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

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Governor Brewer, and Death by Incarceration

Governor Brewer will presumably be fighting with legislators this week, but she can also be found speaking at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, June 24, at noon. The event will be held at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort, 7200 N. Scottsdale Road.

The Governor's speech at this affair is of the utmost importance, and will likely go on as planned, no matter who else dies.

Not that I'm necessarily advocating any kind of protest or demonstration at that time and place - that would be terribly disruptive and rude, and might make people uncomfortable. I just think it's good to keep up with our elected officials. I don't have a grievance with the Governor so much as I think she has the most power to take meaningful action on these issues, and I can't tell if she's not listening, doesn't care, or just doesn't agree.

Maybe someone out there has some better ideas, but short of crashing various parties or throwing one of our own, I'm not sure how else ordinary, non-elite Arizonans become visible or relevant to government officials or get to ask the questions that the press fails to.

Are we not also entitled to access our elected officials, or do only Chamber of Commerce members and political insiders have that right? Do only certain people speak for the interests of prisoners and their families, such that everyone else's voice becomes null and void? Has either the Governor or Director Ryan even entered a room full of people directly affected by the policies and conditions of incarceration that they are responsible for? Aren't those the people the Governor should be directly addressing? And shouldn't the legislature be engaged with them - with us - as well?

Since the Governor does so much public speaking, perhaps she and DOC Interim Director Charles Ryan would grace the rest of us with their presence at a town hall meeting to discuss Marcia's death, prison policies on cages, overcrowding, budgetary effects on inmates and families, privatization, notoriously poor health care for women - with serious consequences - and the creation of an independent oversight citizen's committee to address issues with the DoC, for starters. I would think the local PBS and NPR stations would also be happy to interview them on call-in shows.

Seventy-nine prisoners have died in DOC custody since July 2008. That's a lot of families affected. Three were considered suicides, three were homicides, two are under investigation, one was a drug overdose, and the rest were "natural causes". I wonder: is heatstroke a "natural cause?", or would they call it an "accident"? How often do inmates die from accidents? How do they characterize death from a heart attack after being tasered, or a stroke while being held down by six guards? What is choking on one's vomit while seizuring in 4-point restraints in an unsupervised cell considered?

How about cancer that became terminal because an inmate couldn't afford the cost of their medical care (which is soon to rise, even as inmate wages are being lowered), or because diagnosis and treatment were delayed by understaffing and misplaced priorities? Is that a "natural cause", or "neglect"? Or the folks who contract Hep C while incarcerated due to unsanitary, overcrowded conditions, then get inadequate care - is that "natural"? What would it be if it was our own family member?

Who investigates every time a prisoner dies, and who decides how to classify for the DoC what killed them? Why don't we ever hear about it? There's a whole day and a ceremony set aside every year for fallen peace officers; the Governor attends that, too. What about people that are killed by the state without due process? What about the innocent caught up in the system too? Who honors them? How do we even learn their names? Why should dying in custody reflect shame on prisoners instead of on their keepers - or on the society that created the conditions in which they died?

Why do only rich criminals get to die at home?

And who will ever know why that officer shot himself on prison grounds last week? Did he fall in the line of duty? Or did the DOC's policies and practices kill him, too? We know prison takes its toll on guards. Was his voice ever raised? Was he ever heard? Are there other COs concerned about how things are going down out there? Are you organizing? Do we have some of the same things on our wish lists (prisoners and COs)

For those not inclined to engage in public protest, guerrilla theater or the like, please write to your local papers and national media outlets and urge more in-depth investigation into these issues - and call legislators continuously. They need to know we are still waiting for answers, and while they probably threw the Perryville 3 in the hole for setting those fires, we have a wider range of tools available to us than prisoners do, and cannot be simply locked away and ignored.

Hopefully not, anyway.

1 comment:

  1. These deaths need to be investigated. In Nevada people dare to ask questions too. The silence is deafening!

    NV Prison Watch