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

Sunday, September 19, 2010

For Lasasha Cherry and her Heroes...

Sasha was the 23 year old woman from Coolidge who ended the pain of this leg of her journey in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections on September 6, 2010. According to records from the ADC she had been sentenced there in July 2009, and would have been released within another month or two, had she lived.

She was housed on
Lumley at Perryville, where the maximum security yard is, which is where Marcia Powell (killed when locked in an outdoor cage in 2009) and Geshell Fernandez (the only other woman in ADC custody who appears to have committed suicide this year) resided at the time of their deaths.

Based on minutes retrieved from the Maricopa County Superior Court, Sasha was originally given 10 years probation under an agreement with the Comprehensive Mental Health Probation Court. Her records pertaining to her competency remain sealed, but it appears that she struggle with both a substance abuse disorder and psychiatric disability, and was to be placed in a 24-hour dual diagnosis treatment program through Magellan once she was put on probation.

I don't know what happened with those plans, but Sasha apparently violated probation when charged with a new crime within six weeks, and was consequently sent to prison. Sasha's final sentence took all of six minutes to impose. That was after a process lasting more than a year from the time she was charged with her original crime, during which period it appears she was in MCSO custody (presumably in chemical restraints) where she had to undergo mental health treatment and several rounds of competency exams before being allowed to enter a guilty plea.

In light of that, I suspect that Sasha must have been pretty impaired when first charged. My guess is that the court's primary concern was for her ability to care for her young child, though, if she wasn't institutionalized or successfully engaged in a recovery program. We've got to come up with something more responsible than prison terms for dually disabled moms.

I tried to find out more about who Sasha was this week, other than what the courts had to say, but haven't heard from anyone who knew her, and couldn't afford to subscribe to the paper that lists her obituary. I did, however, find her Myspace page. There's only a page on her interests and some photos there - it hadn't been updated since 2007. But you can see the little boy she adored, Malachi, who was born that spring. Her mother's astonishingly beautiful artwork is there, too, as are a handful of photos of herself, her and Malachi, and her child's father. She shared a lot of herself in that very small space, perhaps the most telling things being that she liked movies that made you think, was a proud parent, and that her heroes "are people that stand by your side no matter what and grab (you) when they see (you) slipen."

Sasha seems to have wanted to do right by her kid, but struggled to because of her disabilities. The last statement of hers, though,suggests that she had some pretty important heroes in her life, who had been there for her many times before. To Sasha's heroes (you know who you are), I'd like to say that I'm sorry for what you're no doubt going through right now. No matter how strong or faithful or courageous one is, sometimes it's just not possible to save those we love from addiction, depression and despair - especially when they are physically out of reach.

I don't know if Sasha received any treatment in prison or what compelled her to take her own life so close to release, though I can certainly empathize with the desperate feeling that one is slipping hopelessly into inescapable pain. I know what it is to long for freedom, and that the most important kind has nothing to do with other people's chains. Most of all, though, I know how it feels to survive a loved one's suicide, so my heart especially goes out those she left behind. I can't imagine the grief that her mother must feel, however, or the confusion and loss her child will struggle through.

I borrowed the photo above from Sasha's Myspace album, since the only other material we had on her life and death were from the ADC. With her mother's permission, I'd like to post the artwork of hers that Sasha so admired. I try to help people understand who ends up in prison in America and how, but I think it's important for visitors here to see more than just prisoner's mugshots and criminal histories, especially when they pass away. They are more than just numbers to be counted three times a day.

Anyone who wants to share more about this young woman's life is welcome to contact me at

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