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:

Friday, November 2, 2012

2012 AZ: Vote for Education, Not Incarceration.

Caroline Isaacs and Matt Lowen  from the American Friends Service Committee office in Tucson have done a lot of good work across the state fighting for prison reform and exposing human rights abuses. AFSC-Tucson's site has some great resources on prison privatization in Arizona, as well as on supermaxes and solitary confinement. Check out their links here

Also check out the blog "Cell-out Arizona" at the Tucson Citizen.

----------from the AZ Capitol Times--------

We can have both high-quality education and safe, cost-effective prisons

By Guest Opinion
AZ Capitol Times 

Published: November 2, 2012 at 9:43 am

In 2012, the Arizona Department of Corrections’ budget increased by 11 percent. It was the only agency that increased its share of the state’s general fund. At the same time, education funding at all levels plummeted, with our state’s education system ranking 44 out of 51, according to “Education Week.”

Voters across the state are taking notice. One year of prison costs at least $17,000 per person while average per student funding in K-12 schools is less than $8,000. Is it smart spending to pay twice as much to incarcerate, rather than to educate someone? Especially when 43 percent of those released from prison later return?

Many running for office are being questioned about Arizona’s increased contracting with private prison companies: Are they cheaper? Are they well-managed and adequately staffed? And most important, are they safe? The answer to all these questions is “no.”

Arizona’s private prisons are overall more costly than equivalent state-run units. Their management and staff are not as qualified or experienced. This leads to compromises in safety, as grimly evidenced by the escapes from the privately run facility in Kingman in 2010, which ultimately led to two murders. Finally, private prisons benefit from keeping people in prison; not from providing programming and preparation to return prisoners to our communities as productive, tax- paying citizens.

People running for office are being asked why our prison population is so high, when leaders in other U.S. states across the political spectrum have both reduced prison populations and reduced crime. In doing so, they saved millions of taxpayer dollars.

We incarcerate many people whose crimes, including drug offenses, stem from mental illness. Both addiction and mental illness lead people to commit multiple offenses — not because they didn’t “learn their lesson,” but because they are not receiving the assistance (medication, therapy) they need to be able to control their behavior.

Cost-effective and safe alternatives such as mental health courts and other diversion programs treat the root causes of their offenses, preventing future crime. All this reduces the costs of corrections, freeing scarce state resources for other critical needs.

This election season, thoughtful voters have a real choice. They can choose candidates who will continue the status quo — a costly corrections system and substandard educational system — or they can pick candidates with vision and the courage to stand up to private prison special interests and fight for a smart budget that balances the need for a high-quality educational system and a safe and cost- effective corrections system.

— Caroline Isaacs, program director, American Friends Service Committee.