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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wal Mart, Women's Resistance, and Martori Farms

I've posted here and there already about Martori Farms and the news I was receiving from Perryville prisoners regarding the work conditions, but Vikki Law managed to unpack it, put it all into the larger context of women's resistance, and make sense of the women's complaints in a way I hadn't quite been able to. So, for those of you interested in the Martori Farms prison labor situation here in Aguila, Arizona, this is the best summary we have of it.

If you're interested in doing some organizing around these issues, please contact Vikki Law, as she's picking up the slack on this while I'm out with family matters. Vikki compiles the zine Tenacious for women prisoners, and can be reached at:

Victoria Law

PO Box 20388
Tompkins Square Station
New York, NY 10009

or e-mail:

She's on-line at her blog: Resistance Behind Bars, and you can order her book about women's resistance to the prison industrial complex through PM Press. Thanks again for this, Vikki...and to Truth-out for putting it up there.


Martori Farms: Abusive Conditions at a Key Wal-Mart Supplier

Friday 24 June 2011
by: Victoria Law
Truthout | News Analysis

(Photo: Walmart / Flickr)

In 1954, an 18-year-old black woman named Eleanor Rush was incarcerated at the state women's prison. She was placed in solitary confinement for six days.

On the seventh day, Rush was not fed for over 16 hours. After 16 hours, she began yelling that she was hungry and wanted food. In response, the guards bound and gagged her, dislocating her neck in the process.

Half an hour later, Rush was dead.

The next morning, when the other women in the prison gathered in the yard, another woman in the solitary confinement unit yelled the news about Rush's death from her window. The women in the yard surrounded the staff members supervising their activities and demanded answers about Rush's death. When they didn't get them, the women - both the black and the white women - rioted.

The riot lasted three and a half hours, not stopping until Raleigh, North Carolina, police and guards from the men's Central Prison arrived.

The women's riot brought outside attention to Rush's death. As a result:

  • The State Bureau of Investigation ordered a probe into Rush's death rather than believing the prison's explanation that Rush had dislocated her own neck and committed suicide.
  • Until that point, nothing in the prison rules explicitly prohibited the use of improvised gags. After the riot and probe, the State Prisons director explicitly banned the use of gags and iron claws (metal handcuffs that can squeeze tightly).
  • The prison administration was required to pay $3,000 to Rush's mother. At that time, $3,000 was more than half the yearly salary of the prison warden.
  • The prison warden, who had allowed Rush to be bound and gagged, was replaced by Elizabeth McCubbin, the executive director of the Family and Children's Service Agency. Her hiring indicated a shift from a punitive model toward a more social service/social work orientation.

The women themselves testified that they had rioted to ensure that Rush's death was not dismissed and that the circumstances would not be repeated.

Fifty-five years after Rush was killed in solitary confinement, Marcia Powell, a mentally ill 48-year-old woman incarcerated at the Perryville Unit in Arizona, died. The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has more than 600 of these outdoor cages where prisoners are placed to confine or restrict their movement or to hold them while awaiting medical appointments, work, education, or treatment programs. On May 20, 2009, the temperature was 107 degrees. Powell was placed in an unshaded cage in the prison yard. Although prison policy states that "water shall be continuously available" to caged prisoners and that they should be in the cage for "no more than two consecutive hours," guards continually denied her water and kept her in the cage for four hours. Powell collapsed of heat stroke, was sent to West Valley Hospital where ADC Director Charles Ryan took her off life support hours later.

The ensuing media attention over Powell's death caused the ADC to temporarily suspend using these cages. Once the media attention faded, the ADC lifted the suspension.(1)

Abuses at Perryville have continued. The ADC has sent its prisoners to work for private agricultural businesses for almost 20 years.(2) The farm pays its imprisoned laborers two dollars per hour, not including the travel time to and from the farm. Women on the Perryville Unit are assigned to Martori Farms, an Arizona farm corporation that supplies fresh fruits and vegetables to vendors across the United States (Martori is the exclusive supplier to Wal-Mart's 2,470 Supercenter and Neighborhood Market stores).(3) According to one woman who worked on the farm crews:

They wake us up between 2:30 and three AM and KICK US OUT of our housing unit by 3:30AM. We get fed at four AM. Our work supervisors show up between 5AM and 8AM. Then it's an hour to a one and a half hour drive to the job site. Then we work eight hours regardless of conditions .... We work in the fields hoeing weeds and thinning plants ... Currently we are forced to work in the blazing sun for eight hours. We run out of water several times a day. We ran out of sunscreen several times a week. They don't check medical backgrounds or ages before they pull women for these jobs. Many of us cannot do it! If we stop working and sit on the bus or even just take an unauthorized break we get a MAJOR ticket which takes away our "good time"!!!

We are told we get "two" 15 min breaks and a half hour lunch like a normal job but it's more like 10 minutes and 20 minutes. They constantly yell at us we are too slow and to speed up because we are costing $150 an acre in labor and that's not acceptable.

The place is infested with spiders of all types, scorpions, snakes and blood suckers. And bees because they harvest them. On my crew alone, there are four women with bee allergies, but they don't care!! There are NO epinephrine pens on site to SAVE them if stung.

There's no anti venom available for snake bites and they want us to use Windex (yes glass cleaner) for scorpion stings!! INSANITY!!! They are denying us medical care here.(4)

Although Martori Farms contracts with the local fire departments to provide medical attention for injuries on the farm, farm supervisors do not always allow women to stop work when they need medical care. When "N" complained of chest pains, the farm representative refused to allow her to stop working. The next day, an hour after returning to work, she began experiencing chest pains. The farm representative told her, "Come on, the big bosses are here. You'll be in trouble if you stop. It's not break time. Work, work, work." "N" complied, working while in pain, until the break. She resumed working for another half hour before she experienced even more severe pains: "I have a steady deep dull pain with sharp stabbing pains periodically ... Then all of a sudden, I can't even lift the hoe in the air. My arms are no longer strong enough. By now, the chest pains are so bad it's knocking the wind out of me. I'm straight seeing stars. I tell our substitute boss officer Sanders I can't do it no more. I'm having really bad chest pains. I can't even lift the hoe anymore." The man accused her of faking these pains, but allowed her to stop working. While the woman was receiving medical attention, another farm representative stated, "Oh, so now they're gonna start faking fucking heart attacks to not work. Great."(5)

In addition, the prison has sent women to work on the farms regardless of their medical conditions. "N" was sent to West Valley Hospital where an emergency room doctor ordered that she be exempt from the farm work crew and any other physical exertion for three to four days. However, when "N" was returned to the prison, the nurse told her that they could not honor the doctor's order and ordered her back to work.

Another woman concurs. "There was one woman that is on oxygen, in a wheelchair, has an IV line and cancer that they sent to the gate to work on the farm ... The captain asked if she could stand. She said yes. His reply was if you can stand, you can farm. She told him no and was issued a disciplinary ticket."(6)

The women have not accepted these abuses quietly. They have launched complaints to prison administrators:

"Women have made their complaints on inmate letters and verbally to the lieutenant, sergeant, captains, deputy warden, counselors, supervisors and the major. Their solution was to give us an extra sack lunch and agree to feed us breakfast Saturday mornings. UGH!! Really ... food is not what we were asking for. Though being fed on Saturdays is nice. Yah! They were not feeding us Saturdays because that's a day Kitchen opens late because they give brunch on weekends. No lunch, so we were getting screwed! But as of this past Saturday they said they would feed us before work! Let's see how long it lasts."

Women have also stood up to unfair demands from the bosses at the farm. One woman recounted:

On Wednesday I go to work ... it's the second day in a row we are doing weeds. [I'm] up to my chest trying to weed to save a minimal amount of watermelon plants. Needless to say, the work was excessively hard - to put it mildly. So I must confess the day before I was "on one," so to speak. My haunted mind was lost in the past and so I was just trucking through the weeds, plowing them down, not even connecting with my physical exertion and pain. So the next day I was completely exhausted and physically broke down!! I was in so much pain because the day before I did like double the work everyone else did. So anyways, the M Farm representative was pushing me so hard trying to get me to produce the same results as the day before ... [He] has everyone at minimum teamed up helping each other plow through these weeds. Well everyone but me that is. I repeatedly asked him to give me a partner. I kept telling him that I was in pain. I also went as far as to tell him that I don't think I can do this anymore, to PLEASE give me a partner also. His response was "No. You're strong. You can do it by yourself." I told him not true; I over-exerted myself yesterday because I was going through some things. Now I'm hurt and need help.... He thought my pleas were funny. I hated to degrade myself and plea so I stopped and continued.

After "N" had finished her assigned row, the farm representative demanded that she finish weeding two other rows that had been abandoned. When she again requested a weeding partner, stating that she was in pain, the representative replied, "When you get to the end, I'll think about it."

By this time, all the girls are finishing their rows because they're all teamed up with 2 or three girls per row. Except me. So there are only two whole rows left on the field by now and he already placed six girls per row. That's twelve women on two rows. And I can't even get one helper. That's RIDICULOUS ... I tell him "Mariano all joking aside, all the others are finishing. Can I please get a helper?" He tells me "Seriously, no joking. When you get to the end, I'll think about it." At that point I'm pretty upset and broke down. I looked at him and said "Is that right?" I paused staring at him waiting for him to stop his male chauvinist domination games or whatever he's playing. When he didn't say anything, but just stared. I told him, "Fine Mariano I'm done. I can't do this anymore. I'm hurt and struggling through this. After what happened to me before I would think you would provide me help when I need it. Since you won't look out for my health and well-being, I will. Someone has to. I'm done for today. I'm going to sit on the bus."

The supervisor demanded that she return to work, threatening to call the prison to have disciplinary tickets written up. She refused.

At this point I'm so angry that this jerk would make me lose everything because I'm not submissive and I don't obey him like the women back in Mexico do that I admit I blew up and acted unprofessional. I told him "Mariano, Fuck you and your tickets. Go write them if you want. In fact I'll write them for you to make sure you get the facts straight."...

At this point the two women who were on the bus got all riled up and were yelling, "That's not fair. She's your best worker and you're going to punish her with tickets!!!" "She's hurt I heard her asking for help all day!" "We've been sitting on the bus for over an hour and we're not getting tickets, why is she the only one getting a ticket?"(7)

Not only did "N" stand up for herself, but the other women defended her actions at the risk of being ticketed as well. Their combined efforts ensured that "N" was not issued a ticket in retaliation for standing up for herself.

Women have also alerted outside advocates and activists about these inhumane conditions, again at great risk to themselves. If not for their courage in speaking out, the outside world would remain unaware of the exploitation and abuse on the farm.

While the women both endure and challenge these abuses, those outside prison gates remain largely unaware of their struggles. Those involved in social justice organizing need to recognize that prisons and prison injustices are exacerbations of the same social issues in the outside world and recognize that these struggles intersect. Safe from the retaliation of prison authorities, outside organizers and activists can and should raise their voices and take action to help the women inside challenge and ultimately stop these abuses.


1. As of April 15, 2010, these cages (or "temporary holding enclosures") remain in use. Arizona Department of Corrections, Department Order Manual, Department Order 704: Inmate Regulations.

2. Nicole Hill, "With Fewer Migrant Workers, Farmers Turn to Prison Labor," Christian Science Monitor, August 22, 2007. Reprinted here.

3. Press release, "16-Year Relationship Between Wal-Mart and Arizona Business Grows, Thrives," September 7, 2007. The 2470 figure is as of August 1, 2007.

4. Letter from "N," dated April 24, 2011.

5. Letter from "N," dated April 24, 2011

6. Letter from "H," dated May 22, 2011.

7. Letter from "N," dated May 7, 2011.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"No one has a First Amendment right to deface government property..."

Uh oh. This ruling does not bode well for me or the Friends of Marcia Powell - I hope it goes further. I just found out today that I'll be charged with felony criminal damage for my June Artwalk protest (during which I painted the alley without the city's permission)...this looks like it could quash my less obnoxious free speech activity, too.


Chalking Prohibited Outside White House, Appeals Court Rules

Blog of Legal Times

June 21, 2011

Just a few weeks ago the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said dancing is prohibited inside the Jefferson Memorial. Critics protested. Through dance.

Today, the appeals court turned its attention to a different form of expression—chalk art. The court unanimously said in a panel ruling (PDF) that D.C. law prohibits chalk scribbling on the street in front of the White House.

“No one has a First Amendment right to deface government property,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh declared. “No one has a First Amendment right, for example, to spray-paint the Washington Monument or smash the windows of a police car.”

Kavanaugh said the law prohibiting defacement of public and private property in a content-neutral manner provides “no serious First Amendment objection.”

Rev. Patrick Mahoney, the plaintiff in the suit in Washington federal district court, sought permission for a chalk demonstration in late 2008 to protest against abortion. City police said Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, could show up with thousands of supporters. He was allowed to bring signs and banners. But he was prohibited from marking 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest.

Mahoney sued the city and the Metropolitan Police Department in January 2009 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He wanted an injunction to block the city from preventing him from writing with chalk on the street. A trial judge rejected the request.

Two days later, the appeals court said, Mahoney took his chalk to the street in front of the White House. Police confronted Mahoney, confiscated the chalk and told him to stop. Mahoney obliged. He was not arrested. Mahoney amended his complaint to add the officer who stopped the chalking.

Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote the opinion for the appeals panel, which included Kavanaugh and Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson.

The appeals court said the District’s defacement statute is content neutral, banning certain activity—including cutting, chipping, writing and marking—without reference to control of the speaker's message.

Also, the court said the “special nature” of the street in front of the White House—closed to vehicular traffic but open to pedestrians—“serves to heighten esthetic concerns” of the government. “[T]he District’s interest in controlling the esthetic appearance of the street in front of the White House is substantial,” the appeals court said.

The court noted that the District's defacement statute still provided Mahoney other avenues for communication, including signs and banners.

"The District’s threatened use of the defacement statute did not curtail Mahoney’s plans," Brown wrote. "Mahoney was free to announce any “verbal” message he chose. And, Mahoney could depict visual messages on signs, banners, and leaflets. Thus, ample alternative channels of communication existed."

Lawyers for Mahoney were not immediately reached for comment this morning on the appellate court ruling. Carly Gammill of the American Center for Law and Justice argued for Mahoney in the D.C. Circuit in September.

Gammill and James Henderson Sr. of the ACLJ said in court papers that the chalk art demonstration was the only speech activity for which Mahoney sought permission. The city's restriction, then, "prohibited the demonstration in its entirety."

"[W]hatever the storied history and traditions may be that pertain to the street in dispute, Pennsylvania Avenue is nothing other than an archetypical public forum," Mahoney's attorneys said in a brief.

Mahoney's lawyers called the chalk art ban a "peculiar, targeted denial of expression." The attorneys said the District regularly "conducts contests and promotions to entice the public into the public space for the purpose of creating chalk art."

Solidarity with Snowbowl Resisters: ADEQ Protest.

If you knew how many Indigenous people we were imprisoning these days - many far from their homes - you'd know why it's so important to the fight for prison abolition to respect sacred places...their struggle for Indigenous rights, free exercise of religion, and to defend Mother Earth - without being marginalized or branded as eco-terrorists in the process - is also ours. We must stand in solidarity with them before they are imprisoned...

As asked by one defender of the San Francisco Peaks last week: How can the Dine' and other Indigenous peoples be trespassers on their own Holy Land?

Join us in Phoenix on Friday, June 24 at 7:30am to stand in solidarity with Indigenous resistance to the destruction and desecration of the Sacred: Demand that Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Change its Permission Allowing Wastewater to be Used for Snowmaking.




Friday, June 24th 7:30-9AM

Arizona Department of Environmental Quality

1110 West Washington Street

Phoenix, Arizona 85007

On Thursday, June 16th six people were arrested for halting the construction of a water line, which would pump Flagstaff waste-water up to Snowbowl on the sacred San Francisco Peaks.

We’ll be showing up in front of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) office to stand in solidarity with those arrested, demand that ADEQ change its permission for allowing wastewater to be used on the San Francisco Peaks, and with all indigenous people who hold the Peaks holy.

ADEQ has never held any meaningful public process when it initially decided to allow wastewater to be used for snowmaking. Whose interests are they serving?

One of the protesters who locked themselves to the excavator on Thursday said “Snowbowl plans to spray millions of gallons of waste water snow, which is filled with cancer causing and other harmful contaminants, as well as clear-cut over 30,000 trees. The Peaks are a pristine and beautiful place, a fragile ecosystem, and home to rare and endangered species of plants and animals.”

Another person who locked down said the “action is not isolated, but part of a continued resistance to human rights violations, to colonialism, to corporate greed, and destruction of Mother Earth.”

Please bring signs, noise makers, water and/or your voice!

Sponsored by Phoenix Anarchist Coalition (PAC) -

For more info check out and

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sad Solstice: Remembering Brenda Todd

Six months ago this week, on January 21, 2011, Brenda Todd died in Perryville state prison begging for medical attention that never came. That's part of a twisted pattern of neglect and gross indifference to human life at the AZ Department of Corrections - particularly at the AZ state women's prison.

Urged on by prisoners who were there when she died, we tracked down Brenda's father to make sure that her family members know to file suit because of the circumstances, though I don't know if he's in time to file a Notice of Claim against the state - there's generally a six-month deadline for grieving families to be on top of (and no one ever tells them that). I referred him to a good attorney who will find out, no doubt.

Brenda's dad isn't on-line and the family never saw the Phoenix New Times story or my blog posts about how she died - or all the letters we received from the other women about what happened - and the State only notified him last week that the death certificate is ready, so I think the courts should grant him an extens
ion to file. He had no way of knowing that her death was wrongful until now. It goes beyond simple negligence.

The family can still file suit in federal court, however, I believe under civil rights law. There's a two-year deadline for prisoners to file Section 1983 CR suits, at least, so survivors of prison violence who have missed filing deadlines for the state should still speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Do NOT wait for or trust the AZ Department of Corrections or the AZ Attorney General's office to give you timely, accurate information about your loved one's death - they're just trying to avoid your lawsuits. Unfortunately, it seems the only way they change is when someone wins in court - and we need to stop them from killing these women now, so please exercise all your rights to fight back.

Our condolences go out to all of Brenda's loved ones. Feel free to contact me (Peggy at 480-580-6807) if there's anything I might be able to do. If nothing else, I can put you in touch with other families who share your struggle - just let me know.

June 23, 2011: CORRECTION:

It's only been five months since Brenda died. That means that - thanks to my friend Matt's work - we're in time to help her family with a claim against the state. Unfortunately, litigation seems to be the only thing that makes them clean up the prisons, and Brenda's family has one hell of a suit...she could end up sparing a lot of other women from the hell she went through. From what I've been told, she'd probably give her blessings to that struggle

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Whose Streets? Inspire Phoenix...

From Resistance Alley, Phoenix
Late Afternoon, June 19, 2011

FYI: Follow the link above for the background on the activism behind the art. The dumpsters were easily cleaned off with a towel and a squirt of water - foot powder sprays on like paint but is made of chalk. I wasn't sure how many charges they had against me already and didn't want to have to pay for my chalk to be power-sprayed, so I wiped it all off before the Graffiti Buster finished the ground. It was kind of weird, doing that in front of an audience of cops...

"Our Streets" was created mostly with Crayola's new sidewalk paint (which seems to consist of chalk and water paint), along with a dose of their finger paint - rough surfaces that don't usually take chalk so well respond nicely to a treatment of this stuff, and it's just as benign as watercolors or chalk. Apparently, however, the use of washable materials still constitutes criminal damage if the city has to come power spray go with acrylics and give it all time to dry before Graffiti Busters can arrive, if you can get away with it.

I wonder if that's illegal for me to advocate? Probably, in this fascist state.

Just an observation that our alley is now the cleanest in the entire Roosevelt/Hance Park neighborhood - there's graffiti everywhere except here! See what they chose to leave up, while wiping my art out? Talk about provocative...

SEAMS' Mural : "Grand Old Parties "
E. Portland St. between N. 2nd & 3rd Streets (appx.), Phoenix

This is huge - and pretty funny, actually...go see it while you can.

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 Sgt. Kaddatz 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

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

Criminal Damage: Surviving a Death in Custody.

To: Sgt. Mark Schweikert; Detective Diane Rowe
Phoenix Police Department

Attached is more evidence of my crimes, with a witness list for this confession. I'm going to make the most of that tool in the coming weeks and months. You all get to preview what just became my next blog post... I must really have an ego in order to be such an exhibitionist. If I didn't have such a healthy shot of grandiosity, so many people with the power to really hurt me may not be subjected to my constant irritation, but then no one would know there's a problem in the prisons but the families of the dead and the dying.

In any case, I won't wait for the next dead prisoner to come along for me to paint on the sidewalk before I escalate again; I feel like I've failed now with each one. I have to touch base with two mothers and a sister today alone - survivor
s of a suicide, a homicide, and an apparent overdose on psych meds...they call the latter an "accident" at this point. It's probably the most important yet most painful thing I do, talking to those families...I would guess you can relate, if you've been cops for long. I hate it, but I have to keep letting them know what's going on - they more than anyone want to see change.

The homicide was in Buckeye - Lewis prison. Stiner. It was Dana Seawright - early last July. It was a gang hit, and hate crime (bet the state never called it that, though). "Unsolved" (they know full well who did it, I believe. The gangs run that prison in particular). The killers are probably on the streets again, like one of Pete Calleros' murderers already is. I think I told you about Dana - he was only 26. He was reportedly a self-admitted member of the West Side City Crips, and got caught being friends with a Mexican. They told him in the aftermath of this relationship becoming known that he had to hit a member of a Mexican gang to prove his loyalty - he didn't do a good enough job, though. Dana didn't really want to hurt anyone - he basically faked it, according to both the investigative records and the guards who narrated his days to his mom as he lay dying. For his defiance, Dana was bludgeoned into unconsciousness; his mother took him off life support five days later...

The state couldn't find a single guard to watch that kid's back even from a distance in there, but they had two on him all the time while he was chained to a bed in a coma. What brave public servants we have. Glad they have their priorities straight.

Kini Seawright's life slowly f
ell apart after her only child's murder. Her health and mental status deteriorated, her attendance and performance at work suffered, and she got laid off from the job she'd been progressing steadily at for years. She made good after prison years earlier herself, but was forced this year to turn to unemployment and AHCCCS, both of which are now compromised by budget cuts. She could be waiting months yet to hear back on her Social Security disability claim - I don't believe she told them about her mood disorder being exacerbated by the trauma of the murder, because her back and legs are such a source of trouble as it is, so she may face more denials and appeals.

In the meantime, Kini just received a notice from her landlord that she has to pay up b
ack rent or move out in five days - which I think arrives on Wednesday. Kini says the guy's been gracious and understanding for a long time, but I guess a few people owe him and the bank is coming after his properties - or is threatening to.

I'm honestly in the middle of trying to vacate my own apartment in the next week or so, and have no idea what to do for either of us. If I had the money, then the answer for now would be easy. But instead I have to ask for help - or rather, she does - which is just inviting more abuse from the state, frankly. When her son died, the Department of Corrections gave her 24 hours to get his body under threat of burying him on prison grounds. They couldn't even help her find the $300 she needed to bring him home.

Crime victims and their survivors have certain rights under the Arizona State Constitution - and privileges under a number of programs we've set up - except for those victimized while "in custody for an offense". I think that was a loophole to let cops and governments off for abusing and neglecting the rest of us, when we're supposed to be the most under their control. So when Kini called the Arizona Attorney General's Office Victims Services people for referrals on Friday, she was ultimately told that she didn't qualify for any assistance as a crime victim or survivor because her son was in custody at the time of his death - he doesn't count as human under the victim's rights' amendment, you see, while entities such as "the state" and WalMart do.

Now, doesn't that just mess with your head, when you think about it? Really. Whatever happened to "the People?" As cops in Arizona, you have more constitutional duty to serve a corporate "person" who has been stolen from - or vandalized - than you do the very real mother of a young man who was brutally beaten down by the West Side City Crips.

That must hurt to think about, if you really care about protecting and serving us.

Dana's homicide was actually a double hate crime, you know. We set him up for that kind of death long before he even went to prison, simply by cultivating that kind of garbage in this fine state - then we buried him by decimating his rights in custody. Anyone who truly hates racism, homophobia, gangs, and violence - not to mention prisons - should be on this "unsolved" homicide, our screwed up constitution, and the way Dana's mom is being treated if you're getting any of what I'm saying at all.

We diminished Dana's humanity - along with Marcia Powell's, Shannon Palmer's, Brenda Todd's, Susan Lopez', and every other victim in custody - by withholding from him and his loved ones the same constitutional rights we grant everyone else whose lives are so shattered by violence perpetrated by not only convicted criminals but also the state officers in charge of their punishment and safety.

Of all places in society - especially a nation which so prides itself on the nobility of its law enforcement personnel and the primacy of order - can we not keep our vulnerable prisoners safe within the confines of the most fortified institutions we erect? We can't even protect the tough young guys like Dana. We owe it to him and his mom to do everything we can to direct the resources we've allocated to assist violent crime survivors in times of need to her now.

That's my SOS to all of you today - beginning with those of you "In Blue", so to speak. It'll be up by the end of the day.

As for the alley - the vandals all running for office have claimed the fences for their ugly signs - the streets I still claim as ours. I'll be here to prosecute tomorrow - help a real crime victim instead today. It can be as simple as making a phone call to a community service agency to make a contact for Kini (she's a Chandler resident, for what's it's worth), or even passing a hat around your office, dropping a Safeway gift card anonymously in the mail, or letting me know if you can lend some other kind of hand (480-580-6807) - of those (hands), I need many.

And please don't take too long to think about it; time ran out for Dana's mom already.




Margaret J. Plews, Editor
Arizona Prison Watch
P.O. Box 20494
Phoenix, AZ 85036

"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
Prison Abolitionist
Hard Time Alliance - AZ
Arizona Juvenile Prison Watch

Wednesday, June 15, 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 []
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

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Resistance Alley & 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!