The level of violence in Arizona's state prisons has skyrocketed since
Jan Brewer took office, appointing Chuck Ryan as the AZ DOC director.
The suicide and homicide rates doubled and the assaults rate tripled. An excellent article by Bob Ortega from the Arizona Republic in June highlights some of the murders.
The 2010 killing of native American prisoner Albert Tsosie was a gang hit that helped give ASPC-Lewis a reputation for being one of the bloodiest prisons around; Dana Seawright was murdered there just a few weeks later. Marlon McCowan and Richard A. Johnson,
both Native American as well, have finally pled guilty to the hit. The
gangs, of course, are most unforgiving of - and violent towards -those
they consider their own...remember that, young men out there, when you
choose who you call your "brother". Most prison gangs are blood in,
10, 2012 a small handful of us in Arizona celebrated Prisoners' Justice
Day, which is a day to remember those who have died in state custody.
Some of us in the "free world" descended upon the Phoenix Art Museum for
a sunrise action, seizing the public space in front of their sign on
Central and Coronado for our canvas. There, about 25 members of the
community chalked a 100-foot wide community memorial to nearly 70
victims of prison violence, neglect or despair, recommitting in the process to our fight for the living as well.
at the Art Museum seemed slow to respond for their part and they were
mean when they did - we'd covered at least 80 feet by the time the chief
came out to find out what was going on (he's lucky I can't find his
card now and name him...). Turns out he called the Phoenix Police to see
if they could send someone out to stop me, but Sgt Schweikert told him
it wouldn't do any good. So, unable to have me arrested for soiling
"their" clean sidewalk with my free speech, the custodians of our
community's art and culture had a city crew hover on stand-by to wash
away the names of the dead - including those put down by their mothers -
the moment we left the sidewalk.
found that to be downright disrespectful of everything from the first
amendment to the grief of the families who were with us that day, not to
mention petty and intolerant. If we were there about sick children and
cancer instead of dying prisoners and AIDS or Hep C, would they have
been less cruel? We decided that they wouldn't render us invisible again that easily, and Facebook was flooded with photos of the morning's action, mostly of the names of the dead.
In addition to the mothers of Carlo Krakoff, Joseph Venegas, and Dana Seawright, and loved ones of current prisoners, we were joined by former prisoners, anarchists from my neighborhood, Occupiers I was arrested with, artists from the Firehouse Gallery, immigrant rights activists, and Haley from the Phoenix Harm Reduction Organization (PHRO -
check them out!). A cross section of the community I live and work in -
small wonder that the Phoenix Art Museum thought it was too good for
Below is a
little something I made from the photos of the action, many of which
were taken by my comrade from 4th Ave jail, Janet Higgins, who made a
special effort to document the individual names. Please print it up and
send it inside, if you correspond with any prisoners. Let them know they
have not been forgotten...