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

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lifting As She Climbs

Over the course of the past couple of days, I've had the privilege of getting to know a woman who spent time as a prisoner out at Perryville. Leanne is 60ish, but appears much younger. She was neatly and conservatively dressed when I picked her up at work, where others interact with her warmly. She's well-spoken, insightful, and exceptionally gracious. She is humble, and yet unashamed of her social status: an ex-prisoner living in a homeless shelter out on parole. She is kind and has a good sense of humor.

And she is probably innocent, but that's not why she called me.

Leanne contacted me because she wants to talk to someone about prisoner abuse and medical neglect at Perryville, and can't trust the Department of Corrections. She has a friend inside facing 3 1/2 more years in prison, recovering from cancer and having difficulty getting the care she needs. Understandably, Leanne wants to be sure her friend's welfare is protected if she blows the whistle.

Leanne is still on parole; I advised her she could be taking big risks by coming out - not only by exposing herself to the public as an ex-convict, but also by speaking out against people who once wielded so much power over her, and could again. Andrew Thomas' office prosecuted her; I don't know if his office will be investigating the prison or not.

I suggested to Leanne that she may be questioned in the course of a criminal investigation into prisoner neglect or abuse; she said "Good. They should have one." As she sees it, her friend has more at stake right now than she does; now that she's free, she's willing to do whatever she can to get help to the people she left inside. She still believes that if she's innocent they won't lock her up. I'm worried about her being re-imprisoned even if she doesn't violate parole.

I don't think she'll expose state secrets, though.

What Leanne had to say was disturbing but not shocking. Correctional health services is far from the luxurious "free health care" that some taxpayers imagine exists in prison. People die waiting for treatment, and sometimes they don't get the treatment at all because it's too expensive. Leanne's friend may have been sentenced to death because of the delay in diagnosing her cancer. I don't know what she did to end up in prison, but surely she deserves to live to see freedom again. Certainly her judge or jury had no idea of what punishment she would endure. Except for Leanne, she seems to be virtually alone.

I'll save the rest of Leanne's story for her to tell herself when and where appropriate. In the meantime I've contacted my legislators and sent an e-mail to the governor's office asking that they have an independent investigation of Marcia's death, and hear complaints about Perryville. I've sent out feelers about good investigative reporters. I know there are some tenacious prisoner advocates in this state, who have won judgments against the DOC before - and that they continue to do everything they can. I just hope enough people still care for prisoner rights to register on the political agenda; I hope it hasn't been so long since Marcia died that it doesn't matter anymore.

No comments:

Post a Comment