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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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Hypocrites and Profiteers: AZ Regent Dennis DeConcini finally leaving CCA?

DeConcini No Longer on Private Prison Company Board of Directors

Posted by Mari Herreras

Mon, May 12, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Tucson Weekly

After two years of putting pressure on Dennis DeConcini to resign from private prison firm Corrections Corporation of America's board of directors, the American Friends Service Committee and other organizations behind the effort announced this morning that the former senator may have resigned.

According to an AFSC press release, CCA filed a notification with the Securities Exchange Commission on April 3, "indicating that DeConcini is not on the company’s slate of nominees for Board of Directors for the coming year. The Board meets this Thursday, May 15th."

At the beginning of the resignation campaign, DeConcini was a member of the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) and his law firm represented the Tucson Unified School District during the district's most contentious matters of late—the state's dismantling of the district's Mexican-American studies program and the district's ongoing 40-plus year desegregation case.

In our March 29, 2012 story on the resignation campaign, DeConcini didn't seem interested in resigning or safety concerns brought up in an AFSC report:

"I've been involved in prison reform a long time, and as I explained to the coalition group ... government has failed to provide humane and constitutional standards for prisoners," DeConcini said, adding that private prisons are needed to help states with strapped resources, similar to how the federal government uses contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last month, the Tucson office of the American Friends Service Committee issued a report on financial and security issues surrounding private prisons in Arizona (See "No Disclosure," Feb. 23), including CCA. The report also mentions the fact that private prisons do not have to operate transparently and comply with public-records requests.

DeConcini said he hasn't read the report, but he knew that CCA reps reviewed it. "I've been told we have much information that disputes (the report)—not that atrocities have not occurred. When they do, (people) are held responsible."

Regarding transparency issues, DeConcini said: "I'm concerned only that CCA, as any corporation, complies with all of the laws that are required. I'm satisfied from my review that they do. ... We are not a public entity."

From today's AFSC press release:

The private prison industry is one of the driving forces behind the criminalization of migrants in this country. With its voracious appetite for profits, the private prison industry maximizes its profits by increasing the number of detainees while lowering costs, i.e., spending on detention—cheaper food, less highly skilled staff, fewer services.

The private prison industry heavily lobbies federal and state decision-makers. A 2012 Associated Press investigation found that the three major private prison corporations spent roughly $45 million over the past decade to influence state and federal government. This money buys them not only contracts, but influence over policy at the state and national levels. CCA was closely linked to the passage of anti-immigrant legislation SB 1070 in Arizona.

In addition, the for-profit prison industry operates a “revolving door” between the public and private sectors, hiring former legislators as lobbyists (or, in the case of DeConcini, board members) and placing its lobbyists (current or former) in positions of power in state and federal government.

Until the launch of the FUERZA! campaign, DeConcini’s involvement with the private prison industry was relatively unknown. Since then, his name has frequently been linked with news coverage and discussion of the private prison industry.

The FUERZA! Coalition used a range of creative tactics to expose Senator DeConcini’s role in the industry behind criminalizing migrant families. Community members attended meetings of the Board of Regents, drawing attention to the heavy influence of the private prison sector on Arizona’s system of public universities. They utilized traditional and social media, public protests, and even a flashmob.

FUERZA! members and parents attended a meeting of the Tucson Unified School District and called upon them to investigate the potential conflict caused by the DeConcini, Yetwin & Lacy law firm representing TUSD for over twenty years. Since funds for incarceration directly compete with funds for k-12 education from both the state and federal government, schools essentially have to “compete” with private prison companies for public dollars.

The NAACP of Maricopa County filed an ethics complaint against the former Senator alleging a conflict of interest between his profiteering on incarceration and his representation of the interests of Arizona’s students as a member of ABOR.

Over 1,000 community members and neighbors of Senator DeConcini mailed postcards asking him to resign.

Senator DeConcini’s stepping down from the CCA Board remains a largely symbolic win, since he retains 17,105 shares valued at approximately $545,000, ensuring he continues to profit from the incarceration of family members from our community.

Yet the message to elected officials and other community leaders is clear: affiliation with the for-profit prison and immigrant detention industry is deeply unpopular with the public and will not go unchallenged. This is particularly salient point for DeConcini, a Democrat who claims a track record on support for human rights and immigration reform. The community was particularly outraged to see a politician who would testify in congress against SB1070 one day and cash in on dividends generated by immigrant detention the next.

DeConcini became the posterchild for politicians cashing in on this destructive industry. By highlighting his hypocrisy, FUERZA! exposed the crass profiteering on human misery that is the business model of not just CCA, but a host of other corporations, large and small. It revealed a local connection to a global industry, allowing immigrants and the community at large to connect the dots and see how their lives are directly impacted by the political and economic decisions being made and influenced by these companies and their political supporters.