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:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Prison town follies: Coolidge "still the right choice"

I'm sorry Coolidge - I've almost given up on you. Your sad little city is putting all her eggs - your children's futures - into the prison system. Listen to the economic experts, not me - they say that only perpetuating and profiting from all this crime and punishment will save you, while I say that only your highest, not your lowest, aspirations will. If you settle for less and build a prison, your town is already dead.

I want to know why the Chief of Police thinks that building a prison will reduce local crime, though. How absurd. That's like thinking another prison will solve the community's economic problems for generations, too. They're surrounded by prisons to go work at already and still have an outrageous unemployment rate - and a good share of the county's crime as well...if a lot of a "good thing" is bad for you, why would you go for more? That sounds like a soul sickness of some kind.

By the way, former AZ DOC director and enabling architect of post-invasion Iraqi prisons Terry Stewart is consulting with MTC on getting this contract, as I recall. Remember Abu Ghraib? We exported Stewart's and Ryan's philosophies to oversee that place - before anyone was tortured by Americans there. Is it any wonder that Arizona prisons are so full of violence and despair right now? Such is the culture these men breed.

The good city of Coolidge may well get what's coming to them, after hopping so happily in bed with MTC and Terry's just that their kids still deserve better options than to be guards or prisoners - they aren't the ones making these decisions today, but they have to live with them for decades. Once you build a prison it's hard to figure out what to do with it when you don't need it anymore...and if your whole economy depends on that place thriving, you quickly become invested in perpetuating the need, which means finding more humans to criminalize and exile and imprison. 

If we were really smart we'd elect a legislature that would take control and outlaw the privatization of prisons as inefficient and unethical. But that's apparently too much to hope for right now...

 ------------------from the Coolidge Examiner at Tri-valley Central------

Public hearing brings loads of public support

By Joey Chenoweth
Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 4:09 AM MST
With a final decision less than a month away, the Arizona Department of Corrections held a public hearing in the Coolidge City Council chambers to hear the final pitch from city officials and the public on why they should choose Coolidge as the site for a new 1,000-bed, medium-security prison.

And whereas the public hearing held here last year brought both sides of the debate to the microphone, Monday’s event revealed an apparently unanimous support for the facility, as a majority of the people in the audience were wearing T-shirts stating “Coolidge: Still The Right Choice.”
Members of the Department of Corrections committee in charge of choosing the site, including department director Chuck Ryan, sat in the chair normally reserved for councilmembers in front of a packed chamber. First, Ryan let the audience know that there will be hearings for all the remaining seven site candidates, including one in Florence and one in Eloy, with a final decision of the winning candidate by August 31.

Management and Training Corporation, the company who will own the private facility, then gave a presentation promoting the credentials and values of the company. MTC’s representatives particularly emphasized their history of training underprivileged people to have skills that will lead to future employment, which led to their prison rehabilitation program, which aims to educate inmates to be better qualified for the workforce. They also emphasized their economic impact, which includes an extra $300,000 in tax money to the city and 200 construction jobs.

Mayor Tom Shope then came to the podium to kick off the public statements, which included a picture of Coolidge’s economic struggles, including 15 percent unemployment, and how the facility might help.

“In May 2010, the Coolidge City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of a proposal to locate a private correctional facility in Coolidge,” he said. “We support this proposal for many reasons, including jobs, the economic benefit to city government, a great location, a comfort level with MTC and a comfort level with having a prison within our city.”

Shope then introduced some special guests that attended the meeting to show their support for the facility. Frank Pratt, District 23 representative, and Pete Rios and David Snider from the Pinal County Board of Supervisors, appeared in support.

“Pinal is absolutely committed to having private prisons,” Snider said. “It’s a clean industry. You feel rather safe.”

“If we look back historically, which county has been most receptive of private prisons in the history of this state,” Rios said. “When nobody else wanted a private prison in their backyard, Pinal County said, ‘We’ll take it.’”

Locals then flooded the podium, beginning with Police Chief Joe Brugman, who sees the facility as a great partner to the police department in lowering crime in the city.

“I’ve been involved in the prison project for quite some time,” he said. “I feel confident to say that building a prison here in Coolidge makes complete sense, and is absolutely the right thing to do.”

Sharon Boyd, the drug prevention director for the Coolidge Youth Coalition, stressed the importance of a better economy when it comes to keeping kids on the right path.

“I support the youth of Coolidge,” Boyd said. “I support the city of Coolidge. I support the schools of Coolidge. I support the families of Coolidge.”

Leon Stock, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, expressed local business owners’ support of this facility, because the more people have jobs, the more people will spend in the city.

“On behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, I would like to lend my voice of support for this facility,” Stock said. “The people of Coolidge are not intimidated at all about having this facility right next door.”

After City Manager Bob Flatley, Coolidge Unified School District Superintendent Cecilia Johnson, former Superior Court Judge William Platt and school board member T.J. Shope reiterated the significance of the new facility in improving Coolidge’s economic situation, others looked toward the long-term benefits.

“It’s immediate benefit and immediate income,” said Alton Bruce, Growth Management director. “But it’s also more long term than that and helps develop that area into what we want it to be.”

Even those who do not live in Coolidge came to express the importance of a correctional facility in developing a community. Ruth Conrad, an employee at a competing prison, said she studied MTC’s proposal and was very impressed with their commitment to rehabilitating inmates. The recent Poston Butte High School graduate Lorenzo Teruya, who is pursuing a career in law enforcement, said he respects the Coolidge community, and wants the students in the city to receive the same benefits of learning from a correctional facility as he did in San Tan Valley.

“It allows local schools to partner with the prison to further education in law enforcement,” Teruya said. “It’s awesome to see a community that bands together because they believe in something.”