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

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Montini: The Psychiatric Hospitals of the New Millenium

Blog Entry, September 25, 2009
E.J. Montini
The Arizona Republic.

No state-wide problem exists in isolation. The horrific death of Marcia Powell not only illustrates the problems within Arizona's prison system, it's an example of how the prison system in Arizona is being asked to be asked to do something it is not designed to do: Treat mentally ill people.

The reason that our prisons (and jails) have become de facto mental institutions is that Arizona’s mental health system isn't able to adequately treat those who need to be helped.

Some of those who suffer from mental illness that is left untreated -- or not treated vigorously enough -- wind up committing crimes. With Marcia Powell, the lack of a structured environment led her not to take prescribed medications and instead try to self-medicate through illegal drugs. The inability to hold down a job that would pay for the money needed for the drugs led her into prostitution. The drugs and the prostitution led to arrests, which led to prison, which is where she and many other mentally ill individuals wind up.

And she died there.

Corrections officers are not mental health professionals.

There are some of those professionals on hand at Arizona's prisons, but not enough to deal with the number of Marcia Powell types we have behind bars.

Just last week an 18-year-old inmate with a long history of mental illness issues tried to kill himself. He came close, but now is in Maricopa Medical Center where taxpayers will be spending a lot more money to keep him alive on machines than we might have spent earlier in his life treating his mental health problems.

Decades ago, we decided that mental health was not a crime, which is true. And we did away with what used to be called (in a good way, first, then a bad way) asylums.

Now, in what seems like a strategy that is much more cruel, we wait until a mentally ill person gets into trouble with the law, then treat them as criminals rather than ill people.

It's not an easy problem to solve, particularly in tough economic times. But one way or another we pay to care for these individuals.

I can't believe that the best way is through our very expensive prisons, or the even more expensive hospital intensive care units.

Or a graveyard.

Friday, September 25, 2009 at 11:27 AM

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