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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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Yuma Sun: MTC/GEO Private Prison Public Hearings

-------------------from the Yuma Sun-----------

Yuma Sun
August 19, 2011

Scandal involving two private prison companies seeking a contract to build and operate a new complex near San Luis followed them to Yuma County.

The two companies, GEO Group and Management and Training Corp. (MTC), are competing for Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC) monies provided by the Arizona Legislature to build up to 5,000 new private prison beds.

DOC is considering five sites in Eloy, Coolidge, San Luis, Winslow and Goodyear as possible prison locations, and was in Yuma this week to hear public comment.

If awarded a contract, GEO proposes building a new prison with 2,000 or 3,000 beds in San Luis, while MTC proposes a 3,000-bed prison.

Meeting attendee Vivian Haas warned Yuma County residents against allowing MTC to build the prison. Her son, Gary Haas, and his wife, Linda, were allegedly murdered in August 2010 in New Mexico by two escaped prisoners being housed at an MTC prison in Kingman, Ariz.: Tracy Province and John McCluskey.

“I've been through a lot of painful times in 81 years, even surviving the terrible tornado that hit Joplin recently, but nothing compares to the pain of having my son and his wife, Gary and Linda Haas, brutally murdered because MTC couldn't do its job of keeping criminals locked up.”

According the Zachar Law Firm in Phoenix, the prisoners were able to escape due to extensive and egregious security errors, allowing them to completely avoid detection by prison security.

“I want to prevent anyone else from suffering the same type of pain,” Vivian Haas said tearfully. “I do not want to reward MTC's failure to do its job by giving it another prison to manage.”

In response, Issa Arnita, MTC director of corporate communications, said the company has learned from the deadly error. “Well, obviously what happened at Kingman is very unfortunate, but you learn from that. Mistakes were made — we took full responsibility for it, but over the process of working with (DOC) over the last several months, MTC has been very cooperative.”

GEO Group, the second-largest private prison company in the country, is currently a defendant in a federal class-action lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union for violations at its juvenile detention center in Walnut Grove, Miss. The lawsuit contends the prison's management caused a culture of violence and exploitation by selling drugs inside the facility and entering into sexual relationships with the inmates.

Pablo Paez, GEO vice president of corporate relations, said the alleged crimes would have taken place before GEO bought the prison from Cornell, a private corrections company, on Aug. 12, 2010.

Another critic of GEO and MTC was San Luis resident James Beecher. “I have no issue with a prison that is run by the Arizona Department of Corrections, but to build a private facility of this nature — I don't think that is what's best for San Luis.”

However, proponents of a new prison in San Luis tout the jobs they believe it will create, both in the construction phase and in the day-to-day functions of running it.

“To me this is a no-brainer,” said state Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma. “We have an opportunity to bring 350 to 750 jobs to rural Arizona and we need jobs. I would certainly like to see (DOC) strongly consider Yuma. Just to point out, we do have a Criminal as our mascot for our high school.”

Arnita said the addition of a prison is just what an ailing Yuma County economy, with unemployment hovering at about 30 percent, needs.

“The idea is to support the local community and work in the community. You want local people to come and work for you because they live here and can benefit from it. We are talking 500 jobs for a facility with 3,000 beds, and that is quite a few jobs for an area like this.”

Arnita said if MTC receives the contract, “Our architecture firm and the contractor (will) hold a job fair and invite local folks to come in and submit a resume, talk about their skills and show their certifications. If they have the skills and manpower to be able to do the work, we hire them locally.”

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