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:

Sunday, October 12, 2014


from the Capitol Times....

October 9, 2014
By: Gary Grado / Capitol Times

A swelling prisoner population is driving millions of dollars in requested budget increases for the Arizona Department of Corrections.

The department, which is budgeted to receive $997 million from the general fund in fiscal year 2015, told the governor in a formal budget request more money is needed in fiscal year 2016 to cover more beds and a bump in the per diem and annual price adjustment for a private health care provider.

The population has grown by 1,893 prisoners since fiscal-year 2013 and the department expects 1,920 more to be incarcerated by fiscal year 2016, according to a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer. The population stood at 42,052 on Aug. 31.

Department director Charles Ryan told Brewer in writing that the increase will cost an estimated $26 million from the previous fiscal-year to cover. Overall, the department is asking for an increase of $73 million in the next fiscal year to pay for requests that also include more staff, pay raises, a halfway house for parolees and an improved database.

“ADC’s authorization request seeks to keep up with this future growth, as prison overcrowding presents a severe risk to inmate management and public safety,” Ryan said.

The department is also asking for authorization for another 3,000 beds, but didn’t ask for funding for them. Ryan reported to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee there is a surplus of 642 beds. But there is actually a shortfall of 4,592 after counting all of the temporary beds, those in day-rooms, double bunks in cells built for one, tents and Quonset huts, which are World War II-era temporary quarters.

Ryan said the population grew at an average of 1,200 prisoners a year from 1980 to 2009, but flattened and actually decreased slightly from 2009 to 2012.

He said the decrease was due to fewer probation revocations by county probation officers and a decrease in commitments of non-U.S. citizens. The historical growth pattern resumed in 2012 due to increased commitments and fewer releases.

Lawmakers appropriated roughly $20 million in fiscal-year 2015 to pay for 1,000 beds in medium security and 500 in maximum.

Caroline Isaacs, executive director of American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group that challenges the state’s use of private prisons and advocates for changes in sentencing laws, said even though the state is facing a potential crisis, lawmakers historically find it difficult to say no to public safety.

“Obviously we’re going to gear up for a big, old fight over this,” Isaacs said. “I think the discussion needs to be now: Do we keep building prisons and siphon money off from everything else in the budget or do we do something different because we can’t possibly keep growing this way?”

Analysts with the Joint Legislative Budget Committee on Oct. 7 told lawmakers and economists with the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committee of Reference that Arizona could be looking at a $520 million deficit in the current fiscal year and $1 billion in the next fiscal year.

Isaacs said the state might start by looking at its truth-in-sentencing laws, which require prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their time before being eligible for release. Most other states with truth-in-sentencing require only 65 percent and only for violent offenders, Isaacs said.

Isaacs also questioned the way the department classifies prisoners. For example, the department reports in its August monthly snapshot of statistics that 71 percent of it’s population are violent offenders. But Isaacs points out that when adding the numbers of prisoners committed under the long list of typically violent offenses such as murder, kidnapping, assault and child abuse the sum is only half the population.

Department spokesman Bill Lamoreaux said a prisoner’s classification depends on more than just the offense he was committed under. He said the department looks at a prisoner’s entire criminal history, whether he is a repeat offender and the history, if any, with the department.

DOC Population Growth
Aug. 2013: 40,720
Sept. 2013: 40,817
Oct. 2013: 40,930
Nov. 2013: 40,956
Dec. 2013: 41,031
Jan: 2014: 41,274
Feb. 2014: 41,270
March 2014: 41,363
April 2014: 41,532
May 2014: 41,528
June 2014: 41,773
July 2014: 41,854
Aug. 2014: 42,052

Budget Requests Tied to Growth

•           $5 million to increase prisoner per diem from $10.10 to $10.42 to cover health care costs
•           $5.6 million to cover the annual price adjustment for health care
•           $7.8 million to cover costs associated with growth expenses such as food, bedding and clothing.
•           $7.2 million to cover costs for 1,000 medium custody private prison beds.