit by the American Civil Liberties Union alleging the use of excessive force, and unconstitutional and barbaric conditions at its Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Walnut Grove, Miss. Meanwhile, the FBI and a federal grand jury are investigating alleged illegalities in the appropriations and the construction of Geo's $120 million Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Florida. The company did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment.

- Management & Training Corp., of Centerville, Utah. A privately-held company, MTC operates 20 prisons in seven states, with a capacity of 26,000 prisoners. It does not publicly release financial data. It began in 1981 operating federal Job Corps centers. MTC operates two prisons under contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections, a medium/minimum security facility in Kingman and a minimum-security facility at Marana.

MTC currently faces lawsuits over the deaths of an Oklahoma couple killed after three inmates escaped from its Kingman prison last year. The company has also had escapes from prisons it operates in Texas and Utah. In two separate instances, it has been ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor to repay a total of more than $650,000 in back wages to officers from whom it withheld overtime pay in Texas and four other states. MTC spokeswoman Issa Arnita noted that the Utah escapees were inmates working outside the prison. And she said MTC added razor wire - not then required by Texas at minimum-security facilities - after the Texas escapes. She said that after the Department of Labor determination, MTC voluntarily audited all its facilities and compensated any employees who were due back wages.

- Correctional Corp. of America, of Nashville, Tenn. CCA is the largest private-prison company in the U.S., housing about 80,000 federal and state prisoners in 66 facilities across 19 states and the District of Columbia. A publicly-traded company, CCA reported net income of $157 million on $1.67 billion in revenues for 2010. It has no contracts with the Arizona Department of Corrections, but houses federal inmates and inmates from Hawaii, California and Washington at six prisons in Eloy and Florence.

CCA has had at least 21 escapes at various facilities over the past decade, including several that have led to assaults and other crimes. CCA also faces several lawsuits over its Idaho Correctional Center, dubbed the "Gladiator School" for allegations that guards and supervisors there regularly allowed violent inmates to assault and beat other inmates during 2009 and 2010. In January 2010, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear ordered hundreds of female prisoners removed from CCA's Otter Creek Correctional Complex after a series of charges that guards regularly sexually assaulted female inmates there. CCA did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment.

- Emerald Correctional Management, of Lafayette, La. A privately-held company, Emerald operates about 3,800 beds at six federal, state and local prisons. It has no contracts with the Arizona Department of Corrections, but operates the San Luis Regional Detention Center south of Yuma in partnership with the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It has had at least five escapes in the past decade.

Last year, the Houston Chronicle, reporting on the death of a Cuban immigrant, investigated the company's Rolling Plains Regional Jail and Detention Center in Texas. It noted that the company had no doctors to care for more than 500 immigration detainees at the facility, using only poorly supervised vocational nurses. Emerald did not respond to calls for comment.

- LaSalle Southwest Corrections, of Ruston, La. A privately-held company, LaSalle operates about 7,700 beds at 12 prisons in Texas and Louisiana. It has no contracts with the Arizona Department of Corrections. It has had eight escapes in the past six years, including three of minimum-security prisoners who walked away while on work crews outside the prisons.

Billy McConnell, a managing director of LaSalle, said that the company has never had an injury to a citizen or staff member as a result of an escape. "Anytime something like that happens we review our policies and procedure to make sure we know what went wrong, and we try to eliminate the possibility of that happening again," he said.

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