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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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Criminal justice reform: legislative committee hearings

This came to me through the grapevine today...if you're an Arizona voter, please act.

Friends of Criminal Justice Reform:

Presently I have several bills waiting to be heard by the MAPS Committee (Military Affairs and Public Safety) The committee chairman is Representative David Gowan from District 30.  
The Chairman of a committee has the power to decide whether or not a bill will be heard in his committee.  If a chairman does not calendar a bill, it will die in committee and never even be heard by our representatives to decide the merits of a given bill for themselves.   Gowan will need to decide in the next few days whether or not to hear these bills which have been assigned to his committee:
HB2521 pertains to earned release credits.  Currently, the director of the department may grant early release on the ratio of one day for every seven days served  - regardless of whether the offense is violent or nonviolent, no one can get released earlier than 85% of their sentence even if they are a model prisoner.  This bill would offer a highly motivating incentive for inmates convicted of a nonviolent offense to stay out of trouble and participate in rehabilitative programs, by giving them a release credit of one day for every three days served instead of one day for every 7 days. This would not apply to prisoners convicted of serious, violent or aggravated felonies as defined in Sec. 13-706.     
      The Arizona Auditor General estimates that such a change could result in significant cost savings for taxpayers: For every day that an inmate spends on community supervision (parole) rather than prison, the State would save an estimated $4.62, which represents the difference between the daily marginal cost of housing an inmate in a state-operated prison compared to supervising an inmate on parole in fiscal year 2009.
HB2522   pertains to prescriptive sentencing.   As many of you know, one of the policies driving our high incarceration rate is mandatory sentencing — laws that remove a judge’s ability to hand down an appropriate sentence, and instead obligate a one-size-fits-all approach.  The current prescriptive sentencing provisions have led to many unduly harsh and lengthy sentences which are an affront to what is fair and just.  The purpose of this bill is to simplify the sentencing statutes by eliminating the strict intermediate prescriptive categories of sentencing, leaving the “mitigating” category as the minimum sentence, and leaving the “aggravated” category as the maximum sentence.  This would broaden the range of of sentencing options available to the judges and give them a "safety valve," so that they could more appropriately fit the sentence to the severity of the crime instead of being cornered by a technicality that results in a breach of justice.  It is important to note that this modification would NOT stop judges from applying the more severe mandatory or prescriptive provisions where appropriate,
HB2523 eliminates the $25 background check required for visitors to inmates in the Arizona Department of Corrections.
HB2531 allows the director of the Department of Correction to parole inmates whose physical disabilities have incapacitated them, so that they are no longer a threat to the safety of the public.
PLEASE email Rep. Gowan, the committee chair, and ask him to give these bills a hearing.  If any of the other members of the committee are your  representatives, please contact them as well and identify yourself as a constituent from their district. 
(DO NOT FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO A STATE REPRESENTATIVE OR SENATOR, but create your own email with your own reasons and your own story for supporting the bills that you choose to support)
The deadline for bills to be heard in their assigned committees is February 17th.  After that, if a bill has not passed out of its committees, it is dead.  These bills have been assigned to multiple committees, making it even harder to get them through the process, so time is of the essence.  
David Gowan District 30, Chair 
Terri Proud District 26, Vice Chair
Jeff Dial District 20
Ruben Gallego District 16
Albert Hale District 2
Jack W. Harper District 4
Richard Miranda District 13
David Burnell Smith District 7
David Stevens District 25
Thank you for your help!
Cecil Ash
State Representative
Legislative District 18
AZ House of Representatives
1700 W. Washington, H-313
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

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