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, July 31, 2009

Arpaio more popular than Obama

And this is disturbing. This is where Arizonan's priorities are?


poll: Arpaio more popular than Obama, stimulus not helping

Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 3:01pm MST

Phoenix Business Journal - by Mike Sunnucks

Arizonans like Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio more than President Barack Obama and are not keen on the federal stimulus or creating a government-run health system, according a Rasmussen Reports poll.

The survey of 500 likely Arizona voters gave Obama a 46 percent approval rating compared to 57 percent for Arpaio.

Forty percent said the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is not good for the ailing economy, 32 percent said it is not making a difference and 24 percent said it is helping.

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said securing the border is more important than figuring out what to do with illegal immigrants already in the U.S. One in 5 said legalizing undocumented immigrants is more important than border security.

The Rasmussen poll also found that 52 percent oppose creation of a government-run health system to run alongside private-sector plans, while 43 percent of Arizonans supported the idea.

Fifty-one percent would prefer to see federal action first on immigration and the border and then health care. Forty-five percent want health care addressed first.

Gov. Jan Brewer got a 48 percent approval rating in the poll while only 17 percent liked the job the Legislature was doing.

The poll backs Brewer’s push for a temporary sales tax hike to help solve the state’s budget woes. Fifty-seven percent supported a 1-cent sales tax hike if the money goes toward schools, 38 percent opposed it.

The poll was conducted July 21.

More Border Deaths

I don't know how anyone can read about this and think that the immigration crisis is all about criminals coming over here to victimize our women and old people. It's about rape victims being more afraid of the police than their attacker because they are undocumented. It's about people so desperate to eke out a living that they'd die crossing the desert to get here. It's about our own humanity when confronted with people who are struggling to survive catastrophic economic circumstances at home...

By Brady McCombs
Cochise County sheriff's deputies recovered the body of a 22-year-old Guatemalan man east of Sierra Vista who died after walking for six days without food and water in an attempt to enter the United States illegally.

At 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the Cochise County Sheriff's Office received a phone call about a dead man at milepost 10 on Moson Road, about four miles east of Sierra Vista, said Carol Capas, Cochise County sheriff's spokeswoman.

A man at the scene told deputies that he was driving south on Moson Road when a man waved him over and told him that he thought his friend was dead. Deputies spotted a man lying in a tall patch of grass with his head being held by another man.

Paramedics arrived and pronounced the man dead. He was identified as Rogelio Antonio Rodas, 22, of Guatemala, Capas said. The man holding his head identified himself as Bersian Mendez-Perez, 31, of Chiapas, Mexico.

Mendez-Perez told deputies that he and Rodas had crossed the border six days earlier with a large group. He said they had been walking for six days without food or water. Rodas has been sick for two days, he said.

Someone came to pick them up in a car south of Sierra Vista on Wednesday but refused to continue with Rodas on board for fear he might die, Mendez-Perez told deputies.

The driver left Rodas and Mendez-Perez at Moson Road. Mendez-Perez told deputies that Rodas appeared to have died about 30 minutes before he went to get help.

Rodas is the 21st illegal immigrant found dead in Cochise County this calendar year, nearly double the 12 that had been found at this time last year, records from the Cochise County's medical examiner show.

At least seven bodies have been discovered this week across Arizona's stretch of U.S.-Mexico border from New Mexico to Yuma County.

At least 131 bodies have been found along that stretch since Jan. 1, up from 119 at the same time last year, medical examiners records show.

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or

Alright, you guys all have to go register at Pearce's website - this is too bizarre. It's scary. Go ahead, get on his mailing list then go to the Life Liberty whatever site and check it out. You have to sign onto their beliefs to use it - check those out. Scary. Even more disturbing is that you have to have this special server or know this trick in order to get your email through the legislature, which only those who agree with Russ Pearce will have access to. Here's Russel's latest newsletter (doesn't it sound like a greeting from an alien? what happens to people who disagree with this man?): -----------------------------------

Greetings Margaret,

There is a new website out there called It is a free tool for good law abiding citizens to use in contacting legislators at the Arizona capitol. You can write one e-mail and this system will send a separate e-mail to those legislators that you specify. You can select all 90 legislators at the capitol or just the House or the Senate. You can also just select the party affiliation, the leadership or committee members from any of the committees.

Couple of things to keep in mind though and that is this, the site was just launched yesterday (July 29th) and there maybe a few changes that may need to be made so be mindful of that. The guys at Life Liberty Freedom have worked real hard on this project. Also in order to use this system you must agree to the terms and conditions as well as the political views of Life Liberty Freedom. If you agree to the political views, which personally I do, then sign up at This is one powerful tool for you to use in making your voice heard at the capitol. Go sign up now! Remember it is FREE!



P.S. Margaret, don't for get to pass this on.

To register for Russell's newsletters and alerts go to and click on "Sign Up"

CAR WASH Fundraiser

Just hoping you all can come to a car wash to support one of the families affected by the car wash raid in June. The car wash is at 2801 N. 31st St. Iglesia San Pablo (just west of 32nd St. and one block south of Thomas in the parking lot) THIS SUNDAY August 2nd from 8am to 2pm.

PLEASE come help wash cars or bring your car to wash (or a donation of ANY SIZE!)

These women are really amazing individuals who are organizing to try to change their situation - you have to meet them!

Stop Prison Privatization: Arizona

Last push for a budget deal - if you call anyone about anything up there this week - or make signs to get attention, please ask that they not privatize prisons - I think the governor's veto is the only thing that stands in that way of that happening now.

Here's the rest of the information I got on this from AFSC this week:

Contact the following policy makers TODAY and tell them to SAY NO TO PRISONS FOR PROFIT!

Governor Jan Brewer

602.542.4331 or 800.253.0883 ph, 602.542.1381 fax. Make a comment online at:

Arizona Speaker of the House Kirk Adams

602.926.5495 ph, 602.417.3019 fax,

Arizona Senate President Robert Burns

602.926.5993 ph, 602.417.3225 fax,

ADC Interim Director Charles Ryan

602.542.5497 ph,

If you can blind copy us, we will have a better idea how effective this initiative is. If you receive responses, even boiler-plate ones, please forward those to us, if possible.

Thanks for all your continuing assistance. PLEASE ACT NOW!!

Caroline Isaacs

Program Director,

American Friends Service Committee

Arizona Area Program

103 N. Park Ave., Suite 111

Tucson, AZ 85719

520.623.9141 p/520.623.5901 f

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

License to Kill: Pearce's Bills

When I first heard about Beltran-Rabago last week, it was because he was an illegal immigrant who had been arrested for a series of rapes. But not much more information came after that, which is surprising, given how much white men like to talk about defending their women. Then a friend emails me a print version of the story that highlighted the citizenship status of the victims, not the perpetrator. The victims, you see, are undocumented also. Suddenly the way this man slipped into obscurity makes sense.

The Pinal County Sheriff believes this man is responsible for numerous "heinous crimes", but it appears that the status of being an illegal immigrant in this area of the country makes rape victims fear the police more than they fear their assailant. At least, that's what the Pinal County Sheriff thinks. Too bad that didn't deter them from their "crime suppression sweeps" with Arpaio. Instead of chasing down frightened motorists with SUV's and K-9 patrols, the Pinal County Sheriff could have been building relationships with people in the community who might be able to get other victims to come forward.

Most people who actually read this blog will understand the implications of this for Russell Pearce's last big push to get his anti-immigrant legislation signed into law with the budget package. He'll want to exploit the fact that the apparent perpetrator of these crimes is an illegal immigrant, not that some of the victims may have been scared into silence. the larger problem is the power that legislation like his gives to the real criminals among both the citizen and non-citizen populations. By criminalizing immigrants for their presence and robbing cities of their sanctuary status, he seeks to further marginalize the group of women and children that are already suffering most from the abuse, greed and exploitation of the privileged classes...not to mention the rest of us who have in some way benefited from someone else's cheap, hard labor in this state.

I hope Arizona's women's rights groups are prepared to jump on Pearce's attempt to resurrect his bills and slip them to the governor. He might not care what the rest of us think, but Brewer will - and her constituency is not as xenophobic as his, because the rest of us are in the mix. She can't win the state with just Republicans. Democrats matter a great deal in several upcoming Republican elections, in fact (assuming you believe in electoral politics, which many of my friends do not...). If she knows that we know what he's up to and that we'll hold her responsible for what she signs, then maybe she'll think twice about it. Especially if it's framed as a matter of women's safety.


I guess I'm kind of past writing letters to the governor now, myself, though.

Dismissed with Prejudice

So, Orlando's trespassing case was thrown out of court today because of procedural problems the Maricopa County Sheriff's office had with the evidence-gathering process. Basically, it sounds like one of their deputies (Smith) blew off the defense's deposition, and her testimony about it was directly contradicted in court by her superior officer (McIntyre). She was pretty hostile during questioning; was even told to chill out a couple of times by the judge - The day's "Minister of Justice": Armando Gandarilla. He admonished her for being "combative".

Gandarilla dismissed the case with prejudice (check this out for the last time he did this), levying sanctions against the MCSO in the process (which will also pick up the defense attorney's tab). The prosecuting attorney tried to offer up Deputy Smith as a sole sacrificial lamb, but Gandarilla wouldn't have it. I don't know what he thinks about the MCSO trying to prosecute the case in the first place, but he listened pretty extensively to the county attorney's arguments and the defense's evidence before issuing his decision. It really came down to whether Smith blew off the original defense's deposition contemptuously or missed it under a supervisor's orders or through sincere error. Clearly Smith didn't emanate sincerity.

So, dismissing the case wasn't necessarily a message that it was brought irresponsibly in the first place, but the good Judge didn't let the opportunity pass to tell the Sheriff what he thinks. Gandarilla cited his 31 years in the legal profession, which always means that someone's in trouble. He couldn't believe this case had even reached his bench, and seemed pretty annoyed with the prosecutor for trying it. He mentioned that people in the legal profession are held to higher standards, and suggested that the MCSO's lack of credibility and conduct in this case and in general has put all of law enforcement in a bad light - hence the sanctions against the department, not just the deputy. So, it wasn't so much about freedom of speech or anything as it was about the integrity of evidence - officially, anyway.

At least, I think that's what happened. Check out Stephen Lemons' blog this week, I'd guess, for the full scoop. It was really a pretty good show by the defense - sorry I didn't get his name.

The courtroom was packed, by the way, with all the usual suspects and a few I didn't know, including a whole bunch of kids. We all started to applaud and cheer but got hushed after the prosecutor gave up arguing with the judge and he issued his ruling one final time. One of the other court-watchers heard the county attorney say, on her way out the door, "I hope you all get sanctions" (presumably a reference to our collective emotional response to Orlando's victory).

Guess this won't go over well in either Arpaio's or Thomas' offices today. They probably watched it on closed-circuit TV trying to identify members of the audience to see who to go after next. Stupid white men (with guns). You're never going to win this one, guys. You can't just keep bullying people into silence or submission, be it by criminalizing their freedom of speech, or conducting those massive "crime suppression sweeps" in select neighborhoods. We outnumber you now.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I'm going to spare you my long narrative justifying the actions I'm about to propose : Figure it out and if it's something you can do let us know the results - we'll start a blog dedicated to dealing with incidents of racial profiling and how the community can deal more effectively with it.

1. challenge racial-profiling: drive only with the minimum ID needed to identify you as the legal driver, that you are properly insured, etc. Leave any documentation you may have indicating citizenship at home. Ask police if they can independently verify your citizenship. If the police doubt your citizenship, it is up to them to prove they are wrong. Now keep track of two things for us:

What do white people get pulled over for to begin with?

How long do white people get detained pending verification of their citizenship?

Send your answers to my email.

2. Congregate at the Tuscon courthouse where Walt Staton will be sentenced for littering. That will be August 11. I'm sorry. That's all I know. I'll try to keep updated. Anyway, bring a jug of water, because the sentencing judge is going to ask him if he can refrain from continuing to commit this particular crime, and if 100 or 1000 people raise their jugs when he says no, he's going to keep doing this, then something's got to be done about this stupid choice of laws to enforce. Why is there no outcry over dead bodies littering the scenery in the Wildlife Refuge? It is because this has nothing to do with litter.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Copwatch, MCSO, and Proof of Citizenship

Robert Mcelwain has a blog that I'm linking to here which describes a recent Phoenix (MCSO) copwatch I was also on - we were just on different teams that night - these might even be different nights.

Anyway, I looked back through the coverage Matt and I got Thursday. It was kind of disturbing to reflect on this heavily militarized, SWAT-themed crew of MCSO trucks and unmarked black Explorers, all the K-9s they could round up, and more gear on their bodies than the marines even try to carry prowling through the streets. They had flackjackets on, unmarked cars around the corner for back-up, all sorts of weapons at the ready: They could drug you, gas you, electrocute you, bomb you, shoot you with several varieties of bullets. This was the show for the cameras: there was no mistaking who would win in the case of revolution - the state is in absolute control, should the natives be getting a little restless. The state will kick our ass. Guerilla warfare needs a complete overhaul.

Anyway, I don't think the MCSO was engaged in either military exercises or crime-stopping activity on Thursday night. They were just doing their usual, pre-announced racial-profiling thing: pulling over people who look like immigrants (??) on traffic stops, then doing the whole ID check on everyone in the vehicle. Twice, after we waited with cars for a long time it turned out that the hold-up was someone trying to get their ID, because as soon as this woman or teenage boy came up and showed the cop the right document, they were all free to go. At least they let someone run home to get it.

So, does this all mean that if I don't carry proof of citizenship on me, I could be detained until I proved my legal status? My whole family could be detained at a traffic stop because I didn't carry my green card that morning? Isn't there a presumption of innocence on my side - a presumption, in this case of legitimacy - and doesn't the state then bear the burden of proving that I am not a citizen, rather than me having to prove that I am?

I also wonder what the outcome of some of these stops might have been if we weren't present, visible, documenting everything that was done. There's no question the cops knew who we were and what we were doing there.

Follow-up July 28, 2009 - Here's the link to the Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan's blog post, which answers some of those questions. Very disturbing.

No More Deaths' Day In Court

Just some interesting clips. Read the whole thing at the link

From today's AZ Republic Editorial: re Water Effort...

"Men, women and children continue to die along Arizona's southern border. According to the Border Patrol, 124 people died in the Tucson Sector from Oct. 1 to June 30. ..
...Members of No More Deaths have been found guilty of littering after leaving bottles of water on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge for just such migrants. One member faces a possible year in prison or a $10,000 fine when he returns to federal court Aug. 11."

--------------------------------- now this is my editorial.

I think thousands of people should show up with jugs of water the day of Walt Staton's sentencing. The court, the department of justice, the state in all its crazy forms needs to know that if they put that man away for even one day, they'll have to put us all away. And he shouldn't have to pay a single dime. Humanitarian aid is never a crime. Right?

So, August 11. Keep it open. (Is that considered "conspiracy?")

Persevering Prison Pages: Must Read

If you haven't already visited this blog this week by a guy doing time at Manazanita in Tuscon, check it out. He's been keeping up with what's been going on in and outside of prison - this is one of the blogs I follow. Apparently a state legislator came and paid the guys a visit not that long ago...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Another victim of Joe Arpaio's criminal negligence

Courthouse News Service

Link to the Courthouse News Service 7/22/09 article about yet another prisoner death Arpaio is being sued for due to policies and conditions in his jail.

Posted using ShareThis


Urgent Action Alert!!! (FROM AFSC Tuscon)

Some Arizona state legislators are determined to privatize ALL state prison complexes, as well as medical care and food services to prisoners, in spite of the Governor’s veto. This includes the state’s only women’s facility and may extend to maximum and supermaximum security units, including death row.

If this proposal goes through, it will be Arizona’s largest ever relinquishment of state control over a core government function to the for-profit sector. No private prison corporation has ever attempted to run an entire state’s prison complexes. Very few manage high security prisoners, and only in small numbers. This is a risky, unproven strategy that gambles with public safety in the name of questionable returns.

If these prisons are privatized and the state abdicates its authority, this will place over 11,000 additional prisoners in the hands of for-profit corporations that have chronic histories of wasteful expenditures, contractual failures and public endangerment.

Why Arizona should SAY NO to for-profit prisons:

1. Privatizing an entire state’s prisons would be a reckless experiment that gambles with public safety.

No private for-profit prison corporation has ever attempted to run an entire state’s facilities. Even Tennessee, the home state of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), refused the corporation’s bid to take over that state’s prisons. These companies have no track record to prove that they can safely manage all the various security levels and special needs of prisoners in Arizona. Do we really want our state to be a guinea pig for a national experiment?

Every for-profit prison corporation that would compete for these contracts has a history of serious problems, ranging from financial mismanagement, abuse scandals, riots and disturbances, and patterns of violence and abuse. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) found a significantly higher rate of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in private prisons (66% more) than in public prisons. Inmate-on-staff assaults were 49% higher in the for-profits.

For specific information regarding lawsuits, incidents, and poor management of prison facilities for some of the prison corporations doing business in or with the state of Arizona for, please see the attached “Rap Sheets”or go to:

This risky, unproven strategy could prove to be a disaster for Arizona.

2. Private, for-profit prisons are no bargain.

Every credible, independent cost comparison study ever conducted has found that analyses of purported cost savings of private prisons in legitimate apples-to-apples comparisons, conclusively demonstrate that the for-profits cost about the same or in some cases are more expensive.

Maximus, an independent, reputable research firm, studied Arizona's prisons in 2006. It determined taxpayers were spending an estimated $1,526,289 MORE annually on two privately run prisons.

Counties and states often pick up the tab for things that private prison companies don’t provide, like mental health and medical care. And when there are riots or escapes, it is local law enforcement that has to put out the fires, send in SWAT teams, and track down escaped prisoners—at taxpayer expense.

Giving one private corporation a monopoly over Arizona facilities gives them little incentive to cut costs. What’s more, the proposal vetoed by Governor Brewer actually proposed to split any cost savings between the state and the private operator! Once they take over the entire state system, the corporation would have Arizona over a barrel if the company decided to raise its rates.

These are out of state, for-profit, publicly traded corporations that are concerned only with their bottom line, not what’s best for the people of Arizona.

3. Privatizing Arizona’s prisons means lower wages for prison staff, in the middle of a huge recession.

One of the ways private prison corporations cut costs is by cutting corners—primarily on staff pay and training. Public safety is one of the few remaining employment sectors in Arizona, and privatizing these jobs would be a huge economic blow to the thousands of men and women who work in these facilities.

That’s why the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association (the state’s prison guards union) rallied at the State Capitol Monday, July 13, to show their opposition to legislative efforts to privatize the state's prisons. Corrections officers were joined by AZCOPS leaders and union activists from CWA and AFL-CIO.

None of the corporations in the running for these contracts is based in the state of Arizona, so all the dollars spent on administrative costs would flow out of the state into the pockets of out-of-state corporate CEO’s.

4. Arizona legislators, including several members of the Republican leadership that brokered this deal, are in the pocket of the private prison industry.

All the major private prison corporations have numerous, highly paid lobbyists working day and night to influence our elected officials.

These lobbyists and other private prison interests gave $77,267 to Arizona candidates during the 2002 and 2004 election cycles. Republicans received nearly 90% of industry contributions.

Is it any wonder that some of the biggest beneficiaries of these contributions are now the ones leading the charge to privatize Arizona’s prisons?:

RECIPIENT 2002 2004

Sen. Russell Pearce (R-18) $880 $2,400

Sen. Robert Burns (R-9) $1,735 $736

Sen. Robert Waring (R-7) $650 $1,595

Sen. Thayer Verschoor (R-22) $0 $1,130

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-22) $0 $675

Sen. Jack Harper (R-4) $0 $625

Keep in mind, Arizona’s contribution limits are among the lowest in the country, at $270 per legislative candidate per election in 2002 and $280 in 2004. Unfortunately, no comparable statistics were available for the 2006 or 2008 elections.

Source: The Institute on Money in State Politics, “Policy Lock-Down: Prison Interests Court Political Players.” April, 2006.

What YOU can do….

Contact the following policy makers tell them to SAY NO TO PRISONS FOR PROFIT!

Governor Jan Brewer

**Please THANK her for vetoing the earlier version of this bill, SB1028 and ask her to hold firm in her commitment to ensuring that Arizona fulfills its responsibility to manage its own prisons.

602.542.4331 or 800.253.0883 ph, 602.542.1381 fax. Make a comment online at:

ADC Interim Director Charles Ryan

602.542.5497 ph,

Arizona Speaker of the House Kirk Adams

602.926.5495 ph, 602.417.3019 fax,

Arizona Senate President Robert Burns

602.926.5993 ph, 602.417.3225 fax,

If you can blind copy us, we will have a better idea how effective this initiative is. If you receive responses, even boiler-plate ones, please forward those to us, if possible.

Thanks for all your continuing assistance. Together we can stop this!

Caroline Isaacs

Program Director,

American Friends Service Committee

Arizona Area Program

103 N. Park Ave., Suite 111

Tucson, AZ 85719

520.623.9141 p/520.623.5901 f

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From Alternet:Beyond Attica: The Untold Story of Women's Resistance Behind Bars

By Hans Bennett, AlterNet
Posted on July 21, 2009, Printed on July 22, 2009

"When I was 15, my friends started going to jail," says Victoria Law, a native New Yorker. "Chinatown's gangs were recruiting in the high schools in Queens and, faced with the choice of stultifying days learning nothing in overcrowded classrooms or easy money, many of my friends had dropped out to join a gang."

"One by one," Law recalls, "they landed in Rikers Island, an entire island in New York City devoted to pretrial detainment for those who can not afford bail."

Law shares this and other recollections in her new book, Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press). At 16, she herself decided to join a gang, but was arrested for the armed robbery that she committed for her initiation into the gang. "Because it was my first arrest -- and probably because 16-year-old Chinese girls who get straight As in school did not seem particularly menacing -- I was eventually let off with probation," she writes.

Before her release from jail, Law was held in the "Tombs" awaiting arraignment. While the adult women she met there had all been arrested for prostitution, she also met three teenagers arrested for unarmed assault. "Two of the girls were black lesbian lovers. In a scenario that would be repeated 13 years later in the case of the New Jersey Four, they had been out with friends when they encountered a cab driver who had tried to grab one of them. Her friends intervened, the cab driver called the police and the girls were arrested for assault." Law notes that "both of my cellmates were subsequently sent to Rikers Island."

These early experiences, coupled with her later discovery of radical politics, pushed Law "to think about who goes to prison and why." She got involved in several projects to support prisoners, which included helping to start Books Through Bars in New York City, sending free books to prisoners. In college, she "began researching current prisoner organizing and resistance," and upon discovering almost zero documentation of resistance from women prisoners, she began her own documentation and directly contacted women prisoners who were resisting. A college paper became a widely distributed pamphlet, and at the request of several women prisoners she'd corresponded with, Law helped to publish their writings in a zine called Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison. Law writes that the zine and pamphlet "heightened awareness not only about incarcerated women's issues, but also women's actions to challenge and change the injustices they faced on a daily basis."

"This book is the result of seven and a half years of reading, writing, listening, and supporting women in prison," Law says about Resistance Behind Bars, noting that each chapter in her book "focuses on an issue that women themselves have identified as important." The chapters include topics as diverse as health care, the relationship between mothers and daughters, sexual abuse, education, and resistance among women in immigration detention. Resistance Behind Bars paints a picture of women prisoners resisting a deeply flawed prison system, which Law hopes will help to empower both the women held in cages and those on the outside working to support them.

Who Goes To Prison?

Since 1970, the U.S. prison population has skyrocketed, from 300,000 to over 2.3 million. According to the U.S. Justice Department, this staggering increase has not resulted from a rise in crime. In fact, since 1993, the prison population has increased by over one million, but during this same period, both property offenses and serious violent crime have been steadily declining. The New York Times recently cited a 2008 report by the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College London documenting that the U.S. has more prisoners than any other country. Furthermore, with 751 out of 100,000 people, and one out of every 100 adults in prison or jail, the U.S. also has the highest incarceration rate in the world. With only five percent of the world's population, the U.S. has almost a quarter of the world's prisoners.

While women comprise only nine percent of the U.S. prison population, their numbers have been increasing at a faster rate than men. As Law documents, "between 1990 and 2000, the number of women in prison rose 108 percent, from 44,065 to 93,234. (The male prison population grew 77 percent during that same time period.) By the end of 2006, 112,498 women were behind bars."

Like with male incarceration rates, women behind bars are disproportionately low-income and people of color. Law writes that "only 40 percent of all incarcerated women had been employed full-time before incarceration. Of those, most had held low-paying jobs: a study of women under supervision (prison, jail, parole or probation) found that two-thirds had never held a job that paid more than $6.50 per hour. Approximately 37 percent earned less than $600 per month."

A 2007 Bureau of Justice study documented that 358 of every 100,000 Black women, 152 of every 100,000 Latinas, and 94 of every 100,000 white women are incarcerated. Explaining this racial discrepancy, Law argues that inner-city Black and Latino neighborhoods are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. She cites a 2005 U.S. Department of Justice study which concluded that Blacks and Latinos are "three times as likely as whites to be searched, arrested, threatened or subdued with force when stopped by the police."

The so-called "War on Drugs" has played a key role in the growth of the U.S. prison population. Law writes about the impact of New York State's Rockefeller Drug Laws passed in 1973, "which required a sentence of 15 years to life for anyone convicted of selling two ounces or possessing four ounces of a narcotic, regardless of circumstances or prior history. That year, only 400 women were imprisoned in New York State. As of January 1, 2001, there were 3,133. Over 50 percent had been convicted of a drug offense and 20 percent were convicted solely of possession. Other states passed similar laws, causing the number of women imprisoned nationwide for drug offenses to rise 888 percent from 1986 to 1996."

Distinguishing women prisoners from their male counterparts, Law cites a Bureau of Justice study which "found that women were three times more likely than men to have been physically or sexually abused prior to incarceration."

Women Prisoners Don't Resist?

The central thesis of Resistance Behind Bars is truly profound. In clear, non-academic language, Law argues that recent scholarship documenting and radically criticizing the increased incarceration rates and mistreatment of women prisoners "largely ignores what the women themselves do to change or protest these circumstances, thus reinforcing the belief that incarcerated women do not organize." Alongside academia, Law also harshly criticizes radical prison activists, arguing that "just as the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s downplayed the role of women in favor of highlighting male spokesmen and leaders, the prisoners' rights movement has focused and continues to focus on men to speak for the masses."

Law gives honorable mention to two books that documented women's resistance at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York State: Juanita Diaz-Cotto's Gender, Ethnicity, and the State (1996) and the collectively written Breaking the Walls of Silence: AIDS and Women in a New York State Maximum Security Prison (1998). Since these two books "no other book-length work has focused on incarcerated women's activism and resistance," writes Law. As a result, Law argues that women prisoners "lack a commonly known history of resistance. While male prisoners can draw on the examples of George Jackson, the Attica uprising and other well-publicized cases of prisoner activism, incarcerated women remain unaware of precedents relevant to them."

Epitomizing the scholarship that Law criticizes, author Virginia High Brislin wrote that "women inmates themselves have called very little attention to their situations," and "are hardly ever involved in violent encounters with officials (i.e. riots), nor do they initiate litigation as often as do males in prison."

To challenge Brislin's assertion, Law gives numerous examples of women rioting and initiating litigation, including the "August Rebellion" in 1974 at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York State. On July 2, 1974, prisoner Carol Crooks won a lawsuit against prison authorities, with the court "issuing a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the prison from placing women in segregation without 24-hour notice and a hearing of these charges," writes Law. In response, "five male guards beat Crooks and placed her in segregation. Her fellow prisoners protested by holding seven staff members hostage for two and a half hours. However, 'the August Rebellion' is virtually unknown today despite that fact that male state troopers and (male) guards from men's prisons were called to suppress the uprising, resulting in 25 women being injured and 24 women being transferred to Matteawan Complex for the Criminally Insane without the required commitment hearings."

Law also criticizes author Karlene Faith, who acknowledges that women resist, but who wrote that in the 1970s, women prisoners "were not as politicized as the men [prisoners], and they did not engage in the kinds of protest actions that aroused media attention." To challenge Faith's argument, Law cites several rebellions that received significant media attention, including one that the New York Times wrote two stories about. As Law recounts, "in 1975, women at the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women held a sit-down demonstration to demand better medical care, improved counseling services, and the closing of the prison laundry. When prison guards attempted to end the protest by herding the women into the gymnasium and beating them, the women fought back, using volleyball net poles, chunks of concrete and hoe handles to drive the guards out of the prison. Over 100 guards from other prisons were summoned to quell the rebellion."

In light of the many such stories documented in Resistance Behind Bars, Law argues that "instead of claiming that women in prison did not engage in riots and protest actions that captured media attention, scholars and researchers should examine why these acts of organizing fail to attract the same critical and scholarly attention as that given to similar male actions."

Resisting With Media-Activism

In the chapter "Grievances, Lawsuits, and the Power of the Media," Law observes that "gaining media attention often gains quicker results than filing lawsuits." Among the many organizing victories that were significantly aided by media attention, in 1999, Nightline focused on conditions at California's Valley State Prison for Women. Law explains that "after prisoner after prisoner told Nightline anchor Ted Koppel about being given a pelvic exam as 'part of the treatment' for any ailment, including stomach problems or diabetes, Koppel asked the prison's chief medical officer Dr. Anthony DiDomenico, for an explanation."

DiDomenico was apparently so confident that he would not be held accountable for his misconduct, that he answered Koppel by saying "I've heard inmates tell me they would deliberately like to be examined. It's the only male contact they get." After this interview was aired, DiDomenico was reassigned to a desk job, and as of 2001 he had been criminally indicted, along with a second doctor.

Demonstrating the power of this media coverage, Law notes that the "prisoner advocacy organization Legal Services for Prisoners with Children had been reporting the prisoners' complaints about medical staff's sexual misconduct to the CDC for four years with no result."

Along with agitating for coverage in the mainstream media, women prisoners have also created their own media projects. The chapter titled "Breaking The Silence: Incarcerated Women's Media" documents many important projects. Law explains that these projects are necessary because women prisoners' "voices and stories still remain unheard by both mainstream and activist-oriented media. Articles about both prison conditions and prisoners often portray the male prisoner experience, ignoring the different issues facing women in prison." Therefore, "women's acts of writing -- and publishing -- often serve a dual purpose: they challenge existing stereotypes and distortions of prisoners and prison life, framing and correcting prevailing (mis) perceptions. They also boost women's sense of self-worth and agency in a system designed to not only isolate and alienate its prisoners but also erase all traces of individuality."

Some activist-oriented publications have been receptive and have published prisoners' writings. From 1999 until its final issue in 2002, the radical feminist magazine Sojourner: A Women's Forum featured a section on women prisoner issues which included writings from the prisoners themselves. Law writes that this section, entitled "Inside/Outside" covered many topics, including "working conditions in women's facilities, the dehumanizing treatment of children visiting their mothers, and prisoner suicides.

Law spotlights many different projects. From 2002 to 2006, Perceptions was a monthly newspaper published by and for the women at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey. Because of censorship from prison warden Charlotte Blackwell, Perceptions was forced to limit its criticism of the prison, but the women published what they could. For example, in one issue, women wrote about how they would run the prison differently if they were in charge. Law notes that "their fantasies revealed the absence of programming for older women and those in the maximum custody unit, emergency counseling and therapeutic interventions and opportunities for mother-child interactions. It also drew attention to the facility's overcrowding and increased potentials for violence and conflict among prisoners."

Tenacious, the zine published by Law, was initiated by women prisoners who sought the help of friends outside the prison to actually publish and distribute it. "Free from the need to seek administrative approval, incarcerated women wrote about the difficulties of parenting from prison, dangerously inadequate health care, sexual assault by prison staff and the scarcity of educational and vocational opportunities, especially in comparison to their male counterparts. Although circulation remained small, the women's stories provoked public response," writes Law.

"Prison officials do whatever they can to strip prisoners of their dignity and self-worth," stated Barrilee Bannister, one of the founders of Tenacious. "Writing is my way to escape the confines of prison and the debilitating ailments of prison life. It's me putting on boxing gloves and stepping into the rink of freedom of speech and opinion."

Arguing For Prison Abolition

When Victoria Law was first introduced to radical politics, shortly after her own stint behind bars, she "discovered groups and literature espousing prison abolition."

"These analyses -- coupled with what I had seen firsthand -- made sense, steering me to work towards the dismantling, rather than the reform, of the prison system." Law's subsequent research has only served to affirm her belief in the need for abolition. She states clearly that "this book should not be mistaken for a call for more humane or 'gender responsive' prisons."

Some readers may view Law's prison abolitionist politics as being abstract or overly theoretical. However, to support her abolitionist viewpoint, she makes the practical argument that prisons simply don't work to reduce crime or increase public safety. She writes that "incarceration has not decreased crime; instead, 'tough on crime' policies have led to the criminalization … of more activities, leading to higher rates of arrest, prosecution and incarceration while shifting money and resources away from other public entities, such as education, housing, health care, drug treatment, and other societal supports. The growing popularity of abolitionist thought can be seen in the expansion of organizations such as Critical Resistance, an organization fighting to end the need for a prison-industrial complex, and the formation of groups working to address issues of crime and victimization without relying on the police or prisons."

Towards the end of Resistance Behind Bars, Law quotes Angela Y. Davis, who is a leading activist intellectual of the prison abolitionist movement. In her recent book Are Prisons Obsolete?, Davis writes that "a major challenge of this movement is to do the work that will create more human, habitable environments for people in prison without bolstering the permanence of the prison system. How, then, do we accomplish this balancing act of passionately attending to the needs of prisoners -- calling for less violent conditions, an end to sexual assault, improved physical and mental health care, greater access to drug programs, better educational work opportunities, unionization of prison labor, more connections with families and communities, shorter or alternative sentencing -- and at the same time call for alternatives to sentencing altogether, no more prison construction, and abolitionist strategies that question the place of the prison in our future?"

As if answering Davis' question, Law concludes that while striving for prison abolition "we need to also reach in, make contact with those who have been isolated by prison walls and societal indifference and listen to those who are speaking out, like many of the women who have shared their stories within this book. Because abolishing prisons will not happen tomorrow, next week or even next year, we need to break through these barriers, communicate, work with and support women who are in resistance today."

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Another Town Turns PRISON PRIVATEERS Down!

County wary of private prison

By Shar Porier


Published: Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BISBEE — “I think my constituents would come unglued.” That’s what Cochise County District 2 Supervisor Ann English said of the prospect of a second prison at Bisbee-Douglas International Airport. She made the comment during county supervisors’ work session on the matter Tuesday afternoon.

When the Arizona Department of Commerce sent out an appeal for a proposal to entice a privately operated 3,000-bed prison, the first location suggested by county staff was the county property at the airport.

L.H. Hamilton, county facilities director, explained that the Department of Commerce had sent requests for proposals to all counties in the state because an unknown company wants to build a prison in Arizona. The mystery company runs 70 prisons, halfway houses and other institutions across the U.S.

Since the county owns 410 acres at the airport that have been zoned “planned development,” Hamilton thought that was an appropriate place for it. The county could provide the 200-plus acres desired by the company at the location and a well. Douglas would be able to provide sewer service, since it has a 1,000-gallon-per-day line going to the existing 2,700-bed state-owned prison at the airport that would accommodate the additional load.

The property would have to be leased, which Hamilton said would bring $23,000 a year to the county.

But dangling a carrot in front of English, claiming the facility in her district would create 300 to 500 jobs, did no good. To her, it was a no-brainer.

She explained, “When the prison was built, it was set up as an economic benefit, and they told us new homes would go up to house the influx of employees. There have only been 10 homes built out there. In 25 years since the prison was built, there is no growth. Instead, it just shut down the whole area. And there is no additional work force available in Douglas unless they pay more than the state.”

Another taker?

Supervisor Richard Searle told Hamilton that Willcox in his district was interested in the prospect, but he didn’t think there was enough time to get in a proposal by the deadline, which is the close of business Friday. Nor is there enough land at the Willcox airport.

It wasn’t the first offer the county has received to participate in a proposal for a prison. Supervisor Pat Call said there was interest shown recently near the county landfill.

“They may be interested, but when you get to the stage of dropping the cloak of secrecy, then they’re looking for free land and anything they can get,” Call said.

For some time, the county has been looking to develop the airport area, but many companies want a pre-existing building of warehouse size to move in and start up operations. The county just doesn’t have that kind of money, Hamilton said.

English suggested looking into federal economic stimulus money to set up the infrastructure needed to attract economic development projects, particularly those with low water use.

Searle said he was “neutral” on the matter, while Call agreed with English — no need to pursue it.

Herald/Review reporter Shar Porier can be reached at 515-4692 or by e-mail at

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Crime of Being a Young Latino Male.

This young boy, Edgar, was arrested at the age of 15 and charged with gang-related activities, at least one of which was apparently sufficiently serious enough to warrant his adjudication from juvenile court to adult court, where - at 16 years old - he accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to five years in prison.

I haven't had much of substance to say since he died because I was waiting to learn more, and because what little I knew just broke my heart. Tonight I decide to do some more digging myself, rather than wait for what the ADC might ultimately decide to share. I'm more concerned with how he got to prison, right now, than how he died there. I imagine an autopsy will answer the second question in time.

According to court records, Edgar was given two concurrent five-year sentences to be served in the state prison system, one for "Assisting a Criminal Street Gang", and the other for "aggravated assault". Upon release from prison he was also to serve five years on intensive probation for yet another count of "aggravated assault"; the available records have no details on what exactly occurred that led to these charges been deemed so serious that he had to be sent to prison. Among his other court orders, he was told to stay away from the 9th Street Eastside gang.

As posted previously, Edgar died in prison of unknown causes about three months into his sentence. His record shows an ICE hold on him, suggesting that he was an undocumented immigrant. It doesn't not appear as if anyone in the court system even knew he might be undocumented until after they adjudicated him as an adult.

Because news reports were mixed about his immigration status and whether or not his family was even found after his death, I was rather distressed at the notion that he ended up going through this whole legal ordeal alone. At his sentencing hearing, however, six people stood up and addressed the court on his behalf, including a family member of the same last name. That's actually a lot of people for a young hoodlum adjudicated as an adult to find to speak for him. That's just a small sampling, I bet, of the people who loved him.

In researching the court records about Edgar, and wondering what criteria prosecutors used when they decide to adjudicated a youth as an adult, I came across an interesting report written in 2008 by the Children's Action Alliance about "Racial Disproportionality in the Juvenile Justice System in Maricopa County". Analyzing statistics of youth processed through juvenile courts - as well as those adjudicated as adults, it concludes that Latino youth are more disproportionately represented in both populations for similar offense as Anglo youth. In other words, if Edgar was a white kid - and if indeed his death was from "natural causes" that were unavoidable - chances are he would have died at school, or while playing soccer, or while helping his folks around the house; not while sweeping the kitchen floor in a state prison.

Over the course of the past ten days as I've patiently waited for more information on what happened to this boy, I've grown increasingly angry at the Arizona Department of Corrections for failing to care for him properly. But the greater crime is in how he ended up there - shuffled between judges and attorneys, aggressively adjudicated then pursued by the prosecutors' office to plead out as an adult, dependent on translators to help him understand the implications of being sentenced as an god, the Supreme Court not long ago determined that children under 18 can't even be executed because their brains haven't developed fully enough for them to comprehend the full scope and consequences of their crimes and punishment. Yet a 15-year old is supposed to get all this, even though English isn't even his native language?

The experts in his case were actually divided on that - one said he was not competent to stand trial and assist in his own defense, the other said he was, so a third exam was ordered, this one clearing the way for what would ultimately be his death by incarceration.

That seems to me to be cruel and unusual - and, based on the report I linked to above - it is also discriminatory. Where we needed to intervene to possibly save this young man's life was long before he ended up in court. Just look at him: how could prison be the best solution for either him or the community. Why are we so willing to invest our resources in punishing kids like him instead of educating, employing, or engaging them productively in the community?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Support the Local Resistance

Coming up tonight and tomorrow night are a couple of fundraisers with great bands for local organizations helping members of the community resist police harassment and oppression.

The first event begins tonight, Friday, July 17 at 7pm at Tonatierra, 802 N. 7th Street (corner of 7th St. and McKinley).
"Night of Resistance: Artists for Dignity" will be bringing local and national Hip Hop artists and musicians together in a show of solidarity with the community against unjust laws and legislators. The event is a fundraiser for PuenteAZ. There is a $5 donation requested.

On Saturday, July 18 at 8pm is a fundraising party at the home of a long time peace and justice activist, located at 4225 E. Buena Terra Way in Phoenix. Two awesome bands will be performing: The Haymarket Squares and the Black River Bandit. Suggested donation is $5-$25. This fundraiser is for "Nuestros Derechos", a group which hosts free educational "Know Your Rights" forums in the Phoenix area educating community members about their constitutional rights when interacting with law enforcement officers.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

ADC: Constituent Services for Friends and Family

I just got off the phone with Betty Cassiano from the AZ Department of Corrections Office of Constituent Services. As I noted in previous posts, her office follows up on concerns raised by friends and families of prisoners which aren't addressed or resolved at the prison complex level for whatever reason. Usually, contacting her office is the final step in the formal process of filing complaints or raising concerns on behalf of prisoners or their families, but she handles many calls in which her office is the first step someone takes. She and her two staff field approximately 3000 calls per month, in fact. In light of that, the amount of time she spent discussing Constituent Services with me so I could pass that on to others was quite generous, considering that I may simply help generate more work for her and her staff.

I was impressed with Betty's candor about the conditions and circumstances that arise in the prisons that require some kind of intervention from her office to resolve. She didn't try to sugarcoat anything, didn't try to discount inmates and families as getting hysterical over small stuff, and validated that sometimes the potential for retaliation at the unit/complex level is real.
Betty was also honest about the limitations of being underfunded, understaffed, having prison over-crowding, and so on. She couldn't promise to satisfy everyone who calls, as some issues are inherent in the nature of imprisonment. But she promised that her office would do their best to prioritize and respond to concerns - even making field visits to specific sites when necessary to witness conditions themselves and make recommendations for changes. She was really quite forthright and seems sincerely committed to helping friends and families cope with the incarceration of their loved ones and empowering them to help make changes in the system or their circumstances for the better when and where possible.

That said, I really encourage friends and families to use her office as a resource when you worry that your loved one may be suffering unnecessarily - whether it's because the air is out, the place is on indefinite lockdown, a particular guard is hassling them, a prisoner's health has declined dramatically - whatever. Being in prison is punishment enough and the need to maintain order and safety has its hardships, but that isn't to say that prisoners should have to endure extreme, inhumane, or unjust conditions. Sometimes shedding light on certain practices or policies that are having a negative effect on people is the only way to bring relief not only for the individual involved in the complaint, but for others as well.

Finally, Betty also directed me to the resources on the Constituent Services section of the ADC website, which includes a manual for friends and family, information about the procedures for addressing concerns about prison conditions or a loved ones particular circumstances, links to other sites that may be useful for families to have, and so on. She also validated the usefulness of information and insight from people who are formerly incarcerated in terms of evaluating policies and strategizing solutions, and has previously had former prisoners active on her Constituent Services Advisory Committee; thus, former prisoners with specific concerns about conditions are also welcome to call.

So, this is one route that friends and family can take to address issues pertaining to the conditions of incarceration with the AZ Department of Corrections. Again, the number for her office is 602-364-3945. The email address is If friends and families are organized into groups - or want to organize to have her or someone from her office come talk to them - she'd be more than willing to set something up to discuss how Constituent Services can be a resource for them.

As for my part, I hope to refocus my attention on larger systems' issues across the prison industrial complex - highlighting groups and activities in the community who are essentially doing abolitionist work by accommodating terminally ill and geriatric prisoners in the community, reducing the risk of incarceration or reincarceration of more citizens through sentencing reform, legislative activity, working with high-risk youth, changing practices in schools, confronting issues with racial-profiling and law enforcement, organizing Courtwatches to assess the fairness of sentencing so voters can make informed decisions about re-electing judges or district attorneys, exploring the use of alternative sentencing options for offenders with serious mental illness, projects for restorative rather than retributive justice, and so on. I am still willing to be a resource to assist with individual advocacy, but would much rather help friends and families to organize among themselves (and with Betty's office) to work towards what they consider as essential reforms on prison conditions and prisoner rights.

Abolitionists of the Week: Food Not Bombs

Food Not Bombs is one of the kinds of social movements that have the most potential to help lead to the abolition of the prison industrial complex, though it was originally established as a challenge to the military industrial complex. What follows is their story:

"Food Not Bombs is one of the fastest growing revolutionary movements and is gaining momentum throughout the world. There are hundreds of autonomous chapters sharing free vegetarian food with hungry people and protesting war and poverty. Food Not Bombs is not a charity. This energetic grassroots movement is active throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. Food Not Bombs is organizing for peace and an end to the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. For nearly 30 years the movement has worked to end hunger and has supported actions to stop the globalization of the economy, restrictions to the movements of people, end exploitation and the destruction of the earth.

The first group was formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1980 by anti-nuclear activists. Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to nonviolent social change. Food Not Bombs has no formal leaders and strives to include everyone in its decision making process. Each group recovers food that would otherwise be thrown out and makes fresh hot vegan and vegetarian meals that are served in outside in public spaces to anyone without restriction. Each independent group also serves free meals at protests and other events. The San Francisco chapter has been arrested over 1,000 times in government's effort to silence its protest against the city's anti- homeless policies. Amnesty International states it will adopt those Food Not Bombs volunteers that are convicted as "Prisoners of Conscience" and will work for their unconditional release. Even though we are dedicated to nonviolence Food Not Bombs activists in the United States have been under investigation by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Pentagon and other intelligence agencies. A number of Food Not Bombs volunteers have been arrested on terrorism charges.

Food Not Bombs is often the first to provide food and supplies to the survivors of disasters. During the first three days after the 1989 Earthquake, Food Not Bombs was the only organization in San Francisco providing hot meals to the survivors. Food Not Bombs was also the first to provide hot meals to the rescue workers responding to September 11th World Trade Center attacks. Food Not Bombs volunteers were among the first to provide food and help to the survivors of the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Our volunteers organized a national collection program and delivered bus and truckloads of food and supplies to the gulf region. We were one of the only organizations sharing daily meals in New Orleans after Katrina. Food Not Bombs is now preparing for the economic crash organizing Food Not Lawns community gardens, housing the homeless with Homes Not Jails, organizing additional meals each week and starting new Food Not Bombs chapters.

Food Not Bombs works in coalition with groups like Earth First!, The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, Anarchist Black Cross, the IWW, Homes Not Jails, Anti Racist Action, In Defense of Animals, the Free Radio Movement and other organizations on the cutting edge of positive social change and resistance to the new global austerity program. Food Not Bombs provided the meals for the protesters at Camp Casey outside Bush's ranch in Texas. Volunteers also helped organize and shared meals at the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle and provide logistical support for many other anti-globalization actions. Kiev Food Not Bombs fed the tent city protest during the Orange Revolution and groups in Slovokia started animal rescue shelters in 24 cities. We are also sharing meals at protests responding to the global economic crisis. Many groups organize Really Really Free Markets giving away all kinds of items for free, planting Food Not Lawns community gardens and housing people with the Homes Not Jails project. Many chapters also organize Bikes Not Bombs programs collecting and repairing used bicycles to provide to people in low-income communities. We also provided meals to protesters at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in the United States. We will provide meals to the families of striking workers and help organize actions encouraging alternatives to the failure of capitalism.

Food Not Bombs activists are currently making plans to celebrate our 30th year of cooking for peace. Along with organizing the celebration each local chapter collects and distributes food every week and there are several other projects that support the Food Not Bombs movement. One collective called "A Food Not Bombs Menu." helps people find or start local chapters. They also maintain the website, organize tours and support Food Not Bombs gatherings. They also provide books, t-shirts and other materials to promote the principles of Food Not Bombs. Another collective Food Not Bombs Publishing in Takoma Park, Maryland publishes books like "On Conflict and Consensus" which has been an important guide for group democracy. We hope you will join us in taking direct action towards creating a world free from domination, coercion and violence. Food is a right, not a privilege."

Food Not Bombs Phoenix cooks and serves meals every Sunday; the locations are posted on their MySpace site.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Large Immigrant Populations Keep Cities Safe: Just Ask El Paso, Texas

by Michele Waslin‚ Jul. 15‚ 2009

(from BeyonChron: San Francisco's Alternative On-line Daily)

El Paso, Texas, is a relatively poor, Hispanic, gun-friendly city and home to many undocumented immigrants. Yet although El Paso is adjacent to a violence-riddled Mexican city, it’s actually counted among the safest big cities in the U.S. Why is El Paso so safe? A recent article in Reason Online dispels some of the myths associated with immigrants and crime.

Many Americans believe that immigrants — especially illegal immigrants — are associated with high levels of crime. However, according to criminologist Jack Levin, El Paso is safe because of its immigrant population.

If you want to find a safe city, first determine the size of the immigrant population. If the immigrant community represents a large proportion of the population, you’re likely in one of the country’s safer cities. San Diego, Laredo, El Paso—these cities are teeming with immigrants, and they’re some of the safest places in the country.

The Immigration Policy Center (IPC) has repeatedly provided factual information about the lack of relationship between immigrants and crime levels.

* Although the undocumented immigrant population doubled to about 12 million from 1994 to 2004, data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that the violent crime rate in the United States declined by 35.1 percent during this time and the property crime rate fell by 25.0 percent.

* According to a 2008 report from the conservative Americas Majority Foundation, crime rates are lowest in states with the highest immigration growth rates. From 1999 to 2006, the total crime rate declined 13.6 percent in the 19 highest-immigration states, compared to a 7.1 percent decline in the other 32 states. In 2006, the 10 “high influx” states — those with the most dramatic, recent increases in immigration — had the lowest rates of violent crime and total crime.

Yet the myth persists — due, in part, to news headlines that read, “Hispanic males are now majority in county jails,” which appeared in the Arizona Republic this week. Not surprisingly, the number of Hispanic males in Maricopa County jails has increased recently due to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s mission to incarcerate as many immigrants as possible. Arpaio conducts immigration sweeps as part of his partnership with the Department of Homeland Security to enforce federal immigration laws. This, in conjunction with new laws that allow undocumented immigrants to be charged with conspiracy to smuggle themselves and denying them bail, all add up to large numbers of immigrants in jail.

Just because immigrants are in jail, doesn’t mean that they are criminals. Just like in Maricopa County, the number of immigrants in jail for immigration violations and who have never been convicted of a crime is increasing. The Pew Hispanic Center recently reported that in 2007, immigration offenses represented nearly one-quarter of all federal convictions, up from just 7% in 1991. It is telling that 61% of the non-U.S. citizen Latino immigrants sentenced in federal courts in 2007 were sentenced for immigration offenses, not violent crimes or theft.

Everyone agrees that violent criminals and threats to our community should be prioritized. But the fact is that immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, are actually less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens.

We must ask ourselves whether spending large amounts of resources arresting, detaining, prosecuting, and deporting immigrants who have no criminal background is really the best use of time and money — resources that could be used to pursue real criminals. Enacting comprehensive immigration reform that includes a legalization program is a much more efficient and effective way to bring unauthorized immigrants out of the shadows and ensure that they live and work legally in the U.S.

This piece was first published in Immigrantion Impact, and later republished in L.A. Progressive.

New Yorker Article On Arpaio

Just had this forwarded from a fellow abolitionist: here's the link to the article; you'll have to register at the site to read more than just the abstract, but it should be well worth it. Word has it that he's already sending out letters to his "supporters" about his next run for office, and how unfairly persecuted he is. Poor guy...

Wickenburg/Forepaugh Escape 3,000 Bed Private Prison!

Decision on prison is ‘No’

A $170 million proposed prison project in the Forepaugh area was recently turned down by the Wickenburg Economic Development Partnership.

The partnership includes a number of private businesses that advocate economic growth in the area.

The project, brought to the attention of the partnership by the Arizona Department of Commerce (ADOC), had the potential to employ more than 450 individuals with pay ranging from $30,000 to $40,000.

A private prison company had spoken with the ADOC regarding a 120-acre prison facility that would house 3,000 minimum security inmates. The Forepaugh area was one of the areas pre-selected by the company.

There are a number of private prison companies that act as contractors for various state correctional departments. They build prisons to help states ease overcrowding.

It is not known which company had shown interest in the area. Calls to the ADOC were not immediately returned.

Former Mayor Ron Badowski, who sits as chairman of the partnership, was not happy with the partnership’s decision and wished its members would have at least engaged in a conversation with the ADOC and the prison company.

“We were looking at a $172 million investment and possibly much needed help in infrastructure in that area,” Badowski said. “We are looking at developing an industrial area in Forepaugh and this project would have been compatible with the railroad project we have been working on.”

Badowski said the town would have seen revenues from housing and additional sales taxes. The Wickenburg school district would have even seen an increase in revenues through county property taxes as employees of the prison purchased homes.

Badowski, partnership board member Rome Glover and partnership President/CEO Tim Kanavel were in favor of proceeding with the project.

The remaining board members expressed concerns about having a prison located so close to Wickenburg. A vote was taken, and the partnership told the ADOC to take Forepaugh out of the running.

“The department of commerce only gave us about six days to give them an answer as to whether we wanted to move forward on this project or not,” Glover said. “I was in favor of the project. I am sorry we did not have more time as a group to discuss this issue.”

Some of the concerns included added traffic through the community, communicable diseases being brought into the community, an increase in illegal drugs in the community, and the impact on the image and character of the town.

Glover said he did not see how a prison in Forepaugh would create any hardship for the Town of Wickenburg. He cited the Perryville prison in Goodyear as an example, where the Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa is located just a few miles from the prison.

“Obviously, the Goodyear area has not been hurt by the presence of a prison.”

Apparently the deadline to meet with ADOC on this project has expired and Forepaugh will no longer be in the running for the prison.


I hope every citizen in that area realizes how close they came to becoming a Prison Town (Real Cost of Prisons Comic here), and thanks those members of the Wickenburg Economic Development Partnership who voted the whole idea down.

Poetry By Nevada Prisoner Coyote Sheff

Solitary Enslavement

.... We sit in these cells like dead bodies sit in cemeteries. Death fills our lungs, fills our minds, fills our hearts and fills our souls as it lurks and lingers and seeps through the concrete. Our minds go numb and our spirits fade into inactivity. We sit here waiting to waste away, erode, dissolve, and disappear into the cracks of the cement.

Solitary confinement. What an evil concept, what a wicked notion, what a clever way to destroy a man without even laying a finger on him. Solitary confinement -- the murderer of minds, hearts, and souls. The person who designed such an evil conception must've had murder on his mind and hate in his heart.

We die alone in these cold cells, as our hands stretch out to clutch concrete, but fail miserably to hold anything in their grasp other than the death-stenched air. We die alone -- a lonely, miserable, suffering death. We die alone…

--By Coyote Sheff

From (March 2009)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hope for Arizona's Future

I first prepared this post a couple of days ago in haste. Since then I've had time to think more about the anarchists I've met in recent months - those pictured here and those who remain anonymous. What I've witnessed firsthand is that this predominately young group of people get together every week to discuss how to make their community a better place to live for the poor and dispossessed; how to build sustainable communities; how to challenge things like racism, xenophobia, and police harassment of minorities; how to feed the hungry - not as charity, but through shared vegetarian meals that makes hunger visible and the poor less stigmatized; and how to take a more active role in shaping this town without participating in the processes which corrupt it, like politics.

And every week, without fail, they pass a hat to raise a little cash to support a few political prisoners. It may not come to much, but half of nothing is a whole lot more to prisoners of conscience than a little of everything. If I was a prisoner locked away in a hole, these are the folks I'd want to know I existed, because they'd never forget me...ever.

So, as I said in an earlier post, when Marcia Powell died, I knew these were the folks to seek out who would go all the way, if necessary, to make her life visible and meaningful. In fact, it was Stan, the guy up there with the unabashed full-faced smile in the front, who remembered her from the anarchists' "Food Not Bombs" Sunday meals and delivered the only account of her anyone had at the memorial service that wasn't extracted from her criminal record. Rather, it came from his heart, and from her smile.

These are some of Phoenix's anarchists. They reject domination and hierarchy, even when it would be so much more convenient, like when they run their meetings - it's all done by consensus, which can take forever sometimes. Despite appearances and stereotypes, they aren't really all young, white and male - though I've been known to joke that I'm not enough of any of the above to be an anarchist myself. They're far more diverse a bunch than they appear, and have a fairly sophisticated understanding of what's going on in the world.

Unlike a lot of groups of young people, these folks study and work diligently to figure out their role in making this a better place, and most are involved in the community in a number of positive ways - supporting No More Deaths, the Rusty Spoke Bike Collective, Food not Bombs, Copwatch, the Latino community's battle against racial profiling, the rights of prisoners in our county jail, and the dignity and survival of the poor. When the occasion seems to call for direct action, they also put themselves on the line to protest war, capitalist exploitation, hatemongers, the carceral regime, and yes, those damn neo-Nazis (also known as "Friends of Sheriff Joe").

I'd say that as members of the Valley community, our anarchists represent the best of us pretty well. I've never seen a single one do or suggest a criminal act - no one has even fired up a joint or cracked a beer in front of me. I wouldn't be ashamed for a moment to be seen, photographed, or even arrested with them - even though I frankly still don't really know what an anarchist is. The closest frame of reference I have, in fact, is the Society of Friends. These kids hardly even swear - I'm more vulgar (and probably more of a criminal) than most of them. And when it comes to their collective politics, their community service, and their processes of decision-making, that's who they remind me of - a bunch of Quakers. Abolitionists who would live and die for what they believe in - a few John Browns in the mix, maybe (thank god, really) but mostly a bunch of committed pacifists who would hang for teaching someone to read, distributing anti-racist literature, or protesting the Fugitive Slave Act.

Now, put that in their FBI files, and shove it. And remember this if any of them get put away for manifesting the better half of humanity's conscience - find out their name, declare your public support, and pass a hat. Forget the "rights" of the racist pigs to spew holocaust lies and hate: window-smashing stereotypes aside, if these kids can't be free to express themselves in this country, then the rest of us are in a whole lot more trouble than we ever thought.

These Anarchists Rock!

(Photo stolen without permission from the Feathered Bastard's blog at the Phoenix New Times 07/14/09. Sue me.)