For Kini Seawright, and all the other women who bury a loved one due to police or prison violence...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MI in CJ System follow-up; Alan Keesee charged with assault.

Thank you Mr. Montgomery.

I asked Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery about this tonight - looks like I fell behind on that one. He's already charged former detention officer Alan Keesee with assaulting William Franklin Hughes, III last fall, in the psychiatric wing of the Lower Buckeye Jail, in a tag team attack on the bound prisoner with officer Kevin Gerster.

In fact, as you can see from the calendar below, he did so over a month ago. Can't believe it's almost time for the May Day Rally already, and this is the first time I've checked up on that in so long.

Keesee just had a preliminary hearing today - check here for updated minutes. Be at his future dates if you can, and write about it for the rest of us. I'm just starting to discover I can't be everywhere at once anymore...

Thanking a pr
osecutor may seem like a funny thing for an abolitionist to do, I know. Remember that I'm just another traveler on this journey - not the guru. I don't know yet what restorative or transformative justice looks like for people in uniform who abuse the vulnerable like that - at this point, I'm reserving a few cells for them.

Those men betrayed all of us when they assaulted William - anyone's child or brother or mother could have been him, dragged off to jail instead of the hospital in a disorganized, confused mental state, be it due to a psychiatric or developmental disability, Alzheimer's, or a brain tumor. Such abuse of power is among the worst kinds of crimes, I believe; unfortunately, our state constitution assures that victims like William - and like Marcia Powell - are the least protected. We need to change that, folks...

Mr. Montgomery had some interesting remarks at last night's meeting, which I'll report more on soon. I was mainly grateful that he recognizes that too many folks with serious mental illness are ending up in the criminal justice system who could have been successfully treated in the community, if we put more of our resources at the front end - in mental health, rather than the back end - in the prisons. The police officers discussing the specially-trained crisis-intervention units that divert people with mental illness from the CJ system at their level (where it needs most to be happening) argued that the program demonstrated an increase in participant involvement in outpatient mental health services among high-risk homeless adults, and a decrease in criminal activity.

Unfortunately, while the police arm of the effort is still fully operational, the agencies providing the community support staff it depends on have been hit by cuts, so nighttime outreach isn't wha
t it needs to be. The trick is how to redistribute all these resources when the AZ Department of Corrections maintains an investment in maintaining their own status, power, and funding. The whole CJ system as currently designed reinforces the perpetuation of the status quo, when "public safety" is positioned first and foremost in the dialogue as the state's primary responsibility to the people - and is put out there as a police matter.

In fact, the public welfare depends on education, health care, inpatient psychiatric treatment options, affordable housing, and a range of supports being available at the community level to meaningfully decrease the incidence of crime and victimization. Those are always the first to go in economic downturns, though - not because we don't have the resources, but because we're driven by fear and defer to the "experts" in power in our collective decision-making, instead of allowing our public policy to be crafted by both our values and non-partisan research, based on principles of evidence-based practice...

Anyway, thank you, Mr. Montgomery, for so graciously letting me know that you're already on top of prosecuting some of these abuses of power in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. If you drop his office a line this week, please let them know the community appreciates seeing things head in that direction. Their contact info is:

Maricopa County Attorney's Office
301 W. Jefferson St.

Phoenix, AZ 85003

The number for victims' services (the public seems to be a legitimate victim in this case) is
(602) 506-8522.

Let your voices be heard on this, since William doesn't have the right to have his heard by the court, under the AZ Constitution...then give your legislators a piece of your mind about what changes need to be made in the Arizona Revised Statutes to keep us all safe from the likes of Gerster, Keesee, and Arpaio. Send hard copies to legislators - if you have a personal connection to this issue, hand write it - those kinds of letters have the most impact. Their address is:

AZ State Legislature
1700 W. Washington St.

Phoenix, AZ 85007

602) 926-3559 (Leg INFO LINE)

Make sure to cc your letters to Cecil Ash, Chair of the AZ House Health and Human Services Committee. Ask for him to convene legislative hearings on the AZ Department of Correction's deaths due to prison violence, suicide, and medical neglect, while you're at it.

Mr. Montgomery said he'd explain after the meeting why these officers aren't being charged with higher level felonies under
the vulnerable adult statute for the assault on William while he was in the psychiatric wing in handcuffs and shackles (how much more vulnerable can a person be?).

I had to leave early, though, with the mother of prison homicide victim, Dana Seawright, so will follow-up on that issue in a separate post. Dana's mom, Kini Seawright, had the chance to confront ADC Director Chuck Ryan with her grief during the Roundtable - he was in the audience when she stood and told her story.

We thought he was going to flee the scene at first, because he saw us chalking the walk out front and headed back to the parking lot, but he returned and toughed it out: he's either more bra
ve or more heartless than I thought. More on that in a later post, too.

Kini will be speaking about her experience as both an ex-felon and the mother of a prison homicide victim at the May Day Rally this weekend at Margaret T. Hance Park, PHX (by the Central St. Library) somewhere around 1:30pm.