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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Friday, July 1, 2011

WELLS FARGO: Invest in Humanity/Dump the Prison Stock!

Today was a national day of action to pressure Wells Fargo to Divest from GEO Group...
this was my contribution at their AZ HQ in downtown Phoenix. I also handed out fliers. It took less than an hour to pull off; and anyone can do something like this. The Homeland Security people would probably call me a "lone wolf". That's much better than being a sheep, as far as I'm concerned.

the bus stop cleaner guy was really cool.
He was extra-careful not to disturb my work.

This is also where Sheriff Joe's office is...
they probably thought he was my target.

this deputy just walked on by like I had good reason to be there.
See why I get confused about the seriousness of my crimes?

National Prison Industry Divestment Campaign

Enlace is working in partnership with organizations across the US on the Prison Industry Divestment Campaign that is targeting major shareholders of the private prisons corporations The GEO Group, Inc. and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) because of their roles in lobbying for anti-immigrant legislation like SB1070.

Anti-immigrant legislation is sweeping the country. Harsh Arizona-style laws are being introduced in more than 20 states.

The private prison industry, including Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the Geo Group (Geo), is the force behind lobbying efforts that increase penalties and incarcerations by the federal government and by states such as Arizona and Georgia. Their current business plans push for harsher immigrant incarceration policies.

Such policies drive up prison populations and put added strains on state and federal budgets. Increasing prison costs cause cuts in funding for education and health care.

A report prepared on March 7, 2011 by the US Department of Homeland Security reveals that 39% of immigrants detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency between October 2010 and February 2011 were categorized as “non-criminal.” Another 22% were charged with infractions deemed less serious than traffic violations. These detentions of harmless people are set to cost taxpayers over $10 billion a year while profiting Manhattan-based hedge fund managers and other finance industry moguls.

The United States has the highest population of prisoners in the world. 2.3 million people are behind bars in the US. Our federal prisons are at 136% capacity. State and local prisons and jails are at 92% capacity. In fact, the United States has only 5% of the world’s population and 23.6% of the world’s prisoners.

The number of crimes committed annually in the US decreased by over 4% over the past 10 years while the number of prisoners has grown more than 19%. During the same period the private prison industry’s share of the prisoner population increased 24%.

A number of court cases have confirmed that children have been abused, women have been raped, and men have died from lack of basic medical attention in facilities run by GEO and CCA.

Both CCA and GEO rely on financing and other assistance from major investors to employ the powerful lobbying efforts in Congress and Federal agencies, as well as lobbying in state capitols across the country. These major investors include Wells Fargo, General Electric, and others.The respected studies on the subject show that privatized prisons do not save taxpayers any money.

What can we do?

First, we must convince shareholders in these two private prison corporations to dump their stock. The major investors in the private prison industry include Wells Fargo Bank, General Electric, Fidelity, and Scopia Management .

Second, many of us are customers of Wells Fargo or General Electric. As customers, we should demand that these two companies stop investing in CCA and GEO.

Third, a great deal of taxpayer money is invested in major shareholders of CCA and GEO stock, such as Wellington Management, BlackRock, Fidelity Management, Lazard Asset Management, Capital Research Global Investors, Vanguard, and Wells Fargo. We can insist that our city councils, county boards of supervisors, school districts, and state governments demand that these finance corporations divest their CCA and GEO holdings or move our tax dollars to investment companies that do not own stock in CCA or GEO.

Fourth, we can tell our pension and retirement funds that we want them to divest completely from CCA and GEO.

Fifth, we can demand that our local, state and federal government stop contracting with CCA, GEO, or other private prison companies and not build more prisons.

Sixth, contact Enlace to learn how you can participate in the campaign.

Sign up to receive Email Alerts about the Campaign

Contact us at 213-284-3802 or

Visit for more information.


Below is an email I received about GEO Group today from my friend, Frank Smith, an expert on the private prison industry. His site is a great resource : Private Corrections Working Group

"Because of today's noontime rallies
across the country, opposing Wells Fargo's major investment in GEO Group, I thought it might be helpful to get a better idea of how taxpayer money is being spent, thanks to millions in campaign contributions and millions more in lobbying.

I ran these executive compensation numbers in the attached document last night, drawn from SEC filings.

When GEO Group-operated Indiana state prison in New Castle had a riot on April 24, 2007, I found the prison was seriously understaffed and undertrained, with guards making $8 an hour with marginal benefits.

To give you an idea of why prisons that pay so poorly don't save the taxpayers any money, it took
substantial state and local law enforcement, correctional and emergency services to deal with the assaults, injuries and fires at the prison. Such intervention is commonplace, around the nation. Often, perhaps usually, the high-turnover, for-profit guards flee at the first sign of trouble.

GEO had a contract with the state of Arizona, but Dora Schriro, head of the Arizona corrections department, had received such disturbing information about the staffing problems that she had halted new exports of inmates to New Castle weeks before the riot.

A much more salient reason that the for-profits don't save money is because of the astronomical sums received by the industry's top executives. I'm attaching a chart showing compensation for GEO's top two last year.

In Kansas, in 2006, GEO Group, desperate to get the state law banning new for-profit prisons repealed, lobbied to pass a "bundled" bill, combining repeal with passage of Jessica's Law. The state's Sentencing Commission determined that the law would necessitate 1,000 additional beds by 2012, and GEO contended that it could provide them with repeal. Then-Senator Derek Schmidt, now Attorney General, called the bundled bill, "a complete package."

In Michigan, GEO expanded their spec prison in hopes of importing immigrant detainees. According to Reuters New Agency on March 10, 2010,

"Prison operator Geo Group Inc (GEO.N) said it is "disappointed" by the Federal Bureau of Prisons' decision to cancel a solicitation for a facility to house illegal aliens convicted of crimes, sending its shares down as much as 8 percent. Geo blamed a funding shortfall for the BOP withdrawing its proposal, which the company expected would fill its Baldwin, Michigan correctional facility. A 1,225-bed expansion of the existing 530-bed facility is scheduled to be completed in 2010."

Desperate to fill its long-empty prison, GEO attempted to get a contract to import California violent offenders such as murderers and rapists to Baldwin. The corporation and the industry contributed to Arnold Schwartzenegger's election and he repaid the support by appointing GEO insider Donna Arduin as his Finance Director. GEO gave him $48,000 a few days after his election to pay down his own loans to his own campaign.

GEO is not the only corporation that seeks to increase inmate population. Last November 11th, in a community meeting in Bangor, Pennsylvania, Wayne Calabrese said that GEO had left the American Legislative Exchange Council because they felt it was inappropriate to belong to an organization dedicated to increasing the prison population in the U.S. GEO's major competitor, the Corrections Corporation of America, has employed chairs of ALEC's criminal justice committee that wrote ever more draconian "model" legislation to be introduced around the nation by its very conservative legislative membership. CCA also was a sponsor of Ballot Proposition Six in California which would have created new "gang" crime laws and substantially increased sentences for vaguely defined gang-related offenses. Such legislation provides a powerful incentive for the innocent to plead guilty in exchange for dropping the prospects of decades-long prison terms. CCA is a major sponsor of ALEC, as is Koch Industries, which has long been in the forefront of prison privatization initiatives.

For GEO and CCA, more prisoners and detainees means more market, and more market share.

Frank Smith
Private prison researcher
Bluff City, KS

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