THIS BLOG is NOW RETIRED

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.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sun sets on Chuck Ryan at ADC Legislative Review.









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Above is the recording of public speakers;

*** Here is the link from the full report and committee meeting ***



I made it to the early part of this meeting yesterday, which was a joint session of the Senate Committee on Public Safety and the House Judiciary Committee. The purpose of the meeting was to receive the Auditor General's Sunset Review of the Arizona Department of Corrections - a process which poses the question as to whether the institution is serving the public and rehabilitating offenders as it is intended to, or whether it is an ineffective waste and should be abolished.



"Established by Laws 1978, Chapter 210, Arizona’s sunset review process requires the Legislature to periodically review the purpose and functions of state agencies to determine whether continuation, revision, consolidation or termination is warranted. Sunset reviews are based on audits conducted by either the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) or a Committee of Reference (COR). Following the audit, a public hearing is held by the COR to discuss the audit and receive testimony from agency officials and the public."


I didn't expect the department to be abolished, of course, but felt it was important to be there anyway. Unfortunately, I learned of this last minute so did a poor job getting folks out for the public hearing section. I was able to log in some of my written comments, for the record, but had to leave before the floor was open to the rest of us to speak. Several folks remained long enough to raise the matter of medical neglect, at least, according to this Cronkite news report below. I don't know if anyone mentioned the high suicide and assault rates, or the fact that the ACLU National Prison Project is about to file a class action lawsuit seeking an injunction to immediately improve the level of medical and mental health care in AZ prisons. It was the matter of security at the private prisons that dominated, though, due to the Kingman escape last summer.



Listening to ADC Director Chuck Ryan give his spiel about how great a job they're doing and how noble his employees are made me more angry with the legislature for failing to do oversight than with him - I expect to hear that kind of propaganda from him. Had I been able to speak, I would have recited the names and stories of the prisoners who died unnecessarily in his custody...perhaps I'll have to save that for another time. I certainly didn't expect that anything I or others might say would result in the abolition of the AZ Department of Corrections.

July 2011 Artwalk: Phoenix, AZ

What was covered by the AG's report, at least, were recommendations for alternatives to adding more prison beds, support for a sentencing commission to review prison alternatives and sentencing reform, and a reassertion of the expectation that a complete cost-analysis is done on the pros and cons of contracting with private prisons before the state proceeds to do more (which the Quakers are having to sue to get compliance on).

But those are just recommendations - I believe it is up to the discretion of the ADC director as to how to proceed, and I haven't seen either of these committees show much leadership in making performance demands of Director Ryan - who not only runs his own ship, but steps in the way of efforts made by our good Rep. Cecil Ash to assemble a sentencing review commission by promoting propaganda designed to frighten ignorant politicians and the public into favoring mass incarceration. If Chuck Ryan and his cronies on the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission threw their support behind Rep. Ash's sentencing commission bill (HB 2664) last session, it would have easily passed the house and senate and been signed into law. Instead the judiciary committee wouldn't even bother to hear it.


As things stand at present, it's entirely up to the ADC Director to study and implement report recommendations for alternatives to incarceration, such as early release for low-risk prisoners, community-based programs for drug and alcohol offenders, build more capacity to have prisoners on home-arrest, and so on. Ryan, unfortunately, has consistently articulated and demonstrated his contempt for prisoners and their families through his policy changes, and that his philosophy for corrections is simply punishment by incarcerating as many people as possible for as long as possible, during which time they have scant opportunities to participate in substance abuse treatment, vocational rehabilitation, mental health, or educational programs (many were abruptly dismantled when he took over).


Anticipating continuing criticisms about deaths in his custody this time, Director Ryan did proudly announce that in the course of two months the department has trained over 8,000 employees in suicide prevention...but that just leaves me wondering how good such mass training in such a short a period of time can possibly be. They train them all in first aid every year, but corrections officers have repeatedly failed to use those skills to prevent the loss of life - as in Tony Lester's and Dana Seawright's cases, when guards just stood passively around watching those young men choke on blood as they were dying. The closest they seem to come to touching a suicide or homicide victim is practicing their CPR on prisoners who are already dead or very near death.

Still grossly lacking from the AZ legislature is a commitment to provide meaningful, ongoing oversight of the Department of Corrections. They seem to be in denial of (or ignorant of) the impending class action suit against them, and of the real shortcomings of leadership that have resulted in arguably thew most horrendous prison conditions in Arizona in the past three decades. They are oblivious or indifferent, it appears, that by failing to keep on top of matters in their own house, they have forced prisoners, their families and advocates to seek help from outside entities - from the ACLU and Amnesty International to the media to the FBI - to investigate their poor conditions and high rates of violence and suicide.


If the state legislature had been conducting oversight all along, lives like Tony Lester's and Dana Seawright's may have been saved despite the incompetence of this administration. Unfortunately, nothing that comes out of this hearing yesterday is likely to stop the prisoner body count from continuing to grow. The rising tide of violence under Chuck Ryan's administration will similarly take a greater toll on ADC employees, who voices are also silenced here. At least two ADC employees have already taken their lives on prison grounds under his administration - one at Perryville, soon after the death of Marcia Powell, and one at Yuma this summer. God knows how many more have died more quietly that way, or have been seriously injured from assaults already as well.


The following are the legislators on the respective committees that heard the auditors' Sunset Review; though not all were present yesterday, all are nevertheless responsible. These are the legislators we should be addressing further concerns about the prisons to, and holding accountable for the consequences of failing to form a sub-committee which would take testimony from prisoners, families and advocates, recommend and empower the department to make reforms, and provide closer legislative oversight of the ADC. Instead of orchestrating meaningful prison reform from within, the state has now set up a situation where changes will have to be ordered by the federal court system - sadly, that is only likely to make a difference after more prisoners and staff lose their lives...

Judiciary
House of Representatives Standing Committee

Members
Position

Cecil P. Ash
Member

Tom Chabin
Member

Eddie Farnsworth
Chairman

Doris Goodale
Member

Albert Hale
Member
Jack W. Harper
Member
David Burnell Smith
Vice-Chairman
Anna Tovar
Member
Ted Vogt
Member


Public Safety and Human Services

Senate Standing Committee

Members
Position
Staff
Nancy Barto
Member
Rich Crandall
Member
Linda Gray
Chairman
Leah Landrum Taylor
Member
Linda Lopez
Member
Rick Murphy
Vice-Chairman

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