I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Friday, May 29, 2009

Just Listening

If I've seemed unusually quiet the past few days, it's because I've been trying to listen, processing what different people have had to say in the past week about Marcia's death and where we might go from here.

I'm still trying to map the terrain out here; there's so much I don't know, from who runs the community center around the corner to just what an abolitionist would do to keep society safe from cannibalistic pedophiles and corporate sociopaths. I'm still not sure how to answer that, though the INCITE! Anthology has a really good piece on reconciling anti-violence work with abolition work, written along with folks at Critical Resistance.

A number of people have been touched to some degree by this tragedy. Even in chat rooms where people are a little more free to be cruel, the majority have expressed some sense of injustice at Marcia's death. What concerns me about the tone of it, though, is that most of those also express the expectation that even this incident won't result in substantial reform.

I've heard the same thing from politicians, journalists and seasoned advocates here as well. The struggle has gone on a long time; I'm sure it gets discouraging. When I look at the movement, though, I can't help but believe that another world is possible. This past week, in the course of developing this blog, I've dropped in on abolition projects and radical scholars, discovered new sites for prisoner artwork and writings, and taken comfort in the compassionate response of the peace and justice community to the life and death of Marcia Powell. Local people working on prison reform and abolition have come more clearly into view across disciplines and sectors of the community. I have no worries that Marcia's death will be swept under the rug with people like them around. They won't let it happen.

More importantly, perhaps, people ordinarily not concerned with prison conditions have taken notice and taken stands against cages and excessive sentencing. Politicians are trying to articulate some of the systemic flaws that led to Marcia's criminalization instead of to community treatment. Mainstream media outlets are publicizing the details of Marcia's memorial service, suggesting that her death is news that a broader segment of the community might be interested in. Today the AZ Department of Corrections formally suspended use of the uncovered outdoor cells. I'm not sure how encouraging the news is that they'll be "retrofitting" them with roofs and water instead - I have a visceral reaction to the use of cages at all. But it's a start. I don't know what took them so long.

None of this is to say that I think we're on the brink of radical systemic change. And I'm well aware that some progressive agendas still tend to accommodate oppressive institutions, putting off the day when real transformation can finally be brought about. I hate the idea of making inhumane systems function "better" when they simply need to be eliminated. But we also can't just leave people to die while trying to overthrow the carceral regime.

No comments:

Post a Comment