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.
BLOG POSTS

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Arizona Walmart's Black Friday, 2012: Pickets in Buckeye and Tempe!

Anarchists, Pacifists, Labor and Shoppers UNITE:
All turn out to support WALMART workers on Black Friday!!! 

(This day represents more than 1/4 of Walmart's annual sales...)

Let's all STAND UP to LIVE BETTER. 

TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER THAN WE ARE ALONE...

The Phoenix IWW will be hosting a picket at the Walmart distribution center in Buckeye, AZ on Friday Nov. 23, "Black Friday," in solidarity with Walmart workers who have been organizing and taking action all over the country. We will be meeting at the Worker's Resource Center  (331 E. Wiletta, PHX) at 8:30am to carpool out to Buckeye. It takes approx. 1 hour to get there so we will picket at about 9:30 or 10am. The address is 23701 W. Southern Ave., in Buckeye. We will picket for approx. 2 hours with the goal of being back in town around 1pm in order to support the Walmart picket in Tempe.


OTHER PHOENIX WALMARTS to PICKET or BOYCOTT on November 23, 2012
(support local merchants or buy fair trade for loved ones on your gift list): 

1607 W Bethany Home Rd
3721 E Thomas Rd
6145 N 35th Ave
5250 W Indian School Rd
4747 E Cactus Rd
2435 E Baseline Rd
6150 S 35th Ave
1825 W Bell Rd
2020 N 75th Ave
4617 E Bell Rd
7575 W Lower Buckeye Rd
 
and for shoppers from ASU: 
800 E Southern Ave, TEMPE, AZ  


PLEASE BRING SIGNS OF SOLIDARITY
 AND WEAR BLACK.



October was a banner month for Walmart workers nationwide.  Each week saw more Walmart workers speaking up and going on strike, to protest Walmart’s attempts to silence workers and retaliate against them. The strikes culminated in an announcement at Walmart’s Arkansas headquarters that if the retaliation does not cease, workers will make Black Friday a “memorable” day for the company.
To make Black Friday a success, Walmart workers need the support of community members like you. Our website now features a number of ways to get involved and support Walmart strikers on Black Friday.
1) Take the Black Friday Pledge to say that you will stand with workers on the busiest shopping day of the year. On the Corporate Action Network website we are starting to gather locations for actions and events supporting Walmart strikers, as well as materials. Enter your city or zip code to see if we have something scheduled near you or adopt your own store.

2) If you want to help in another way, why not sponsor a striker? The brave act of going out on strike also comes with an economic cost. By making a donation, you can help to ensure that Walmart strikers receive a $50 grocery gift card.

3) Use our Share for Respect Facebook app to tell your Walmart worker friends about what’s going on!

4) Join the conversation on how to change Walmart by contributing art and ideas to our Tumblr.

5) Connect with workers and other community supporters on our Official Black Friday Walmart Strike Facebook page and like the Making Change at Walmart Facebook page.

6) On Twitter, use the hashtag #walmartstrikers and follow Making Change at Walmart.
Below is the official call to action from Walmart workers with the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart). We hope to see you on Black Friday!

OUR Walmart Workers Call to Community – 

Across the country, Walmart employs 1.4 million people. We are not just the Associates that you see in stores, we are moms and dads, sons and daughters, husbands and wives working hard to support our families.

We have been speaking out for good jobs with decent pay, regular hours, affordable healthcare and respect, but instead of working with us to make changes, Walmart has attempted to silence us and has retaliated against us for speaking out. Our jobs have been threatened, our hours cut, our schedules changed. Some of us have even been fired.

We will not be silenced. Throughout the holiday season, including Black Friday, we will be standing up for an end to the retaliation against workers who speak out for what’s right for our families, our communities and our country, and we hope that you will stand with us. It is not an easy decision, but without an end to the retaliation, Walmart workers across the country will be walking off the job in protest, and we hope you will join us in creative, non-violent action in solidarity with our strike. We ask that supporters take action that spreads the word about our strikes and demonstrates to Walmart a wave of support for workers who are speaking out.

Together, we are calling on Walmart to end the retaliation against hard-working employees who are courageously speaking out for better pay, fair schedules and more hours, affordable health care and respect.

We will not be silenced until we see real change at Walmart.

Sincerely,

OUR Walmart Workers

------------------------

Below is our Declaration for Respect. Please sign on if you agree with the changes we asking to see from Walmart.

We, the hourly Associates, are the life-blood of Walmart. Our company is stronger because of the values we embrace – a strong work ethic, compassion for one another and honesty. Yet we are not treated with the respect we deserve. The fundamental desire to be shown respect is what led us to join together as OUR Walmart – an organization of Walmart Associates, by Walmart Associates, for Walmart Associates. We are one Organization United for Respect at Walmart.
  • One of Sam Walton’s rules for building a successful business was, “Listen to everyone in your company and figure out ways to get them talking.” We are following that winning philosophy. However, too many of us do not have a true voice at our stores. Our concerns about providing the highest quality customer care and about making our jobs, quality jobs are ignored. Walmart should listen to OUR Walmart, celebrate our initiative, and follow our recommendations.
  • We are the foundation of the quality service and value Walmart provides its customers. Walmart should honor the hard work and humanity of Associates by living up to Mr. Sam’s promise of “respect for the individual.”
  • Associates who assert their freedom of association frequently face retribution from the company. Walmart should allow Associates to freely join OUR Walmart without fear of negative company action.
  • Associates who have tried to utilize Walmart’s Open Door have found that their issues are not resolved and confidentiality is not respected. Walmart should ensure confidentiality in the Open Door and provide in writing resolution to issues that are brought up and always allow associates to bring a co-worker as a witness.
  • Walmart publicly claims that pay for full-time Associates averages more than $13 per hour in some communities, when in truth most of us work for less than $10 per hour and are only scheduled for part-time hours, making it difficult to support our families. Walmart should follow through on its public statements and pay at least $13 per hour and expand the percentage of full-time workers.
  • Our schedules are often irregular and inflexible making it difficult to care for our families. Walmart should make scheduling more predictable and dependable.
  • Too many of us are unable to access Walmart’s health care because it is too expensive or we lack the hours to qualify. Walmart should expand health care coverage and continue to work to expand coverage when health reform goes into effect, rather than taking advantage of loopholes in the law to deny coverage.
  • Too often Associates are faced with retaliation when speaking out about issues at work. Walmart should honor our constitutional right to freedom of speech and adhere to company policies that support dialogue and resolution.
  • Walmart’s management often chooses to enforce written policies only when it is in their own interest, leaving Associates guessing proper protocol. Walmart should do more to ensure managers are properly trained on how to evenly and equitably enforce Walmart’s written policies at all times and to provide all Associates with a policy manual.
  • Too many of us have been denied equal treatment. Walmart should adopt affirmative policies that secure full access to opportunity and equal treatment to all Associates regardless of gender identity, race, disability, sexual orientation, or age.
  • We know our company has an impact around the globe in terms of its standards and practices. Walmart should require that suppliers and stores around the globe operate with the highest standards and ensure that workers’ freedom to associate is respected.
  • Far too many of us have to rely on government assistance for our basic needs. Walmart should provide wages and benefits that ensure that no Associate has to rely on government assistance.
We envision a future in which our company treats us, the Associates of Walmart, with respect. We envision a world where we succeed in our careers, our company succeeds in business, our customers receive great service and value, and Walmart and Associates share all of these goals. And finally, we close with one more rule from Mr. Sam: “Share your profits with all your Associates, and treat them as partners.”


PHX RED SQUAD: New LGBTQ Community liasons.

The Maricopa County Superior Court has removed the on-line records pertaining to Chris Wilson's prosecution, preventing the community from witnessing how justice is done, or showing up to show support for the victims. I can't even tell who the judge is. Here's the information about his case you need to know to inquire at the court clerk's office: 

Please call and complain about secrecy in the judicial process. No other admitted child molester gets this kind of protection from public scrutiny.

SUPERIOR COURT RECORDS:  (This includes questions about Marriage Licenses, Divorce Decrees, or Court Cases) To view information on the website click here or to speak with a deputy clerk you may call the Clerk's Public Records Office and Customer Service Center at (602)-506-3360

The indictment was filed against Christopher Wilson (DOB 11/1968) in Maricopa Superior Court:  # CR2012142112


I began the "Queers Are Cool" campaign to alert the activist community that Chris Wilson wasn't an aberration, or just "one officer who decided to be stupid" - I guess that's what they call child sexual abuse at the PHX PD - just being "stupid." Wilson built trust with young activists just like he was supposed to as a Red Squad detective, and was commended for it - then he abused his trust and power just as so many other cops do theirs. 

The Phoenix Police should lay off the "stranger danger" emphasis in their public education BS about sexual assaults and look at the basics of how they deal institutionally with trust and power. Immediately after Wilson's arrest became public, instead of pointing out that the majority of child abuse happens at the hands of those well know to the child or family, the PHX PD released composite sketches of a Latino male snatching young girls from school bus stops - that all came AFTER the guy was caught. Why release images like that once the suspect is no longer a threat? Just to distract from the real danger - the cops themselves. 

The PPD took one giant step back from Chris Wilson's excess, but it seems to be a strategy for disrupting local activist communities: instead of bashing in our heads in Phoenix, the cops are busy trying to "friend" us - and get in bed with the most vulnerable to their tactics - our youth. Let's learn from that, and teach our children well...

------------------------

 

Phoenix police name new liaisons to the city's LGBT community


Phoenix police name new liaisons to the city's LGBT community

by Cecilia Chan - Nov. 17, 2012 09:50 PM
The Republic | azcentral.com

Two detectives recently took on roles as the Phoenix Police Department's liaisons to the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia's announcement in October came three months after the arrest of the previous liaison, Detective Christopher J. Wilson, on suspicion of sexual misconduct with two teenage boys.

Wilson, who handed in his badge immediately after his August arrest, met one of the boys through his duties with the LGBT community, according to court documents. Wilson sits in jail and faces an initial pretrial conference Nov. 27.

Last week, the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, which oversees peace-officer training, conduct and certification, accepted Wilson's voluntary relinquishment of his state certification without discussion.

On Oct. 31, Garcia introduced Detectives Julie Smith and Dottie Conroy at department headquarters to representatives from various community groups, including the Phoenix Police LGBT Citizen Advisory Board.

Detective Dottie Conroy

Conroy, a 17-year veteran, said that as an openly gay woman, it's an opportunity "to deal with the community that I love."


Detective Julie Smith

Smith, who is heterosexual, said since joining the department nine years ago, she had always wanted to work with the various communities in Phoenix. The Phoenix native said she looks forward to her new assignment because "it is so diverse and so wonderful."

In 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey estimated 6.4 percent of Phoenix's population identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. That's about 63,222 people.

Garcia, who became chief in May, will assign two detectives to each of the department's eight community advisory boards for minority groups, which include Muslims, Sikhs, Hispanics and African-Americans.

The move will enable the department to do more outreach, said Gerald Richard, assistant to the police chief.

Richard said community advisory boards foster dialog and build relationships between the department and minority groups to handle issues before they erupt into turmoil.

Don Hamill, a community activist who has served as a board member of Phoenix Pride, told Garcia officers still need more education.

"There is a problem in your force, and it affects everybody in this room," Hamill said.

Hamill said he recently overheard uniformed officers use the words, " 'the gays,' because they've been told not to use the 'F' word."

"It's wrong," Hamill said. "I was shocked to hear it. I pay their salary (and) pension."

He told the chief that there should be zero tolerance for inappropriate language, and officers should use no other adjective than citizen in talking about groups of people.

"I agree with you 100 percent," Garcia said. "We are not at Shangri-La yet."

Patrick Kelley, who co-chairs the LGBT Citizen Advisory Board, also commended the selection of Conroy and Smith.

Kelley said advisory groups help bring understanding between the community and police. He said about a year ago, a Phoenix police officer stopped a man dressed in drag going to a fundraising event and asked, "Why are you dressed like a freak?"

Kelley said the issue was brought up at an advisory-board meeting.

He said officers at the precinct where the incident took place received cultural-sensitivity training.

"When we recognize a problem, we address it professionally and not by burning down half of the city because you have one officer who decided to be stupid."

Veterans Day, Phoenix, 2012: For Marty Atencio.

The following photo is from the Veterans Day parade in Phoenix, where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio rolled out his biggest toy to honor our dead soldiers. I stopped to leave him a message for one dead Army veteran he should be especially mindful of: Marty Atencio. That man should be held criminally liable for the death of his prisoners given the dehumanizing treatment he encourages and the culture of contempt he's cultivated among his officers. 


The chalk is mine, but I can't take the credit for the shot: Lisa Blank took it, and it's all over Arizona Community Press's Community Free Press Facebook page. Thank you Lisa!


Remember Veterans like Marty, Sheriff Joe.
Veterans  Day 2012: Phoenix


Thanks to Stephen Lemons at the Phoenix New Times for this series about Marty's brutal killing by Phoenix Police and Joe Arpaio's deputies at the 4th Avenue Jail last year...



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

Joe Arpaio's U.S. Veteran Victim Marty Atencio: Family Files Suit in Superior Court

By Stephen Lemons
Published Tue., Oct. 23 2012 at 12:24 PM




The family of U.S. Army veteran Marty Atencio is filing suit today in Maricopa County Superior Court over his brutal death late last year in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Fourth Avenue Jail.

Atencio, who suffered from mental illness, was off his meds and wandering the streets in a daze on December 15, when he was picked up by Phoenix cops, allegedly because he had frightened a woman with his bizarre behavior.

Read the Atencio family's lawsuit.

That woman later stated that she'd hoped Atencio, 44, would receive the help he needed if he was in custody.

Instead, he received a one-way ticket to a military funeral.

See also:
 
-Joe Arpaio's Victim Marty Atencio: Family Files Notices of Claim Totaling $20 Million in Wrongful Death Case
-Jailhouse Goons Make Fun Of and Kill a Mentally Ill Inmate
-Joe Arpaio's Victim Marty Atencio Killed by "Law Enforcement Subdual," Among Other Factors, Says Medical Examiner (w/Update)
-
Joe Arpaio's Victim Ernest "Marty" Atencio Laid To Rest
-Joe Arpaio's Latest Victim Marty Atencio: MCSO Video of His Detention


Though Atencio was processed first without incident at the Phoenix Police Department's southern command station, his experience later in Fourth Avenue would be brief, humiliating and fatal.

There, Atencio was taunted and made fun of by MCSO detention officers, as is recounted in the suit:

After going through the medical screening, Marty was taken to have his mug shot
taken. While Marty was having his mug shot taken, the D.O.s were taunting him, asking him to "clown" for them, telling him to "turn left," "turn right," and making fun of Marty's
inability to follow instructions. 


As the guards made fun of Marty, they told him to make funny faces and the photographer, and a female Detention Officer, kept saying "let's make this one the Mug Shot of the week." After they took a particularly humiliating mug shot, the D.O.s had finished their fun with Marty and took him back to the holding tank.

Along the way, Atencio was escorted by Phoenix Police Officer Patrick Hanlon, who, according to the complaint, led Atencio "with his hands and arms bent in a position which caused Marty pain."
The complaint continues, stating that, "While Officer Hanlon was escorting Marty to the Linescan Room, Marty said `you're making Tony angry, you're making Tony angry.' Marty was telling Officer Hanlon that the officer was hurting him."

Shortly thereafter, in the jail's so-called "linescan room," as millions have now witnessed in video released by the MCSO, Atencio essentially did not remove his shoes fast enough for the officers present, with deadly consequences.

Atencio crossed his arms in front of him, in a non-violent stance. And that's when they pounced, piling onto Atencio, wailing on him and Tasing him, in what the suit refers to as a "jailers riot."

The complaint relates how these goons then dragged Atencio to a so-called "safe cell," where, as Atencio was held down, he allegedly was kneed more than once by MCSO detention officer Anthony Hatton.
Atencio was stripped of his clothes, and left to die. The jail's video system captured a naked Atencio breathing what looked like his dying breath on camera.

Outside the cell, as I've previously reported, Phoenix cops and MCSO detention officers partied like it was 1999.

"After this event," reads the complaint, "the jail's surveillance video outside `Safe Cell 4' shows D.O. Hatton, with a smile on his face, talking to other Officers, while two MCSO women danced and bumped their buttocks together."

Later, Atencio's brain-dead body was revived by officers and rushed by paramedics to a local hospital, where his family ultimately decided to remove him from life support.

The Atencios lawyer, tort titan Mike Manning, who just won a $3.2 million settlement for the family of diabetic mom and Arpaio jail victim Deborah Braillard, observes in the suit that Atencio's death is the direct result of the "culture of cruelty" in Arpaio's vast incarceration complex.

Also, the complaint makes clear, the MCSO is in direct violation of federal court orders instructing Arpaio and the county to provide proper medical screenings of prisoners for mental and physical illness.

Because the MCSO is not in compliance with these orders, Atencio was not properly screened on arrival at Fourth Avenue, where the health care "professional" who examined him noted signs of psychosis, yet did not provide Atencio with the medical help he needed.

Unfortunately, all the court orders, lawsuits and multi-million dollar payouts seem to do nothing to change the reality of Arpaio's disastrously-run jails.

The only real change will come if the voters wake up, and retire Arpaio on November 6 by voting for his Democratic rival Paul Penzone.

Otherwise there will be more victims, more Marty Atencios, and a lot more lawsuits.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ethnic studies books banned from AZ state prisons?


As I said in my previous correspondence, Mr. Ryan: you are the reason  your prisoners have rioted, not me. I don't think I even have contacts on Santa Rita. You appear to have plenty of discretion as to what you will and won't allow inside your institutions...I wish your SSU officers were as vigilant about keeping the heroin out as they are about stopping the flow of my free speech.

In any case, to the rest of you: here is the newsletter in question, in case you missed it. I mailed a list of the ethnic studies books banned from Arizona's public schools to a bunch of prisoners this summer, encouraging them to request and read them in solidarity with students - and in defiance of racism, which is necessary to uphold the current power structure inside. 

I really didn't think those books would be off limits to adult prisoners too, but that sure is what it sounds like - this is the AZ DOC's General Counsel they sent to intimidate me, by the way. She really is scarier than Chuck - she used to be a capital crimes prosecutor at the AG's office. This newsletter isn't what I was so concerned about being confiscated, though - they still haven't responded to me on that count.

Here is the beginning of DO 914.08, by the way:

"UNAUTHORIZED PUBLICATIONS AND MATERIAL - Prohibited publications include those that by their nature or content threaten or are detrimental to the security, safety and orderly operation, or discipline of the facility, or inmate rehabilitation, or, are found to facilitate, encourage, incite, promote or instruct in criminal activity or unauthorized prison activity."


Shame on me for urging anyone - especially criminals - to resist racism and violence...
 



Carlo Krakoff, age 29, 
died in an AZ state prison of a heroin overdose.
Substance abuse treatment programs are nearly impossible to get into in the AZ Department of Corrections, even for those who want it desperately - only 4% of all state prisoners were able to participate in one last year, including those we sent to private prisons specifically for DUI offenses. That's despite AZ DOC records stating that oapproximately 75% of prisoners are there for substance abuse-related crimes. Too many prisoners going in are actually clean but come out addicted to herion, as the drug is so plentiful and alternative activities for the mind, body and soul  are so few. 




Gmail Arizona Prisonwatch <arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com>

Prisonwatch Newsletter
2 messages

NORTHUP, DAWN <xxxxxx@azcorrections.gov> Fri, Nov 9, 2012 at 4:24 PM

To: Arizona Prisonwatch <arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com>

Cc: "RYAN, CHARLES" <xxxxxx@azcorrections.gov>, "PATTON, ROBERT" <xxxxxx@azcorrections.gov>
Ms. Plews:
On behalf of Director Ryan, I am responding to your October 30, 2012 email, inquiring about the reason your Prisonwatch Newsletter has not been disseminated to inmates at ADC complexes.  In your Summer, 2012 Newsletter, titled: “Prisoners’ Justice Day 2012: Justice For Dana” you advocated that prisoners “push back” and show resistance from injustice by requesting a subversive book or by “support[ing] another prisoner’s resistance.”  Although your intent may have been to provoke non-violence, inmates may construe your suggestion that they “fight the injustice from within” as an invitation for unrest and non-compliance. 

Contrary to many of your assertions, the safety and security of the inmates and staff is of paramount concern to ADC.  In accordance with DO 914.02, staff at each complex is authorized to withhold publications that may have a detrimental impact on the safe and orderly operation of the institution.  Encouraging inmates to request books that you know are prohibited or to conduct themselves in a manner to show “resistance” violates that policy.

In accordance with DO 914.02 and 914.08, your Newsletter, as with all other incoming publications, is subject to screening and review.  Your Newsletter will be disseminated to intended recipients after review provided it complies with Department Policy.  

Dawn Northup
General Counsel
Arizona Department of Corrections

Arizona Prisonwatch <arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com> Fri, Nov 9, 2012 at 5:40 PM

To: "NORTHUP, DAWN" <xxxxxxx@azcorrections.gov>

Cc: Daniel Pochoda <xxxxxxxx@acluaz.org>

Thank you for getting back to me on the July Newsletter. My greater concern, though, is that my more recent correspondence - not all of it containing calls to "resist" in a way that could seriously threaten institutional order - has apparently been disrupted to nearly all the prisoners I previously corresponded with. This includes prisoners trying to access both health care and safety because they are in harms way; I hate to answer people in such desperate straits with silence.

Since I haven't gotten any feedback from you folks about what may be getting confiscated or contrabanded until now, I have no idea if your office has legitimate things you want me to tone down, or if Chuck Ryan just doesn't want me arming his prisoners with information about appropriately asserting their civil rights. Those are two very different things. In any case, I'd like to know what procedures I need to follow to protect my own rights - the "free speech" ones. How do I grieve an ADC action that adversely affects me as a civilian? That correspondence represents a tremendous investment of time, money, and other resources.

Much of my correspondence with prisoners is time-sensitive, as I'm sure you are aware, so I'd really prefer confrontation over avoidance on such matters. Please let me know what's happening with the rest of my mail - both to and from prisoners.


Regards,

Peggy Plews
[Quoted text hidden]
--
Margaret J. Plews, Editor
Arizona Prison Watch
P.O. Box 20494
Phoenix, AZ 85036
480-580-6807



"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness, and our ability to tell our own stories..." 

- Arundhati Roy



Prison Abolitionist
http://prisonabolitionist.blogspot.com
Arizona Prison Watch
http://arizonaprisonwatch.blogspot.com
Survivors of Prison Violence - AZ
http://azprisonsurvivors.blogspot.com

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gibbons: Occupy and the Beast.

Day of the Dead Prisoners 2012
Maricopa County Superior Courthouse, Phoenix , AZ


---------------------------

Occupy the Prison-Industrial Complex

Thursday, 08 November 2012 09:11By Chip GibbonsTruthout | Op-Ed
 
The United States has just 5 percent of the world's population and over 20 percent of its prisoners. Since 1980 alone, America's prison population has quadrupled. While this enormous prison population, as well as its deep racial biases, should be of concern to anyone, prisons should be of particular concern to the Occupy movement.

Since Occupy first exploded onto the scene, many within the political establishment and mainstream media have criticized occupiers alternatively for a lack of demands and for embracing too many seemingly unrelated demands. In spite of this confusion among those who are the self-appointed gatekeepers of political discourse, most people have understood Occupy as being a movement concerned with corporate influence over government, economic inequality and the economic crisis at large. It is precisely for those reasons that Occupy should be concerned about America's penal population (which is not to say that many Occupy groups and occupiers are not).

The current regime of mass incarceration is very much tied to the emergence of the neoliberal state in America. The neoliberal state demands stability for the market, but ultimately generates instability with its generation of surplus populations and lack of social resources. This means that while neoliberalism seeks to limit state intervention in the market and slash social welfare nets in the name of "freedom," it inevitably results in increased coercion, militarization and incarceration. And with its desire to subject every aspect of society to the market, prisons become not just a necessity under neoliberalism, but a profitable venture. These factors, not an epidemic of criminality, are the chief causes of mass incarceration in America. Prisons are therefore very much tied to the larger economic polices that Occupy opposes.

Only a small percentage of prisons are private, but the privatization of prisons represents the worst of corporate profiteering from human suffering. Stories about private prison companies influencing policy are plentiful. A judge in Pennsylvania accepted bribes for sending juvenile offenders to a for-profit prison. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) helped draft Arizona's draconian immigration law. Additionally, CCA recently sent a proposal to 48 governors offering to buy prisons as long as the states promised to keep them at 90 percent capacity for 20 years.

Many of the financial institutions that have already gathered the ire of Occupy are profiting from prisons. Wells Fargo, which received $38 billion from the bank bailout, was also the second-largest shareholder of GEO Group, a for-profit prison company, though its latest SEC filings show it recently dumped 75 percent of its GEO stock, a move which occupiers and their allies consider a major victory as they continue their efforts. In addition to investing in private prisons, both Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch write prison construction bonds.[1] Even when prisons are not private, Wall Street still finds a way to profit from them.

In California, general obligation bonds which pledge the full faith of the state and increase debt must be approved not only by the legislature, but by popular referendum. While in the past, prison expansion had been approved by the public, in the early 1980s, after lobbying from private financial firms, the state legislature changed the status of prison bonds to lease revenue bonds. Lease revenue bonds were previously reserved only for education and allowed the state to borrow money with the debt staying off the record, and thus, not subject to the ballot initiative. Such bonds were also tax-exempt.[2]

Many Occupy activists have already started to make these connections. Both Occupy DC and Occupy Portland have targeted Wells Fargo over their investments in private prisons. Occupy Baltimore protested the construction of a new youth jail. Additionally, a prison-focused group, Occupy 4 Prisoners, has formed. What's important is not only that Occupy embraces America's prison problem as a cause, but is clear in linking it to its larger agenda of resisting unchecked corporate power and structural economic problems.

Notes
1.
Christian Parenti. Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis. London New York: Verso 219
2.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore. Golden Gulag : Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. 97-8.

CHIP GIBBONS

Chip Gibbons is a progressive writer and activist whose writings can be found on his blog, Exiting Emerald, and have been featured on Counterpunch. He holds a bachelor of arts in political studies and history from Bard College and is currently a JD candidate at American University Washington College of Law.