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:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Stop Brewer's Supermax Dungeons: hardly for "the worst of the worst".

(JUNE 7, 2013 UPDATE: "C" was re-classed back down to a 4/4 and moved to a level 4 GP yard, apparently as of 5/20/13. For his safety, in light of that, I'm removing identifying infomration about him. His request for protective custody has clearly once again been denied. I think he was probbly happier -or at least felt safer - in the Supermax than where he is now, which is an especially scary place. Think good things for my friend, people. I think he's being set up to be hurt for being so outspoken...)

More max-security prison beds makes no sense
Mon Mar 18, 2013
Arizona is currently finalizing plans for construction of 500 new maximum-security prison beds that are unnecessary. Modeled after Arizona’s existing solitary-confinement facilities, the construction alone will cost $50 million.

Clearly Gov. Jan Brewer and Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan have not been paying attention to the same facts as syndicated columnist George Will, who convincingly painted the self-defeating practice of holding people in solitary confinement (“Solitary confinement ruins inmates forever,” Opinions, Feb. 21).

The suggestion that Arizona needs more prison beds — especially maximum-security beds that lock people in 8-foot-by-10-foot prison cells for 23 hours per day for years at a time — flies in the face of common sense.

Our prison population has plateaued. We have seen negative growth over the last three years, and DOC’s own estimates point to more of the same for the next three. Yet the governor included in this year’s budget 1,000 new privately contracted prison beds and 500 new maximum-security prison beds, adding to the already bloated $1 billion annual corrections spending that eats up 11 percent of Arizona’s general budget.

The $50 million for construction of these 500 beds was originally taken from federal funds designated for victims of the mortgage crisis. Now the governor is asking for $4.5 million more in order to cover operational and staffing costs. As Will points out, “solitary confinement costs, on average, three times as much per inmate as in normal prisons.” Using money intended for victims of the mortgage crisis to build expensive new prison beds is ill-conceived and wrong.

If construction goes forward, taxpayers will be responsible for unneeded prison beds for the foreseeable future, costing three times more to operate than other facilities. Why should taxpayers invest in facilities that have been shown to cause mental illness and 50 percent of all prison suicides?

There are already 2,000 maximum-security inmates in solitary confinement in Arizona prisons. Ninety-six percent of people who are incarcerated will one day be released. No one leaves solitary confinement untouched by psychological scars of isolation. Recent research demonstrates that following solitary confinement, people are particularly ill-prepared for life on the outside. The impact of solitary confinement makes even simple social interaction traumatic, leaving the realities of finding employment, housing and health care nearly impossible.

Arizona is alone in considering construction of a new maximum-security prison. Mississippi has proven that it is possible to dramatically curb the use of solitary confinement, and still put safety first. Prison officials there reduced the solitary-confinement population by 90 percent. Doing so resulted in a 70 percent decrease in violence and $8 million annual savings. Arizona needs to follow Mississippi’s lead.
The use of solitary confinement fails at creating a safer Arizona by contributing to untreated serious mental illness and high rates of suicide.

The enormous cost of maximum-security prisons diverts millions of dollars away from other public initiatives such as education, evidence-based alternatives to incarceration and behavioral-health services.

Matthew Lowen is program coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee in Arizona.