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 4, 2012

AZ school funding cuts are deepest while state prisons grow.

It isn't any wonder this is the case, since Jan Brewer is putting our money into building new prisons instead - prisons most people would agree we would never need if we funded education and public mental health care properly in the first place (not with more sales tax, though, folks - that's pretty regressive and burdens the poor and middle class unfairly...). 

Check out the Cradle-to-prison-pipeline for more on how factors like child poverty, illiteracy and adult incarceration are entwined. AZ used to project new prison growth based on our children's third grade reading scores - perhaps we still do. That should tell you a lot. 

The following stats are from a March 2012 slide show addressing literacy and crime by the AZ Department of Education...


Children's Action Alliance Press Release: 

Arizona School Funding Cuts Are the Nation's Deepest

September 4, 2012

PHOENIX - Arizona's deep cuts to school funding since the start of the recession rank as the worst in the country, according to a new study. Unless restored, the cuts will put Arizona's economy and long-term prosperity in jeopardy.

Arizona's investment in K-12 schools is 21.8 percent below 2008 levels in per student dollars adjusted for inflation, meaning our state has made the deepest education cuts in the nation, according to a report released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

"Legislators have pretended that education and accountability can be improved while they drastically slash resources," said Dana Wolfe Naimark, President and CEO of Children's Action Alliance. "Parents and voters know that just isn't true. Our leaders are setting Arizona up for failure."

The Legislature's cuts would have been even more devastating if not for the voter-approved 1-cent sales tax increase passed in 2010, which is set to expire in 2013, said Ann-Eve Pedersen, Chairwoman of The Quality Education and Jobs Initiative (Prop. 204). If approved, the initiative would renew the sales tax to provide a sustainable funding source for schools that legislators can't cut.

"Arizona ranking at the bottom of this list should be a wakeup call to every parent, voter and business owner in this state," said Pedersen. "Voters will have a chance to do something about this in November. We can strengthen our economy and be more competitive by improving the quality of education in this state."

The Arizona Legislature's has cut approximately $1 billion from education over the past four years. Arizona's revenues are now increasing, but lawmakers have done little to restore the cuts. According to the report, steep state-level K-12 spending cuts will have serious negative consequences for the nation, and restoring funding should be an urgent priority.

"Across much of the country, kids are going back to school to find more crowded classrooms, and - in some cases -- shorter school weeks," said Phil Oliff, policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and author of the report released today. "That's no way to develop our future workforce and build a strong economy."

The cuts have hurt the state's economy in the short- and long-term, Oliff said. The cuts have extended the recession by causing both public- and private-sector job losses. The funding cuts have forced school districts throughout Arizona to lay off teachers and support staff, reduce pay for the remaining staff, cut back on classroom equipment and supplies, and cancel contracts with private businesses.

Reducing investment in schools also has long-term economic consequences. A strong education system is essential to creating and maintaining a thriving economy. Businesses need a well-educated workforce, and education cuts undermine the state's ability to produce workers with the skills needed to compete in a global economy, Oliff said.