In memory of Marcia J. Powell and all those prisoners who have suffered or died in the custody of the state.
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.
To the rest of America: Please boycott this racist state before our fear and hate kill anyone else.
Tucson School Board meeting, January 2011.
Visit http://www.youtube.com/user/WhatABCs for more on the state's continuing efforts to "stop La Raza...", and the lame new state Superintendent of Education leading it. The old superintendent behind HB 2281 is our new Attorney General. See, you just can't get into state executive office here without exploiting fear, racism, and hate - then you can help outlaw your opposition, and insure that your offspring inherit the state.
Anyway, as I said, Happy Martin Luther King Day. Youth like Westli are our greatest hope.
by JJ Hensley on Jan. 08, 2011, under Arizona Republic News
Anthony Lester’s life came to an end in July, as Arizona Department of Corrections officers stood around his limp body, unable to stanch the bleeding.
Lester committed suicide in his Tucson prison cell, a medical examiner’s report concluded. His family filed a claim this week against the state, alleging that the Corrections Department’s culture of negligence and indifference to prisoners with mental illness directly contributed to the 26-year-old’s death.
Lester had attempted suicide in late June but was taken off a subsequent suicide watch two days before his death. The state’s investigation shows that officers were confused about where he should have been moved.
The same records indicate that Lester should not have received razors in a hygiene kit the prison provides. A corrections officer mistakenly gave Lester a kit containing a pair of razors that Lester used to cut his throat.
As officers responded to the incident, their statements indicate, they were overcome by the severity of the situation and froze. Their pause was due in part to the fact that officers could not see one of Lester’s hands and feared he might be holding a weapon. The delay was also due to lack of training, said one responding officer.
Orlando Pope, a 13-year veteran of the department, said Lester was “bleeding too heavily” and “he (Pope) was never trained on how to apply pressure to a wound,” according to a department report into Lester’s death.
“Pope stated that he has gone to first-aid training, but he would not call it training, and he does not remember anything about using pressure to stop bleeding,” the report states.
Pope and four other officers were punished with 80-hour unpaid suspensions following Lester’s death, but Lester’s family wants the Department of Corrections to do more.
A department spokesman said the agency had not seen the claim and could not comment.
“I want to help the mentally ill in the prison system. I wanted to be an eye-opener for other people,” said Patti Jones, Lester’s aunt.
The corrections officer who mistakenly gave Lester the kit with razors – and the actions of officers who tried to tend to his wounds – were key factors in his death, the family claims, but it was the prison system’s disregard for Lester’s mental condition that put him in a cell where he could take his own life.
Lester was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and his struggles with mental illness stretched back more than a decade, to when he was still a student at Brophy College Preparatory.
Lester developed a habit of self-mutilation as a teenager and claimed he was blackout drunk during the crime that gave him a 12-year prison sentence for aggravated assault: stabbing two girlfriends at a 2007 party.
Lester went through a program in Maricopa County jails that gave him enough medication to be competent for trial. The trial judge warned that Lester should be in a facility where he could receive mental-health treatment, the claim said.
His medical records indicate he refused to take his medication in prison due to side effects.
Lester’s family claims a lack of adequate training and a culture of negligence concerning mentally ill inmates in the Corrections Department made his prison stint a death sentence.
“We admit that he did something horrifically wrong, but he was mentally ill,” Jones said. “But people I talked to at the prison said he was trying to game the system by claiming mental illness.”
The claim requests $3 million in damages to compensate Lester’s mother and his toddler daughter.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office was served with the claim but declined to comment.
By JENNIFER EMILY / The Dallas Morning News email@example.com
Two men convicted in connection with a 1979 Dallas rape, robbery and abduction have been cleared of the crime through DNA testing. They have served about three decades in prison – more than any other Texas inmate cleared by DNA testing.
The exonerations are also the first where DNA testing has been used in Dallas County to prove men innocent of crimes that occurred as far back as the 1970s. Until recently, authorities thought that evidence had only been preserved by the county's crime lab since 1981, said Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project in New York. The discovery that other testable evidence exists could mean Dallas County's national record number of 20 exonerations since 2001 will keep growing.
"It may provide grounds to go back and look at other evidence from older cases where we thought there was nothing to test," Morrison said. "It's really a miracle it was saved."
Cornelius Dupree Jr., 51, is expected to be exonerated today in a Dallas County courtroom. He is on parole after having been released in July. He spent more than 30 years in prison.
His exoneration, the 21st, will be the first in Dallas County since May 2009, although three other men have been cleared since then with other evidence.
The second man, Anthony Ray Massingill, 49, will remain behind bars for now while authorities search for evidence to test in a second rape for which he is serving a life sentence.
Neither Dupree nor Massingill could be reached for comment. They were wrongly convicted in a Nov. 23, 1979, attack on a 26-year-old woman who was confronted at gunpoint along with a male friend after they stopped for cigarettes and to use a pay phone at a liquor store on Dolphin Road, north of Interstate 30.
The attackers carjacked the victims and eventually ordered the man from the car. They then raped the woman while holding a gun on her. They debated whether to kill her before shoving her out of the vehicle and threatening to kill her if she called the police. She was found unconscious in a median by a police officer.
Five or six days later, two men tried to sell the woman's rabbit fur coat at a grocery store two miles from the liquor store. The stolen car was found in the parking lot. Dupree and Massingill are not believed to be these men.
Dupree and Massingill were arrested Dec. 1, 1979, two miles from where the abduction occurred. Police initially stopped them because they matched the description of men wanted in connection with a similar case. Massingill had a gun; Dupree was unarmed. Wrongly identified
Paul Cates, also of the Innocence Project, said the rape victim wrongly identified Dupree and Massingill in a photo lineup. The male victim could not pick out Dupree or Massingill.
At trial, both victims identified Dupree as one of the men who abducted them. Cates said that the woman, at times, confused the identities of the two defendants when identifying them in court.
Massingill was sentenced to three 10-year terms and a life sentence in connection with the liquor store abduction and another 1979 rape-robbery.
Dupree was sentenced to 75 years in prison for the liquor store robbery. He was not tried on the liquor store abduction-rape because prosecutors thought it wouldn't result in any more prison time. Although he was a suspect, a grand jury declined to indict him in the second 1979 robbery-abduction.
The Innocence Project accepted the case in 2007 after an intense review. Morrison said Dupree had written to them a few years earlier.
The Innocence Project first contacted the Dallas County district attorney's office about the case in 2008. The district attorney's office then asked the crime lab to search for any evidence in the case.
The lab found and tested pubic hairs from the victim's rape exam that contained genetic material from two men who were not Dupree and Massingill. Had the hair not contained two other men's DNA, neither Dupree nor Massingill would have likely been cleared in the case, Morrison said.
Morrison said that even if the crime lab does not find DNA to test in Massingill's other case, it's possible he could still be freed. She said that authorities at the time believed the same men were responsible for both crimes.
Morrison said the real perpetrators have not been identified, but she was not sure whether the test results had been compared with a national DNA database.
The Dallas County district attorney's office said Monday that prosecutors would answer questions about the case today. Massingill's attorney, Michelle Moore of the Dallas County public defender's office, declined to comment.
Preliminary tests showing Dupree's innocence came back two weeks after he was paroled because of time he'd earned through good behavior. The results of the final test – DNA from the victim confirming that the lab correctly labeled the sample – were not available until December.
Morrison said Dupree could have been released on parole earlier if he had admitted his guilt. But like many exonerees, he refused to do so.
Black, brown and white inmates in 6 Georgia prisons nonviolently locked themselves in their cells for several days beginning December 9, demanding wages for work, educational opportunities, adequate food and medical care, just parole decisions and access to their families. The peaceful inmate strikers, as we reported the following day, were already victims of brutal retaliation on the part of correctional officials, ranging from cutoffs of heat and hot water to unprovoked assaults by correctional employees upon prisoners.
It now appears that at least one inmate, Terrance Dean of Bibb County GA was brutally assaulted by staff at Macon State Prison on or about December 16 was so severely injured prison officials secretly evacuated him to a hospital in Atlanta without bothering to inform his family. It's not known at this time which Department of Corrections officials authorized the secret evacuation, who decided not to notify Dean's family of either his injuries or his whereabouts, or whether the prisoner was transported the roughly 130 miles to Atlanta via ground or air ambulance. The first word the prisoner's family received of either the beating or Dean's whereabouts was when they were contacted December 30 or 31 by the friends and associates of other prisoners on the outside. Neither the Department of Corrections nor Atlanta Medical Center, where the prisoner was held for about two weeks, has released any information about the extent of the prisoner's injuries, his current medical condition, or how he was injured.
The morning of Friday, December 31, Dean's sister, along with ACLU attorney Chara Jackson and GA state NAACP chief Ed DuBose representing the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoner's Rights  showed up at the Atlanta Medical Center demanding to see the injured prisoner or at least have his whereabouts confirmed. After several hours of delay, correctional officials said his mother and sister, along with the attorney would be allowed to visit him at Jackson State Prison Sunday, January 2, but they offered no explanation of the reasons for his secretive transfer. Hospital officials also refused to offer any information on Dean's injuries, even to his family, on grounds of doctor-patient confidentiality.
“We assume that state officials have a written policy requiring them to inform family members in the event of the serious injury of their loved ones in prison,” said the Georgia Green Party 's Hugh Esco. “If Georgia corrections personnel did brutally beat Terrance Dean, transfer him secretly more than a hundred miles from the scene of the crime scene and neglect to inform his family about his injuries or whereabouts they could be parties to a criminal conspiracy. The Green Party has written a letter to the outgoing and incoming governors asking them to look carefully at the events surrounding the case of Mr. Dean. We also note that the Department of Corrections promised access to the 37 prisoners whom it transferred as a result of the inmate strike that began on December 9. We hope this is a promise they keep, so that the public can get a complete and accurate picture of what goes on behind those walls.”
Dean's sister, attorney Chara Jackson, and the NAACP's Ed DuBose briefed the press at Atlanta Medical Center, including representatives from at least one local TV station repeatedly beginning at noon on Friday, and assured Black Agenda Report that they will attempt to see Terrance Dean at Jackson State Prison on Sunday, January 2. But as of nearly 24 hours later, on the morning of January 1, 2011 no corporate news outlet is publicly asking or answering any of the key questions around the assault on Terrance Dean, or what look for all the world like official attempts to conceal it from his family and the public.
“This is no surprise,” offered BAR executive editor Glen Ford. “For corporate journalists, a story without input from government or corporate officials is no story at all. For these so-called reporters, the story has a big hole in it as long as state officials decline to comment, even though official misconduct on the part of government IS the story. If the state declines to comment until Sunday or Monday, they will sit on the story till then. Establishment journalists are nothing if not disciplined and well-trained.”
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, based in Marietta GA, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Both Black Agenda Report and the Georgia Green Party are members of the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoner's Rights .
In 1993, the maximum security Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio was the site of an historic prisoner rebellion, where more than 400 prisoners seized and controlled a major area of the prison for eleven days. Nine prisoners alleged to have been informants and one hostage correctional officer named Robert Vallandingham, were murdered. Following a negotiated surrender, five key figures in the rebellion were tried and sentenced to death. Known since as the Lucasville Five, they are Namir Abdul Mateen (James Were), Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders), Bomani Hando Shakur (Keith Lamar), George Skatzes and Jason Robb.
The Lucasville Five are now back in the news with an announcement last week that four of the five will be participating in a simultaneous “rolling hunger strike,” beginning today, January 3. They are using the hunger strike to protest their convictions (having always maintained their innocence) as well as their living situation, which is more restrictive than for most prisoners on Ohio’s death row. The statement issued by the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network explains that “the hunger strike will proceed in an organized manner, with one prisoner, probably Bomani Shakur starting on Jan.3. The hunger strike becomes official after he has refused 9 meals. Therefore the plan is that 3 days later, Siddiquie Abdullah Hasan will start his hunger strike and 3 days later, Jason Robb will follow. Namir Mateen has a great willingness to participate and plans to take part to the extent that his diabetes will allow.”
Staughton Lynd is the author of the 2004 book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising, which asserts that the Lucasville Five are innocent men, who were framed by the State of Ohio. In a review of Lucasville, the news website, Solidarity, concludes that “Lynd presents sufficient evidence and argumentation to cast more than reasonable doubt on the convictions of the Lucasville Five.” The book’s “immediate agenda is to mobilize public opinion to achieve amnesty for the Lucasville Five. In the 1970s, the governor of New York was compelled to grant amnesty to the Attica rebels based upon revelations of state malfeasance. Lynd contends the Lucasville Five’s death sentences should be wiped clean on the same grounds.”
In the foreword to the upcoming second edition of Lucasville, being released by PM Press in February, death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal writes that the Lucasville Five "sought to minimize violence, and indeed, according to substantial evidence, saved the lives of several men, prisoner and guard alike…they rose above their status as prisoners, and became, for a few days in April 1993, what rebels in Attica had demanded a generation before them: men. As such, they did not betray each other; they did not dishonor each other; they reached beyond their prison ‘tribes’ to reach commonality."
Angola 3 News: Can you please give us some historical background on the 1993 uprising and the subsequent convictions of the Lucasville Five?
Staughton Lynd: There were revolts at the old Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus in the late 1960s. The state government decided to build a new maximum security prison in a town called Lucasville, just north of the Ohio River separating Ohio and Kentucky.
The new prison housed between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners. More than half the prisoners at the new Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) were African Americans from cities like Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown. Lucasville was all white and inevitably, most of the correctional officers at the new prison were Caucasian.
'Luke' developed a well-deserved reputation for violence. There was a horrible incident in 1990 when, in a sequence of events that remains ambiguous, a black prisoner followed a white teacher into a women's restroom. White guards broke down the door to the restroom and, as they did so, the prisoner cut the teacher's throat.
The State sent in a new warden who instituted 'Operation Shakedown.' Prisoners were allowed one short telephone call a year, at Christmastime.
In April 1993 the new warden proposed to test all prisoners for TB by means of an injection. More than fifty Muslim prisoners protested. They said the injection would contain phenol, a form of alcohol; that this was forbidden by their religion; and that there were alternative means of testing for TB, by sputum or X ray. Warden Tate said it would be done his way, by injection, beginning Monday, April 12.
On April 11, Easter Sunday, prisoners returning from the recreation yard occupied one large housing block, L side. Guards were overpowered. Persons severely injured in the takeover, both guards and prisoners believed to be snitches, were carried out to the yard. Eight officers were held as hostages. In the course of an 11-day standoff, nine prisoners and one hostage guard were murdered. There was a negotiated surrender.
A3N: Why was this story so important to you that you decided to write a book about it?
SL: In 1996 my wife and I became aware that as a result of the Lucasville uprising, a new maximum security prison called the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) was being built in Youngstown. We organized a community forum at which one of the speakers was Jackie Bowers, sister of one of five prisoners condemned to death after the surrender. We met her brother, George Skatzes (pronounced 'skates.') His lawyer told us that we could best help by investigating facts not presented at trial and we have been doing that ever since.
The importance of the story is that the five men sentenced to death are three blacks and two whites. Two of the three blacks, Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Namir Abdul Mateen, are Muslims. At the time of the rebellion the two whites were members of the Aryan Brotherhood. One is still an AB leader although Skatzes has withdrawn. These five men have acted in solidarity during their almost eighteen years of solitary confinement. They have refused to 'snitch' on each other.
A3N: What facts do you cite for arguing that the State of Ohio deliberately framed innocent men?
SL: My allegation that the State of Ohio has deliberately framed innocent men is presented in a book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising (Temple University Press, 2004), a second edition of which will be published in 2011 with a Foreword by Mumia Abu Jamal, and in a law review article, "Napue Nightmares: Perjured Testimony in Trials Following the Lucasville, Ohio, Prison Uprising," Capital University Law Review., v. 36, No. 3 (Spring 2008) The key fact is that the State made it clear early on that they wanted to put the alleged leaders of the disturbance to death, and built cases against the Five almost wholly on the basis of testimony by prisoners who, in exchange for their testimony, received benefits such as early parole.
A3N: Why you believe the trial itself was unfair? SL: The trials were unfair for a variety of reasons, but the two basic facts were: 1) the Five were tried before so-called 'death-qualified' juries, that is, juries from which persons opposed to the death penalty were excluded; and 2) the prosecution's evidence, as I indicated earlier, came almost entirely from prisoner informants in exchange for bargained-for benefits like parole.
A3N: How has your 2004 book been received?
SL: My book was banned from all Ohio prisons and it provoked a good deal of discussion in Ohio. In 2007, a play based on the book was presented in seven Ohio cities. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed friend of the court briefs, based on the book, in the trials of Skatzes and Hasan.
A3N: Can you please tell us more about the hunger strike? How do prison officials publicly justify these conditions that are being challenged?
SL: As to the goals of the hunger strike, I refer the reader to Keith LaMar's statement. LaMar emphasizes that he understands the prison system's concern for security, but, he insists, a 'privilege" such as the opportunity to touch a parent or other relative does not threaten security. The more than 150 other death-sentenced prisoners in Ohio enjoy such privileges. On the other hand, the Lucasville Five are held alone in their small cells 23 hours a day, and when released for an hour of so-called recreation cannot be in the same space as any other human being.
A3N: Can you please explain why George Skatzes is not currently housed alongside the other four members of the Lucasville Five and how his conditions differ from the others?
SL: George Skatzes was transferred to OSP when it opened in 1998 along with the other members of the Lucasville Five. He was transferred out two years later because the authorities feared that he was so depressed that he might commit suicide. He is held with about thirty other death-sentenced prisoners considered seriously mentally ill at the Mansfield Correctional Institution, north of Columbus. A3N: How can our readers best help to support the upcoming hunger strike? SL: Readers can help by contacting Professor Jules Lobel, vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, firstname.lastname@example.org>, and Professor Denis O'Hearn, director of graduate studies in sociology at the State University of New York, Binghamton, < email@example.com> They are circulating a statement of support nationally and internationally.
--Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is www.angola3news.com where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. We are also creating our own media projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more.
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110
Decided to plant this in here with a widget as a permanent reminder to those out there struggling through life that we need you here. All the injustice, grief, and human suffering calls for us to stay and do everything we can about it while we're here. Don't give up the fight - your last shred of hope may just keep someone else alive, too.
The Sound Strike: Artists Boycott Arizona.
End Police Brutality and Racial Profiling.
Excellent resoure for abolitionists and feminists everywhere
AZ Law Help.org
Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education
Action Committee for Women in Prison
War on the Drug War: Petition
President Obama: Commute Hamedah Hasan's Sentence
Lives in Focus Project
Great resource on the effect of prison on families.
Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex
Incite! Women of Color Against Violence / Critical Resistance Joint Statement
Great Resource for Street Artists (including sidewalk chalkers...)
ON DIRECT ACTIONS, CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, ETC.
Taking a cue from the animal rights activists (who usually don't even put their names and faces on their sites), I thought I should clarify a few things here.
The Friends of Marcia Powell and freemarciapowell.blogspot.com are not very organized, nor are we affiliated or associated with any other group or organization. We all just crash each other's protests to show solidarity. Me (Peg) - I'm just winging this stuff.
The information and ideas provided on this website are not meant to incite illegal actions or activities, even if it looks like that may be what we're doing. That's not to say we frown on civil disobedience; there's an important place in history for diverse tactics of resistance. We are each only responsible for our own actions, though.
The point is for folks to get involved in the 2010 political campaigns and challenge the BS around the prison industrial complex, but please be creative enough that no one gets hurt or arrested (well, a few lawmen and makers need to be indicted and disarmed, still, but we don't want any more of our friends getting into trouble.)
Do be advised: these are not nice people we're picking fights with, they far outgun us, they make all the rules, the game is already rigged, and if you piss the wrong person off bad enough in this state, you don't even need to break a law to go to jail or prison.
In any case, make sure you have the number you'll need to call for help from jail written on your arm if you think you might get arrested. Live on the buddy system (keep an eye on each other for awhile and check the jail if anyone goes missing). Don't let things you're responsible for drag anyone else down; keep your loose ends neat.
Don't rat out your comrades, and don't automatically believe it if someone says that someone you trust ratted out you first. That's a classic tactic. So is trying to make you think that something perfectly legal you did is a crime. Just because it's secret doesn't mean it's criminal or shouldn't be protected.
Be true to yourself and the cause regardless.
If you have any questions about the legality of any direct action you are considering, we encourage everyone receiving this (or the) action alert(s) to check your local laws and ordinances and think about the possible consequences before proceeding to do anything. Not that you'd be on your own, but most of us are too poor to bail you out, and too politically disenfranchised to otherwise wrest you free.
July 29, 2010. Cesar Chavez Plaza/Wells Fargo, Phoenix.
Advocacy for women in Florida prisons
American Civil Liberties Union
National Prison Project Report
Mental Illness In Prison
Ill-Equipped: US Prisoners and Offenders with Mental Illness
Death by Incarceration
US DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics: 2001-2006 Prison Deaths (pdf)
Gerlad & Maas' Nights Lantern
Excellent resource by our neighbors to the North on Human Rights, Political Prisoners, and the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Rag Radio on Political Prisoners: Angola 3; Marilyn Buck.