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, July 22, 2012

High-risk Horizons: Coconino's Children of the Imprisoned.

Glad to see that Coconino County is working creatively with the children of incarcerated parents, and trying to help them keep their family units connected. Here's a good New York Times article giving some background on why it's so important to attend to these kids' needs - and why we must decarcerate our nation as rapidly as possible...

The STARS Mentoring Program in AZ has some excellent resources for caregivers here.

There's also a manual for caregivers of children with incarcerated parents: 
"Mother's prison"
ASPC-Perryville; Goodyear, AZ 
November 2011

Keeping Kids Connected With Their Jailed Parents

North Country Public Radio
Jul 18, 2012 (Morning Edition / Arizona Public Radio) —
With one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, Arizona also has one of the highest percentages of children with a parent in prison. In rural Coconino County, 1 of every 28 minors has an incarcerated parent, and that county is helping families stay in touch without bringing kids inside prison walls.
Arizona has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, and that means it also has one of the highest percentages of children with one or both parents in jail. One rural county there is trying to help families stay connected.

On a recent day, 45-year-old Liz Minor sits in the shade outside a coffeehouse in Flagstaff, enjoying icy drinks with her two sons. She relishes this ordinary moment, considering that just a few years ago, their time together was limited to a prison visiting room, separated by shatterproof glass.

"I wore lipstick because it leaves marks," Minor says. "So when your kids are there and they're telling you it's over ... you see windows just marked up with lips because you want to kiss your babies goodbye and you can't."

Minor's youngest son, A.J., was only 7 years old when his mom began serving a sentence for manslaughter. Now 18, A.J. recalls a very different memory of visits with his mom.

"They always used to make us ... take off our shoes and open up shirts and stuff," A.J. says. "They would pat us down, and our pockets had to be turned out."

During his mom's absence, A.J. was raised by several family members because his father was also in prison, serving a life sentence. It was tough for A.J.

"I did have a lot of suicidal tendencies," he says. "It really sucked to have to go through that when you're 8, 9, 10 years old, and you're thinking about going into your room and killing yourself. It's not a cool deal at all."

Instead of taking his life, however, A.J. took action. At 15, he joined a fledgling task force in Coconino County, Ariz. The group's goal was to keep kids connected with their parents in prison. That's where he met Beth Tucker, one of the group's organizers.

"Our population of children and families is different than the state as a whole in that we have such great distances for our rural areas," Tucker says. "They're traveling hundreds and hundreds of miles to visit a parent."

Tucker says 1 of every 28 children in Coconino County has a parent in prison. Some kids, like A.J., experience the trauma of being present during their parent's arrest. Others, Tucker says, can end up on the street, fearful they'll land in foster care or in the custody of Child Protective Services.

"We know that oftentimes when a parent is arrested, they will not reveal that they have children," she says. "They're afraid they're going to lose that child."

That's why law enforcement officers are now being trained to look for signs of children at the time of a person's arrest: toys, car seats and backpacks, for instance. Another major step is that the county is installing a Skype-like video visitation system. Lt. Matt Figueroa with the Coconino County Sheriff's Office is helping set it up.

"They can do it from a coffeehouse, they can do it from their iPhone or iPad," Figueroa says. "People throw out the word Skype, but it's basically a secure video connection to conduct that visit."

Figueroa says it will also cut down on the trauma that many children experience having to go inside prison to visit a parent. That's heartening to kids like A.J. Minor, who says he would've liked something like this when his mom was in prison.

"A visit like that would actually keep a kid from running away, because they know that they can have a visit with their parent every couple of days. It's so much more nourishing," he says. "So for someone who's going through it right now, just hang on. You will be able to see them."

A.J. himself is trying to hang on, when it comes to seeing his own father. They haven't met face to face in 16 years. 

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