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, June 5, 2009

Abolish them all.

First, let me repeat: There needs to be an independent outside investigation of the death of Marcia Powell, and the appropriateness of certain policies as soon as possible - before evidence is corrupted. This is the latest on the story from Stephen Lemons at the Phoenix New Times. It is titled: "Marcia Powell did have next of kin." (She was removed from life support just hours after she was brought in from under the sun. Why could that not wait for a meaningful search for next of kin? How can Ryan investigate himself on this?)

Also announced today: It's been a little more than two weeks since Marcia Powell died, and the Perryville prison complex in Goodyear just can't get by without using outdoor cages, so they're back. It was previously reported that prisoners were supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes - that's the brilliant new policy they have in place now, with a log book where staff have to document when the prisoner was last seen alive.

That's going to keep people like Marcia from heatstroke and death again?

Here's the AZ Republic article announcing it.

Why don't we ever hear what prisoners and families have to say?

Also came across this article today about how creatively states are saving money on prisoner food budgets: they're just eliminating meals. Some prisoner advocates argue that making food a scarce commodity in prison is not only a denial of human rights, but it creates an opening for more violence.

That make sense, since it will also lead to more time and more reason to leave people locked down or in solitary. And I guess if people are busy fighting for food they won't be clamoring for luxuries like health care.

That's often an effective tactic used against poor people who are trying to organize: hunger is no small thing. Hunger is a brutal form of torture that can be dragged out for years; it wears down ones resistance and gnaws at our children; it brings entire armies to its knees. Hunger feeds our jails and prisons already with check-kiters and petty thieves - need we starve them there, now, too?

The new budget proposal calls for privatizing several prisons in AZ, including Perryville, where Marcia died and and Death Row lives. The only thing in the way of this legislation passing is the Governor. All attention should be focused on the governor's office. She could even write Marcia's law into this budget with oversight and prisoner rights protections, provisions for reducing the flow of people into prisons and overcrowding, and appropriations to make it meaningful. Marcia's Law could be a deal-maker, if she wanted it to be.

Enough of us have to let her know we want Marcia's Law first. And what we want in it.

For folks with questions about where the prison reform advocates are on this, contact Middle Ground Prison Reform in Tempe. Donna Hamm is the one who proposed Marcia's law, and probably has a clear agenda for what that might look like.

When you do contact your legislators and the governor's office, please just remember the following concerns that need to be raised:

1. do not privatize prisons - the DOC needs to be accountable - focusing instead on saving money through decarceration;

2. adequately fund re-entry assistance, long term affordable housing, and employment opportunities (and options for the disabled) to reduce recidivism;

3. reform sentencing laws to reduce incarceration rates, and

4. put teeth into prisoner rights protections - including funding more intensively for training of guards and prisoners alike about rights,

5. Citizen - community-level - oversight of facilities based on the overall jail/prison population, so both communities that operate prisons and those that lose their children to them are represented;

6. New policy immediately: no more cages (That makes a great freewayblogging sign, if you can find a fenced overpass);

7. Prioritize making recommended reforms to health and mental health care services for prisoners, and compassionate release for those who are elderly and seriously or terminally ill.

We need to take control of these institutions - just like our schools - and hold government accountable.

We don't need more commissions and studies, really. This can just be done. Just keep in mind the vision of a world with no need for prisons, and step by step we'll blaze a trail. It's already begun. Critical Resistance, in fact, produces the CR Abolition Organizing Tool Kit, which is worth the $15 I think they ask for it. Spend some time on the website - it's a great resource. There are a few other good books at that link too - I'd recommend all four selections for starting an abolition library.

I'd also recommend a subscription to The Abolitionist (same page): mine just came today and it's pretty good. It helps to see how others address the dilemmas and challenges inherent in building a world without bars.

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