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, November 30, 2010

MCSO Brutality and Sunbelt Justice: getting what we "deserve"?

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office detention officer Kevin Gerster, seen in video in the previous post assaulting already-restrained mentally ill prisoners made his $36,000 bond and is out of jail already.

Bet he didn't get cuffed, shackled, bagged and beaten by our beloved defenders of public trust and safety during his brief stay. His jaw probably wasn't broken by some thug with a badge while he was in 4-point restraints in the jail's psychiatric wing. I doubt anyone will be sending an armed intruder to his home to slice up him and his loved ones, either. He's actually pretty fortunate that most of us don't endorse his brand of "justice", and that the cyber-bullies who applauded him following the news articles about his crimes are all just as cowardly as he is.

Gerster's next court appearance is Monday, December 6, 2010 at 8:30am at the Maricopa County Central Court Building at 201 W. Jefferson St in Phoenix on the lower level. Anyone who cares about real justice should be there to make sure that not only the cops, but also the courts and prosecutors are held accountable, too.

No word yet on when his colleague, officer Alan Keesee, will be arrested and arraigned. It does not appear as if any of the officers who witnessed the assaults and did nothing (or even those who helped restrain the victims) are being charged. Nor is any of the MCSO leadership, of course.

During his press conference about Gerster's arrest Arpaio seems to justify that conduct by stating "being a detention officer is a difficult job". The Lower Buckeye Jail's chief of custody, Jerry Sheridan, goes on to attribute the assault of the most recent victim to him "mouthing off".
I don't believe there's ever a case in which violence is justified by mere insult - especially coming from a mentally ill person already bound in chains - but for some reason law enforcement officers seem particularly inclined to think it does.

The Maricopa County Sheriff Office's history of human rights' abuses suggests that Officer Gerster's disposition to repeatedly assault helpless people was fostered by his boss and the workplace culture Arpaio has cultivated there. Savagery and criminal misconduct by law enforcement agents of the MCSO is a well-established pattern and practice - one which this state's deluded electorate sadly seems to embrace.

For those of you who missed it, the PHX New Times did a thorough investigation in 2007 of how the MCSO treats prisoners: Inhumanity Has a Price. Read it and weep. I did. As of the time that article was written, the Maricopa County jails - under Arpaio - had already killed 11 prisoners in as many years as a direct result of violating their constitutional rights. For all you right-to-lifers who think the jails just house rapists and murderers who "deserve whatever they get": the death toll included the unborn child of a woman who hadn't even been convicted of anything yet.

By contrast, according to the MCSO website page dedicated to their fallen officers, "In the Line of Duty", since 1994 two officers died in car accidents and one died by gunshot. To hear the rhetoric that keeps justifying the massive build up of weaponry, the round-ups of "criminal aliens", and the brutality they display towards all those dangerous characters they throw in the local lock-up, you'd think the deputies were being slaughtered out there. According to the Goldwater Institute, Arpaio and his crew aren't even going after the real bad guys, though. It's actually the rest of the public that's in danger of getting killed by the MCSO.

Sunbelt Justice in the title of this post, by the way, is a reference to a very worthwhile read about crime and punishment in Arizona. Pick it up before the next legislative session, and recommend it to State Senator Ron Gould, the new chair of the AZ Senate Judiciary Committee. He has a lot to learn.

Again, if you care at all about the abuses of power occurring here, show up for Kevin Gerster's next hearing, stay tuned for Alan Keesee's (check for court records on both here, once they're posted, or call the criminal court office at 602-506-8575), and show the rest of this community that at least some of us won't stand for it.

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