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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AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quakers file suit to stop illegal prison privatization.

More from Bob Ortega and the AZ Republic about the private prison debacle in Arizona...

Thanks to the good Friends out there for taking this on.


Lawsuit aims to block Arizona private-prison plans

Bob Ortega
Arizona Republic

September 13, 2011

A group opposed to privatizing prisons filed suit Monday seeking to block, at least temporarily, state plans to contract for 5,000 new private-prison beds as early as Friday.

The state "should not be allowed to hand over another cent of taxpayers' money until the Department (of Corrections) can prove to us that these prisons are safe, that the corporations are doing the job we're paying them to do, and that the state is capable of holding them accountable," said Caroline Isaacs, director of the Tucson office of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group that monitors prisons.

Besides requesting a temporary restraining order, the suit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court accuses Arizona's Department of Corrections of failing to follow two state statutes:

- State law requires that any private-prison contract either save money or provide better services for the same cost as state-run prisons. Cost comparisons done by Corrections every year since 2005 consistently show that private prisons are more expensive, the suit noted.

- Corrections has failed for decades to carry out biannual studies, required by law, comparing the performance of private vs. state prisons on security, safety, how inmates are managed, programs and services, and many other issues.

The Corrections Department declined to comment on the suit. Corrections officials previously have admitted that the biannual studies have not been done.

Corrections Director Charles Ryan has said the department expects to complete its first such study by January. The department had said it would announce the award of one or more contracts on or after Friday. Four companies are finalists to build or provide prisons at five possible sites.

The committee was joined in the suit by Oralee and Joyce Clayton, parents of an inmate at the privately run Kingman state prison who say they're concerned for their son's safety. The group asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order stopping Corrections from awarding any contract, at least until it completes its first biannual cost-benefit comparison study. The suit also asks the court to force the department to disclose the details of all of its current contracts with private-prison operators.

The four private-prison operators bidding include Corrections Corp. of America, which would use two existing prisons it operates in Eloy that now house prisoners from other states; Geo Group Inc., which has proposed building new prisons in San Luis or Goodyear, next to the existing Perryville state prison; Management and Training Corp., which is proposing new facilities in Yuma or Coolidge; and LaSalle Corrections, which proposes to build a prison near Winslow, near the existing state prison.

The strongest opposition so far has emerged in Goodyear, where Goodyear and Litchfield Park officials and several prominent groups have opposed Geo Group's proposed site.

A ruling on the temporary restraining order is expected as early as Tuesday.

--------UPDATE: September 14, 2011--------

Arizona judge refuses to block private prison beds

by Bob Ortega -
Sept. 15, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

A prison watchdog group's effort to block state plans for more private-prison beds fell short Wednesday.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Arthur Anderson denied a request by the American Friends Service Committee for a temporary restraining order against the Department of Corrections, pending a hearing Tuesday on an injunction filed by the committee. That injunction seeks to block Corrections from contracting for more private-prison beds until the department completes a comprehensive cost-benefit study of private vs. state-run prisons, due to be completed by January.

Corrections officials have said they may announce as early as Friday the award of one or more contracts for up to 5,000 new private-prison beds. The committee had requested the restraining order to stop Corrections from awarding any contracts before its injunction is considered. The committee's Arizona program director, Caroline Isaacs, called on Corrections to voluntarily hold off on any award until after the hearing. Corrections declined to comment on the injunction.

Four companies are bidding to provide prisons in one or more of five locations around the state: Coolidge, Eloy, Goodyear, San Luis or Winslow.

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