There was another suicide this week in maximum security at the AZ DOC: this young prisoner, here, Miguel Sanchez, who was facing the rest of his life in prison for beating another young man to death while robbing him. Condolences to his family, as well as the family of his victim, for whom today will bring up difficult emotions as well.
I don't know if Miguel was assaulted or being threatened by other prisoners (gangs run ASPC-Florence), or simply couldn't live with the harm he had done another human being. Perhaps he just couldn't see a future worth living for, given the conditions in AZ prisons. Rape is routinely joked about by officers, while some of the most vulnerable, even mentally disabled men are being repeatedly pushed into harm's way on GP yards where they've been told by gangs they won't be welcome because they're gay, were witnesses to a crime, snitched on a co-defendant, just sat down with members of the wrong race at chow, or refused to do the gang's dirty work for them because they don't abide by their racialized politics or they just don't want to hurt anyone anymore.
Given Miguel's conviction and sentence, I'm sure the New Mexican Mafia (or whomever was leading his race in his pod) had a laundry list for him to do for them to prove his worth to them and his racial loyalty. If he said no and the DOC wouldn't put him into PC, he may have just figured he was better off dead. His only other option would be to do someone else harm to stay alive and be valued by the gang, and some men just won't compromise themselve that way, even though we think they have no values to begin with.
Some folks would say "good riddance" to this young man's suicide. I don't know - maybe he was another sociopath in whom there was no hope of cultivating compassion or social responsibility...they are the minority in prison, though - the real disturbed ones are "successful" CEO's destroying our planet and other people's lives quite freely. But I know a lot of lifers who have put their time to good use helping others inside, caring for the sick and dying, taking vulnerable prisoners under their protective wings to keep them from harm, and so on...and something about Miguel's confession of his crime suggests he felt remorse - not just fear of execution.
Not every life behind bars is a waste, or has to be. We all choose every day what kind of person to be in whatever hell we dwell in. Some of us turn out to be better people, with time, not worse ones. So a life sentence doesn't have to mean a long slow tortuous death in prison, if you can give your life to helping others, who might come out of those places as whole human beings if they meet some compassion inside.
In any case, I hope Miguel's family finds a good lawyer who will investigate his death - don't leave it to the state to do so, and take what they tell you with some skepticism. A prisoner by the name of Pete Calleros was murdered by his own gang at ASPC-Tucson a few years back. It was made to look like a suicide, which the DOC discovered soon after cleaning it up but never told his family, nor did they seek prosecution even though they identified the most likely killers. The DOC can't be counted on to tell the truth.
Fortunately, Pete's mom didn't believe he would commit suicide, and had a second autopsy done which proved it. So whatever you do, please get an attorney and demand all his DOC records - as well as records from the hospital that last saw him, if they got him to one. Get tape recordings of CIU interviews, too. Then do your own investigation. Be sure your lawyers get his confidential 805 (protective custody) file, if he has one, as well as his medical/psych records. The 805 file would show if he was being threatened and was denied protection before he did himself in, all too common an occurence at ASPC-Florence.
And feel free to contact me as well, if you need some support getting through this. I hear from all sorts of survivors of prison violence these days, and can help you connect with other families similarly struggling.
Finally, if anyone else out there knows what happened to this young man, please let me know. my name is Peggy Plews. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-580-6807.
Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...
This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.
Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.
Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.
I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.
In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.
I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.
I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281. email@example.com
until all are free -
MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)