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

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Senate Bills 1145 and 1188: WRITE! CALL!

This editorial about pending budget cuts is much better articulated than I would be able to do. Here is the link to the AZ State Legislature to advocate. It looks like we have to choose between prisoners, the mentally ill, the elderly, the young, and the abused. It's a false dichotomoy, though: prisoners are the elderly, the young, the abused, and the mentally ill. They represent the frailties of all of us.

Argue against selling death row to the lowest bidder while you're at it. Private Corrections Institute has some good resources on prison privatization, and they've been actively fighting it in Arizona. The Senate is looking at it to save money in the next round of budget cuts.

Among other troubling things, the strike everything amendment proposed by the majority party would PROHIBIT anyone from providing medical care to prisoners at a higher standard than the federal government requires. Imagine that. I want to save your mother's life and have the tools to do so, but Arizona won't let me unless the feds require it. How cheap can they get?

It would also mandate that the AZ Department of Corrections contracts out several state prisons - including the Perryville complex - to cut costs. Check it out. (Here's the Democrats' press release of the same day.)

By the way, thank you, Ann Rider.

Support For Mentally Ill is Essential.
Arizona Republic
Opinion: Ann Rider
June 2, 2009

The tragic death of Marcia Powell, a mentally ill woman who died in an outdoor holding pen at Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville, may be only the beginning. The Arizona Senate, in cutting over $76 million of funding in Senate Bill 1145 and Senate Bill 1188, may sentence people with psychiatric disabilities to the streets or prisons for support.

In this newest round with the budget, the Republican Senate proposes to cut eligibility for services to only individuals below 100 percent of Federal Poverty Level.

One of the proposals is to change the law that supports community services for individuals with mental illness, so that the state "may" provide services.

This means all services statewide will be eliminated for about 67,500 individuals.

Tens of thousands of people won't be able to fill their prescriptions; the medications they need are not cheap. They're not available at Walmart for $4. These tens of thousands of people will quickly become very ill and where will they go?

Already, hospitals deny evaluations because there is no benefit for treatment, so what will happen when your loved one begins to feel despair and considers suicide? Unless you have very good health insurance, there will be no services.

In Maricopa County, approximately 19,000 individuals are class members in the Arnold vs. Sarn lawsuit, which forced the state to provide community services. Because of this lawsuit, thousands of people receive services that help them go back to work, find independent housing, and reclaim a full life in the community. These services allow people to actually recover and become productive citizens.

SB 1145 impacts the possibility of recovery in several ways. First, by changing "shall" to "may," the state "may" dismantle a public behavioral-health system built over decades. This cuts not only services, but thousands of jobs. Second, by denying services to tens of thousands of people, we ensure that instead of creating productive citizens, we create disability for life.

This picture is not just possible; this is what will happen unless this Senate action is stopped. People with mental illness are not lazy; they are not shirking their responsibility. For the most part, they do everything they can to overcome great difficulties and find a meaningful life, just like everyone else. But without services and supports, it's impossible.

The cost down the road is horrendous too, within a few months. Where will thousands of people go? To jail for crimes such as panhandling. Locked in a hospital, if we can find beds. Onto the streets.

We must do better. There will be many more Marcia Powells before this is all over, unless we consider other options for balancing the budget. There are reasonable alternatives to these drastic cuts.

We must support options that keep our state thriving - for everyone.

Ann Rider is director of Recovery Empowerment Network, a statewide coalition of people recovering from psychiatric disabilities.

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