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.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


So, after attending the grand unveiling of the new ASU School of Social Transformation - accompanied by two Air Force officers from the ROTC (more on that will be at the Prison Abolitionist another time) - me and some of Marcia's Friends spent Wednesday afternoon hanging out on Hayden Lawn making solidarity signs and telling people about what happened to Marcia and why it should matter to students at ASU.

We also took pictures to make into postcards that can be sent into the prison to show the women in there that there are women out here who care about what's happening to them, and that we aren't just going to let them fade back into invisibility again. We'll probably be sending these postcards to a lot of different people.
Quite a few women who stopped yesterday wrote down the website address and are going to talk about what they might be able to do with the other groups they're involved in.

There's really a lot that can be done, on all different fronts - not all of it has to involve hanging banners or charging the prison gates.

A sustained campaign of writing letters to papers and elected officials that illuminate the issues with critical analyses will be necessary. Any group can organize that - or you can do that on your own.
Letters should express concern about the welfare of the remaining women prisoners, the lack of transparency at the ADC, the appearance of a pervasive institutional culture of dehumanization, repression and abuse that takes significant tolls on officers as well as prisoners... well, read Marcia's story - there's a lot more there to work with that goes way beyond what's happening inside the prison walls.

Study groups investigating UC-Irvine Professor Mona Lynch's new book, "Sunbelt Justice", could do a review of it and contextualize the current crisis for the rest of us.

Journalism students wanting to take this on as an investigation could look at any number of things:
- The conditions at the women's state prison, and some options for improving health and safety, reducing trauma to both prisoners and officers, and reducing overcrowding there;

- The paths women take through the AZ criminal justice system: who's in AZ women's prison? how did they get there? why have we (women) been incarcerated at such a rapidly escalating rate? what are the economic and human costs of our practices regarding crime and punishment?

- A critique of the "non-profit industrial complex in the Valley - the web of folks who were probably trying to keep Marcia from falling through the cracks - and what changes need to be made at the community level so she could have been able to live safe and free?
- What happened to the three women who protested out there by setting fire to their mattresses after Marcia's death? What other ways have women been coping and resisting out there?

- Who in the legislature is most likely to take up the issue of Marcia's law when they're back in session? Where do the respective candidates for state office stand on the status of things in the prison at Perryville?

Law students could dig into the history of litigation with the ADC and legislation restricting prisoner rights. There's no way the ADC didn't know what was going on - they were spending tons of money in motions to suppress or dismiss those complaints, not trying to respond to them. If there isn't already an existing catalogue of abuse and neglect claims and reports, it shouldn't be too hard for someone who knows how to do legal research to create one. That should give us clues about where incidences of abuse have been most common, what kinds have been described repeatedly, what administrative remedies were offered, etc.

It should also help shape what goes into the prisoner right's bill that will eventually be known as "Marcia's Law".

ASU Feminist organizations, in the meantime, should check out the Sex Outreach Workers Project (SWOP-USA). Be familiar with each other's politics and find common ground: they're organizing a demonstration here soon, and it would be meaningful if a wide range of women's groups came out to show support for our sisters engaged in direct action. They have some suggestions on their site for other ways - including legislation - we can help improve safety, autonomy, and life chances of sex workers in America.
I know there's at least one woman out there who wanted to try to do a creative writing class with the women at Perryville - they let churches in all the time, so they should let people in for things like that. Students in art, music and any area of education should consider some of their placement work with a program that helps imprisoned mothers and their children. If there isn't one already affiliated with your school, then maybe someone should start one. Just make sure it can be sustained beyond you - some of these women are going to be there for years.
A major area of concern for some of the prisoners is developing terminal illness and dying in prison, away from their home and loved ones. We really need a team of people willing to devote themselves to researching the logistics and politics of expediting compassionate releases, and cultivating relationships in the community with organizations that serve the elderly and dying to engage them in efforts to embrace these prisoners and their cause.
So, when people ask what they might be able to do to help - other than chalk up the town with - those are a few of the things that first come to mind.

Whatever you end up doing, take pictures or videos and let us know so we can post 'em up here or make a link to your site.
Thanks again to everyone who stopped by to talk and ask what you can do - especially those who were brave enough to take pictures.
We'll be back on Hayden lawn on a regular basis throughout the fall. Send us pictures of your actions!

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