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, October 12, 2011

Arizona crime rates released (2000-2010)

I find it interesting that the rates of violent crime in Arizona have been increasing so dramatically in the past two years. Since 2009, though, the rates of felons being sent to prison for violent crimes actually dropped.  Sounds to me like either the prosecutors and judiciary have gone soft on rapists and murderers, or - more likely - the cops are just too busy raiding worksites and chasing immigrants to pay attention to solving the crimes that really matter here...that might explain the MCSO's poor performance in recent years in this respect (their murders are down, but how's their clearance rate these days?).

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

Arizona eclipses U.S. in 10-year crime dip, analysis says

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

Despite recent increases in the rates of murder and rape, over the past 10 years, Arizona's reported crime rate has dropped by nearly a third, according to a new analysis of FBI crime data released Tuesday by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission.

The 32.4 percent decrease in reported crime easily outpaced the 18.9 percent nationwide drop over the same time period. The biggest single driver of Arizona's decline was a 60 percent drop in the rate of motor-vehicle thefts from 2000 to 2010.

Although the rates of most reported crimes fell more sharply than the national average over the decade, Arizona's rate for each of the seven types of crime in the FBI index remains above the national median.

The crimes tracked include four categories of violent crime (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) and three property crimes (burglary, larceny theft and motor-vehicle theft).

The analysis shows that, recently, Arizona's rates of murder, rape and aggravated assault have increased.

Arizona's rate of rape, after falling for four straight years, shot up 31.9 percent from 2008 to last year. That jump led the rate to climb by 10.4 percent over the decade, even as the national rate fell by 14.1 percent.

The justice-commission report does not attribute the rise to any particular cause. But that jump in reported rapes doesn't necessarily mean there has actually been an increase in rapes, said Dean Kilpatrick, director of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, in Charleston, S.C.

Because rape is so underreported - fewer than one in five victims contacts the police, he said - a successful program to encourage victims to step forward may increase the percentage of rapes that are reported, whether the actual number of rapes is rising, falling or flat.

"If you have good rape-crisis centers, if the police are seen as giving victims a fair shake, better counseling and advocacy, you may get an increase in reporting because victims feel they'll be treated well," he said.

The Phoenix Police Department can't say why the rate is up, said Sgt. Trent Crump, a spokesman. But, he said, in recent years, the department has worked hard to improve cooperation among police, prosecutors, rape counselors and victims advocates.

"We have a forensic-nursing program now to make the examinations less stressful for victims, and we're doing everything we can do to create an environment in which victims feel comfortable coming forward," he said.

Myra Ferell-Womochil, director of community-based services for the Northland Family Help Center in Flagstaff, said the Flagstaff police also have worked hard to educate officers on how to handle sexual-assault cases.

She said education programs run across the state by Arizona's Department of Health Services that teach about consent, healthy relationships and rape prevention may be helping. And, because alcohol use is often a factor, her center has worked with bar owners to educate staff on making bars safer.

The sex-assault statutes in Arizona and most other states don't track precisely with the FBI's definition of rape as "the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will," said Phil Stevenson, the director of the commission's Statistical Analysis Center.

The FBI includes attempted rape using force or the threat of force but doesn't include sex assaults on males, statutory rape or other sex offenses. The FBI is reviewing its definition of rape and will consider changes to it this fall, according to the bureau's Criminal Justice Information Service.

Crump said that in up to 75 percent of the sexual-assault cases in Phoenix, the victim and assailant know each other. "We don't want people to automatically assume these are stranger attacks," he said. "We don't currently have a serial rapist hitting an area."

Arizona's murder rate over the 10 years fell 12.7 percent. But from 2009 to 2010, the rate increased 18.5 percent. At 6.4 murders per 100,000 people last year, Arizona's rate remained one-third higher than the national rate of 4.8 per 100,000.

Crump noted that the 2009 murder rate of five per 100,000 residents was the lowest in more than 20 years. Even the 2010 rate is lower than any year from 2000 to 2007.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said that, in his jurisdiction, murders and rapes are both down so far this year compared with this point last year, with eight murders in 2011 compared with 26 up to this point in 2010.

"We had a lot of our murders in the desert. One reason in our area we're not getting so many murders is the drop in illegal immigration," he said.

The rates of aggravated assaults and robberies both fell by roughly a quarter over the decade, giving Arizona an overall drop in the rate of violent crime of more than 23 percent.

From 2009 to 2010, the rate of aggravated assaults rose 4.5 percent. Property crimes fell more sharply - 33.3 percent - led by a 30.2 percent drop in larceny theft, which includes shoplifting, pickpocketing and the theft of bicycles, and the dramatic plunge in motor-vehicle theft.

The drop in vehicle crime can be credited to a decade-old change in how the state tackled that crime, said Brian Salata, executive director of the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority. Previously, few thieves were aggressively prosecuted.

"All we were doing was knocking off low-level players and not really solving the problem," Salata said.

In 2002, Arizona's vehicle-theft rate was nearly 2 1/2 times the national average. Counties agreed to assign specially trained prosecutors to deal with vehicle-theft cases, and they began pushing harder for thieves to roll over against others in their organizations to get plea bargains, Salata said.

That made it easier to cripple theft rings and criminal cartels, he said. By requiring anyone reporting a vehicle theft to sign a sworn affidavit, cities and counties slashed cases of insurance fraud. Improvements in vehicle security also helped.

While Arizona's vehicle-theft rate was still 40.9 percent higher than the national median last year, Salata said the rate is continuing to drop this year.

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