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, May 20, 2014

#NOYOUTHINPRISON 2014 Week of Action!

 look what I saw over the I-10 today...
it reminded me this is a special week.

There are very few blogs out there about prison abolition - this has got to be one of the best in the US, authored by Mariame Kaba. Go there all week for more focus on liberating criminalized youth.

Sorry I wasn't more organized for this week - it caught me by surprise. Families, take a lesson from these folks in Chicago: Don't settle for crumbs when you fight for change. Don't just try to make the system "better" - that is, stronger. Insist on making our communities smarter on crime instead, so we can end the violence and despair of incarceration altogether.

#NO YOUTHINPRISON week of action

----------from Prison Culture------------

#NoYouthInPrison: Kicking Off National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth

May 19 2014

If you’ve read this blog even once, you know that I am against prisons. I am particularly against incarcerating children. Today kicks off the National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth.

I write a lot about the prison industrial complex (including the juvenile punishment system) and last year I published a paper with my friend Dr. Michelle VanNatta about alternatives to youth incarceration in Chicago. In the paper, we provided a brief literature review about juvenile detention and incarceration. I am republishing that part here to buttress the case against incarcerating young people.

“There is an urgent need to find constructive ways to respond to young people in conflict with the law. Research compellingly demonstrates that youth placed in juvenile detention centers compared to alternative interventions are much more likely to later spend significant time in prison (Aizer and Doyle, 2013). Juvenile and adult incarceration both create exorbitant financial and social costs (Petteruti, Velázquez, and Walsh, 2009).

Incarceration of juveniles is harmful to young peoples’ development, education, families, communities, and their current and future socioeconomic status (Majd, 2011; Bickel, 2010). Furthermore, incarcerating youth is not effective at enhancing public safety (Butts & Evans, 2011; Petteruti, Velázquez, & Walsh, 2009). Conditions of detention, even when monitored and regulated, often involve serious violations of human rights, such as solitary confinement and sexual violence perpetrated by staff (Beck, Cantor, Hartge, & Smith, 2013; Kysel, 2012; Krisberg, 2009). These abuses harm youths’ physical health, mental health, and social well-being (McCarty, Stoep, Kuo, & McCauley, 2006; Mendel, 2011). Destructive conditions that create lasting damage are even more extreme for youth confined to adult jails and prisons (Arya, 2007; Sarri and Shook, forthcoming; Wood, 2012). The detention process disconnects youth from family and supportive relationships, interrupts education, and makes it difficult for youth to get adequate exercise, healthcare, nutrition, and support.

Incarceration is extravagantly expensive. In 2012, Illinois taxpayers paid an average of $86,861 per year for each youth incarcerated in state prison (Illinois Department of Human Services, 2012). Taxpayers paid an astounding $219,000 per year for each youth confined to the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (Civic Federation, 2013). These numbers do not include associated costs, such as government monies used to pay police, investigators, prosecutors, public defenders, judges, court personnel, and others for the arrest, investigation, and adjudication of youth’s criminal cases. Illinois (and the rest of the United States) has made a staggering investment in the criminalization of youth.

Incarceration is traumatic for youth, as evidenced by young peoples’ suicides, suicide attempts, self-harm, and the worsening of mental health symptoms while inside (Hayes, 2009; Ford, Chapman, Hawke, & Albert 2007). The stigma of incarceration follows youth for a lifetime, interfering with education housing, jobs, economic wellbeing, and stable community relationships (Houchins et al, 2009). Disproportionate arrest, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of youth of color perpetuate and intensify racist injustice throughout the United States (Jones, 2012; US Department of Justice, 2012; Cahn, Nash, and Robbins, 2011). Incarceration can be particularly horrific for gender non-conforming youth, who may be assigned to facilities on the basis physical examinations or identification documents rather than based on the youth’s own gender identity and presentation. Thus, someone who lives in the world as a young woman may be incarcerated at a men’s prison. This exposes the youth to significant danger and trauma (Estrada & Marksamer, 2006).

Finally, there is no conclusive evidence that incarceration in juvenile detention centers safeguards our communities, improves pro-social behavior among those currently or formerly incarcerated, or rehabilitates youth who have engaged in harmful behavior (National Juvenile Justice Network, 2011). Because incarceration is expensive, traumatic, disruptive, and ineffective (Mendel, 2011), exploring alternative strategies for working with youth in conflict with the law offers rich opportunities to promote community well-being while saving money. Carefully implemented, alternatives to detention/incarceration can reduce harm in communities, promote youth development, contain costs, enhance safety, protect human rights, and build a stronger society.”
In short, juvenile detention and incarceration is costly, harmful, and doesn’t improve public safety. We need to STOP LOCKING UP CHILDREN IN JAILS AND PRISONS TODAY.

For our part in Chicago, today we will be kicking off the week of action against incarcerating youth with a march at 5 p.m. Details are HERE. If you are in the city, I hope that you will join us.

by Billy Dee
by Billy Dee

For those in Illinois who are interested in the numbers behind juvenile detention and incarceration, my organization published an updated version of “The Conscious Chicagoan’s Guide to Youth Detention and Incarceration” last week.

Finally, I am always asked for “solutions” as though this is the provenance of a single person. In fact, WE have a collective responsibility of solving our problems TOGETHER. One person didn’t create these problems and they have a long history. It’s going to take ALL OF US to address them properly. Regardless for those in Chicago, I have compiled a list of some ways that you can personally resist the criminalization of young people in our city. Feel free to add your own ideas to the list.