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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Saturday, September 24, 2011

AZ Auditor General's report on private prison security

Here's the AZ Auditor Generals' website, the link to the report highlights, and the link to the full report. Thanks to Bob Ortega for staying on top of developments around the Arizona's prison privatization debacle...


Arizona prison safety lacking, report says

Auditor finds flaws but notes progress

by Bob Ortega - Sept. 24, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Arizona's Department of Corrections needs to do more to improve security at private-contract and state-run prisons, a report released Friday by the state's auditor general concludes.

The report credits the department with making many significant improvements since the July 2010 escapes of three prisoners from the Kingman prison.

These improvements include revamping the state's monitoring and inspection programs, which had failed to detect obvious security flaws at Kingman before the escapes; new, tougher annual audits of each prison; better security and reporting requirements in new contracts; and stiffer requirements and better training for state monitors who oversee private prisons.

The audit called for further steps to address ongoing security problems.

On their visits to several state prisons between December and May, auditors noted instances of correctional officers failing to pat down inmates properly when they were being moved, failing to inspect personal property and food items that were brought into prisons by employees and contractors, failing to adequately inventory tools, and failing to require inmates to wear their IDs. These issues also had been noted by the department's own inspectors, as previously reported by The Arizona Republic.

Corrections Director Charles Ryan, in a written response, didn't dispute the issues raised by the auditors, though he stated that, according to the department's data, "over 93 percent of the time policies and procedures are followed and no violations are found." But Ryan agreed with all of the audit's recommendations, which included:

- Carrying out a biannual comparison of private and state-run prison services, as required by state law. As The Republic has reported, Corrections has never conducted this comparison, but Ryan said the department designed its new inspection program with this comparison in mind and will complete its first such study next month.

- Continuing to develop and carry out formal training for contract-monitoring staff. Ryan said the first such training, lasting 32 hours, was conducted this week.

- Using the new inspection process to identify systemic or ongoing security issues and analyze ways to address them across the prison system, whether by training, making written orders known as "post orders" more consistent, or improving supervision.

- Giving supervisors more leadership training as part of their required annual training.

The audit also noted that Corrections spent more than $29 million on overtime and compensatory leave last fiscal year, to cover for staff shortages. Ryan asked to add 306 officer positions this fiscal year but didn't receive the funding for them, though Corrections was the sole department to see its budget rise from the prior fiscal year.

The auditors noted that, before the Kingman escapes, Corrections' annual audits of each prison were conducted by officers at other prisons, creating a "quid pro quo" culture in which officers reviewing each other had incentives not to report problems. Now, those audits are conducted by the department's Inspector General's Office.

And although the department plans to impose tougher security and reporting requirements in contracts for up to 5,000 prison beds it is now evaluating, it said it can't impose those requirements on existing private-prison contracts until they come up for renewal or are rebid.

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