The 'Friends of Marcia Powell' are autonomous groups and individuals engaging in prisoner outreach, informal advocacy, and organized protest and direct actions in a sustained campaign to: promote prisoner rights and welfare in America; engage the Arizona public in a creative and thoughtful critique of our system of "justice;” deconstruct the prison industrial complex; and dismantle this racist, classist patriarchy...

Retiring "Free Marcia Powell"

As of December 2, 2010 (with occasional exceptions) I'm retiring this blog to direct more of my time and energy into prisoner rights and my other blogs; I just can't do anyone justice when spread so thin. I'll keep the site open so folks can search the archives and use the links, but won't be updating it with new posts. If you're looking for the latest, try Arizona Prison Watch. Most of the pieces posted here were cross-posted to one or both of those sites already.

Thanks for visiting. Peace out - Peg.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Arizona: Mercy, Mercy Me...

Davon's clemency board hearing was yesterday - the decision to turn him down was clearly made before we walked into the room, however. The chair made only passing reference to the thick stack of mail that had arrived in support of Davon's application, and cut me off when I was speaking on his behalf. He made a special point of reading things into the record to justify their determination against him. The county attorney's office can be expected to oppose such applications, but they went out of their way, it seems, to damn him - which was precisely what the board needed and asked for. Not that I'm accusing them of any impropriety - I'm sure they did what they felt was right - just as I'm doing. We just come from different places, and they don't know Davon like I do. As evidenced by their decision yesterday, They don't know him at all.

Pardons in Arizona have nothing to do with mercy or grace, by the way - or even justice for that matter, even when sincere people try to deliver it. Look at what our good governor did to Bill Macumber, the innocent man who has already spent 35 years in prison for murder and may well die there. Convinced beyond any doubt that his conviction was based on perjured testimony and manufactured evidence, the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency unanimously recommended him for a full pardon, which would have gone into effect if Brewer had simply left it alone for 90 days. Instead she quashed it, in the interest of her kind of "justice". Affirming Bill's innocence would have implied his ex-wife's guilt. As she worked for the Maricopa County Sheriff's office at the time she framed him, I suspect Brewer was doing someone with history there a favor. But what do I know?

Sadly, despite his story saturating the media across the country before November 2, the voters in Arizona elected that woman anyway.

As for Davon: the outcome of his hearing was no surprise, really - probably least of all to him - but it was still a disappointment; his little sister left the room abruptly in tears. We did, however, raise awareness about the prosecution of the seriously, mentally ill for their symptoms rather than their criminality, and built a network for prisoners with Hep C and their families. We also entered our objections to the prison industrial complex into the public record (that was the part I think they didn't want to hear). One of our legislators even turned out to corroborate Davon's mom's assertion that Arizona's prisoners aren't getting the medical care they need in there - and that came from a self-described "conservative Republican". I suspect he will pay a price for having done that, which is why I won't name him here. I doubt he would endorse my own take on the system, but he's still one of the few politicians I've ever met with real integrity. I can't think of a single Democrat in this state who would put themselves on the line like that for a convicted violent, crazed felon seeking mercy - much less another Republican.

I'm convinced that clemency boards exist largely to reinforce the illusion that the system we have of doling out punishment in our country is a "just" one that serves the best interests of society at large. By allowing room for pardons and commutations, we suggest that the legal system we live under, as a rule, delivers justice to criminals and victims alike, and that any abuse of power or injustice perpetrated by the state in the process is an exception that needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. If that was the reality, however, our prisons would not be packed almost exclusively with the poor - most of whom have the least ability to do great harm. In a truly just and morally evolved society it is the money-lenders, warmongers and rogue sheriffs of this land who would be doing time for exploitation, mass murder, and kidnapping - not making the rules the rest of us have to live by. They certainly wouldn't be retiring with honors and drawing down our collective dime.

But ours is neither a just nor a moral society - it isn't even a democracy. It is a capitalist republic in which the wealth and power of the few still depends on their ability to co-opt, terrorize, and restrain the many. We literally replaced our plantations with prisons when overt slavery went out of style. America's governments exploit and injure far more innocent and vulnerable people than all our lone criminals combined do. We've even made the perpetuation of victimization and crime an attractive, acceptable industry from which savvy investors can profit.

Thanks, everyone, for all your support through this. Stay with us, please - this fight is much bigger than one young man, and has only just begun. Keep an eye on what's happening with Davon for awhile longer - he went further out on a limb in the interest of prisoner rights and health care than any of the rest of us had to - and risks paying a much higher price now than the one extracted from him at sentencing. We'll see if he's allowed to keep his good time - and make it successfully through the 4 years of probation he has yet to serve -in light of his and his mother's public defiance. I guess we'll also see if the Arizona State Legislature shows any mercy for the honesty and courage of one of their own.

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