This piece from the Kingman Daily Miner about privatizing the parks and prisons (here's what I think about privatizing prisons) quotes AZ State Senator Ron Gould, who happens to be the new chair of the AZ Senate Judiciary Committee. I'm not infused with hope about the prospects for sentencing reform based on Gould's recent interviews - though he was responding largely to the issue of sex offender sentencing, which is always a touchy subject.
I know the escape was traumatic for the Kingman community - and horrendous for the Haas family of Oklahoma in particular. Just once, though, I'd like to hear legislators talk about protecting the lives and safety of all people in Arizona - prisoners included (not all of whom are sociopathic killers) - instead of just "taxpayers". We're all taxpayers in this state, anyway, with an ever greater burden being shifted to the middle class, the elderly, and poor families through sales tax increases and corporate tax breaks/welfare - while at the same time they build more prisons and gut the public schools.
What's that all about, anyway? How is it good for taxpayers to spend more money incarcerating Arizonans than we spend educating our children?
Still, Gould's district includes state Representative Doris Goodale, who is a former probation officer and who I believe has a serious concern for human rights, which may at least bode well for prison reform next session. And while Senator Gould may be conservative, I don't have reason to believe that he's outright cruel, so perhaps he'll be able to hear and consider the concerns many of us have for the high proportion of people with mental illness that are being incarcerated in this state, and the poor treatment they receive in prison. With Cecil Ash chairing the AZ House Health and Human Services Committee next session, I'm hoping something can be done to divert more vulnerable adults with psychiatric disabilities away from the criminal justice system - maybe that will be an area that he and Gould can find common ground on.
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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