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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Phoenix Homeless Rising: Power to the People!

I'm proud to call these masked beings my friends and comrades on this journey...

in Solidarity -


Protesters speak out against mistreatment in Phoenix homeless shelters

By , on Thursday, September 29th, 2011

ASU - Downtown Devil

Masked demonstrators gathered near ASU’s Downtown campus Wednesday to protest treatment of the homeless in Phoenix shelters.

Phoenix Homeless Rising, an anti-homelessness advocacy group, began holding banners and signs in front of the A. E. England building around 3 p.m. across the street from the Walter Cronkite School. Approximately 20 protesters spoke with passers-by for nearly two hours, encouraging them to hold government officials and service providers accountable for the mistreatment of the city’s homeless.

Some protesters wore party masks to conceal their identities, hoping to avoid retaliation from their homeless shelters, while others declined to speak for fear of eviction from their shelters.

“People don’t really have the right to free speech, despite what the Constitution says,” said Elizabeth Venable, leader of Wednesday’s demonstration. “They can get thrown out of shelters just for protesting. So we’re not showing our identities, but in a fun way.”

One of the demonstrators’ many complaints concerned the allocation of state funding in regards to the homeless.

“We want to mobilize the homeless so their voices are heard in the public arena,” Venable said.

Wednesday’s protest follows close on the heels of Tuesday’s postal-workers rally in the same location but was not inspired by it, protesters said. This demonstration had been planned for nearly a month, according to Venable, and was an attempt to gain support before the organization addresses the City Council at its meetings next Wednesday and Oct. 19.

The organization plans to present a report consisting of over 100 personal accounts of mistreatment within the city’s shelter system, and it hopes to achieve recognition of its grievances.

“We want to have a mechanism for oversight, as well as an increase in funding,” said Venable. “In the long run, yes, the service providers need more funding, but they should also be held accountable. We just want to make sure these issues are on (the City Council’s) radar, because no one else is going to bring them up.”

Contact the reporter at

Transinstitutionalizing the mentally ill: still filling the prisons.

Nationally, 4 times as many mentally ill people are now in prisons than in hospitals.

Arizona ranks as one of the worst offenders...
(image from

I've seen this journalist doing research in the field - excellent reporting. Between her and Bob Ortega, the prisons have been getting a close look at by the AZ Republic these days. What's about to happen here is catastrophic. The Arizona Department of Corrections is the last place we should be sending people with mental illness - and it's the next place many will be heading. Someone has to fill all those new private prison beds, after all...the good prisoners will go to them, and the mentally ill will be kept in the fire traps they call state prisons.

Paul Rubin's Phoenix New Times article about the murder of Shannon Palmer comes to mind when I think of people who never should have been in prison to begin with - and wouldn't have, if our mental health system wasn't already so damaged and our communities so gutted of basic resources. Phoenix is so certain that more police are the answer that they're taking it out of the food tax - thank God we have the resources to arrest the poor when they steal to feed their families now.

Anyway, if we don't spend our tax dollars in the community folks - BEFORE people feel the need to call the police - we'll be spending it keeping a lot of these folks in horrendous conditions behind bars. We already are, sadly - for every one mentally ill person we hospitalize in Arizona, we put over nine more in jail or prison. Only Nevada is more brutal to their mentally disabled.

Needless to say, our disability rights advocates in this state have a lot of catching up to do if they're going to protect these folks all the way to prison and back. Most seem to stop at the courtroom door, I'm afraid...

---------from the Arizona Republic-------

Mental-health cuts: Experts fear long-term costs

Arizona taxpayers are providing fewer services to fewer people with serious mental illnesses than they were last year, for annual savings of roughly $50 million.

But the short-term savings from state budget cuts threaten to have long-term consequences for patients, providers and the community, mental-health experts say.

The budget reductions eliminated services for about 12,000 Arizonans who don't qualify for Medicaid, removing the foundation of a system intended to keep the seriously mentally ill, healthy and out of emergency rooms, hospitals, jails and prisons.

State lawmakers instead provided money for generic medication and additional funding to beef up a statewide crisis-response system to help prevent people from falling through the cracks. But in the 15 months since this population lost case management, brand-name prescription drugs, therapy, transportation and other benefits, more than 2,000 people have stopped receiving any state-funded services and are unaccounted for.

Local and county jails, emergency responders and hospitals often shoulder the costs when people with untreated serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, fall into crisis.

The precise financial costs to those entities are unknown, but health professionals do know that it's far more expensive to treat people who have spiraled into crisis than to keep them stable. And once in crisis, health professionals say, it's more difficult for people to rebound, which means those higher costs continue to recur.

"It's a penny-wise and pound-foolish approach," said Bill Kennard, former executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness' office in Phoenix. "More people in jail and prison with mental illness, more time that law enforcement spends dealing with a health issue as opposed to a public-safety issue."

The costs

The state has not conducted an analysis that compares ongoing treatment with crisis costs.

But a March 2011 study that examined proposed mental-health cuts in Texas put the average daily cost of services at $12 for adults, compared with $401 a day in the state's mental hospital, $137 a day for a jail inmate with mental illness and $986 for an emergency-room visit.

The study, by Health Management Associates for the Texas Conference of Urban Counties, also showed that gaps in services put those discharged from psychiatric hospitals and jail at greater risk of relapse, readmission and recidivism.

Janey Durham, who is in charge of a workshop program at Mesa's Marc Center, said she lost 120 people to the budget cuts, including a man diagnosed with schizophrenia who deteriorated almost before her eyes. The non-profit agency center provides job training and other services to the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.

Durham said the man, a former alcoholic in his 50s, worked hard at his job in the manufacturing warehouse, at maintaining his sobriety and in treating his mental illness. But soon after the budget cuts forced him to switch to a generic medication, Durham said, he stopped taking his medication, started drinking again and grew increasingly paranoid, plagued by voices in his head.

Over the past year his erratic, disruptive behavior led Marc Center employees to call Mesa police at least once. He is believed to be homeless, she said, but contact with him has been sporadic since last winter.

Clarke Romans, who runs the NAMI office in Tucson, said a once-eager volunteer has been reluctant to leave her house since last summer, when her anti-psychotic Seroquel was replaced with a generic drug. Many of the most commonly prescribed brand-name psychoactive medications have no generic equivalent. Generics in some cases are less effective or have side effects that deter people from taking them, health officials say.

"She's been suicidal. She has not been able to come in and volunteer. She kind of hides in her house," Romans said. "These are people who are suffering in silence."

Before the budget cuts last July, individuals with serious mental illness were entitled to a full array of community-based services, from supportive housing to intensive case management and in-patient hospitalization, regardless of their income.

Mental-health advocates argue that city and county law enforcement, hospitals, jails and homeless shelters have picked up some of the costs of caring for the seriously mentally ill who lost benefits. Over the past year, many of these venues have seen an increasing number of people with severe mental illness.

State lawmakers made the cuts to help close a $1 billion deficit in fiscal 2011. House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the state's financial crisis forced lawmakers to cut $3 billion over four budget cycles, and all of the cuts carried some consequences.

"The question is, are the consequences so dire that it shouldn't be done? We don't believe so," Kavanagh said. "The changes really were not dramatic. . . . We're still providing these people with treatment."

Treatment, recovery

Publicly funded mental-health treatment can be highly effective, and the vast majority of people can improve their quality of life and relieve symptoms, such as hallucinations or depression, with consistent therapy, medication and other support.

But experts say treatment and services must be comprehensive and consistent.

"I don't think these kinds of services are luxuries for people with mental illness. They are part and parcel of their treatment for an underlying disorder," said Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum, a Columbia University psychiatry professor and past president of the American Psychiatric Association. "Unless you provide a package of services, just throwing pills at them isn't going to do it."

Those who work closely with the mentally ill say that is the situation for thousands of Arizonans who are ineligible for Medicaid. And they worry that people who stopped showing up at their assigned clinics may have become incarcerated, homeless, hospitalized or homebound.

Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor and nationally known expert on homelessness, said studies show people with serious mental illness who are not receiving regular, supportive services are more likely to become homeless.

Culhane's own research has shown that it costs less to provide apartments and other permanent housing for people who are homeless than to provide emergency shelter and services. People with serious mental illness who become homeless, he said, "have significant secondary costs," including emergency, hospital and incarceration costs.

Once they have fallen into crisis, the road back to recovery can be much harder.

"Untreated psychiatric illness is just more difficult to treat," said Dr. Jason Caplan, chief of psychiatry at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center. "You have an increased risk of relapse. It's just harder to get you back."

Repeat visitors

Case management was a key benefit lost to the non-Medicaid mentally ill. Among other things, caseworkers helped people who were jailed or hospitalized to transition back into society and tried to prevent their relapse.

People often lose their housing while they're locked up and, if they're on probation or court-ordered treatment, they have a list of rules to follow upon release.

Now, there is no one to meet people as they are released from jail or a psychiatric hospital.

In Maricopa County, 54 people with serious mental illness were released to the street or to a homeless shelter in the past year after being stabilized at one of the Valley's two urgent psychiatric care facilities, according to Magellan, the for-profit contractor that administers behavioral-health care in the county.

Dr. Dawn Noggle, mental-health director for Correctional Health Services, which provides health care at Maricopa County's jails, said the seriously mentally ill are staying in jail longer. And, she said, police have arrested some more than 30 times for a variety of crimes, mostly low-level non-violent offenses, such as trespassing or theft, or probation violations.

Incarceration and prosecution of the mentally ill doesn't just affect taxpayers who foot the bill, she says.

"What happens after they get felonies? And there is an incredible impact on families," she says. "It's not just the immediate financial costs. It's the social costs as well."

There also are repeat customers at the county's psychiatric hospital, where the budget cuts mean court-ordered evaluations must be completely redone for people discharged only weeks earlier. Staff at the county's Desert Vista Behavioral Health Center, which handles involuntary commitments, say it's a new phenomenon.

In the past, people were typically court-ordered to continue treatment for at least a year, long after they were discharged from the hospital. Since the budget cuts, judges have been dismissing court-ordered treatment for non-Medicaid patients upon their discharge, reluctant to require them to participate in services, such as therapy and job training, they no longer have. Within months, some of those people are brought back for a new evaluation, a costly legal and medical process that delays treatment for several days.

"It's taking an enormous amount of resources to redo something that's already been done," said Sherry Fraley, legal-services manager.

Reach the reporter at 602-444-8603.

Murder of Shannon Palmer: Lewis lieutenant stands up.

"SOS: Chuck Ryan is Killing AZ Prisoners"
Phoenix New Times Sidewalk
November 12, 2010

The ACLU National Prison Project and the Prison Law Office (which took California DOC to the Supreme Court over medical care for prisoners) are investigating the abuse and neglect of prisoners at the Arizona Department of Corrections and may sue Arizona for injunctive relief over the poor medical and psychiatric treatment. ADC employees, ex-prisoners, family members and others with first-hand knowledge or eyewitness testimony that can be offered to help protect prisoners and staff from the deteriorating conditions inside our state prisons should contact me ( / 480-580-6807) or the ACLU of Arizona for more information. The ACLU-AZ is at:

American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona
P.O. Box 17148
Phoenix, AZ 85011


Please see my post from yesterday about the escalating violence in the state prisons, also.

Thanks to both Paul Rubin and Chuck Bauer for the following...

-----------from the Phoenix New Times-------------

A Respected State Prison Officer Quits Over Dangerous Conditions for Inmates and Guards

By Paul Rubin


published: September 29, 2011

Chuck Bauer loved his job as a lieutenant at the Lewis Prison Complex in Buckeye. He gradually had risen in rank over eight years (in two stints) with the Arizona Department of Corrections, winning Supervisor of the Year at Lewis twice.

But the 56-year-old Peoria resident says he became increasingly discouraged by what he saw on the job — cutbacks in personnel and resulting safety issues for "his people" (corrections officers) and for inmates.

On September 10, 2010, Bauer heard over his walkie-talkie about an inmate who was badly hurt inside Cell A-26 in Building A of the Buckley Unit, a so-called "protective segregation" area.

The incident led Bauer, within days, to quit his job and try to move on with his life — something, he says, that has been difficult.

"I am a loyal guy, and it still makes me sick to think that I abandoned my people," he tells New Times. "I just had to do it. I know from up close that bad things happen in prisons, but what happened to inmate [Shannon] Palmer that day just didn't have to happen.

"For one thing, we were short-staffed to the max, as we have been for a long time now, and couldn't keep an eye on those inmates like we're supposed to — simple matter of numbers. It was like a nightmare, and it could have happened to one of my officers just as well as to that poor guy."

Bauer contacted New Times after reading our recent "Hell Hole" cover story (September 1) about the horrific murder of Shannon Palmer, 40, a seriously mentally ill Mesa man who had but a few months left to serve on a three-year criminal-damage rap. Palmer was attacked with a razor-blade shank by Jasper Rushing, who had been his cellmate (in a cell designed for one person) for about three weeks.

Rushing was a decade into a 28-year sentence for first-degree murder when he took his weapon to Palmer's throat and then to his penis (which he cut off) after knocking him out with a makeshift club (a small sheet wrapped tightly around hardcover books).

Bauer says he immediately rushed to the wing, where he saw Palmer lying inside the cell, mutilated, bleeding profusely, and all but dead. Jasper Rushing still was in the area, handcuffed and, Bauer recalls, "as calm as a man can be."

Bauer decided to perform CPR on the unconscious Palmer himself, with the assistance of his colleague Captain Ron Lawrence.

"It was so bad that I didn't want the staffers to have to deal with it," Bauer says, without a hint of braggadocio. "There was blood everywhere, like out of a horror movie, and I knew he wasn't going to make it. But we had to try our best, and we did. I didn't even notice [Palmer's penis] on the floor until later."

Afterward, Bauer dictated his report on his role in the tragedy, changed his bloodied shirt, and tried to go about his duties. But he says he couldn't shake the feeling that Shannon Palmer's homicide, while obviously extreme, was symptomatic of issues increasingly plaguing the corrections department.

"I knew that quitting a job I have loved during this economy was pretty drastic, and people I talked to about it thought I was nuts," he says.

"But there's a time in a person's life when you have to do what makes sense to you, and I just couldn't stand by any longer and just wait for something to happen to one of my [corrections officer] guys or gals. I just didn't want to be the one that would have to make that call to an officer's wife or husband about an injury, or worse."

Bauer pulls out a piece of paper on which he has scribbled some talking points:

• The lights were off in the Palmer/Rushing cell for weeks, which was dangerous for all concerned, including the corrections officers: "We couldn't get the maintenance people to fix the lighting and lots of other things at that time. I know that sounds hard to believe, but it's true. Being in the dark is gonna drive anyone nuts."

• The corrections officer who made the ill-fated decision to assign Palmer and Rushing to the same cell in August 2010 "was completely overworked — too much on her plate — doing seven or eight different jobs, which meant she was doing none of them too good."

• Many seriously mentally ill inmates are in harm's way because of their inability to anticipate a potentially violent situation, and because Arizona's corrections department is doing a poor job of isolating that population: "There's no place to put the mentally ill, outside of prison, so we end up trying to look after them, trying to make sure they get the right meds in them, and whatever."

• Morale among state corrections officers is poor, in part, because of mandated furloughs, at the same time that Arizona's prison population continues to grow: "I know [corrections department Director] Charles Ryan has no idea who I am, but he's an idiot if he doesn't know that his officers are not happy with the safety issues and the money issues involving corrections officers that are happening on his watch."

Bauer points out that even though Rushing and Palmer were in a protective-segregation unit, this meant little.

"It doesn't mean that the inmates in that unit aren't going to get hurt [or killed]," he says. "Those guys [Palmer and Rushing] were in an [isolation] cell and weren't out in the yard, and look at what happened."

Bauer says his decision to quit his $52,000-a-year job has had great repercussions on every part of his life.

"It's not as if I had this big fancy game plan to quit my job and lose my benefits and all that," he says, adding that he and his wife don't have healthcare insurance at the moment.

Bauer recently has been trying to get his new construction-cleaning business together, and he says things are looking up. Still, he often thinks back to his last day of work at Lewis at the end of September 2010.

A warden wanted to chat with him, Bauer says, but Bauer was worried that he might be persuaded to rescind his resignation.

So instead of meeting with the warden, Bauer found his way to the opposite end of the sprawling complex and stepped through the prison gates for the last time as a corrections officer.

"One of the hardest things I've ever done," he says. "Part of me wishes that I had stuck it out and part of me doesn't. I'd like to think I had the respect of my officers and of the inmates. The inmates may not have liked me much, but they knew I stuck to my word."

Bauer asks if he can add a few final thoughts:

"What happened in that cell between those guys was as bad it gets. I still have these real bad dreams about it.

"I don't know whether to blame the Arizona Legislature for wanting to lock everyone up but not wanting to pay for it, or to blame the current director [Ryan] and the direction he's been taking.

"How about if I just blame everyone?"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Alabama, Goddam!!! Juan Crow laws dawn.

The tune at the end is my own commentary on the Juan Crow story of the day: Alabama's HB56. Nina Simone wrote it in response to the racism of the Deep South in 1963 and the murders of the Birmingham school girls; radio stations were flooded with broken copies of her records after that. She's one of my heroes.

Too many states are taking after Arizona, digging deep into their roots to justify depriving hard-working families of the basics of life, like running water and medical care. How selfish and twisted we have become in this land of plenty, criminalizing even more of the poor.
I hear there will be a water strike in solidarity with our migrant brothers and sisters in Alabama this week. Blessings to you all from the Deep Southwest, where our own racist legislature is also fueled by hatred, greed and fear...

--------this summer from the Huffington Post-----------

Alabama's Immigration Law: The New Jim Crow

Maureen Costello
Huffington Post
Posted: 06/15/11

Alabama's new law -- with provisions against hiring, harboring or transporting undocumented immigrants -- is bad enough for adults. But it is potentially disastrous for kids.

By requiring schools to determine the immigration status of every student at enrollment, the law makes it hard to tell the difference between educators and immigration officials. It already has immigrant parents asking, "Should we keep our children out of school in September?"

On the surface, Alabama's H.B. 56 appears to be fashioned after Arizona's infamous S.B. 1070 law. But the real model wasn't so far away. Take a good look. This law was inspired by something a lot closer to home: Jim Crow.

H.B. 56, which goes into effect on Sept. 1, justifies the requirement in order to keep track of just how much money the state is spending to educate the children of undocumented immigrants. Never mind that immigrants -- both legal and illegal -- support schools by paying Alabama's regressive sales tax (10 percent here in Montgomery, including on food) and local property taxes.

Some will argue that children brought here illegally should not get a public education. But the Supreme Court ruled otherwise almost 30 years ago, in Plyler v. Doe. In 1982, the court ruled that Texas schools could not deny enrollment to the children of undocumented immigrants. The decision found that children -- even those here illegally -- had 14th Amendment protections, should not be punished for the actions of their parents, and were safe from discrimination in the absence of substantial state interests to the contrary.

Wanting to "take account" of the costs of ESL fails the substantial interest test. The majority in Plyler also said that refusing to educate these students "raises the specter of a permanent caste of undocumented resident aliens," a permanent "underclass" of illiterates who would burden society far more than the cost of educating them.

Maybe history has inured Alabama to such an underclass. The law requires school officials to keep track of students "born outside the jurisdiction of the United States." But it goes even further. Schools must also determine which U.S. citizens among their students have parents who are "aliens not authorized to be in the United States."

Alabama didn't go the Texas route and outright deny the right to an education. But H.B. 56 is a thinly veiled way to discourage immigrant parents from enrolling their children in school. It reminds one of the poll taxes and literacy tests that made voting, although theoretically legal, an impossible act for so many African Americans a half-century ago.

It's unclear exactly how schools will identify the unauthorized parents, and that's part of its poisonous charm. Birth certificates don't include the legal status of parents. Will all parents now be required to prove their legal status, or only those who look like immigrants? Must educators infer which soccer mom is a likely prospect? Will children be asked where their parents were born? In the absence of evidence to the contrary, schools are instructed to presume that the student should be tracked under the new law.

All of these scenarios are ugly; they will make immigrant parents unwilling to enroll their kids. But as a nation, we can't afford to leave them behind. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 20 percent of the students in grades K-12 in 2009 were the children of immigrants. Policies that don't meet their educational needs or encourage their parents to keep them from school will leave us all behind as a nation. The cost will be far more than what Alabama pays ESL teachers.

The new law is likely to drive some undocumented immigrants away from Alabama, as its authors intended. But it will also set in stone the underclass that the Supreme Court predicted. Like Jim Crow, the law strips away rights, from having legally enforceable contracts to accepting a ride to the bus stop. Like the segregated schools of Jim Crow, this law puts obstacles in the path of immigrant parents who want their kids to become educated.

Educators have not shown great enthusiasm for the law, and they shouldn't. To his credit, Joe Morton, Alabama's state superintendent of education, has decided that the law doesn't take effect until after schools enroll students for the 2011-2012 school year. So it won't be enforced until August 2012. Morton's most likely counting on the law being declared unconstitutional by then.

No teacher or principal relishes the prospect of turning students or parents over to Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). None would want to help divide families. Yet Alabama teachers will soon be doing just that. Although the law includes nominal privacy protection, it specifically exempts requirements related to ICE. "Every state actor" must report known illegal immigrants.

Obviously, any children pulled from school will suffer. The rest of us suffer, too. As a state and as a nation, we need as many well-educated people as possible in the years ahead. And for educators, already struggling as society's latest whipping boy, the law is a blow to professional integrity. Teachers' very ability to succeed depends on being trusted allies of students and families. That's going to be tough to do after Alabama makes them deputies of ICE.

Follow Maureen Costello on Twitter:


Violence still climbing in AZ State prisons...

I've been perusing the Arizona Department of Corrections' (ADC) website of late and came across this report with a few things worth sharing. As many regular readers are aware, the ADC is the only state agency this year to have received an increase in their funding, placing their annual budget at about $1 billion. This came despite a decrease in the number of prisoners committed there by the courts since 2009. In fact, the ADC is getting a whole lot of new stuff despite the public's decreasing demand for their services.

To convince us of their dire need, Chuck Ryan and the state's prosecutors have been clamoring all year that 94% of ADC prisoners are "violent or repeat offenders" (as if Vicodin addicts and serial rapists pose an equal threat to the rest of us) and therefore MUST be imprisoned for our safety (see this long report - read between the propaganda, if you can). They argue that our high incarceration rates over the past decade are responsible for a falling crime rate (which was actually seen nationally due to many factors).

In truth, though, there's been a
marked decrease in violent offenders among new prisoners being admitted over the past 2 years, so it's not going down because they're all getting put away. Far too many of our resources continue to go towards imprisoning people who have smuggled themselves over the border or worked hard at a job no one else wanted too many times - over 6,000 of our prisoners are foreign nationals - most of whom we just plan to deport after we expend a fortune punishing them.

Actually, contrary to what Chuck Ryan's public claims would lead one to believe, 36% of the state's prisoner population is considered so low-risk that they're in minimum security settings - which means they could be safely walking among us right now. That's over 12,000 people who don't REALLY need to be locked into their beds at night (at about $20,000/year per prisoner) for the sake of public safety.

So why aren't we talking sentencing reform at the legislature this year instead of building 5,000 new prison beds? There's plenty of evidence of the meddling of the private prison lobby and American Legislative Exchange Council in our lawmaking activities here. But there's also a large contingent among law enforcement and corrections - such as ADC Director Chuck Ryan - leading us even further down the path of mass incarceration with fear, not reason. Whether crime goes up or down, their constant refrain is that we need more prisons and police - even when our school budgets are being ravaged.

Charts are from the ADC's 2011 "Data and Information" report. Increases in violence
over the past 2 years appear to be more dramatic than the changes in prisoner population and and apparent increase in the staff/prisoner ratio. Despite ADC claims that the violence grew due to budget and staffing cuts, there aren't a significant number of additional CO positions slated to be filled this year.

While there's no hard evidence that Chuck Ryan has - across his career - actually served to reduce crime in Arizona by fighting to secure longer sentences for vast numbers of petty criminals, there's ample proof that he's having a harder time than his predecessor did maintaining a safe environment for both prisoners and staff behind bars. Under his tenure, suicides and homicides have skyrocketed, and assaults
are up all over.

Indicators of prison violence are projected to jump even more next year. One would think the ADC would set goals to reduce those rates, not project increases.
Sadly, they seem far more concerned with bringing down health care costs than reducing prison violence - even that which is against their own people. In 2009, as Ryan's predecessor was leaving office, 1 in 40 prisoners and 1 in 17 staff were involved in an assault. Things have deteriorated so badly under his directorship that in 2012 1 in 23 prisoners are expected to be involved in fights and assaults, and 1 in 16 staff will be attacked.

Assaults on both prisoners and staff are expected to jump again in 2012. Nothing in the ADC's current 5-year plan addresses how to reduce the assault, suicide or homicide rates. Dora Schriro's reports, on the other hand, looked at these concerns closely.

Meanwhile, prisoners and their families have been told that their lives are of no value to the rest of us short of the revenue that the commodification of their bodies and the enslavement of their labor produces. Visitors have to pay for their security clearance now, rehabilitative programs have been gutted, prisoner pay was cut while medical visit co-pays increased, account deposits are being assessed a new fee, only 2 meals are served each day on the weekends, and women are dying while begging to see a doctor. Things are so bad now that the ACLU National Prison Project and the Prison Law Office are actually talkin
g about suing the ADC for injunctive relief due to the gross medical neglect of their general prison population, as well as the abuse of solitary confinement for prisoners with psychiatric disabilities. That's pretty serious.

AZ prison violence: higher security yards are least secure...

The guys are also writing to me more for help getting protective custody throughout the system, saying that the gangs run all the 3 and 4 yards (medium and maximum security) - and few are getting it, despite being assaulted repeatedly. The guards are often part of the problem - several stood out of the way for Dana Seawright's murder, and I know of at least one guard who was prosecuted for taking a $1000 bribe to let someone try and kill a friend of mine for being gay. Look at the assault statistics for different custody levels - they tell the story of prison violence spiraling out of control.

All that those violent perpetrators seem to be getting from being in Chuck Ryan's custody, frankly, is target practice on vulnerable prisoners like Shannon Palmer, carelessly housed among the most dangerous. That way both the thugs and the brutalized are good and ready for us when they get out. That's neither tough nor smart on crime - It's just hardest on the most easily victimized prisoners, like the very old, the very gentle, and those with psychiatric, developmental, and physical disabilities - many of whom landed in prison due to the shredded safety net in our state, not due to their inherent criminality.

I suspect from all that I've seen that the violence among prisoners in our state institutions is actually serving a purpose for the ADC. The gangs keep prisoners divided by race and high on heroin so they can't unite against the real enemy and resist the conditions of their confinement. Fear keeps people spending all their energy just surviving prison life, too, and posits other prisoners as sources of danger while making it appear as if their only hope for safety will come from the institution (often in exchange for something), if it comes at all.

In order words, the gangs and yard leaders are in on it with Chuck in a very convenient relationship. How ironic that they're the ones demanding to see guys' police reports for evidence they haven't snitched on anyone when they're the main parties in collusion with the guards and ADC brass.
Gang members and leaders make a show of resisting authority, but they are hardly the enemy of the state, by any means. They are in bed with them. Feel free to tell them I said that, too. Too many prisoners are being tattooed and led astray by the very rats who sell all of you out to maintain their own comfort and safety every day. If you were to unite amongst yourselves and start organizing around a new analysis of power inside, you might have a chance at disrupting that particular culture.

So spread the word and call them on their shit, guys - not only does the police report they insist on seeing fail to identify those who turned state's evidence later (everyone pisses their pants when they get busted, so they know you're likely to have something in that report they can make a big deal of), but they have no business questioning your integrity when they've been collaborating with the police state for a long time now. The gang violence also makes you all look bad out here, dehumanizing prisoners for those of us who wish to ignore your desperate predicament. In every way, those guys are just doing prisoners as a whole harm - and doing Chuck Ryan a service by keeping you down so he doesn't have to.
They keep his guards in line, too.

On that note, I encourage folks to check out the ADC's website for more information about how our tax dollars are being spent fostering even more criminal activity - and destroying the lives that might be salvaged -behind bars. Here are their collected reports and statistics. The Corrections at a Glance monthly briefs are especially interesting for what they show the ADC isn't doing for the 75% of prisoners these days who come in with drug problems. Even the drunks aren't getting treatment. Given the physical state of most of the prison system, it kind of makes you wonder where all that money has been going...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wall Street Watch: Shame on the NYPD

The troublemakers this weekend on Wall Street:

We will not be Ignored: Occupy Phoenix, October 15.

But First: This land is already occupied.

Friday, October 14, 3pm 
Downtown Phoenix 
Civic Space Park
424 N. Central Avenue

Support Indigenous Resistance



pass it on.


‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest slowly spreads across the United States

the Raw Story
By Eric W. Dolan
Monday, September 26th, 2011 -- 6:17 pm

Small groups of demonstrators in major American cities have started their own "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations and organizers are planning further actions in more cities across the United States.

A diverse coalition of people have pledged to occupy Wall Street until something is done about corporate greed and the financial system's undemocratic influence on the U.S. government.

The protesters have been camped out in New York’s old Liberty Plaza, one block from the Federal Reserve, since Saturday.

"The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99 Percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the one percent," said a statement on the Occupy Wall Street website.

At least 80 to 100 people were arrested over the weekend in the first big crackdown since the demonstration began. Police accused the protesters of blocking traffic and resisting arrest.

Video recordings showed female protesters being rounded up in an orange-colored mesh pen by police and subsequently sprayed with mace, seemingly without any provocation, and other protesters being dragged across the street by police. Another protester said she was arrested for trying to film the demonstration and locked in a police van for over two hours.

The protest spread to other cities over the weekend.

A small group of "Occupy Los Angeles" demonstrators marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles on Saturday to show their support for the protesters in New York City.

"Corporate interests seem to be controlling both parties,” one protester told “The ‘little man,’ the ‘American every man,’ just isn’t getting their voice heard. When you need $35,000 to donate to a campaign to get your voice heard, to have a meeting, that’s not democracy.”

"Occupy Los Angeles" protesters plan to begin a demonstration at City Hall on October 1. The "Occupy Los Angeles" Facebook page had nearly 2,000 likes as of Tuesday afternoon.

Another demonstration popped up in Chicago over the weekend. Around 20 "Occupy Chicago" protesters gathered at Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, on Friday and then marched to the Federal Reserve Bank. Some protesters have remained camped out in front of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and the organizers said the "occupation" had grown from 4 people to about 50.

Other "occupation" protests are being planned for Detroit, Denver, Cleveland, Boston, Phoenix, Seattle, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. The site has been set up in hopes of coordinating the protests.

Although the New York Times described the protest as a "noble but fractured and airy movement of rightly frustrated young people" whose purpose was "virtually impossible to decipher," the demonstration has attracted some prominent voices in the progressive and liberal community.

Journalist Chris Hedges described the protest as “really where the hope of America lies.”

“The real radicals have seized power,” he asserted, “and they are decimating all impediments to the creation of a neo-feudalistic corporate state, one in which there is a rapacious oligarchic class, a thin managerial elite, and two-thirds of this country live in conditions that increasingly push families to subsistence level.”

MIT professor Noam Chomsky also said he supports the protest.

"Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street -- financial institutions generally -- has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world)," he said. "And should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power."

Filmmaker Michael Moore and Current TV host Keith Olbermann both separately lamented the lack of substantial news coverage of the event, questioning why same-sized or smaller tea party protests garnered more attention than "Occupy Wall Street."

Even Stephen Colbert chimed in, wondering why his reporters couldn't find the stereotypical "mindless hippie argle-bargle" in the protest.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wall Street Watch: Capitalism is the Crisis!

What it's all about...

Occupy Wall Street: Virus of the Mind...

Just thought this was fun...

Wall Street Watch: Escalating Police Violence.

Don't believe everything the rest of the media won't tell you about what's going on in New York City. From a march to Union Square on September 25, 2011...This is our American Spring in the Fall.

Join us...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wall Street update: The Resistance digs in.

Invest in Communities, not prisons...
Wells Fargo, Phoenix AZ.
July 1, 2011

"Occupy Wall Street" Protest Has International Support; Setting Up for Long Haul

by: Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet [3] | Report

It's Day 5 of the occupation of Wall Street and the activists have settled in for a while.

Their camp in Zuccotti Park, formerly Liberty Plaza Park, shouting distance from Goldman Sachs bankers, is fully stocked with blankets, a kitchen, a medic table, and even a childcare center. A couple hundred people (hard to get a count as people milling in and out also included local folks on their lunch break and some curious construction workers from the World Trade Center site) are hanging out in the park, chatting, napping, chanting, talking to reporters or trying to recruit passersby.

"We've got everything to sustain us for months," Lily, working at the medical table, told me. She's an EMT, and she said that they have a full committee of people with some sort of medical background to be prepared for emergencies, as well as all sorts of medical supplies, some donated and some bought with money that Lily said was being donated from all over the world.

"So far we've given out lots of Band-Aids, because everyone has blisters, lots of cough drops because nobody has a voice," she said.

It's easy to see why no one has a voice, as there's nearly always someone chanting. I heard them from down the street as I approached; a line of mostly young people holding cardboard signs and singing along with a drum. I also saw trumpets, trombones, and a French horn.

Monica Lopez was part of a small crew huddled around laptops with portable wifi, keeping in touch with the rest of the world--and I do mean world. Monica is from Spain, having flown in a few days ago to join the occupation after taking part in her own country's occupations of public squares [4] in protest at austerity measures imposed by the government.

"We did this in Spain four months ago," she told me. "I'm the happiest person now--my life changed. It started with a big demonstration--300,000 people were there, and about 1 AM people decided to stay."

She said that the police in Spain were videotaped beating protesters, and it drove more and more to join the resistance.

"We were so scared but we were so many they couldn't stop us," she said. "We built a mini city, created assemblies."

Monica and the other organizers have created assemblies here as well, and have in addition to the medical committee a legal committee--there have been several arrests--a security committee, and perhaps most important, a fun committee.

As I was leaving, a group of the activists were marching around the square, accompanied by laughing police officers. On my way out, I asked a couple of construction workers on their break what they thought of the whole scene.

"It's cool," one of them told me.

Georgia lynched another black man last night....

His name was Troy Davis.

Remember that when the last death chamber in this country is dismantled one day.

It will be soon...

A million hearts just shattered: the execution of Troy Davis.

Solidarity Vigil for Troy
Arizona State University Hayden Lawn
September 21. 2011

Troy Davis was murdered tonight by the state of Georgia and the US Supreme Court,

and a million hearts were shattered.

Blessings to his family, who lost the most. We will not give up this fight.


The Death of Troy Davis

Atlanta Journal Constitution
September 21, 2011

Andrew Cohen

The Georgia execution, carried out amid so many reasonable doubts, marks a watershed in America's grim experiment with capital punishment

In a perfect world, the execution of Troy Davis Wednesday tonight in Georgia would herald a new era in America's grim history with the death penalty. It would shake the criminal justice system out of its self-satisfied torpor and force government and the governed both to face the ugly truth about capital punishment in the United States in the twenty-first century. It would propel this question to the forefront both of the nation's political debate and the Supreme Court's docket: How many exceptions to the rule must we allow or tolerate, how many legitimate questions must linger beyond the death chamber, before we either fix the system or end the experiment?

When the state kills those whose guilt is in serious doubt, or when the state kills those to whom it has not given fair justice, it doesn't just perform an injustice upon the individual, the rule of law, and the Constitution. It also undermines the very legitimacy of the death penalty itself, for its continuing use as a sentencing option derives its civic and moral strength mostly from the fiction that it can be, and is, credibly and reliably imposed. Once our confidence in that credibility is shattered, as it should be now that Davis is gone, all that's left of the death penalty is state-sponsored retribution and the hangman's noose.

In a perfect world, the haunting execution of Troy Davis would spawn vital reforms to the clemency and parole process in states like Georgia and Texas, where such proceedings routinely make a mockery of the idea of reasoned justice. It would light a fire under local prosecutors to ensure that witnesses in capital cases are not coerced by law enforcement officials. It would cause jurors to think twice about rushing to judgments. It would force a supine Congress to reevaluate its so-called "effective death penalty" statute, which neuters legitimate post-conviction appeals. And it would at long last shame state court judges to cast off the yoke of their campaign contributors, who push them to be "tough on crime" at the expense of fealty to the Bill of Rights.

Georgia says that it has given Davis more due process than any single man would have a right to expect. Up the state appellate ladder and down again. Up to the Supreme Court and back. Hearing upon hearing. Brief upon brief. At some point, Georgia says, there has to be finality in capital cases. At some point, the justice system has to accept the work of judges and juries and impose the sentence that was initially given. There is truth to all of this. And there is both rhyme and reason to many of the rules which govern appellate law and practice in capital cases. But those rules almost always place the state's interest in finality ahead of the condemned's interest in accuracy. "Enough is enough" is a great campaign slogan -- but it's hardly a worthy motto for a civilized nation's death penalty scheme.

Here's what Davis was up against, to cite just one example. Last summer, at the request of the United States Supreme Court, U.S. District Judge William Moore held an evidentiary hearing to examine the new claims, and new evidence, presented by Davis and his attorneys. Under federal law, Judge Moore reminded the litigants and the world, Davis had the nearly insurmountable post-conviction burden of establishing by "clear and convincing evidence'' that no reasonable juror would have convicted him based upon the new evidence. Applying that standard, which flips on its head the standard applied at trial, Judge Moore unsurprisingly held that Davis had failed to meet his burden.

In a perfect world, Davis would have had his new evidence evaluated under a legal standard more tuned to ensuring the reliability and accuracy of his conviction rather than upon the timing of his execution. His case wouldn't have been shoved like so many of the rest down a sterile and formalistic legal hole forced upon the federal courts by the Clinton-era Congress. And, even if it somehow were, even if the justice system failed, Davis would have had a parole board willing to acknowledge what seems so self-evident; that an uncertain death sentence harms more than just the executed.

Last week, in an op-ed which appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, William Sessions, the former federal judge and FBI director, and a man not known for willy-nilly considerations, once again called upon Georgia to halt Davis' execution. His view of the 2010 hearing is the most accurate view I've read yet and is quite chilling. Judge Sessions wrote:

What the hearing demonstrated most conclusively was that the evidence in this case -- consisting almost entirely of conflicting stories, testimonies and statements -- is inadequate to the task of convincingly establishing either Davis' guilt or his innocence. Without DNA or other forms of physical or scientific evidence that can be objectively measured and tested, it is possible that doubts about guilt in this case will never be resolved.

Alas, the world, and the world of capital punishment in America, are far from perfect. When Georgia executed Troy Davis, despite the grave doubts cast upon his capital conviction, it wasn't just thumbing its nose at the new evidence which tends to exonerate him. It wasn't just ignoring the considered judgments of experts in criminal justice and capital cases. It wasn't just winking and nodding at the protections of the "cruel and unusual" clause of the Eighth Amendment. It was instead declaring war on all of that. It was proudly proclaiming its infidelity to a fundamental premise of American law -- that the courts, and the state, will always try their best to get things right no matter how long it takes.

Now that's he gone from the face of the earth, and whether he was guilty or not, Troy Davis will leave one of two legacies. Either his story will fade with time, as have the stories of so many other men executed under a cloud of questions about their guilt, or his story will propel meaningful change in this area of the law. His many supporters, in and out of public life, hold in their hands the ability to determine that legacy. What they could not accomplish during his lifetime they may still try to accomplish in his death; a renewed appreciation for the notion that no man, neither the high nor the low, neither the rich nor the poor, neither white nor black, deserves the lamentable injustice done this day.

This article available online at:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Troy Davis: Stay of Execution?

UPDATE (9/21/2011 9:35pm):

Troy's stay was denied and he was executed tonight.

Rest in Freedom, Brother Troy.

The key word is "considers", though - this isn't over yet. Show them we're ready to abolish the death penalty in America...Maybe we have finally evolved.


Troy Davis execution delayed while US supreme court considers stay

Execution of death row inmate delayed temporarily as US supreme court intervenes to consider whether to issue a stay

Ed Pilkington tweets from outside the prison in Jackson

Ten reasons why Troy Davis should not be executed

Ed Pilkington in Jackson, Georgia and agencies, Wednesday 21 September 2011 19.24 EDT

The execution of Troy Davis was delayed temporarily on Wednesday night as the US supreme court considered a last-minute appeal just as he was due to be put to death by lethal injection.

As the first news came in at the Jackson prison that houses death row, a huge cheer erupted from a crowd of more than 500 protesters that had amassed on the other side of the road.

Davis's supporters kissed each other and threw placards which read "Not in my name" into the air.

But the jubilation was short-lived. Talk of a reprieve from the US supreme court quickly gave way to rumours of a stay, and finally the realisation that the court had only ordered a temporary delay as it considered the matter. The mood then grew more sombre as the waiting game that has now been going on for years with Davis resumed.

Until the delay it seemed almost certain that Davis would be executed. Earlier on Wednesday, Georgia's supreme court had rejected a last-ditch appeal by Davis's lawyers over the 1989 murder of off-duty policeman Mark MacPhail, for which Davis had been convicted despite overwhelming evidence that the conviction is unreliable.

A Butts County superior court judge had also declined to stop the execution.

Davis's attorneys had filed an appeal challenging ballistics evidence linking Davis to the crime, and eyewitness testimony identifying Davis as the killer.

The White House declined to comment on the case, saying: "It is not appropriate for the president of the United States to weigh in on specific cases."

At the maximum security prison in Jackson where the execution was scheduled to take place, busloads of Troy Davis supporters from his home town of Savannah came in to register their anger and despair at what they all agree is the planned judicial killing of an innocent man.

Edward DuBose, a leader of the Georgia branch of the NAACP, said it was not an execution, but a "murder".

The protest heard from Martina Correia, Davis's eldest sister, who delivered a statement from about 20 family members gathered around her. She was heavily critical of what she described as the defiance of the state of Georgia and its inability to admit that it had made a mistake.

She pointed out that the state's parole board had vowed in 2007 that no execution would take place if there was any doubt. "Every year there is more and more doubt yet still the state pushes for an execution," she said.

Correia, who has cancer, struggled to her feet in honour of her brother, just a few hours from his probable death. But she exhorted people not to give up.

"if you can get millions of people to stand up against this you can end the death penalty. We shouldn't have to live in a state that executes people when there's doubt."

DuBose gave an account of a 30-minute conversation he had with Davis on death row on Tuesday night. "Troy wanted me to let you know – keep the faith. The fight is bigger than him."

DuBose said that whether the execution went ahead or not, the fight would continue. He said Davis wants his case to set an example "that the death penalty in this country needs to end. They call it execution; we call it murder."

Hundreds of people gathered outside the prison, many wearing T-shirts that said: "I am Troy Davis". The activist Al Sharpton said: "What is facing execution tonight is not just the body of Troy Davis, but the spirit of due justice in the state of Georgia."

Larry Coz, the executive director of Amnesty in the US, which has led the international campaign for clemency, said demonstrations were happening outside US embassies in France, Mali, Hong Kong, Peru, Germany and the UK.

"We will not stop fighting until we live in a world where no state thinks it can kill innocent people."

After winning three delays since 2007, Davis lost an appeal for clemency this week when the Georgia pardons board denied his request, despite serious doubts about his guilt.

Some witnesses who testified against Davis at trial later recanted, and others who did not testify came forward to say another man did it. But a federal judge dismissed those accounts as "largely smoke and mirrors" after a hearing Davis was granted last year to argue for a new trial, which he did not win.

Davis refused a last meal. He planned to spend his final hours meeting with friends, family and supporters.

Davis has received support from hundreds of thousands of people, including a former FBI director, former president Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI.

Parliamentarians and government ministers from the Council of Europe, the EU's human rights watchdog, had earlier called for Davis's sentence to be commuted.

Renate Wohlwend of the council's parliamentary assembly said: "To carry out this irrevocable act now would be a terrible mistake, which could lead to a tragic injustice"...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lynching, racism and the death penalty in America.

UPDATE (4/21/2011 6:25pm)

UPDATE (9/21/2011 9:35pm):

Troy's stay was denied and he was executed tonight.

Rest in Freedom, Brother Troy.

This seemed an appropriate article, since an African American prisoner's bid for clemency in Georgia was denied today, and he's scheduled to be executed tomorrow in front of a world of witnesses who begged for his pardon. Hit this page to learn more about Troy Davis and to advocate for true justice for both him and the white police officer he was charged with killing. His conviction was based solely on recanted testimony from witnesses who report they had been coerced and the testimony of the man others identified as the real killer (who they couldn't even get an indictment against now if they tried, after all the doubt Troy's wrongful conviction would give him - boy is he laughing at all the cops now). I guess to some folks and most states in this country, one more black man dead is as good as another - they're all interchangeable when it comes to lynchings and executions. It still teaches the rest of us the same thing: Resistance is futile (which I assert that it is not).

The small question of reasonable doubt and innocence are irrelevant, though, when those with power and privilege stand to lose a bit of one or both if our minorities get too uppity, it seems. Besides, we all know that black men (and mothers of color, for that matter) are all guilty of something anyway, they just haven't all been booked yet - right? We need to go slow and throw in a few whites for the masses to choke it all down and call it a just democracy - I think that's largely how we ended up with a black man as president (the whites and Republicans also didn't want to take the blame for the mess Bush left behind).

We're still working on keeping folks down, without a doubt, so don't worry, dear privileged few. Arizona's so scared of people of color here becoming a voting majority that we're anxiously building 5000 more for-profit prison beds to accommodate the laws ALEC is crafting in order to disenfranchise and disempower the black and brown and Indigenous among us.

On top of that, for his part, Obama seems to be as bad as George Bush - if not worse - when it comes to exploiting our instruments of justice, turning them into even more devastating tools of oppression than ever before. All this madness, of course, is in the service
of our capitalist, racist, brutal economy, which clearly still needs live sacrifices to feed on, and raw fear to keep us bound without chains. Fortunately, we each possess our own keys to freedom - so long as we can evolve. We'll know we've made real progress when we finally retire the executioners once and for all.



Ohio State University Research News

COLUMBUS , Ohio - States that sentence the most criminals to death also tend to be the states that had the most lynchings in the past, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that the number of death sentences for all criminals, Black and white, were higher in states with a history of lynchings. But the link was even stronger when only Black death sentences were analyzed.

The results may be shocking to many people, but they aren't surprising to sociologists who study the racial aspects of the death penalty, said David Jacobs, co-author of the study and professor of sociology at Ohio State University .

Our results suggest that the death penalty has become a sort of legal replacement for the lynchings in the past, Jacobs said. This hasn't been done overtly, and probably no one has consciously made such a decision. But the results show a clear connection.

Another study finding reinforces this idea. Results showed that the number of death sentences in states with the most lynchings increased as the state's population of African Americans grew larger, at least to a certain point. The researchers believe that is because, as their numbers increase, Blacks are seen by the white majority as a growing threat.

Jacobs conducted the study with Jason Carmichael, a graduate student at Ohio State, and Stephanie Kent, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Their results were published in the most recent issue of the American Sociological Review.

The findings showed a clear link between the number of lynchings, the proportions of African Americans in the states, and the number of death sentences. We found that violent acts in the distant past still seemed to be linked to current legal decisions about who will live and who will die.

For the study, the researchers examined the number of death sentences handed down in each of the mainland 48 states in 1971-72, 1981-82 and 1991-92. They computed lynching rates with data on state lynchings from 1889 to 1931 provided by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In their analysis, the researchers used a widely accepted statistical technique that allowed them to take into account the fact that the death penalty is not legal in all states and, even where it is legal, it is not always used.

They also took into account a wide variety of factors that also affect the number of death sentences given in a state, such as the overall crime and murder rates, unemployment rates, and fundamentalist church memberships.

To confirm their findings, the researchers repeated their analyses using a separate, and perhaps more reliable, data set on the number of lynchings that occurred in 10 Southern states.

In both cases, the findings showed a clear link between the number of lynchings, the proportions of African Americans in the states, and the number of death sentences.

* We found that violent acts in the distant past still seemed to be linked to current legal decisions about who will live and who will die, Jacobs said.

Why do the number of death sentences increase for white criminals as well as Blacks in states with a history of lynching?

* If there was clear discrimination against Blacks in death penalty sentencing, then the Supreme Court might again rule that the death penalty is unconstitutional, Jacobs said. So there may be an effort to not discriminate when imposing the death penalty. While the connection between lynchings and death sentences is strongest when only Black death sentences are considered, the connection between lynchings in the past and contemporary death sentences is present for both Blacks and whites.

* The findings also showed that the number of death sentences increases in states after a growth in the population of Blacks. But the number of death sentences begins to go down once the population of African Americans reaches a threshold of about 20 to 22 percent.

* Probably at that point, Blacks have enough votes and political influence within states to reduce the number of death sentences, Jacobs said.

The results of the study suggest that the United States is still a product of its past, Jacobs said.

Historical events continue to influence the current behavior of important social institutions. But the main point is that our findings do not support claims that the death penalty is administered in a color-blind fashion.


Contact: Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457;