This in earlier today from Caroline Isaacs at the American Friends Service Committee in Tucson. Sorry I'm just opening my mail now. Her contact info is below - she has legislative information faster than I do, and knows a lot about private prisons...Please email these legislators Tuesday.
Along these lines, don't forget that Wednesday, December 2, at 7pm Professor Mona Lynch will be at Changing Hands in Tempe (see book cover to left) discussing her research into Arizona's Department of Corrections, and the effect our take on crime and punishment has had over the past four decades on the crisis of mass incarceration in America. I would imagine she'd have something to say about privatization issues, and I'm sure she'll take questions.
Apart from how informative I think her talk will be, attending would also be a good way to connect with others who share concerns about the need for sentence reform, strengthening of prisoner protections and rights, the high recidivism rate among parolees, the incidence of untreated mental illness and addiction in the criminal justice system (instead of in the health care system, which would actually be cheaper), and the blatant marketing of members of our families and communities as consumers and workers to be exploited while they are also being punished. That exploitation reaches us all.
There are also 10,000 employees with the Department of Corrections to consider, many of whom could lose what little they have left in the way of job security, benefits, etc. from the state. The whole point of this privatization thing is to do it cheaper than they are already - you know who that's coming out of: prisoners and guards. Selling and leasing back our properties has got to be one of the stupidest ideas I've heard of come out of a state legislature (well, not so much now that I've read Sunbelt Justice). That's like selling my car to a rent-to-own company that will eventually collect from me twice the original value of the car...which, by the time it's been paid off, I'll need to get a new one.
I don't think the Republican Party is who my folks and grandparents signed up with anymore. Arizona's GOP has got one mean streak that my grandpa never had - and he was a Republican from the Iowa farmland. There's got to be a better way to deal with the budget crisis than starving our kids today, and committing them to pay our debts for decades more.
I'm no party member (of any party, frankly), but I'm pretty sure that's not supposed to be part of the GOP platform - people have just been sneaking this right-wing stuff in draped in Old Glory, hushing the resistance among them with tributes to fallen soldiers and protection of their interests with the full force of the law.
I don't think this charade will last much longer, though. The real Republicans began re-evaluating their affiliation and loyalties a few years ago, when the extremists took power - they are increasingly "Independent" - which may soon be the third party in the middle. I believe the National Republican Party is about to wake up to what an embarrassment the Republican leadership in this state is to them - with Arizona's own Bull Connor racial-profiling and beating down the civil rights marchers, and Wallace desperately trying to keep the Jim Crow South intact (Pearce would be the best parallel there, I think).
The state GOP will hopefully be steered back from the brink of disaster by people like my grandparents who thought carefully about the possible consequences of their investments, and who put their principles and other human beings above their "politics." This year will be the last year those men retain power. The people are taking it back - not the Democrats - all of us. Not only have a bunch of progressive US citizens moved out here, but the indigenous peoples and early migrants here from the South have been growing in both numbers and influence. And we're all in solidarity against men like Arpaio, Thomas, and Pearce. We will resist and elect new legislators. In the meantime, however, we must still keep them from privatizing the state prison system.
It just doesn't seem necessary to make it so hard on future generations like this. After what happened to Marcia Powell, I also think there are enough citizens in this state who would stop and try to figure out how to help if they saw all that went down - not just the day she lay dying in that cage, but the years that led up to her being there and being discarded so easily. We need to look at how overcrowding affects the survival of prisoners and the roles and safety of guards. We need to ask what community-based programs work for people with mental illness, for women with addictions, for survivors of trauma, for those among us who have been so thoroughly institutionalized that we don't know how to deal with the "real world" anymore - many of us messed up by eight years of war.
There are enough people of privilege here who I think would be willing to give a little more if they understood what was at stake for everyone. Considering how much we've extracted from the blood and sweat of the indigenous, migrant, minority, and working class communities that fill Arizona's prisons now, we should at least make sure they get decent care when they develop cancer, aren't doomed to contract Hep C or HIV by unsanitary and crowded conditions. We shouldn't be hitting them up with the bill for thier own oppression, either - the poor are already very generous, and the only tax plans being discussed to bail out the state are those which shift even more of the financial burden for running this thing onto us, without giving us any voice in how our money is spent. Zero voice. We pay legislative salaries with our sales tax, but just kicked in the teeth every time the budget or crime bills come up.
So, whether or not you work, or even whether or not you have the right to vote here, every consumer in Arizona is a taxpayer with a vested interest in where our dollars are spent: warehousing people who are brutalized out of our sight, or invested someplace where it might keep a few kids from ever ending up on the path to prison in the first place.
Do go to the Private Corrections Institute website and dig into some of their information on these private prison companies. We can't let them take over the state's power to use violence against people. That's a privilege reserved to the state - I believe it's called the "monopoly on violence". Once we give that power to private companies motivated only by profit, we surrender our communities and the future of Arizona's children to corporate interests - all of whom will be invested in lobbying for higher incarceration rates. Imagine their current lobbying influence in the state multiplied exponentially... that's what will happen if they take over the prisons. They begin to take over who makes the laws.
In the meantime, check out who already in the private prison industry's pockets - our lawmakers aren't all clean on this. Don't let them slide...it's out there already, and not hard to find.
I guess that's enough for this post - I did edit it, for those of you who are confused now.. I'll put up Caroline's alert separately, below it, so you can skip my editorializing if you want...
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
until all are free -
MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)
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