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

David Rovics: We Are Everywhere

To my fellow activists now struggling through life - let this be a reminder that you are not alone and that we desperately need you here. All the injustice, grief, war, and human suffering calls for us to stay and do everything we can about it - you can't help us anymore when you're gone. Don't give up the fight - your last shred of hope may just keep someone else alive, too.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What makes an act "terrorism?" Corporate Interests.

 Many good links embedded in the article below...


IRS Suicide Pilot Is Not a “Terrorist,” But Environmental Activists Are?

It’s not an isolated instance. Across the country, at the state and federal level, both pre-9/11 and post-9/11, corporations and the politicians who represent them have campaigned to label animal rights and environmental activists as the “number one domestic terrorism threat.”

Even the most radical underground groups like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front have never harmed a human being.

Yet those who have murdered abortion providers and flown planes into building escape the label.

Let’s take a closer look at the systemic disparities.

These have all been labeled terrorism in the press, state houses or the courts:

According to the FBI, none of these recent crimes are terrorism:

Focusing scarce anti-terrorism resources on animal rights and environmental activists, while there are clearly domestic groups who have, and will continue, to carry out physical violence, puts all Americans at risk. Perhaps if the government spent less time preparing for attacks by environmentalists, events like this could be prevented.

Related posts:

Friday, February 26, 2010

Defend Sanctuary and Samaritans: An American Tradition.

This is an awesome article from the Phoenix New Times (yes, the paper whose sidewalk I chalked not long ago) by Stephen Lemons. If Russ Pearce's racist bills continue to sail through this legislature and get signed into law, I may end up as a career criminal for more than littering. At least I'll be in good company - these folks are the real thing...

This is why Pearce and his henchmen (and sheep) all need to be defeated in November - if not sooner. They're already doing damage at a rapid clip, raping communities of their sovereignty and autonomy, and turning schools into hostile environments for teachers and undocumented children. If we don't play this his way, he'll make up whatever laws are necessary - or stiffen the penalties with new mandatory minimums - to prohibit whatever we're doing, so he can just have us all prosecuted or sued. Or both. 

This state is just the personal playground for men like him and their money, and their games cost lives. We have got to get them out of power.

This is a long article, but worth the entire read - the link to finish it is at the end.


Phoenix New Times

Blood's Thicker Than Water: As Thousands Die in the Arizona Desert as a Result of U.S. Border Policy, an Army of Activists Intervenes

By Stephen Lemons

published: February 25, 2010

Gene Lefebvre remembers the day in late August 2008 when 20 to 25 Border Patrol agents, half of them on horseback, raided the Arivaca, Arizona campsite of No More Deaths, a group dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance to migrants in the desert. "They said they had tracked 10 migrants into our camp," says Lefebvre, a retired Presbyterian minister who helped co-found the organization in 2004. "There weren't 10 migrants, and there weren't the tracks."

No More Deaths did have a couple of migrants in the camp's medical tent, but there was nothing unusual about that. Migrants often showed up at the camp seeking first aid or water or food, sometimes getting directed there by local ranchers. The Border Patrol was and is aware of how NMD operates.

But though the migrants were later taken into custody, the Border Patrol seemed to be about something else that day: intimidation.

Lefebvre, in his 70s, was detained as the Border Patrol searched the five-acre site, called Byrd Camp, which is about an hour and a half southwest of Tucson. The site is named in honor of Arizona children's book author Byrd Baylor, who allows the hundreds of volunteers who come to the location each year to use her property as a base for their patrols, in which they leave water and food along the migrant trails that snake throughout the area.

After questioning those present, including a touring group of seminarians, the federal gendarmes thought they had their gotcha moment when they uncovered an old bale of marijuana in a nearby wash.

"It had weevils in it and was moldy," says Lefebvre, clearly relishing the recollection. "Some of the others started laughing when the Border Patrol said, 'Well, you've been using this, haven't you?'

"In the first place, we don't do [marijuana]," Lefebvre says with a chuckle. "In the second, this is old, moldy, yucky stuff. We have higher class than [to smoke] that."

There were storm clouds on the horizon that day; it looked as if a monsoon were about to break bad and turn the wash into raging torrent, preventing the feds from crossing back over. The clouds and the efforts of NMD's attorney, Margo Cowan, contacted by phone, encouraged the agents to leave.

But before they could beat an embarrassing retreat, they had words with John Fife, a tall, lean retired pastor who'd overseen Tucson's Southside Presbyterian Church for 35 years before his retirement in 2005. The church acts as NMD's headquarters.

Also one of No More Deaths' co-founders, Fife — who along with Lefebvre helped lead the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s — is not a man who suffers fools gladly.

"I said [to the Border Patrol supervisor], 'What is it you guys think you're doing?'" Fife says. "The supervisor says, 'You have to turn in everyone you run into who's an illegal out here.'

Fife shot back, "You better check with your chief because everyone of your sector chiefs has said that we are not required to contact you at all if we're giving food and water and medical aid to migrants."

The supervisor rode off in a huff. The next day, NMD fired off a letter of complaint to the Border Patrol and to the U.S. Attorney. Fife says the letter was never acknowledged.

The Border Patrol's 2008 raid was not an isolated incident. Since No More Deaths established itself as a presence in Tucson's vibrant social-justice community, it has butted heads with federal authorities annoyed by its work to put water in the desert and assert the human rights of the more than half a million people who cross illegally from Mexico into the United States each year.

NMD volunteers have been ticketed for littering by U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers working the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, and they've had their water poured out and their water bottles slashed by Border Patrol agents. They've been convicted in federal court by the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office, and in one case, two were arrested for transporting migrants, though the charges were ultimately dismissed.

Yet NMD is just one part of a vast resistance in southern Arizona that places human life and dignity above the dictates of American border policy. Think of NMD as the spear of a non-violent army that includes Samaritan patrols, advocacy groups (such as Derechos Humanos), water distributors (such as Humane Borders), and individuals working on the Tohono O'odham Nation.

The reaction of federal, local, and tribal authorities attempting to control the Arizona-Mexico border is not always hostile to groups who put out water and engage in other activities seen as pro-migrant. NMD leaders say many of their contacts with the Border Patrol, for instance, have been professional and often cordial.
Nevertheless, Fife, NMD's elder statesman, described the group's encounters with the Border Patrol, the federal government's heaviest presence in the desert, as "low-intensity conflict."

"It's a constant little push [and] push back out there," he says. "It depends on the agents, and on the circumstance."

In the calculus of southern Arizona's pro-migrant movement, No More Deaths is made up of people who like to camp out. They are hardcore hiking, Clif Bars-eating, GPS-addicted, four-wheel-driving geeks.

They're also known for getting arrested, ticketed, and convicted. And like conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War, they're generally proud and unapologetic, convinced of the rightness of their mission.

Part of it seems borne of the lefty enclave of Tucson itself, an über-crunchy college town where on any given night there's a vigil or a meeting for a group involved in the fight against U.S. border policy.

Consider it the metaphysical opposite of Maricopa County. In Tucson, the political stars are the likes of firebrand activist and Pima County legal defender Isabel Garcia or liberal Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva instead of far-right tribunes such as Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas or Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

As if further proof were needed: In the center of Tucson's downtown is not a statue to some obscure European explorer, but a 14-foot bronze sculpture of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa on horseback.
The Reverend John Fife is another of the town's icons, a man who's been dubbed Tucson's "most beloved felon." That's because Fife's the legendary co-founder of the Sanctuary Movement, which gave refuge to asylum-seekers from right-wing Central American states — such as El Salvador and Guatemala — empowered by U.S. foreign policy.

At the height of the movement, Southside Presbyterian, where Fife was pastor, was its epicenter, giving shelter to thousands of families and individuals fleeing Central American civil wars and death squads.
Then, as now, the federal government did not look kindly on Fife's activism. His church was infiltrated by the feds, and he — along with several other Sanctuary Movement activists — was tried and convicted for harboring, for aiding and abetting, and for conspiracy.

Fife received five years' probation, but the movement he helped spawn continued, more vocal than ever, and it turned into a black eye for the Reagan Administration. Years later, the U.S. government was forced to change its policy toward refugees from Central America.

In 2003, Fife and other local religious leaders and activists sought a way to address the escalating humanitarian crisis on the Arizona-Mexico border. As a result, NMD was founded in 2004. That year, the first official NMD desert excursion from Byrd Camp took place.

NMD was, in effect, a citizen response to U.S. border policy and the death and misery that policy has engendered.

In the mid-'90s, the federal government started walling off the border near San Diego and beefing up enforcement in El Paso. Later, urban border areas throughout Arizona, including cities such as Nogales, Yuma, and Douglas got their stretches of walls or fencing. Like a vise, border policy began squeezing mass migration into the arid, remote, and treacherous desert of southern Arizona.

The idea was that the desert formed a natural barrier to migrants, that its rugged terrain would dissuade crossers. The Border Patrol referred to the strategy as "prevention through deterrence." Critics called the policy "deterrence through death."

Estimates of the migrant death toll on the U.S.-Mexico border over the past 15 years range from about 3,800 to more than 5,600. (The Tucson group Derechos Humanos counts more than 1,900 human remains recovered in the Arizona desert over the past 10 years.) But most experts and activists believe many more have succumbed to the inhospitable elements and terrain.

In 2000, Humane Borders responded to the crisis with a network of 55-gallon water drums at stationary locations. In 2002, Fife helped start the Samaritan Patrol, now known simply as the Samaritans, or "the Sams." The Samaritans patrol daily with medics and Spanish-speakers, looking for those left behind in the desert by human smugglers not willing to wait for the sick, injured, or straggling.

Fife says No More Deaths was initially a coalition of existing organizations, with the singular goal of assertively providing humanitarian aid.

"The coalition was designed to push the envelope," Fife says, "to be more aggressive in establishing the right to provide aid and medical care out there.

"Then, in '05, when Daniel and Shanti were arrested by the Border Patrol, it scared some of the [members]," he said. "The coalition began to pull apart, so we said, 'Okay, No More Deaths needs to separate.'"

Daniel and Shanti are Daniel Strauss and Shanti Sellz, two college-age NMD volunteers. They became famous in the immigrant-rights community in 2005, when on patrol in Arivaca, they encountered three men in very bad physical shape.

It was July, and it had been more than 100 degrees every day for at least a month. Strauss later told Democracy Now host Amy Goodman that 78 migrants had died the week they encountered the men, who had been in the desert for four days, two without food and water.

"One had been vomiting, said he couldn't keep anything down," Strauss told the lefty Webcaster, whose online show is a must-watch for liberals. "He also reported finding blood in his stool over the past day, which is a very dangerous sign of internal problems and failure . . . All of them had blisters on their feet that kept them from walking."

Strauss and Sellz determined to get the men to a hospital in Tucson. On their way, the Border Patrol arrested them on charges of transporting and conspiring to transport illegal aliens. Their case became a cause célèbre in Tucson, where yard signs sprang up with the motto "Humanitarian Aid Is Never a Crime."

From around the world, postcards poured in to then-U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton's office demanding that he countermand the order to prosecute. Though the pair were indicted and faced up to 15 years in prison, they refused a plea deal. In 2006, a federal judge dismissed the charges, finding that there was no intention on their part to violate the law.

In 2007, the two young activists received the Oscar Romero Award, named for the Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, assassinated in 1980 on the orders of right-wing death-squad leader Roberto D'Aubisson. The award, given by Houston's Rothko Chapel, came with a monetary prize of $5,000 to each recipient. The pair donated half of the money to No More Deaths.

The Sellz-Strauss incident modified NMD's protocol. Only in the most dire, life-threatening circumstances would migrants be taken by car from the location where they are encountered, and only then after it is determined that an ambulance or the Border Patrol cannot make it in time to help. Balancing the protocol is a policy of giving migrants the option of refusing be evacuated or turned over to authorities, up until the point that they no longer are physically able to decide for themselves.

Still, hostile encounters between the Border Patrol and NMD members continue. NMD volunteers are threatened with arrest, and in one incident in December 2009, a Border Patrol agent verbally abused NMD volunteers as he emptied their jugs of water in front of them. Several NMD volunteers interviewed for this story accused the Border Patrol of slashing water bottles — though they admit there could be other culprits, such as ranchers, hunters, or even other federal agents.

For this story, the Border Patrol declined to answer questions related to No More Deaths or to the humanitarian crisis in the desert.

The Border Patrol is not the only federal agency with which No More Deaths has crossed swords: There is also the U.S. Department of the Interior, in the guise of Fish and Wildlife Service officials operating on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, a 118,000-acre stretch near Byrd Camp.

The refuge is home to such endangered species as masked bobwhite quail, and the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl. Hunting of non-endangered species is allowed on 90 percent of the refuge, and the area is a favorite destination for bird-watchers and campers.

BANWR is also a major corridor for migrants. About 20,000 traversed it in 2009, according to Jose Viramontes, a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman. About two migrant bodies a year are discovered in the refuge, Viramontes says.

For years, NMD volunteers have been leaving jugs of water on some of the refuge's 1,300 miles of migrant trails. Although Humane Borders operates three stationary sites on BANWR with two 55-gallon drums of water each — and Fish and Wildlife insists it plans to allow more sites — NMD argues that such stationary facilities aren't sufficient because the migrant trails shift. Also, some accuse the Border Patrol of staking out these sites, in hopes of nabbing their own endangered quarry.

The work NMD volunteers do on BANWR is similar to what they do in the desert surrounding Byrd Camp. They four-wheel-drive and hike to remote areas, follow the migrant trails, leave plastic gallon jugs of water at locations where they anticipate migrants will find them, pick up empties, and return.

Dan Millis was on such a trek in BANWR on February 22, 2008, with three other NMD volunteers, when a Fish and Wildlife officer admonished them for placing water jugs in the wild and ticketed Millis for "littering."
Rather than pay the $175 fine, Millis, with the help of Tucson attorney William Walker, challenged the ticket in federal court, risking a $5,000 fine and six months in prison.

Walker contested the charge by arguing that leaving out full, sealed water jugs to save lives is not littering, that the plastic containers only become litter once opened and discarded. On the stand, Millis argued that he and his group picked up more trash than they left. When he was cited, there were five crates of litter in the back of the truck he was driving.

The U.S. Attorney's Office countered that Millis would need a permit to leave such water on the refuge and cited a garbage problem — including cars abandoned by smugglers — on BANWR.

(Fish and Wildlife spokesman Viramontes estimates that more than 50 tons of trash is left on the refuge annually. With that much trash, some activists wonder why BANWR's managers are so concerned about a few water bottles.)

The decision by U.S. Magistrate Bernardo Velasco was a Pyrrhic victory for the government. Velasco found Millis guilty but gave him a suspended sentence. Nonetheless, Millis has appealed the verdict, and the matter is scheduled to be argued before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on March 2.

The Samaritans found themselves in a similar situation with federal authorities when Kathryn Ferguson, a Sams volunteer, was ticketed in early 2008 by a plainclothes Bureau of Land Management officer. During a confrontation in Arivaca, the officer shoved Ferguson, then handcuffed and cited her for "creating a nuisance." The U.S. Attorney at the time, Diane Humetewa, declined to prosecute.

Despite the incidents, No More Deaths volunteers continued leaving water jugs on BANWR in defiance of Fish and Wildlife's ticketing policy. In June 2009, a federal jury convicted NMD activist Walt Staton of a misdemeanor littering charge. Magistrate Jennifer Guerin sentenced Staton to 300 hours of community service and a year of probation.

A seminary student at the Claremont School of Theology in California, Staton briefly toyed with defying the community-service order, writing to the judge, "When a government fails to respect and protect human rights — or, worse, is itself a violator — it is the responsibility of citizens to act in defense of those rights."
Guerin threatened Staton with 25 days in custody, and Staton ultimately backed down, accepting the community service while appealing his conviction.

In July 2009, 13 humanitarians from NMD, Humane Borders, the Samaritans, the Catholic Church, and other organizations defied the BANWR ban by placing water on the refuge in full view of Fish and Wildlife officers. Their water was promptly confiscated, and they were all cited. Those ticketed included John Fife and Gene Lefebvre.

The day after the 13 were ticketed, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar contacted NMD, requesting that a delegation come to D.C. for a meeting. It included Lefebvre, who said he was impressed with Salazar.
"[Salazar] said he had compassion for the migrants who were dying in the desert and respect for the work we're doing, but that we would have to obey the law," Lefebvre says.

"After that, we got an invitation to meet with the [Fish and Wildlife] people in BANWR and their bosses from Albuquerque. So, obviously, the secretary arranged that."

Lefebvre says NMD is offering to partner with the agency to help it remove trash from the refuge. Recently, the Department of the Interior's regional director wrote to NMD attorney Margo Cowan expressing the department's "commitment to find a solution serving both parties."

A meeting between the two sides took place February 18 in Tucson, but no announcement has been made regarding an agreement. Officially, NMD has ceased leaving water on BANWR, but some of the group's activists continue to do so.

Though Walt Staton's flirt with imprisonment and the ticketing of the 13 activists have been the focus of recent media reports regarding the issue of leaving water for desert pilgrims, it's Millis' experience that offers a potent moral metaphor for NMD's work.

That's because two days before he was ticketed on BANWR, he discovered the body of Josseline Hernandez, a 14-year-old girl from El Salvador.

Josseline went missing two weeks earlier. She was on her way to California with her 10-year-old brother when she became sick and could no longer move with a group of migrants. She urged her little brother to go with the others, telling him she was the big sister and would be okay.

A missing-persons alert was sent by Derechos Humanos, an advocacy group that keeps stats on migrant deaths in the Border Patrol's deadly Tucson sector. Josseline's mother in Los Angeles had spoken with Derechos Humanos, sharing information about Josseline's situation from her brother, who had made it safely to L.A.

Some NMD members were actively looking for Josseline, but Millis was on another mission. He was seeking a shortcut to a spot where he wanted to drop off a supply bin full of food, a spot where he knew migrants were likely to find the provisions.

In a rocky canyon, wet from recent winter downpours, Millis and three other NMD volunteers found the girl. She was dead, her face unrecognizable but her body still intact.

"She had taken her shoes off," Millis says. "I saw her shoes first. They were bright green, so you couldn't miss them. Her feet were, like, in a puddle. There had been rain, so there was a little bit of water flowing through the canyon.

"She probably had some horrible blisters [on her feet], like everyone has when they come across. We know she fell behind. She had been sick, and she was vomiting [according to her brother], and she had taken her jacket off . . . and placed it on the rock next to her."

Pima County sheriff's deputies were called. When they turned over the body, they could see the word "Hollywood" on her sweat pants, one of the identifiers Derechos Humanos had used in its alert. The official cause of death was exposure to the elements.

Deeply affected by the discovery, Millis was further motivated to leave water in the desert. He was angered when the Fish and Wildlife Service stopped him a couple of days later to ticket him for littering on BANWR.

"To go out and try to do something about [deaths like Josseline's] made me feel better," Millis says. "To be accosted by authorities of the federal government, the same government that's making these stupid laws and pushing people out here in the first place, was too much for me."

Like many activists, Millis blames the feds for creating a situation that's caused migrants from Mexico to go through the remotest of desert, where bodies might never be found. Ironically, the former schoolteacher and convicted litterer now works for the Sierra Club, which also opposes the walls and other barriers erected along the 370-mile Arizona-Mexico border.

Josseline Hernandez has become the unofficial patron saint of No More Deaths. Religious groups and reporters often make pilgrimages to the canyon where a shrine to Josseline has been erected.

Prayer cards bearing the image of the slender young girl in a candle-filled church are sometimes given out. And her tale inspired Tucson Weekly reporter Margaret Regan's new book, The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands.

Josseline's is one of many stories that help fuel No More Deaths. Another is that of Lucresia Dominguez, a mother of two who was abandoned by her coyote guides when she fell ill. Her 15-year-old son stayed behind with her but eventually left her side to seek help, wandering lost in the desert until he was found by the Border Patrol and repatriated back to Mexico.

NMD joined Dominguez's father, Cesareo, in a search for the missing woman's body, guided only by the recollections of his grandson, barred from re-entering the United States for lack of a visa. Before he found her body, Dominguez's dad discovered three more migrant corpses in the desert.

At a service for his daughter in Tucson, the distraught father praised No More Deaths volunteers.

"I thank God," he told a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star, "that . . . I found all these people who helped me and never left me, not even for a minute."

His daughter's story became the stuff of legend. It was retold as part of the independent film 7 Soles, which wove together several such accounts for a drama about duplicitous coyotes guiding a group of migrants toward a Phoenix drop-house. Screenings of the film in Phoenix and Tucson raised money for the organization.

Each NMD volunteer has his or her own personal cache of tragic experiences.

Laura Ilardo, a high school social worker who leads Phoenix's NMD chapter, still shivers at the thought of a "rape tree" she saw while on patrol in Arivaca. The tree was hung with a woman's garments, left as trophies, and the woman's backpack was spilled out onto the earth. It is a common enough sight in southern Arizona, where it is believed that most women who cross are sexually assaulted by their coyote guides.

Another time, in 2005, Ilardo came across a pregnant woman guided by two men. The woman had a bad sprain, and the men had stayed to help her walk as the rest of their party went ahead. Ilardo was raised Catholic but does not consider herself a practicing member of the faith. Still, the encounter with the woman had religious echoes for her.

"It definitely felt like the birth story of Jesus," llardo says. "It brought that home for me, though she didn't have [a donkey], obviously. They were just walking."

Because of strict NMD rules, she and other volunteers did not transport the woman (because her injuries were not life threatening), so they guided her to Byrd Camp. Because her helpers were not ill, they did not enter the camp; only the pregnant woman was allowed in.

Her sprain was treated, and she was given her options: She could turn herself over to the Border Patrol or she could continue on after she had rested and the swelling had gone down.

The woman chose to keep walking.

Because of the citations NMD humanitarians are battling in federal court, No More Deaths' activities hark back to the civil disobedience practiced in the 1960s by anti-war activists.

NMD humanitarians prefer the term "civil initiative," a concept devised in the 1980s by John Fife's fellow Sanctuary Movement leader, Jim Corbett. The principle is discussed at length in NMD's resource book, handed out to all prospective NMD volunteers.

The handbook defines civil initiative as "the right and responsibility of civil organizations to protect and directly assist victims of human rights violations when the government is the violator."

In other words, as the definition contends, "Humanitarian aid is never a crime." No More Deaths members do not regard leaving water in the desert as an offense, any more than they regard any of the migrant-friendly activities they engage in as criminal.

NMD's civil initiative is a call to action, one that draws volunteers from all over the United States, Canada, and Europe to participate in the group's efforts to assist migrants crossing the desert or assist those who have already crossed, been captured, and deported...

(much more to go - link here to finish)

Mountains That Take Wing

AZ Premiere of the film Mountains That Take Wing: 
Angela Davis & Yuri Kochiyama -
A Conversation on Life, Struggles, & Liberation.
TONIGHT - Friday, February 26th from 5:30-9PM (refreshments at 5:30 & video at 6. Q&A follows)

ASU Tempe Campus – Neeb Hall (

Sponsored by Local to Global Justice ( and The School of Social Transformation (at ASU)

We will be collecting donations at the event for survivors of the Haiti Earthquake.


Features conversations that span 13 years between two formidable women whose lives and political work remain at the epicenter of the most important civil rights struggles in the US. Through the intimacy and depth of conversations, we learn about Davis, an internationally renowned scholar-activist and 88-year-old Kochiyama, a revered grassroots community activist and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nominee's shared experiences as political prisoners and their profound passion for justice. On subjects ranging from the vital but largely erased role of women in social movements of the 20th century, community empowerment, to the prison industrial complex, war and the cultural arts, Davis' and Kochiyama's comments offer critical lessons for understanding our nation's most important social movements and tremendous hope for its youth and the future.

H. L. T. Quan (Ph.D. University of California-Santa Barbara) is an Assistant Professor and an Affiliate Faculty in African/African American Studies, Asian Pacific American Studies and Women's and Gender Studies a ASU
. Her research centers on race, gender and economic and political thought. She is currently writing a book about savage developmentalism and its tendentious propensity to secure order and capitalist expansion. This study investigates foreign policy conducts by Japan in military Brazil, the United States in occupied Iraq, and China in Sudan amidst humanitarian disasters. She is also working on a collaborative project on the historical and political development of Black capitalism in the United States, a 17-city comparison.

Professor Quan is also a co-founder and member of QUAD Productions, a not for profit production company that produces media for progressive community organizations and activists. She and C. A. Griffith (Associate Professor, School of Theatre & Film) are co-directors and co-producers of the "Mountains That Take Wing: Angela Davis & Yuri Kochiyama - A Conversation on Life, Struggles & Liberation" and "América's Home" (working title).

C.A. (Crystal) Griffith
Associate Professor, School of Theater and Film, ASU.

Professor Griffith was raised in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Stanford University (B.A.) and University of California, Santa Barbara (M.F.A). Ms. Griffith's credits include Juice (1992), award-winning PBS and BBC documentaries such as A Litany For Survival: The Life & Work of Audre Lorde (cinematographer), Branford Marsalis: The Music Tells You (camera operator), Depeche Mode 101, Eyes on the Prize I & II , and music videos including Tracy Chapman, Public Enemy, and The Rolling Stones. She was awarded a 2004 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Media Arts, the Panavision/Kodak University Outreach Program Grant and the Vision in Color Award of the New England Film/Video Festival.

Ms. Griffith also received a grant from Digital Media's Avid Feature Film Camp for her film, Del Otro Lado (The Other Side). Shot on location in Mexico City and screened extensively at U.S. and international film festivals, Griffith directed, co-edited and co-produced this Spanish language, independent feature in 1999.

With H.L.T. Quan, she is co-directing "Mountains That Take Wing: Angela Davis & Yuri Kochiyama - A Conversation on Life, Struggles & Liberation", a documentary on women of color cultural workers. C.A. Griffith's publications appear in Filming Difference (forthcoming), Black Feminist Cultural Criticism: Classic Readings, Black Women Film and Video Artists , Herotica 4, The Wild Good, the journals Meridians, Signs and Calyx. Ms. Griffith joins Arizona State University 's new Film Program from Columbia College Chicago (2000-06), Smith College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (1997-00).

 Department of Justice: Investigate Mumia's conviction.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Prosecuting Innocence: Resistance is Futile

Borrowed this post from our friends at Idaho Prison Watch...

The sentencing committee meeting was canceled again today, by the way - I have no idea when it's rescheduled for. I hung out at the Capitol awhile anyway, handing out copies of Tenacious to the women legislators I could find, since it was "Women's Day at the Legislature" today, and I didn't think they'd made any arrangements for state prisoners to participate or talk to their legislators. I also left one for Governor Brewer, with an article done by a woman who had cancer while at Perryville a few years back. She's now with an organization that helps women in prison. I'll post her story here when I get permission.

I hope those legislators I gave the zines to actually bother to read them. I don't know when or how they're going to hear a woman prisoner's voice address their conditions otherwise. Maybe we should try to get them to hold hearings out at the prisons themselves. Given the Arizona Republic and Lumley Vampire reports on the physical condition of the facilities alone, they should have organized an emergency oversight committee to check it out in person. The legislature is responsible, after all, for compromising the safety of state prisoners and corrections employees in the first place. They've now been duly warned that they'll be held liable for failing to follow up on it.

Anyway, the following article is very pertinent to the work of the House Sentencing Committee - and most of the issues I have with Andrew Thomas' office. In fact, this is a very good reason why we don't want that man to be Attorney General. He'll be putting ten times as many innocent people away, while letting the really guilty ones walk by making questionable deals - like the one that put the Scott Sisters away. The innocent don't have anything to fear, they think, nor do they have anything to trade. The guilty, on the other hand -  the "triggermen" - can trade them. 

There's nothing guaranteed to get you a more severe punishment in America than insisting that you're innocent and losing to the prosecutor at trial - and they make sure you know that when they make their offer. Their job is to prove guilt, not to find truth - don't make any mistakes about that. They're out to get convictions, by and large - not to protect the innocent. Victims are just useful tools to win their cases with, and to use to promote their own tough-on-crime image.

There are a few remarkable exceptions to that rule, of course. Some DA's have been very committed to investigating reports of wrongful prosecutions/convictions. I hope that's the beginning of a trend towards more ethical, responsible prosecutorial conduct. I have yet to see evidence of that happening in Arizona, though.


What is Wrong with the Plea Bargain System in our Courts Today?

Frontline Interview with
John H. Langbein

John Langbein is a professor of law and legal history at Yale Law School. In this interview, he describes how the plea bargain system pressures people to buckle and accept a plea-even if they are innocent-and how prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys have a role, a stake even, in seeing that this happens. He also talks about the Supreme Court's indifference to the pressures on a defendant in the plea process, and why he believes the rampant growth of pleas is rooted in the trial system's failures.

(I have condensed this interview for the sake of this forum. You can view the entire interview on the link I provided below)

Q: "What is wrong with the plea bargain system in our courts today?"

Plea bargaining is a system that is best described as one of condemnation without adjudication. It is a system that replaces trial, which is what our constitution intended, with deals.

Second, those deals are coerced. The prosecutor is basically forcing people to waive their rights to jury trial by threatening them with ever greater sanctions if they refuse to plead and instead demand the right to jury trial.
But every defendant has a right to go to trial; it's a choice they make to plead guilty.

The problem with choice arguments is that they neglect the main dynamic of plea bargan which is the pressure that the prosecutor puts on you to do it his way.

Plea bargain works by threat. What the prosecutor says to a criminal defendant in plea bargaining is, "Surrender your right to jury trial, or if you go to trial and are convicted of an offense, we will see to it that you are punished twice. Once for the offense, and once for having had the temerity to exercise your right to jury trial." THAT is a coercive system.

And the prosecutor has many devices which increase the level of coercion: multiplying the counts, threatening to recommend the most severe end of the sentence range, keeping you locked up in pretrial detention if you're poor - most people who are in the criminal justice system are poor - prosecuting your wife as well as yourself, and things of this sort. The prosecutor can pile it on if you don't play it his way. It is therefore a deeply coercive system. Yes, you have a choice, but your choice is constrained by coercion.

Q: What is the role of the defense lawyer?

Sometimes defense counsel does a very good job for people in the plea bargaining process, and gets you a good deal. But there are many other outcomes.

In the public defender system the defense counsel is representing a hundred other people; the defense counsel can not take every case to trial....

Defense counsel in some circumstances is not very competent and is delighted simply to take his money and run, so to speak."

"So there's no particular reason to think that defense counsel is any serious answer to the intrinsically coercive nature of plea bargaining."

Q: Whom does the system benefit?

The main winner in the plea bargaining process is the prosecutor. I describe plea bargaining as a system of prosecutorial tyranny..."

What has happened is that a single officer, the prosecutor, now is in charge of investigating, charging--that is, bringing formal charges--deciding whether to prosecute, evaluating that evidence, deciding whether or not in his or her judgment you're guilty or not, and then basically sentencing you.

"....what we have now is a system in which one officer, and indeed a somewhat dangerous officer, the prosecutor, has complete power over the fate of the criminal accused."

Q: You let the defense attorney off lightly.

I think defense counsel is to some extent at the mercy of a bad system. There's not a lot you can do when the other guy has all the chips. And the prosecutor has an awesome pile of chips in our plea bargaining system, because the prosecutor can threaten ever larger sanctions if you don't do what he wants.

So I believe that by far the worst failure in the plea bargaining system is the prosecutor, and I think that's in part because the prosecutor is not always as noble as he would like you to believe he is."

"It's a lot easier to coerce somebody into waiving all his defenses than to actually investigate the case thoroughly..."

But, again, the trial is there for anyone who chooses that option.

It is true that one always has the right to go to trial, but the prosecutor can make that right so costly that only a fool will exercise the right..."

Part of the reason why we in this country have criminal sentences that are so much more severe than in the rest of the civilized world, is the need that prosecutors have to threaten people with these huge sentences in order to get them to waive the right to jury trial...."

".... most people (in the system) are too poor to afford bail, and these people are particularly likely to yield to the demand that they confess whatever it is they're being charged with rather than wait for some kind of trial, because they'll be sitting in jail for months and months and months, and therefore there is a very evil interaction of prosecutorial power with poverty, with indigence."

It is very sad that the Supreme Court, which has been so anxious to protect various rights of persons who go to trial, has been so cowardly about seeing the evils of the plea bargaining process."

"...the Supreme Court has been indifferent to the pressures on accused in the plea bargaining process, as exemplified by the famous Alford case, where the fellow actually stood up and said, "I'm innocent, but I'm pleading because the disparity of outcome that they're threatening me with is too great". It's terribly sad."

"...the prosecutor is allowed to coerce people out of trial."

"...what happens is that prosecutors don't have to prove their cases; they're simply allowed to coerce people into waiving their rights. Judges are spared the difficulty of conducting trials and the danger of being found to have erred; they (plea bargains) can't be appealed from .."

"...what actually happens is you're coerced into confessing yourself guilty, whether you are or not."

"The saddest things about plea bargaining is that it is not widely understood. Most people have the television model of Perry Mason or somebody similar contesting for a verdict of a jury."

"Plea bargaining is sometimes justified on the ground that we are giving a lighter sentence to someone who is showing contrition or remorse for the offense. But that's a pack of lies. What is in fact happening is that the accused is being told by the prosecutor, "You accept guilt and confess and bear false witness against yourself and we will then see to it that it gets characterized as contrition or remorse."

The point is that the coercion, which eliminates trial, eliminates our ability to know you were in fact beyond reasonable doubt, guilty or not. And therefore it makes the remorse talk just window dressing by apologists who want to keep this existing system which is convenient for them."

Q: Do you have a solution?

I think the solution is very complex. I think it requires facing the underlying failure of this adversary criminal justice system. The idea that having one pack of lawyers and investigators saying, "You did it," and another pack saying, "We didn't," and nobody actually looking for what actually happened, nobody having an interest in investigating the truth, is a bit mistake."

"No knowledgeable student of comparative criminal justice is likely to fall victim to the notion that our is an admirable system.

It is an appalling system.

We have ten times as large a percent of our population locked up in jail by comparison with the European countries. We have sentences which are draconian. We've just had a 12 year old put in jail for life in Florida. Things of this sort are unheard of in the rest of the world.

There are many causes, but the failure of our adversary system is central, and the political nature of our prosecutorial system is also central..."

(complete interview at:

Thomas and Arpaio Abuse Power? No Way...

This is nice to see. Hooray for Mary Rose Wilcox. There'd better not be another prosecutor in this state willing to go down that road again - though I'm sure her enemies will be looking for other ways to hurt her. When the heck is the DOJ going to indict Joe Arpaio, anyway? If anyone without a badge was doing half the stuff he's been up to, they would have been arrested a long time ago.

Does Arizona have a law protecting citizens from malicious prosecution or political harassment by law enforcement, by the way? Maybe we'll have to do that by citizens' initiative, since the legislature seems to have no interest in protecting people from the likes of Thomas and Arpaio. In fact, they just egg them on with new sentencing enhancements and a multitude of ways to criminalize one's existence. Arpaio and Thomas are on Russ Pearce's re-election committee, I'll remind you. One happy trio of bigoted bullies and tyrants.

So, what does this case say about all the other people who have argued that they were targets of politically motivated, malicious prosecution by the County Attorney's office and ended up in prison anyway? Can we believe that all those people Thomas' office has put away in his time in office are really guilty? 

Perhaps we should start doing some massive FOIAing and set up some kind of special commission to review all the innocence claims from his tenure so we can get the courts to expedite liberating those who can be exonerated with the evidence he's got sitting in his own files. Clearly he's not going to take responsibility for wrongful prosecutions and convictions himself - he's just going after more. 

The arrogance this kind of thing takes is what makes people like him so dangerous. He really believes he's entitled, as well as right, whatever he does.


Andrew Thomas Disqualified From Mary Rose Wilcox Criminal Case; Indictment Dropped

A judge has tossed Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas off his criminal case against County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, more than agreeing with arguments presented by Wilocox's attorney.

Pima County Judge John Leonardo also dismissed the indictment against Wilcox, leaving the possibility open for a special prosecutor to bring charges in the future.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether any prosecutor will want to pick up this case now, though, after Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk's damning criticism of the corrupt process that led to the Wilcox charges in the first place. 

The bombshell ruling appears to be a serious smackdown, stating that Thomas retaliated against Wilcox for grievances he alleged in a civil racketeering lawsuit filed in December by him and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

One of the reasons for Thomas' obvious conflict of interest, according to the ruling by Leonardo, is his political alliance with Arpaio, "who misused the power of his office to target members of the [Board of Supervisors] for criminal investigation.


Scroll down for a link to the ruling:
Click here for the ruling.
We'll update this story later with a more detailed analysis.


PUENTE Detention Protest Thursday, Noon-1pm.

Local Activists Demand “Dignity not Detention” and Call for an End to Human Rights Abuses in Arizona

PHOENIX – Local activists and community members will participate in a solidarity action in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in central Phoenix where they will deliver a letter calling on the federal government to end all immigration enforcement agreements with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office(MCSO). The action will take place from 12:00pm to 1:00pm ending with a press conference at 1:00pm. 

Despite DHS announcements made last fall regarding plans to reform the immigrant detention system, there is little evidence of change. In addition to detaining 3,000 immigrants in Arizona daily, and over 33,000 nationally, the Department of Homeland Security continues to work with MCSO through a 287(g) agreement in the county jails.

Who: Puente, American Civil Liberties Union-AZ

What: Action in front of ICE Office in Phoenix, Delivery of Letter calling on the federal government to end all immigration enforcement agreements with the Maricopa Country Sheriff's Office. 

When: 12:00pm-1:00pm Thursday February 25th, 2010

Where: 2035 N. Central Avenue Phoenix, AZ 

For more information about Puente please contact Carlos Garcia at or call 602-314-5870

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fascist Architecture at the AZ Legislature.

This is what I was talking about: fascism. I bet a lot of Arizona's legislation is crafted in part by folks from ALEC, isn't it? Big private/public partnership that has absolutely no one's interests at heart except their own, going around the country posing as experts and tweaking laws to make our lives harder, and their privilege more easily excused. They have no idea what bad fallout has been hitting the rest of us in the real world as the result of their policies...

Or maybe this is exactly what they intended. After all, they have their own investments in seeing the private prison business take over for government, and making sure they keep us all under control. This is one more mechanism of asserting their control over our ability to resist - threatening us like this. I can't believe state employees would let them get away with it.


Bill would restrict political activity of government employees

By Jim Small -

Published: February 23, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Teachers who gathered at the Arizona Capitol last year to protest budget cuts wouldn’t be able to do so again unless they took a vacation day under a bill approved by a House committee Feb. 23.

The House Public Employees, Retirement and Entitlement Reform Committee approved a measure Feb. 23 that would prevent government employees from lobbying lawmakers, participating in protests and rallies and conducting political activity during work hours. The bill would apply to all levels of government in Arizona, including school districts.

The bill, H2344, mirrors a similar federal law known as the Hatch Act, said its sponsor, Rep. Frank Antenori.

“It does not prohibit free speech,” the Tucson Republican said. “What I’m talking about is someone who comes up here (to the Capitol) on government time for their own, personal political purposes.”

However, David Mendoza, a lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, said the law isn’t needed. State government employees are already prohibited from engaging in political activity while on the clock, he said.

Plus, Mendoza said, the measure would silence government employees who want to have their voice heard, while government lobbyists would be exempted.

“If the intent is to save taxpayer dollars…then why should we have lobbyists representing agencies on the taxpayer dime? Make it even,” he said.

Antenori said legislative staff was unable to find a similar provision already in law, though they didn’t examine rules adopted by the Arizona Department of Administration.

Rep. Phil Lopes, a Tucson Democrat, said he didn’t think the new law was needed. Employees who are conducting political activity while being paid by the government need to be reported and disciplined, he said, but this proposed law aimed to solve a problem he isn’t sure exists.

“I don’t think we need this kind of hammer to kill an ant,” he said.

The bill approved the bill by a 6-3 vote, with the panel’s three Democrats opposing it. It now heads to the House floor via the Rules Committee.

Antifa Party Tonight!

Life   Liberty   Freedom

Special Guests:

US Senate Candidate
JD Hayworth,
Senator Russell Pearce,
County Attorney Andy Thomas

Don Goldwater
Charmian of the Pachyderm Coalition

February 24th 6:30 PM
Held at Heidi's Event & Catering
2095 W. 15th Street
Tempe, Arizona 85281

Dress is Business/Professional

Please note that ticket purchases are being handled by Sir Barratt Enterprise's, Inc on behalf of Life Liberty Freedom. If you prefer, you can purchase your tickets by phone at 480-892-5154

Pearce alert! Fascists and Cowards for SB1097!

Well, I was expecting a House Committee on Sentencing meeting at 2pm Weds, but haven't been able to pin it down on the House website. At least the day has other things happening: it looks like there's just as much potential for fun and excitement with Russ Pearce in the Senate Building (their security is real uptight over there about chalking the sidewalks, though). Didn't I just say something about how the legislature hasn't even BEGUN to stick it to the teachers yet? This is the beginning of the beginning. The teachers, you see - en masse - betrayed both their race and class. They have a whole lot more coming. School employees are being criminalized with this bill - doesn't everyone get it?

Maybe it will still get a whole lot worse here before it gets better.

You know they're trying to do away with their term limits, too? They aren't going to cede power without a fight - not even if we're white (I believe our sympathies just makes us white trash - or some kind of terrorist - so we might as well throw in with everyone else they're screwing over at the state house these days.)

Get how he gives us the down low on supporting this fascist legislation, then signs off in the name of Freedom. How is it that chasing little children out of one of the few safe places they may have in our communities makes anyone more free? Little kids, now. That's who he's targeting.

There's something seriously wrong with this man's thinking. That's just mean - he's doing that to prove he can screw the schools all he wants, not because there's any real public safety need for this legislation. Now they're going to sneak in this REQUIREMENT that public schools extract tuition from families if they aren't considered Arizona residents?

My understanding of civics is that this is the country that I get to help create, too - it's not all up to people like you - no matter how much money or power you may have.

My grandfather was a Republican: he'd never treat people the way Pearce does - what makes him a Republican, anyway, other than the fact the the real Republicans are too scared of him to throw him out? Look at this guy: he is not of substance. He goes after children. Only cowards go after children and their teachers like that. Fascists and cowards running scared, holding school children hostage, do not get re-elected to high office. They eventually get exposed for what they are and run out on a rail...

Some image for an American legislator. Not unexpected when one hears it comes from Arizona, but sooner or later Arizonans are going to stop bragging about that and realize it means the rest of the world thinks that we're bigots and idiots because we repeatedly elect people like Sheriff Joe and Russ Pearce to represent us. I frankly don't know what other explanation there could be, than that the majority of the public here really is so ignorant or disturbed that we'd want those guys parading themselves around the country even one more day in our name...

This is too much like South Park Hell. 

Hi ,

SB 1097 (Student Data Collection):

Arizona Legislators will meet during a committee meeting this week to vote on bills mandating that all school districts gather information on the citizenship status of students, including the number of students who cannot prove lawful status. This information will then be given to the Department of Education. Any school district that fails to comply may have their state funding withheld.

SB 1097 will be heard at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 24, 2010 in Education Committee (SHR1), it will be amended to include a requirement to require a tuition for all students that are not legal residence of Arizona. 

To see the bill either click on the link below or cut and paste it in to your browser
If you are member of  just select the Senate Education Committee to send your email in support of this Bill.

For Freedom.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Who cares about diabetes and women in prison?

Here's the latest on Jamie and Gladys - and Mrs. Rasco: I'm so glad she got in to Mississippi and saw not only her daughters but looked Commissioner Epps in the eye, as well. What awesome women - all the folks who are involved in organizing this campaign are amazing.  It actually looks like we're making some headway. These women are led by Good Orderly Direction - I think their driver is Divine - so let's keep following their lead. Everyone from white evangelicals  to the Black Women's Defense League will be shoulder to shoulder at the Governor's mansion one of these days, I suppose... 

Speaking of: if anyone out there is up on the religious right these days, let Pat Robertson know that Governor Barbour - and Jamie - really need a letter from him and his friends about the power one demonstrates in the exercise of mercy. He seemed to have a real spiritual awakening around the execution of Karla Faye Tucker. I think there's an opening in his heart now, where there was once nothing but wall. I hope it's open to women like Jamie Scott, too. 

Me, I'm still out for justice, because I don't know if Mississippi is a state of much mercy. If I had the money I'd drive out there myself and do a report for the Nation or Mother Jones or someone - a good investigative journalist could end up doing a lot of the footwork this family needs, anyway, to make the truth visible. That alone should tell you something: how often are imprisoned people who are really "guilty" having friends and family put their legal documents on the internet, letting anyone in the world, literally, dig even deeper into their lives?

C'mon, Mass Media: why haven't you people picked up on the Scott Sisters, yet? Where is Oprah, anyway? Jamie needs proper care and these women should be free. Progressive Press: you have no excuse. This should be headlining everywhere. Race, Gender, Class – that’s the stuff that determines our access to quality health care and insurance on the outside. Criminal status just puts the nail in the coffin earlier in life. 

Why is there STILL so much disparity in the criminal justice and health care systems?  

It will be a huge disservice to us all if Mass Media ignores the Scotts' story until something even worse happens, and it's too late to save Jamie. You've at least got to see what's happening here - more websites are watching, more coalitions are forming - and there really isn't time to waste, given Jamie's rapid deterioration and the conditions of her confinement.

 There's a hundred ways to cover this. You can do a partner piece on diabetes in prisons that encompasses Native America's experience, too: look at Leonard Peltier's struggles to get proper nutrition and care, and he's regarded internationally as a political prisoner and a hero of indigenous movements. If that's what Leonard gets, what kind of health care access do the invisible Indians get? Keep in mind that I'm asking the DOJ to do a CRIPA investigation, too - and that Barbour may be running for president in 2012. There are all sorts of stories buried in this one...but the most important one right now is Jamie's.

As for the little people doing the real work: if you write to Epps, reaffirm his promise to Mrs. Rascoe and thank him for making sure she could see Jamie and Gladys. He does have the power to move Jamie to the hospital any time he wants; his hands aren’t completely tied, as he’d like us to believe. He just doesn’t want to set a precedent that has every prisoner’s family knocking at his door. 

Now, if this was a "medical release," her freedom, as I understand it, actually would be up to him, not the governor - that was the case with the last guy we blogged on from Mississippi. Dr. Perry had to make a recommendation about the request for medical release, then it ended up on Epps' desk for the final word...Why couldn't Jamie get one of those? I'll find the criteria for that and post it here later. Maybe that’s just the last step before the governor. I’m still pretty illiterate about compassionate releases, commutations, pardons and the like, considering how much I write about them. Every state is different, too.

Note the call to get health care and medical organizations involved. Anyone else contact the Mississippi Kidney Foundation this week? If you're not from Mississippi, call the national chapter or your own. Mississippi’s hasn’t responded to me. I don’t even know if they’re working on this. 

It sounds like Jamie’s renal failure is secondary to her diabetes. Diabetes is such a major health problem in prisons because of the diet served there, and because it's fed to the disproportionately high concentration of people serving long sentences who are most vulnerable to develop diabetes - such as Native Americans and African Americans. For people of all colors, I believe (and those with none), diabetes is also disproportionately among the poor

Not surprisingly, diabetes develops in prisoners younger and kills patients faster inside than it does on the outside. I'd think there'd be a few organizations interested in studying why that is, what the racial, gender and class discrepancies are all about, and how co-morbidity and mortality rates for diabetic prisoners can be reduced. Help me find them, folks. 

(That's you I'm talking to, by the way, if you're reading this now. Don't let this be like the famous, brutal murder in the urban apartment complex in which some 35 neighbors heard a woman scream for help for 30 minutes, but no one called 911 or otherwise responded because they all thought someone else would have done so already. You are the ones we're counting on. Do what you can, then let the folks at the Scott Sisters’ blogspot know what you did.)

Those of you with diabetes in your own family, especially, contact the diabetes organizations and tell them you want to know what kind of work they’re doing with/bout prisoners with diabetes, and tell them Jamie’s story. What are they doing in our state? What if Jamie was your daughter or sister or Mom? What will they do to help her? Jamie is precisely the kind of patient who needs the influence of these organizations the most – and the media they would bring.

The American Diabetes Association must have something to say about all this, regardless of what the Kidney Foundation is willing to take on. Here’s the link to Diabetes Advocacy, too. The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors has both a Diabetes Council and a Woman’s Health Council. The contact for both (Denise Cyzman at the DC and Laura Shea at the WHC) should be interested in what the states are doing about treating chronic illnesses – like diabetes - in prison. Ask them what they know about Mississippi – what organizations would be most needed to help the Scotts work through Jamie’s medical issues, as well as explore the overall quality of health care for prisoners there.

May 9-15 is National Women’s Health Week according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, by the way. Start planning to recognize issues in women's health care in prison that week with community health groups. DHHS also has the Minority Women's Health Panel of Experts (there are all sorts of good contacts on that page).

A woman Jamie's age should not be going into renal failure from diabetes unless she wasn't getting adequate help with managing her illness all along. Renal failure and years of dialysis often await people with diabetes - especially those who have had the least ability and resources in their lives to manage their illness. Jamie has had very little power over her daily movements, much less her health care and diet over the past 16 years. 

Wherever you are, though, look first in your own backyard - ask your state and local groups, even your personal physicians, to get involved in issues regarding prisoner health care – then ask them to weigh in on this. They should contact their counterparts in Mississippi and ask them how they’re responding to it – and we should follow up and find out what they’ll be doing for prisoners and families here. They're all connected through national organizations and conferences (contact them, too, at the links above), and I know they've got people who are interested in this very thing. We need to balance them out with radical feminists and patient advocacy groups, too.  

Really, there isn't a single American for whom something might not be at stake in the realm of patient and prisoner rights. What happens next should matter to everyone - diabetes may have its favorites, but it's not limited to people who are poor, black, female, or in prison. I seriously doubt that Arizona's health care resources for prisoners are any more generous than they are in Mississippi - and we have a real knack for wrongful imprisonment - so as I see it, my mom could easily be in Jamie's shoes, too. 

White privilege reduces our chances of being criminalized or imprisoned to begin with, but it doesn’t buy as much in prison: whatever your guilt, income, gender or race, you're just another criminal to the state - a piece of human waste - being warehoused at the cheapest possible rate (at great profit, perhaps, to someone invested in nothing more than our compliance and the cost of our living).

Personally, I believe our prisoners are far from the garbage heap: they're on the front lines, under heavy fire, and what we let happen to them will soon befall the rest of us. We should be thanking many of them for their perseverance, their voice, and their courage. 

So, “ thanks” to all prisoners out there right now who have been fighting for their health care rights – in the process, they have been defending ours, too…that includes Jamie and Gladys.

- Peg.

Subject: CHECK IT: 2/20 JAMIE SCOTT UPDATE (Scott Sisters) ~ By Sis Marpessa

Greetings all,

Mrs. Evelyn Rasco has been going non-stop in Mississippi advocating on behalf of her daughters since the 2/17 update, she is absolutely incredible and a force to be reckoned with!

Mrs. Rasco was able to get into see both of her daughters on 2/18. Gladys reports that she is doing OK but is of course greatly concerned about Jamie.  Jamie was able to come to the visiting room and visit with her
mother and son but was very obviously not doing well medically.  She has lost weight and is extremely weak.
The temporary catheter in her neck has been replaced twice but is still malfunctioning with infection in her neck and breast area, which she was able to show her mother evidence of. One of her medications is being denied to her because the state won't pay for it.  Jamie's blood pressure and diabetes are not under control.

As soon as Mrs. Rasco left the prison she attended a meeting of the legislature in the Capitol Bldg. in Jackson dealing with prison budget cuts and other prison-related issues.  She recognized Commissioner Epps from his photo at the prison and walked right up to him and told him all about Jamie's poor condition and shoddy medical treatment.  He stated that he was getting messages from all over the world (thanks to all of you!).  He stated that he was going to do everything that he could to obtain clemency or pardon for the Scott Sisters and that he was giving his word on this, although he had no power to actually make it happen himself.  Dr. Gloria Perry was also there and defended the medical care that Jamie Scott is receiving despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

Mrs. Rasco has done several MS radio shows and even spoke at a high school last night.  She was preparing to return home today but received a call in the middle of last night telling her that she needed to get back to the prison today (2/20) and see about Jamie.  Since today is Jamie's regular visiting day she was able to go right down there to see her. This a.m., however, Jamie was too weak to walk to the visiting room, but Mrs. Rasco was able to go to the infirmary where Jamie is being kept on a hospital bed inside of a cell.

She was horrified at Jamie's living conditions in the infirmary, she could not believe what she saw there.  She stated that there was trash all over the floor.  Jamie's bedding was dirty and her facebowl and toilet were filthy.  Jamie's floor had bags of dirty clothes.  The paint was peeling and the infirmary was nasty.  Jamie told her that the dialysis machine broke down again, this time during her last treatment and that she only received one hour on there.

The nurse said that Jamie needs to be hospitalized RIGHT NOW because of a huge knot of infection that has amassed in her neck. The catheter has drifted and is again non-functional.  The nurse is giving her antibiotics and said she should have been hospitalized yesterday but that the paperwork had not been completed.  She is hoping that Jamie will get sent back to the hospital on Monday.  The food in the tray that was delivered to Jamie while Mrs. Rasco was there was swimming in water and unfit to eat.  Jamie refused it and said she has not been receiving the nutrition that dialysis patients are supposed to have.

One of Mrs. Rasco's legal advisers, Chokwe Lumumba, urged that we strive to get support from a medical foundation or institution that can help to get Jamie moved into a medical facility ASAP in order to save her life. The infections and her horrible living conditions, her lack of consistent dialysis, medications, and nutrition and her serious illnesses have left Jamie barely able to walk.
If you are able to help Jamie purchase her food, or even would like to put money on Gladys' books, please go to; and register for Access Corrections to help them.

Jamie Scott #19197
B Zone, Bed 196
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8550

Gladys Scott #19142
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8550

Please continue to contact the Governor, prison officials, politicians and media, there is a lot of renewed focus on the case of the Scott Sisters and Mrs. Rasco said that information is going out all over Mississippi radio.  Please continue to sign onto the compassionate release petition for Jamie at;
we have almost reached our goal of 1,000 signatures!

There are some upcoming events for the Scott Sisters, including a gathering at the Capitol in Jackson, MS being organized by Bro. Lumumba for next week. The MWM/Black Women's Defense League rally is being organized by Empress Chi for March 26, 2010.  The  "FREE THE SCOTT SISTERS" Protest Demonstration and Rally will also help to further the building of the "FREE THE SCOTT SISTERS" DIRECT ACTION TASK FORCE that is being coordinated by the BWDL.  To get involved with the FTSS-Task Force or for more information call 267-636-3802 or e-mail: or

Please subscribe to the mailing list and check the website and Facebook Group for updates.  Mrs. Rasco is still unable to respond to e-mails as she is away from her computer, so please send urgent messages to until she returns.

Visit and LINK to:;
Subscribe to our group:  Send a blank e-mail to and share information!

Facebook Group: Free The Scott Sisters
Compassionate Release Petition:;

Free the Scott Sisters Petition:;

Legal Transcripts:;

Punishing innocence must end. HB 2675.

From the UTNE Reader Blog, this snippet at the very bottom. Links below will take you to the full report. I'm posting this as a reminder to folks to take the following action, posted first, making the system more fair and opportunities for exoneration more accessible, at least in Arizona. This bill needs to be put on the Judiciary Committee's agenda next week. The appeal came to me today from a friend with a wrongfully convicted child in Arizona's prison system:

HB 2675 - "Erroneous Convictions"

Call and Fax today and next week to get this bill put on the Agenda.

Rep. Driggs makes the decision. Contact him first, then the Judiciary Committee members.
fax: (602) 417-3007  
tel: (602) 926-3016

Contact information:
AZ Judiciary Committee-HB 2675

 AZ House Members:


"It's time for laws that "help the people", rather than laws that give more power to the police and the prosecutors, who have ALL the resources to go after the people who pay for this.

Remember Ray Krone?  The Arizona Legislature apologized and said, "we must do better next time".  Well, it's next time and nothing has changed except to sweep wrongful convictions under the rug.

Once the County has to pay for carelessness and malicious prosecution of innocent people, then maybe they will then begin to do their job, starting with following established protocol in investigation with highly qualified people. The taxpayers have been bilked long enough on the "fear-mongering" sound bytes and "label" of the day -- "high-profile" witch-hunts.

Wrongful convictions in Arizona have been swept under the rug in the Maricopa County Attorney's office. 

The State Legislature apologized to Ray Krone, wrongfully convicted and exonerated in 2006, and said we have to do better next time.  Well, nothing has changed except the state is in financial collapse with all the felonies County Attorney Andrew Thomas has thrown into the court system, jails and prisons, like a wrecking ball (read "Jingle Jangle" by Jim Rix and  "Sunbelt Justice: Arizona and the Transformation of American Punishment" by Mona Lynch).

The jails and prisons are over-crowded and unsustainable. Almost 50% with NON-violent inmates, who are no harm to society.  

Mandatory minimum sentencing has been used as a weapon by the prosecutors to get their "conviction", rapidly making the U.S. #1 Jailer in the world, with Arizona #1 in the West in percentage of growth (Pew Report on the States).  MMS allows the police, lawyers, prosecutors, judges and victims rights advocates, to fail to do their jobs. They have become "processors" -- processing peoples' lives faster than parking tickets; defendant' s choice -- take a "plea" (en masse) or go to trial (a Kangaroo court). This money making industry for some is at the expense of innocent peoples' lives and at the root of a decaying society, which is where Arizona finds itself.

Innocent people with a NON-violent first offense are being sent to prison for years and DECADES in Arizona. Families are being destroyed daily, children's lives and the future society of Arizona hangs in the balance.  Overzealous prosecution of "easy" convictions while discarding the tough cases is unacceptable.

Someone needs to be held accountable for this failure of the criminal justice system. It starts with the police and the prosecutors.  The County should pay for their wrongful convictions. Then we might see an end to the race to convict and incarcerate.

Once again, HB 2675 must be put on the Agenda.  Show the people that you believe in fair justice and want to "right the wrongs" that have destroyed innocent peoples' lives."

Arizona Coalition for the Wrongfully Convicted - an Innocence movement

Arizona Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform

NCCJR National Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform

Freedom March for the Wrongfully Convicted -2009 



PETITION: Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Scheme is Morally Unacceptable

------------the Innocence Project Report: 250 Exonerated------------

How 250 Prisoners Got Their Lives Back

ExoneratedThe Innocence Project is celebrating the latest prisoner to be exonerated through DNA testing in the United States by detailing his case and the cases of each of the 249 wrongfully convicted who came before him. The report, 250 Exonerated: Too Many Wrongfully Convicted also offers a crunching of the exoneration numbers, among them:

- There have been DNA exonerations in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

- The top three states for DNA exonerations are New York (with 25), Texas (with 40) and Illinois (with 29).

- 76% of the wrongful convictions involved eyewitness misidentification.

- 50% involved unvalidated or improper forensic science.

- 27% relied on a false confession, admission or guilty plea.

- 70% of the 250 people exonerated are people of color (60% are black; nearly 9% are Latino; 29% are white).

Source: The Innocence Project