Surviving Hepatitis C in AZ Jails, State Prisons, and Federal Detention Centers.

Surviving Hepatitis C in AZ Jails, State Prisons, and Federal Detention Centers.
The "Hard Time" blogspot is a volunteer-run site for the political organization of people with Hepatitis C behind and beyond prison walls, their loved ones, and whomever cares to join us. We are neither legal nor medical professionals. Some of us may organize for support, but this site is primarily dedicated to education and activism; we are fighting for prevention, detection, treatment, and a cure for Hepatitis C, particularly down in the trenches where most people are dying - in prison or on the street... Join us.

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The long way home: Catching up to Davon Acklin.

Some of you may recall Davon Acklin, the Arizona state prisoner who let us use him as a poster child when his mom, Julie, was fighting to get him treatment for Hepatitis C. I corresponded with him for a year while he was in Tucson prison, and had the wonderful experience of greeting him with his family as he was freed this spring. Then my own life fell apart and we lost touch.

Today I saw Davon for the first time since the day he headed home. Sadly, it was to visit him at the 4th Avenue Jail. He's facing at least four felony charges, and - needless to say - violated his probation. He's going away for a long time this time; it may be more than ten years before we see him walk free again...except that he was once a free man in prison. I keep telling myself that, hoping that wherever he lands he can find himself again - what's he's been wearing lately are the worst kind of chains, anyway.

I still don't know just what happened over the course of the past five months, and will leave that story for him to tell when he's ready. I can say, though, that when I saw Davon today he was calm, rational, and appropriately remorseful for hurting those who love and believed in him. He reports that he's getting his psych meds, at least; the place is just a miserable place to be, and he's sick as a dog right now. I suspect he's going through withdrawal. He denied being suicidal, expressed appreciation for those who have tried to help him, and apologized "for being such a fuck-up". I tried to reaffirm that some folks still haven't bailed on him, and that his mom isn't about to give up.

Despite his effort to begin to make amends, I don't think Davon has any idea of how badly he really hurt people this time - I'm figuring out just how to tell him, though. The hurting from this binge has only just begun, too. He didn't just break Julie's heart and devastate his sister, he invited violence into his family's home that may not leave with him when he goes. He compromised the fight to overcome all the barriers to getting Hep C treatment for people with psychiatric disorders and addictions by giving the state a reason to say "I told you so." He may lose his own battle to get interferon now. His mother may well have to recover his body from prison, or see him buried there.

Davon is not responsible for having a mental illness, or even for being an addict any more so than if he had diabetes. He is responsible for his recovery, though, and made decisions when he was well that compromised his ability to make good choices in a very short period of time. Whether or not he was competent at the time he committed the crimes he's accused of is for him and the courts to work out - we didn't discuss any of that. Today he seems to be in his right mind, though - and almost relieved at the prospect of going back to prison. I think he copped out on us all early on, frankly, and I'm mad as hell at him. I'm also angry that I wasn't able to be there for him when he came home myself, though. There were a lot of things I had wanted to share with him, and before I knew it he was gone again. I know it's my egocentricity that makes me think I might have changed this outcome had I been more present for him upon his release; I wish I had been, though.

I never really expected a fairy tale ending to Davon's relationship with the criminal justice system. He grew up in it - he even accidentally referred to returning to prison as going "home". There's absolutely no meaningful treatment or rehab in prison for the vast majority of dually-diagnosed young men like Davon - or for the women, for that matter. He had a lot of good community support - the probation department was awesome, I guess - but few new tools for coping with stress and expectations when he got out. That's not to excuse him from what he needs to own here, but that's the way it is for far too many prisoners I see who have cycled through the system more than once, so I think there's more at work than just Davon's pathology here.

This isn't the end of this young man's story or his struggle to keep from succumbing to either despair or Hep C - nor is his life yet over. In recovery from addictive disorders - especially for those with mental illness as well - relapse is common, and is often so much worse than before because one has to be sicker in order to go back into denial. But Davon doesn't necessarily forget what he learned before - he matured once, and can continue in that direction wherever he lands. Even in prison he can be a positive influence in the lives of others, if he's given the right support so he's able to make informed and capable decisions. Psychiatric disability or not - in prison or at home - Davon can still choose what kind of human being to be. Only when he surrenders that will I believe he's really lost his freedom.

Anyway, I'll let you know when he moves, but will otherwise be giving Davon and his family a break from my blogs while they sort things out. If you've been a correspondent of his, I think it would help him to know that even in back prison he's accountable to his fellow beings for his behavior and commitments. You can trust his mom and I to kick his ass over this, so to speak, but feel free to do so as well if you've been hurt, too. Just try to keep a door open for him if you can; he should be safe, but he really doesn't deserve exile. He needs to make amends and reconcile with not only his family but the community that supported him in order to grow and reduce the chances of this happening again.


Summer Solstice 2011
Firehouse Gallery and Cafe'
Phoenix, AZ

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The work of a true revolutionary begins at home.



I just came home from court this morning, and finally had a chance to get my police report, detailing what I'm being charged with and what evidence is against me. I already gave them most of it in letters, blogs, and postcards about my protest. I was relieved I didn't have to actually enter a "not guilty" plea this morning, because after all that, it would seem pretty dishonest. I may have a defense against some of this, though, so I'm going to speak to the attorney they gave me at the public defender's office before digging a much deeper hole. But I still have amends to make to my neighbors, since I made such a thoughtless public display of vandalizing them. I even seemed to make light of it in the process.

See, this is all about me throwing that red paint down in an alley already covered in paint during the First Friday June Artwalk. I openly admitted doing that, and committed my act of resistance in front of the graffiti detectives themselves. In the process, though, my paint splattered a few inches up the wall of the building next door, an art studio/ collective that it turns out does work with people involved in mental health programs. I'm so clueless about some of my neighbors that I had no idea they were doing that kind of work, or I would have talked to them about this all in advance, even though I had no intention of hitting the alley side of their studio wall. Instead, I learned about my neighbors from my own criminal report, listing them as my victim. I feel pretty crummy about that.





In my police report, the manager of the place said she wanted to prosecute because what I'd done would have been so upsetting for some folks participating in the programs - which I inferred was of particular concern for those folks with pre-existing psychiatric conditions. I get that - and can see it upsetting others as well. That explains to me why it was important to clean it up, without messing around with my offer to re-paint it myself - even I would have called Graffiti Busters to clean up after myself if I thought it through. It really was unintended - that doesn't mean I'm not responsible, though. I acted out without much thought for the neighbors over there, or their members and guests. That's not very excusable, given what I could have brought out for some folks with images of bloodshed across the alley, as well as the names of the dead. That's me acting out my own unresolved trauma, in part - they don't need my help with theirs.


So, this blog post will no doubt be added to the evidence they use against me in the end, but I'm truly deeply sorry for having dragged you all into the middle of my protest. You're already doing your part to protect our people from ending up in prison in the first place. I hope that if my activities ever trouble you that way - criminal or not - you feel okay contacting me.


Most people with mental illness, by the time we're my age, have already been through too much.
I'm dually-recovering myself, survived a horrible, violent suicide of a loved one, and the last thing I would want to do is traumatize someone else further. We all need to feel safe in order to grow, and I undermined that for some folks, I suspect, by all my agitation and graffiti - which invited others to contribute more. I was also wrong to define the terms of resistance by my own standards without talking to others living and working around there that night, outside of what I call my own community.


I thought this protest would be all about getting my message out about the state's violence, not mine. It still is, in a way, but not how I thought it would be. It's been said that the work of a true revolutionary begins in the our own communities, taking care of others. Despite all I preach about the importance of doing so if we're to really hold each other accountable and not rely on the criminal justice system for amends to be made in cases like this, when it came down to it I didn't practice that. I think this is the bigger lesson in all this - it's for me, not for the cops. I understand why people get upset about graffiti, now. My total lack of concern for the effect of my actions that Artwalk on the people right next door is my real crime, though - even if I hadn't even touched their property.



But an apology alone is not an amends. I'm inclined to think that only those folks - and perhaps the participants they were concerned about - can say what they feel justice would be, having been harmed in some way by me - and I respect it if they feel the criminal justice system is the way to get that, and to restore their own sense of safety and order in their community. I'd have a pretty hard time pleading not guilty to that charge, after all this. The charges filed about city property, though, I'll probably fight.


I think I just threw myself at the mercy of the court - or my victims, I'm not sure which. I guess now I should wait until I talk to an attorney before commenting much further on all this. Thanks to my friends for showing their support today. I really think I need to reconsider some of my tactics...



Peg

--
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
Arizona Juvenile Prison Watch
http://azjuvenileprisonwatch.blogspot.com
Hard Time Alliance - AZ
http://hardtimehepc.blogspot.com
Survivors of Prison Violence

Sunday, July 10, 2011

SOS Cecil Ash: Please Send Help.



July 2011 Artwalk display
(with Cougar)
1009 N. 1st. St. / Phoenix




This is how easy it can be to help us convene legislative hearings next session on the violence, suicides, and poor health care in the prisons. The AZ House Health and Human Services ' Committee is chaired by Cecil Ash, a truly decent man, and seems to be the best place to hold such hearings. Following Stan's letter requesting this is Representative Ash's response.

I understand that Representative Ash is still focusing his energies on sentencing reform - which we desperately need - but in the meantime people are continuing to die unnecessarily inside. If Ash doesn't want to spend political capital using his chairmanship of the HHS committee (as opposed to the Judiciary Committee), for something directly related to health and human services, then he needs to cultivate another legislator who will do that in the next session that we can lobby.

Until Representative Ash can identify that person for us - or until someone else steps forward to lead the charge on this matter - please keep sending these kinds of letters and emails to him, folks.
And send me what you're willing to let me post for others to learn from, as my buddy Stan did for us...

This letter, by the way, was a beautiful gift for Dana's mom on that difficult day. Thanks, Stan, from all of us.


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


From: Stan Hemry
Sent: Thursday, July 07, 2011 11:05 AM
To: Cecil Ash
Subject: Dana Seawright's unsolved murder

Good morning Rep. Ash,

I am a resident of Phoenix for more than 10 years. Today is the 1st anniversary of this young man's death. I writing to draw your attention to the murder of Dana Seawright, who refused to give up his cell in prison with a man of another race. One was black the other, Hispanic. Dana's gang ordered him to prove his loyalty to the gang. Dana was subsequently killed for a fake attack on another man of the same race as his cell mate. 10 of Dana's gang members were given enough leeway within the prison facility to enter his cell and beat him to death for not delivering the beat down ordered by his gang.

Now, I know that this sounds like typical gang activity, but Dana was standing up for the freedom of association. Something the gangs and guards, apparently, do not allow. This type of violently-enforced segregation underscores the divisions that are routinely encouraged within the prison community.

Guards and prison people both manifest the divisions as they see racial tensions played out in tragic ways. Scenes, like the one of Dana's murder while under guard, re-enforce segregation and violently punishes prison people, who do not abide within the artificially-created, racial divides.

Dana's murder is a harsh wake up call to take action to examine what is happening. This could have easily been me, or possibly you, Rep. Ash, given the same circumstances. I would have done what he did and probably be murdered too.

Racially-segregated gangs monitor and enforce divisions among the prison people. Why can't there be a program to gradually de-segregate the prison community? Train the guards to understand that we are all equal in frailty, love and life. Give the prison people adequate mental and physical health care.

If there is any justice left in the system, I hope you will convene hearings into the rapidly rising murder and suicide rates in the Department of Correction. Understanding the circumstances surrounding the tragedy of Dana's death could help to reform the training received by prison guards and lower the tension levels among the prison people.


Respectfully,


Stan Hemry
PHX 85004

--
Contact me if you are an educator and want to screen Arlington West in your school.



-------to contact Representative Ash------



----------
reply from Representative Ash--------

From: Cecil Ash
Date: Fri, Jul 8, 2011 at 3:06 PM
Subject: RE: Dana Seawright's unsolved murder
To: Stan Hemry

Dear Mr. Hemry:

Thank you for your email. There are a great many problems in the prison system. You have identified some of them in your email. You are correct, given the same set of circumstances, you or I might have done the same thing.

I am not indifferent or unaware of the many problems in the D.O.C. However, to have hearings this next session would jeopardize some of the sentencing reforms I've been working on for the last three years. Before undertaking hearings on your issue, I need to get some of the sentencing changes enacted. Then I will proceed to look at health issues (both physical and mental) in the prison system. If we could stop so many people from getting in there in the first place, we might have the resources to do a better job with a smaller population.

I will put you on my email list to be informed of our efforts in this area.

Again, thank you for email, and my condolences to Dana's family.


Sincerely,



Cecil Ash

State Representative

District 18

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Graffiti Busted by the PHX PD, finally.


The guy from Graffiti Busters came by yesterday morning to clean up Resistance Alley for a second time since June Artwalk -it was a busy weekend. Here's the follow-up to that original action - my challenge to the Phoenix Police to take action other than the ones they have to take against me.


Apparently, this is their only response.








The Graffiti Buster must not have to face the vandals whose art he demolishes very often - when I caught him checking things out and asked if he was planning to clean up my work, he muttered "maybe", then hurridly took off. I think I scared him: he was back less than 30 minutes later with four Phoenix Graffiti Detectives, one of whom finally read me my rights.





The Graffiti Sgt. (Mike Kaddatz, I think) advised me that I can knock all this off now - he wasn't sure if I was facing felony charges yet or just a handful of misdemeanors, but he assured me that complaints about my activity have been referred for prosecution. I guess they've got a stack of evidence (including my blogs and postcards, I'd imagine) on someone's desk in the city attorney's office.






I'm not sure what exactly happened this AM with my rights being read to me - I automatically clammed up, though, which is kind of funny given how much I've already incriminated myself. I wasn't arrested - just warned that I will probably be getting notice of something about my other crimes in the mail. Funny how I still feel privileged - why can't I get arrested?

Maybe I was Mirandized instead of arrested because I'm just a suspect in this new crime they all came to investigate (the art that was being removed right then, that I just confessed to creating). Maybe it's because I've been so cooperative, sending them my postcards from the edge as evidence. But why four cops? I think it was in case I got out of hand over my art being defaced.

Isn't that silly that the Graffiti Buster needed so many cops to protect and defend him - from ME, of all people? Granted, I was pretty upset to see my good work ruined - it wasn't bothering anyone but "The City" down there...of course, that's who I'm trying to annoy.

Unfortunately, while they have plenty troops to deploy against me (and the city's taggers), they don't have a minute to spare of anyone who will even look into all these deaths in the prisons - not even one. I just get told to gather more evidence for them, and they'll think about it.

Seriously, what would it take for the new PHX Police Chief to just pick up the phone and say "Hey, Chuck Ryan - WTF??? How come all your prisoners are dying? We aren't sending any more criminals your way until you clean it up." Simple as that.


Real courage - that's what it would take. There isn't much of that among law enforcement out here in the Deep Southwest these days. They don't want to challenge power here - they know who pays their way. And really, to do what I do in this place, apparently you must be a little mad.


Resistance sure isn't coming from those most invested in maintaining this whole illusion that our justice system fundamentally works, that prison is a necessary part of it, and that they're all the good guys in this simplistic paradigm (that means those who oppose the state's police apparatus can only be "bad"). In fact, after he read me my rights I asked the Graffiti Sgt. who was going to do something about the prisons. He smiled and shook his head a little, then said " that's on you!"

Great - no help at all. They'll sure show me, for trying harass and guilt trip the city into taking their share of responsibility for the prison crisis with my criminal activity. Not only will they clean up after me within hours of finding my work, they won't lift a finger to stop the rising death toll in the prisons.








So, I've said it before - fuck the DOJ, the ACLU, and the Phoenix Police if they won't help.
Fuck the Arizona Governor and State Legislature, too.
And if you're reading this and not doing or saying anything
about all these vulnerable people dying inside,
then fuck you, too.

If you want to make a difference, though,
then help me do our own in-depth investigation and report,
and we'll make them change without anyone else's intervention.

We'll be meeting weekly beginning July, probably at the new
Ironwood Infoshop, soon to be in the back of
The Fixx / 11 E. 7th St. / Tempe, AZ 85281
in the meantime to volunteer or donate to our efforts, contact me at:

Peggy Plews
PO Box 20494
Phoenix, Az 85036
480-580-6807

I'm only at my 1009 N. 1st St. office until July 1 - then I'm going to be mobile.


So sad and so lovely...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Free the Cure: Hope for patients with Hep C.

New hope in the battle against hepatitis C

The Daily Tribune (dailytribune.com),

Serving Southeastern Oakland County

Saturday, June 18, 2011

By Maryanne Kocis MacLeod
Daily Tribune Staff Writer

More than 4 million Americans are living with Hepatitis C, an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver causing inflammation. The vast majority don’t know they have it.

“Hepatitis C can lead to liver failure, cancer and the need for transplant, and for the past decade, the best we could offer patients was a year of difficult treatment that resulted in a viral cure for fewer than half,” said Ira Jacobson, M.D., chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology, Weill Cornell Medical College. Jacobson is also the principal investigator in a recent study of a new, FDA-approved drug, INCIVEK, shown to cure 79 percent of those treated.

“This is a major leap forward in the battle against Hepatitis C,” said Stuart Gordon, M.D., director of hepatology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. “Treatment results in the irradiation of the virus, which is quite remarkable. When people achieve this cure, physical damage is reversed.”

As a result, Hepatitis C, contracted through blood transfusions before 1990 or sharing dirty needles, is perhaps the only viral infection that can currently be cured, Gordon said.

“In the next five years, we’ll probably have this disease licked,” Gordon said.

That’s an especially relevant development given the current progression of the disease.

“As this group of patients gets older, the problems get worse,” Gordon said. “We could have dire circumstances over the next decade if we don’t turn this around.”

Commerce Township’s Robert Kress is one of the lucky ones.

Like the majority of patients, Kress did not know he was infected until about four or five years ago, when a Red Cross worker uncovered an anomaly in his blood.

“It was shocking,” said Kress, 60, a DTE lineman for the past 41 years. He traced the infection back to a blood transfusion he received in his mid-20s as part of treatment for a collapsed lung. “You conjure ideas of how life is going to continue. You expect to live a long, healthy life. Then suddenly you find out: Maybe it’s not going to be a great senior year.”

Through education, Kress learned that Hepatitis C was treatable but not curable. Under Gordon’s care, he started the standard treatment, which includes pegylated-interferon and ribavarin, designed to keep the virus in check — to a point.

“I never had to take time off work, but it does zap your energy level,” Kress said.

After being invited to participate in the blind study — “I didn’t know if I would get the new drug or not” — his energy level continued to lag. Although he developed a common allergic reaction to the new drug — extreme itching — and had to stop treatment before the trial was complete, Kress has been virus-free for one year.

“The regiment is fairly complicated,” Gordon said. “INCIVEK has to be administered in combination with the standard two-drug treatment, via injections a few times a day. It takes a motivated patient, committed for the entire course of therapy, 24 to 48 weeks, depending on a patient’s response.”

“I feel great,” said Kress, whose energy has returned to pre-treatment levels. “We live on a lake and enjoy water sports; we’re traveling again, and around the house I can do everything I’m told to do.”

That includes repair work and painting. Most recently Kress and his wife Gail remodeled their kitchen. In July, they’re planning to take a trip to the East Coast in their motor home.

“We are so pleased with the course this treatment has taken,” Gordon said. “We are offering hope.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

ACLU-AZ: tasers, prisoner abuse, and juvenile diversion.

This is really exciting folks. Go to all if you can if for no other reason than to show them how many people out here care....


From: ACLU of Arizona [mailto:grassroots@acluaz.org]
Sent: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 2:53 PM
Subject: Location update: You bring your lunch. We'll bring the experts.


All lectures will be held at 3707 N. 7th Street, Suite 100, Phoenix, AZ 85014

You are invited to the ACLU of Arizona's Summer 2011 Brown Bag Lecture Series!

Who says there is nothing to do during the summer in the Valley of the Sun?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In Their Own Words: Enduring Abuse in Arizona Immigration Detention Centers

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Protecting What Works: Juvenile Diversion in Maricopa County

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Force to Be Reckoned With: Taser Use in Arizona Police Departments

All brown bag lectures will be from noon to 1 p.m.

Free and open to the public. Drinks and desserts served.

Seating is limited, so please make reservations by calling Mary Hope Lee at 602-650-1854 ext. 100 or by emailing info@acluaz.org.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Deaths in custody: Who serves survivors of state violence?



I wrote the following letter to the administrator for the Arizona Department of Corrections' Victims Services programs about six weeks ago now, with no response to it from anyone there. As I explained at the time, the questions I pose are not rhetorical - I really need help for Dana Seawright's mom. She was devastated by his homicide last July, and is now being victimized by Brewercare and the AHCCCS cuts, and the ADC can't even give me an idea of where to turn to for help for her?

What gives, Chuck? Why the stone wall in response to a victim's need for assistance? I wasn't calling your people out into the street with this- I was putting up a white flag and begging for assistance for the family of a man who was murdered in ADC's custody.

You put two guards on Dana 24/7 when he was chained to a bed in a coma, but had no one watching out for him when he was attacked by the West Side City Crips for faking a hit on a Mexican he was ordered by them to do. You should be supporting resistance to gang violence, not reinforcing it that way. Your investigators knew well enough the motives of the killers to tell his mother "if it's any consolation, they didn't mean to kill him", but you daren't clear enough on their identities such that you will refer them for prosecution - and no one on your staff was culpable for looking away while this man was beaten senseless in a open dorm? Wasn't he supposed to be in protective segregation when that happened, too?

What's so problematic about letting this woman get back to me with some resources for her? Are they hoping she collapses altogether before her lawsuit against the state goes anywhere? Can't they let the Victims' Services people do their job unimpeded by their politics and power moves?

C'mon, Chuck Ryan: serve all the victims of violence here, not just the ones you can use to pack more people into your prisons with. At least don't hoard all the resources for them where people like Kini Seawright can't get to them herself - she's not about to walk through your door asking for help after you let her kid get killed. I'm here of my own volition for all of them, including the mothers who haven't had to survive such a horrible, heartbreaking loss yet. Please have your people get back to me on this.

To the rest of you watching this all go down, take note of this resource, question with legislators and policy-makers the constitutional denial of victims' rights to people in custody, and help me find out who serves the traumatized victims of state abuse, neglect, and violence - as well as their survivors.

Keep agitating with the Department of Justice for a CRIPA investigation, and use the resources on this site (and below) to send info into prisoners about how to fight for their own rights before we end up having to find their survivors wrongful death
attorneys. Tell them they aren't alone in there, and to hang on for dear life. Their fight, if they grieve conditions and file complaints with the DOJ and ACLU regardless of the hopelessness of it all, regardless of the threats and retaliation, may well be the one that finally stops these death rates from climbing, and the despair inside from consuming too many more salvageable lives.


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


For the most part, living prisoners will find that they have to litigate their claims pro per (themselves). So, here are some links to resources to print stuff up from and send to them:

Here's the form to file a 1983 CR complaint in Federal District Court.

Here's the National ACLU's prisoner rights' page.

Here's the AZ ACLU's resources page.

Here's the National Lawyer's Guild/Columbia Law Review Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook.

And here's the scoop on the hoops and barriers to justice set up by the Prison Litigation Reform Act.


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


April 19, 2011

Jan Upchurch, Administrator
Office of Victims' Services
Arizona Department of Corrections
1645 W. Jefferson - MC250
Phoenix, AZ 85007


Dear Ms. Upchurch;

I am a human rights activist, artist and blogger in Phoenix, and have been researching violence and suicide in AZ state prisons over the course of the past 2 years. This has opened my eyes and brought me into considerable more contact with victims of violent crime in ADC custody and their survivors than most members of the public. Do prisoners or the family members of prisoners qualify for victims' services through your office if they/their loved ones are crime victims while imprisoned at the ADC? If not, who advocates for them when prisoners are assaulted, raped, murdered, or neglected and abused (as in the case of Marcia Powell)? Additionally, who fights for policy changes that may prevent further victimization behind bars?

Many of those I see victimized at the ADC are evidently psychiatrically or developmentally disabled, and can't advocate for safer cellmates or protective segregation, or fight abusive COs or policies effectively through the grievance process or other formal systems - which arguably gives rise to more self-injurious behavior and violence out of frustration or sheer terror, a liability even if their inability to access legitimate processes keeps down the grievances and potential lawsuits. Mentally ill prisoners don't seem to be served by either DES' Protective Services Division or the AZ Center for Disability Law when victimized in custody, either. In fact, I believe all parties I just mentioned are in direct violation of the American with Disabilities Act and/or other federal mandates, as they pertain to disabled individuals victimized in custody, regardless of the AZ constitutional limits on their rights as crime victims, per se.

Furthermore, the perpetrators of prison violence and other institutionally-based crime - be they staff or inmate - are apparently seldom street-charged or prosecuted, suggesting that neither the CIU nor county attorneys hosting prisons take an aggressive role in promoting the rights of victims in custody, which seems to just tell criminals that it's who they victimize, not what they do to others, that really matters. How does the ADC plan to rectify that?

Given what we spend to keep people locked up, prison is the one place in society where crime should be under control and victims are promptly and professionally accommodated. I see no one who prisoners or families can go to out here when violent crime befalls them in prison, though - without being charged a fee for advocacy or counseling - which means these victims are easily victimized (and perhaps criminalized) again, if you don't serve them either. Even the Attorney General won't help them - he defends the ADC.

These are pointed questions, I know, but they are not rhetorical. I imagine there may be a conflict of interest with your office, but that shouldn't preclude a third party providing those services under contract with the state, just like they do for other crime victims and their families. I need this info ASAP in order to advise people who were victimized (or survived homicides of prisoners) in ADC custody of what resources are available to them; at least one grieving mother I've heard from is living on the verge of homelessness and I'm not sure where to refer her.

I see this as a serious problem underlying the continuation of prison violence, especially against vulnerable adults, made so by the symptoms of their disabilities. James Jennings is a tragic example of someone clearly killed because of their mental illness; both Shannon Palmer and his killer, Jasper Rushing, were reportedly pleading for protection - and both somewhat psychotic - when they were celled so fatefully together. Duron Cunningham reported that he was raped and assaulted before he killed himself. The list goes on.

I plan to begin a public education campaign in the coming weeks to address the issue of victims' rights (or lack thereof, under the state constitution) in custody, particularly as they apply (or don't) to surviving family members. The ADC can hinder that effort with propaganda obscuring the victimization of prisoners, help advance the field of victims' services by exploring and answering these questions thoughtfully, or do nothing but get out of the way. I invite your office into a dialogue about it, however, as I want to believe you serve for good reason. I don't know whether protecting the state or our citizens is your primary concern, though, as I don't know you. It should not have to be mutually exclusive, but seems to be given the litigation expected to follow incidents of violent crime against persons in custody.

Taking responsibility for the harm one causes or allows to be caused to another is part of the ethos of the criminal justice system. Making amends to victims - individuals, businesses, and communities, is seen as central to any kind of restorative justice, which the State of Arizona heartily endorses, as evidenced by the practice of ordering restitution when sentencing, and penalizing offenders further for failing to meet said orders. What does the ADC practice, when it comes to their own crime victims, though? Even if prisoners have no rights as victims, what about the principle of preventing future crime by making an example of perpetrators today? Why should violent criminals be provided with such blanket permission to practice on more victims before they leave prison, where they are supposedly being punished?

How the ADC deals with this issue is not just an internal affair - it has implications for all of us, as one of Pete Calleros' suspected killers went on to assault staff and another prisoner in the months that followed - he must have been emboldened by the lack of institutional response to the Calleros hit as a crime. Another suspect was paroled in the fall - he already has a warrant (it appears the court doesn't know where he is). He was never even given a ticket in association with Pete's murder, and appears to have been released with time he still could have served. One would wonder if he wasn't being rewarded. None of the four men were charged with anything - the killing was even left as a suicide - which they were identified by more than one prisoner as staging. One of them is even in there for being a gang leader, begging the question as to who, exactly, is in control of the ADC these days.

I'm well aware that if I publicly go after seeing those 4 guys prosecuted, I could end up a more likely target than they would be for being identified by me as killing Pete - when we have to fear the reach of gang members from behind prison walls, public safety is already compromised. The ADC appears to have done nothing to get justice for Pete or prevent his killers from hurting anyone else, so I don't have much confidence that anything was done to protect the guys who reported his death as a homicide, either. Please check up on the safety of those witnesses now.

None of this bodes well for how I see the prison privatization project going: the ADC is responsible for Kingman's lack of security, ultimately, and I saw nothing in the RFPs that were put out that indicates a particular concern for victims' rights. In fact, the objective set down by the ADC of making sure that no more than 1% of grievances are ultimately upheld troubles me. Correct me if I read that wrong: it just seems like an incentive to deprive prisoners of due process rights when they are harmed, not to protect them. There's no indication that private prisons would even issue press releases about prisoner deaths or abuse, or be accountable for their health and safety to the public in any transparent way. They're harder to see into than the state prisons are, giving rise to more risk of victimization.

I'm sure that given your position, you can understand my frustration and concern over the constitutionally-diminished value of prisoner's lives and the gravity of their suffering in custody, placing their very survival secondary to the state's interests in cutting costs. It manifests toxins at every level of society, such that ugliness flows from the community into the media whenever a prisoner kills themselves - look at the "comments" after every ADC press release on a suicide. It's tragic, what has become of us since the PLRA and the victims' rights amendments to state constitutions were made exempting prisoners from fundamental protections: our entire society has devolved, and I think I can make the connections.

I also think I can make the case that both these prisoners and their families are deserving of the same constitutional guarantees given all other citizens and non-citizens alike, when it comes to their welfare. Having fought most of my life to keep my own brother out of prison and harm's way - surviving the devastating suicide of a loved one myself, in the process - I'm free to tell that part of my own story, liberating others from the shame that may keep them from telling theirs. I have been a victim of violent crime, and cope now with a mood disorder and the remnants of PTSD; not much frightens me anymore. I've embraced the mothers of ADC's homicide victims, and helped my community bury our dead; I am intimately connected to this struggle. I will not relent until I know that AZ prisoners and their loved ones are getting their needs met, not brutalized, at my expense, in my name, for the sake of my own family's illusion of "safety".

Sorry to greet you so early with this level of frankness, but you seemed like an appropriate person to bring into the conversation. I appreciate your time and what thoughts you may have. I look forward to hearing back from you or Ms. Klausner on this matter soon.


Sincerely,


Peggy Plews

--
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




Arizona Prison Watch
http://arizonaprisonwatch.blogspot.com
Prison Abolitionist

http://prisonabolitionist.blogspot.com
Hard Time Alliance - AZ
http://hardtimehepc.blogspot.com
Arizona Juvenile Prison Watch
http://azjuvenileprisonwatch.blogspot.com

Survivors of Prison Violence - AZ
http://azprisonsurvivors.blogspot.com

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Resistance Alley, deaths in custody, & the PHX Graffiti Police






I met the Graffiti Detectives Friday evening in my back alley, which is along the main drag for the Phoenix Artwalk on the First Friday of every month. A few friends and comrades showed to cop-watch from the sidelines; most of my friends are on probation or parole, however, and couldn't afford the risk involved in being as criminally disobedient as I have been in recent days, so they were excused from showing for the action.

A few folks have rightfully asked me to explain what I'm doing and why a little better. Among other things, I've been trying to force a more animated and engaging public dialogue about the prison deaths, free expression and resistance, and Arizona's tendency to prioritize property rights over human rights in our legislative practices. There are a host of intersecting issues affecting human rights in this state, beginning with a flawed value system. Here it's "criminal damage" to block access for livestock to water supplies - a felony - and yet guaranteeing access to water in the desert for people is prosecuted criminally as littering.

As a manifestation of our collective social values in Phoenix, the city's response to my solicitation to resist the status quo through possible criminal activity turned out a whole squad of cops to protect an alley from art, but no one in this state will initiate an investigation into all the suicides and homicides at the AZ Department of Corrections. What gives? I can't even count how many cops I've reported the state's crimes too, but no one seems to feel responsible for intervening themselves, or even calling in the feds.

An argument can be made that my chalk - and now paint - on the ground invites graffiti on the walls and "blight"; there was some new artwork done the night before they arrived Friday, specifically a message to them:


The images that bug me the most, frankly, are not graffiti per se, but from the advertising I can't avoid looking at everywhere I go - especially those faded, aging political signs like the ones outside of Tom Horne's old campaign office on 7th Ave and McDowell - boy that place is looking trashy. Bottom line is that if you have money you can ram your politics down everyone's throat with fear, racism, sexism, homophobia - the list of ugly manipulative strategies we're subjected to each political season goes on.

Then we must respect the "rights" of people who just want to make a buck from us to advertise their garbage - from fast food joints to casinos to strip clubs and the state's lottery system, as long as they have the money to buy or rent space they can push their products and messaging all over our everyday landscape. But if an impoverished citizen objects to the way our government is being run and puts up their own highway signage to express objection to the wars, for example, it's considered a crime.

Only property-holders and lawmakers can color and abuse our public horizon that way, it appears. All public space should be safe for free (unpaid) political expression, but none is really protected by our laws in meaningful places, quantities, or ways - if anything, it's discouraged by the privatization of so much community space (done to give police departments and businesses the leverage to criminalize homelessness and hassle the poor riff raff busking on "their" sidewalks).

I can only guess who made those kinds of laws, and who they serve most today - I'm fairly sure they weren't designed to empower The People, though. Law is mainly made to maintain the social order, after all - which is inherently heirarchical, capitalist, racist, misogynistic, and anti-democratic in America - especially Arizona...

Anyway, as I said, I met the Graffiti Detectives (Diane Rowe and her partner, whose name I keep forgetting) in my back alley Friday in time for my planned protest. It quickly became clear that they wouldn't be arresting me - I think they mainly just didn't want to become players in my street theater any more than they already had to be.


Detective Rowe took issue with my characterization of cops picking on teenage taggers - they feel as if they try to help the kids they arrest, in particular. They also argued that there really aren't that many youth being charged as adults or even sent off to child prison for graffiti alone. They see writing as being like a "gateway" drug, so the youth getting into real trouble may face burglary and other charges by the time they get busted for tagging...





So, the Graffiti Detectives are really here to help wayward youth, not control and punish budding revolutionaries. Right. Regardless, we never would have had the conversation we did if I was a teenage Latino male chalking the public walks in the middle of the
night instead of a middle class white woman calling my vandalism "politics" and "art"...

which is what this protest was really about - my own privilege. In a year and a half of chalking the walks of Power, how is it that I've never been arrested, assaulted, or shot by a cop in this town? Not that I WANT any of those things to happen, mind you - but I see them happening to people of color and those in poverty all around me, and can't help but wonder why I get a pass, if not for the intersections of my gender, age, race and class...

That I am particularly privileged by the status quo in Arizona today is fairly disturbing - and the cost of accommodating my comfort, and that of my class, compels me to resist with everything I have. I may not be the most brilliant organizer or political strategist - some folks really doubt my sanity given my engagement of the police in confrontations - but I have yet to hear one good reason why not to tackle this head-on, at every level of law enforcement.


Anyway, I talk to cops more than real anarchists
do because I want them engaged in the struggle of prisoners - they're the ones doing them the "favor" of arrest and confinement to get them off the streets, give them "3 hots and a cot" (which are really two bag lunches and a "boat" on the floor) - like everyone did to help Marcia Powell and Shannon Palmer, lucky them. That's a reminder that even the best intentions can still hurt a lot of people, especially if the police are brought into the mix as partners or "helpers". Their primary job is to maintain the order of the state, not promote the liberties and rights of the people - no matter how friendly they may seem.

But the cops didn't come to chat about my politics. Detective Rowe and I talked about all those issues for half an hour or so before I finally threw my red paint down and slapped my palm print up on the side of one of the dumpsters in our alley, irritated by the show of police force to discourage such activity. In the end I was yelling, I think, about how property rights trump human rights in this town as they all showed up to fight "vandalism" but I can't get anyone to follow up on serious abuse complaints against cops.


That's bullshit, frankly. So I've asked the Phoenix Graffiti Detectives to help me get the DOJ out here - we'll see if they bother to do that much. That might be too much like ratting out their own to internal affairs - that's how creeps like Gerster, Keesee and Chrisman stay in positions of power, though.

As for my criminal damage - I was the only one to handle the paint Friday night, since my friends don't need to be harassed any more than they already are - I can expect them to catch up to me with criminal charges and a bill for restitution and clean-up, on their own schedule. They aren't about to accommodate mine. I'll keep you all posted on how that unfolds; I expect it will give me plenty to write about, if nothing else of value.




Thanks for all your support, by the way, folks. You all rock!


The Women Gather Crying...

This blew me away...


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 2011 First Friday: Resistance Alley.


Calling St. Patrick's Battalion!!!


NO MORE PASSES for WHITE PRIVILEGE!!!
(mine, specifically)



SOLIDARITY with AZ Liberation Movements

FIRST Friday, June 3, 2011
7pm in the AZ Prison Watch alley
at the STOP SB 1070 wall



Artists and activists willing to face Criminal Damage charges to protest the prosecution of child taggers as adults in Phoenix and claim the streets as a canvas for revolutionary expression needed to pick up chalk and brushes, and help

Paint the Town in Resistance Alley
behind Arizona Prison Watch
(1009 N. 1 st. St., near Roosevelt, PHX)

We have no real legal defense that I know of if this is really criminal - and I have no legal team.
Be prepared for arrest and prosecution if you paint.


Witnesses/Copwatchers strongly encouraged to show.


Tools of disruption will be supplied.


margaret j plews is solely responsible for this post

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Action Plan to Prevent, Care and Treat Viral Hepatitis. Live Webcast

Webcast from The National Press Club

http://www.visualwebcaster.com/hepatitisplan

First Amendment Lounge, 13th Floor
529 14th St, NW
Washington, DC 20045


Thursday, May 12
1:00pm
- 2:00pm



Created by: Hepatitis C - Caring Ambassadors Program

It is our pleasure to invite you to join HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh and other HHS officials on Thursday, May 12, 2011 as they announce the new

Action Plan to Prevent, Care and Treat Viral Hepatitis.

Though hepatitis is a leading cause of death in the U.S., many people who have it don’t know they are infected, so they are at greater risk for severe – or even fatal – complications of the disease, and at greater risk of unwittingly spreading the virus to others.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is committed to ensuring that new cases of viral hepatitis are prevented and that persons who are already infected are tested, informed about their infection, and provided with counseling, care, and treatment. Comprehensive and sustained efforts are necessary to effectively eliminate this epidemic. Please join HHS officials and community representatives as they discuss the actions necessary to achieve this goal.

Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H., HHS Assistant Secretary for Health

Kevin Fenton, M.D., Ph.D., FFPH, Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Jim Macrae, M.A., M.P.P., Associate Administrator for Primary Health Care, Health Resources and Services Administration

Michael Ninburg, Community Perspective

Su Wang, M.D., Provider Perspective

WHEN:
Thursday, May 12, 2011
1:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET

WHERE:
The National Press Club
First Amendment Lounge, 13th Floor
529 14th St, NW
Washington, DC 20045


To attend the event in person, please RSVP to rsvp@team-psa.com by 5:00 p.m. Monday, May 9, 2011.


The event will also be webcast live at: http://www.visualwebcaster.com/hepatitisplan

Friday, April 29, 2011

Deaths in Custody: ADC March 2011.

The following individuals died in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections in March, 2011, as posted at the department's website; this may or may not be an exhaustive list. I suspect the causes of some recent deaths are remaining mysterious so as to avoid focus on the continuing pattern of violence and suicide prevailing in the prisons. If anyone has any information on these deaths, please contact me at 480-580-6807 or prisonabolitionst@gmail.com...

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

Robert Mulhern, 55
ADC #235987

ASPC-Florence/Central

apparent natural causes
March 8, 2011









Vincent Accardo, 62
ADC #232539

ASPC-Eyman/Browning
apparent natural causes
March 9, 2011






Bennie Garcia, 52
ADC #039968

ASPC-Douglas/Gila Apparent
natural causes March 12, 2011









Albert Saenz, 42
ADC #059350

ASPC-Florence/Central

End-stage liver disease

March 20, 2011









Susan Lopez, 40
ADC #184221

ASPC-Perryville/Santa Cruz
Apparent suicide
March 25, 2011



Michael Ford, 50
ADC #115618

ASPC-Lewis/Bachman
Apparent Natural Causes
March 28, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Big Daddy comes to town: ACLU National Prison Project



ACLU-Arizona: "Demolish the Prisons"

Ringed by the names of those who have died in AZ State custody

of neglect, suicide, and violence since Jan 2009
.

Phoenix, AZ (April 25, 2011)



The National ACLU's David Fathi and the Prison Law Office's Don Specter are in Phoenix this week, finally. As I write, they should be wrapping up interviews of prisoners at the AZ state supermax facility in Florence, ASPC-Eyman.


The National ACLU had already made the misuse of isolation and detention for managing symptoms of mentally ill prisoners a national priority, so this shouldn't be a surprise for the ADC...nor should the fact that they're interviewing some of my correspondents. Apparently their arrival is causing quite a stir, though - the guards are the ones who called Fathi "Big Daddy".
They had a bit of cleaning up to do for their arrival, I imagine.




No deal is done yet - they're still just exploring the evidence and talking to possible litigants and witnesses, as far as I know. They need to see that there's a social movement here that will support their intervention, so step up with the actions and agitation. Remember to come to the following events:


Today, April 26, 2011

5:30-7:30

MI in the CJ System Roundtable:

Punitive or Restorative Justice?

ASU Art Museum
1th St/Mill Ave
Tempe



Sunday, May 1: May Day Rally.

REALLY, REALLY FREE Store 11:30

Speakers 1:30

Margaret T. Hance Park

south of the Phoenix Public Library, Central St, Phoenix

PRISONER RIGHTS ARE WORKERS RIGHTS!!!



Thursday, May 5, 2011

5:00 pm


ANGELA DAVIS

Neeb Hall, ASU-Tempe






Those of you in prison but not at Eyman, take heart - we've got a whole lot going on both out here and behind bars now, and you won't be left behind. Be persistent keeping me posted about how things are in there - but by all means, direct your eyewitness correspondence about conditions of confinement to the ACLU-AZ (PO Box 17148, Phoenix, AZ 85011), not me, right now. I have the ACLU's assurances that they won't lose any letters, and they'll no doubt try to help me find solutions to the things they can't address, to the extent that such a role is appropriate for them.




Learn to grieve things properly, and keep the frustration and violence down. Help each other out more than usual; you need to not only get through this, but you need to be vocal and visible, now that there's a light shining in there, and responsible with your complaints.





Thanks go out to the prisoners willing to put themselves out there for the rest of the folks right now, as well as to Dan Pochoda and Darrell Hill at the ACLU-AZ, and Mary Lou Brncik, Carl Toersbijns, Patti Jones, and Ken Jacuzzi, especially, for being such aggressive advocates for prisoners with serious mental illness.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Angela Davis, May 5, 2011: The Future of Democracy.


NEEB HALL

Wednesday, May 5, 2011

5pm

ASU News
April 18, 2011

Noted scholar, activist and author Angela Y. Davis, who once spent 18 months in jail herself in the early 1970s, will discuss her ideas about incarceration during a free lecture at 5 p.m., May 5, at Neeb Hall, Arizona State University.

Davis’ talk is titled “Education or Incarceration? The Future of Democracy.” It will be followed by a question-answer session moderated by Gregory Sale, whose exhibition "It's not just black and white" is currently on view at the ASU Art Museum. There will be a reception following the lecture at the ASU Art Museum, and Davis will sign copies of her newest book, “Are Prisons Obsolete?”

Davis gained fame – and notoriety – in the late 1960s and early ‘70s when she was involved in the black power politics of that era. She joined the Communist Party when Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. She was active with SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and the Black Panthers.

She was arrested as a suspected conspirator in the abortive attempt to free George Jackson from a courtroom in Marin County, Calif., and was eventually acquitted of all charges.

Since then, Davis has taught at universities such as UCLA, Vassar and Stanford, and is a professor emerita of history of consciousness, an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program, and professor of feminist studies.

Davis also has been involved in the nation’s quest for social justice. She has written eight books, and her most recent theme has been the range of social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination.

She currently works with Justice Now, which provides legal assistance to women in prison, and engages in advocacy for the abolition of imprisonment as the dominant strategy for addressing social problems. Internationally, she is affiliated with Sisters Inside, a similar organization based in Queensland, Australia.

"In thinking about the possible obsolescence of the prison," Davis writes, "we should ask how it is that so many people could end up in prison without major debates regarding the efficacy of incarceration."

Davis argues that “the very future of democracy depends on our ability to develop radical theories and practices that make it possible to plan and fight for a world beyond the prison industrial complex.”

The lecture is sponsored by Project Humanities in conjunction with the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.




Trailer from Quad Productions "Mountains that Take Wing: Angela Davis & Yuri Kochiyama