Thought this might give some ideas to families of AZ prisoners who might be thinking about organizing. Now is the time.
November 6, 2009
Members of the Southeastern Christian Association, Operation Help Civil Rights Group, and Mothers of Inmates protested outside Mississippi Department of Corrections headquarters on President Street in Jackson today, lobbying for fair treatment of sons and husbands who are inmates in MDOC correctional facilities.
"A lot of inmates are being mistreated and their civil rights are being violated at Parchman," said Wyndol Lee, president of Operation Help Civil Rights Group. "They're going to bed hungry. A lot of inmates are complaining that they're being raped by other inmates, or beaten by security workers even though they're not violating any rules. They've come to us for help, and we're going to make their problems known."
Protestors stood before the MDOC building, shouting for Commissioner Christopher Epps to come down and face questions about inmate mistreatment at the facilities. Gillam claimed Epps told him he would come down and speak, though Epps did not appear this morning. In response to Jackson Free Press inquiries, Epps' office sent a statement via e-mail claiming he had earlier attempted to make contact with protest organizers.
"Since I heard (Gillam) would return to Jackson, I have made contact with Dr. Gillam on several occasions. At no time during these contacts did he request an appointment with me. It is regrettable that the complaints of these citizens are not being brought to the agency in a productive manner that allows specific complaints to be addressed," Epps wrote. "I have never refused to meet with anyone and am always ready to address concerns of inmate family members in a productive manner."
Epps added that he looked forward to "meeting with Dr. Gillam again," and was "hopeful" that Gillam would provide more specific accounts of abuse at MDOC facilities.
Mothers of Inmates President Jean Smith said she had plenty of specifics to offer Epps. "I have mothers with children who are being harassed not just by the gang activity, but by correction officers who are not processed correctly by human resources there, and who treat inmates brutally," said Smith, a West Point, Miss., resident, whose son John Anderson is incarcerated at Parchman. "When their time is almost up, the officers provoke them into bad behavior to make them serve more time. We're not paying our taxes to pay a correctional officer to harass, provoke and beat our children. Someone in this state government will be held liable for our children if nothing is done."
"Epps and Haley Barbour both know this," Smith added. "We've been here in the past, and we're not going away."
Other mothers claim their children are begging them to ask facility authorities to keep them in solitary confinement to protect them from more violent fellow inmates.
Lisa Williams complains that her son, Sam McCarter, is told to work in the fields at Parchman: "They're making him pull hay all day and putting him to bed hungry. If he doesn't want to work in a field all day he shouldn't have to," Williams said. "The days of slavery are supposed to be over."
Other protesters had more personal complaints. Sardis resident Cordelia Ward said handlers moved her brother Ricky Ward from Parchman to a holding facility in Rankin County with no initial explanation or warning of the transfer. She also complains that guards at Parchman shamed her with repeated invasive searches when she came to visit.
"They made me pull off all my clothes and went inside of my vagina looking for things. They made some women take off their wigs, and it's really embarrassing for older women visiting their relatives and grandchildren," Ward said.
Gillam said he had compiled a list of officers accused of beating one inmate, and would be taking the list to the FBI in hopes of sparking an investigation into allegations of abuse in MDOC facilities. "We have the names of specific officers who have been beating inmates. Three weeks ago they beat an inmate until he was so wobbly he couldn't stand up, and we're taking this information to the federal government because they're treating people worse than animals here in this state," Gillam said.
In his statement, Epps said "no allegation of mistreatment I receive goes idle. Each and every one is looked into, and action is taken if any level of our inmate care is falling below standards."
Epps insisted Gillam speak with him personally regarding the beating allegations, adding: "To do otherwise would be uncooperative and counterproductive."
Gillam said protesters would hold their next rally in January.
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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