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 23, 2010

The Untapped Resource: NAACP Prison Branches

Got turned onto this by Charlie through the national CURE list-serve, or I wouldn't even have known there were prison branches of the NAACP. Not a lot makes me weep that isn't tragic - this did. I just developed a whole new level of respect for the organization. Congratulations to the prisoners of Branch 4003 of the NAACP - and thank you. Your persistence has no doubt opened the door to new possibilities for others.

NAACP's prison branch in Cameron gets its wish to host conventioneers

On Saturday, 20-some NAACP convention-goers walked through the metal detectors at the maximum security prison in Cameron, Missouri, to participate in a historic event. After years of planning and pleading, prisoners with the NAACP Branch #4003 at the Crossroads Correctional Facility were granted permission to host a seminar at the prison as part of the civil rights group's 101st convention in Kansas City.

Among the attendees: Effie Jones Bowers, a black student who desegregated Hall High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. "She has a thousand-watt smile," says Jon Marc Taylor, a Crossroads inmate and Branch #4003's convention and resolutions chairman.

NAACP Xroads.jpg
The banner reads, "Prison Branches: 'The Untapped Resource?'"

The event "went better than we had ever hoped for," Taylor tells The Pitch. "It was a historic, tremendous program."

Conventioneers showed up at the prison around 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and were treated to a catered lunch between discussion sessions. Topics included the disproportionate number of African-American men incarcerated in U.S. prisons and the challenges that felons face when they're released back into society. When the seminar ended at 3:15 p.m., Taylor says, "The guests didn't want to leave. We almost literally had to push 'em out the door."

Because of space restrictions, only 28 of the 60-some NAACP prison branch members took part in Saturday's events. Factors like seniority in the group helped determine which inmates attended.

Other attendees included Paula Skillicorn, widow of Dennis Skillicorn, a death row inmate who was executed in May 2009; Peter Wagner of the Prison Policy Initiative; the Rev. Elston McCowan, the Missouri NAACP's prison committee chairman; and Niaz Kasravi, the NAACP's national senior program manager for law enforcement accountability.

Taylor expressed gratitude to the leadership of the NAACP and to Larry Denney, Warden at the Crossroads prison, for allowing the session to take place. "We are pleasantly surprised by the level of cooperation and support we've received, and we really hope this is a great example of where we can go forward in the future with programs," Taylor says.

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