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, September 29, 2009


This post is a message to the Freewaybloggers, Anarchists, and prison activists of the World:


Marcia Powell was a prisoner of the State of Arizona when she was left in an outdoor cage in 113 degree heat for four hours last May and fell into a coma. The Director of the Department of Corrections took her off of life support eight hours later, believing - from her criminal record - that she was alone in the world.

She was. She was a drug-addicted, mentally ill prostitute serving 27 months for offering a cop a blow job. Her next-of-kin didn't even want to claim her body.

They've been investigating Marcia's death for the past 4 months. A 3,000 page report is now back. 16 employees were disciplined; five fired. None of those held responsible were the director, a smart man who I believe knows full well what goes on in those prisons. If he doesn't, then he's more clueless than I thought. Maybe that's better than being complicit. In any event, very little appears to have changed policy-wise, except for misters and shade in the cages now, and a box on a clipboard for guards to check that they see someone in the cage breathing every half an hour. No information on what the officer suicide and prisoner arson protest were all about after Marcia's death - the media has completely forgotten that. No talk about the overcrowding that has them using outdoor cages as holding cells, lobbies and "recreation" areas in the first place, and "boats" on the floor as beds.

It would seem as if the use of those cages to punish people (which the director says was not the case here) has been going on at all the prisons for years - formal complaints were made just two years ago, which neither then-Director Schriro nor then-Governor Napolitano (of Homeland Security fame) bothered to do anything about.

THEY could have prevented this death, if they had acted then. I have a few more choice words for them than I've even had for Director Ryan. They could have put an end to the cages and responded to abuse complaints with something other than "motions to dismiss" in court.

But they didn't. Prisoners just don't make up a very powerful voting bloc - one reason to restore their civil rights. And they are seldom encouraged to exercise their voices. If they were, this would have been headed off long ago.

The ADC should make good use of this opportunity now to radically transform their culture, policies, and facilities, because the next catalyst for such change will otherwise be another tragic death or horrendous criminal abuse. At present, however, they appear to be trying to shake this off and reassert themselves as champions of public safety; good old Law and Order.

They couldn't even protect a woman dying outside their window the desert sun, in a cage that only they had the keys to. Short of making sure the prison doors are locked when they leave, how could they possibly protect the rest of us?

Upon accepting a recent allotment of $50 million for employee salaries - which was conveniently and ceremoniously awarded before the abuse report came out - the director thanked the good governor on behalf of all his "brave" and "hard-working" officers. Not a penny was mentioned for prisoner rights, facility improvements, health services  - nothing. Just more money for more guards to abuse more people that more judges are going to put away for the pettiest things that aren't worth paying $26,000 a year/prisoner just to get the satisfaction of vengeance or the illusion of social control out of.

Send a few more kids to college, instead. Build more affordable housing. Expand outreach to people who are homeless. Alleviate a little bit of suffering, instead of imposing more.

Not a word from the governor's office - except confidence in the director's fine work - about Marcia's final hours.

So, I know you're scattered out there, freewaybloggers; I don't get your list-serve anymore, but there's a few wars going on still, and this is one of them. I know you're still at work, and I need your help.  I know it'll take some time to build momentum, but someone has to start it. Just one extra sign every time you go out. Taggers, I want to see your art. Anarchists - well - you all know what to do already. Do your thing.

My international comrades - it would be awesome if you could locate Free Marcia Powell next to major tourist destinations and take pictures. Then we could make postcards and send them everywhere.

Just don't anyone break the law, now. I wouldn't advocate something like that. There are plenty of legal places to put signs and graffiti. And don't stop until we do.

Please photograph and post everywhere possible, as usual. Send me pictures as well and I'll put them on my blog. Hammer the national media with them. It'll get people asking who she is, then Googling, discovering, reading, weeping, wondering, and maybe even writing to their newspapers and legislators and prosecutors and judges. Thye need to be insisting on AZ Department of Corrections transparency and public involvement, more contact between prisoners and the community, smarter sentencing practices, and laws improving - not eroding - prisoner rights and prison standards.

Like Marcia's Law. It has yet to be written. I think a committee of parolees, prisoners and their family members should be the ones who write it; the administrators and legislators who should have been on top of this a long time ago should revisit their own ethical codes and stated missions.

It needs to be a law which protects and empowers prisoners - including giving them the right to organize - not one which just gives a handful of the well-behaved more privileges and the public a prettier view. It has to have real teeth, and real funding.

And it should be the toughest prisoner rights law in the country, one which every prison activist wants their state to emulate.

Maybe we can get it into the criminal justice reform bills Congress is working on. Senator Jim Webb is the man to talk to about that.

We still have to take this monster apart, of course. Until we can do the job, however, we need to make sure that prisoners can survive their sentences - and then do everything possible to keep them from going back inside.

But first things first.

Crank it up a notch.

If my blogs disappear or I tell you to stop before the campaign achieves it's objectives (more will be added), assume someone is just twisting my arm. You're all "autonomous units", and are able to follow the news. You'll know when it's time to come in.

It took almost an hour after life support was turned off for Marcia to die, as her organs slowly shut down. In America, we're even kinder to the people that we execute than that.

Please Free Marcia Powell.

Don't let them bury her in the desert again.


  1. Hi, I passed it on to an online journal in The Netherlands: De Vrije (The Free):

  2. Thanks for writing this. And thanks for e-mailing me an update about the results of what passed for an investigation. (I will respond when I dig myself out of the e-mail hole) I mentioned Marcia's death in a recent article I wrote for WIN Magazine (will send you the link when it goes on-line) and will do so again when I give a talk this weekend in Canada (because Alberta, in its drive to become more like the u.s., is putting more resources into prisons while cutting mental health services).

    Thank you for all that you do to keep attention on this issue.