All I Want for Christmas is My Civil Liberties

Hello again! It seems as if the muses do not wish for me to mentally “move out” of this place today, but something else has given me cause to rant.

First I need to give you a bit of background. I am only allowed to keep so much in my cage. (This is, of course, to make it easier for them to throw things around, as stated in a previous post on being searched.) For this reason, I am allowed to put legal work (only legal work) into a supposedly secure storage area.

In order to be allowed to do this, the prison has to agree to some conditions. The first and foremost one– and the one I will be telling you about– is that, when requested, the prison has 72 hours in which they must get me the requested box. (The boxes are numbered so that they can be found and pulled.) This is because people on death row are under active appeal and must have timely access to all legal material, as most of us have inadequate legal assistance (they are called “dump truck lawyers”) and we do a fair amount of work on our own legal cases. So now that you have that information…

Four days ago I put in a request to get a legal box out of storage. As it was not delivered yesterday (the 72-hour-deadline) I was on the first asswipe that walked through the block about getting with someone from “property” (where legal boxes are stored) and asking that my legal boxes actually be dealt with as prescribed under law. (I was nice and polite about this. You know, the whole “honey vs. vinegar” adage) and I waited to see what would happen.

What happened is: hours passed, and no legal box. So, shortly before it was too late for boxes to ever show up, I inquired once more about the situation. This is where it becomes very ironic.

I was told that the unit deputy warden was leading a tour around the unit, and I would not get my legal box until the following week. Upon further questioning, I was told that this tour was members of the ACLU (which oversees that our civil liberties are not being violated.) I was also told that legal visits were as much as half an hour late for people to speak to their lawyers (we are allotted time in one-hour blocks to see our lawyers. If you miss some time, there is likely someone after you that needs to see their lawyer as well.) To be fair, I doubt the lawyers from the ACLU know anything about this. But I know that the deputy warden indeed did.

So I am being denied timely access to requested legal material guaranteed to me under the law because administration was showing the lawyers from the ACLU that my rights are not being violated. (Rights like reasonable access to my stored legal material.) People were being denied the right to discuss matters related to their death penalty cases because the administrators were showing the lawyers from the ACLU that people’s rights (like access to legal counsel) were not being violated.

I exist in a world that not merely functions but thrives on such absurdities as this. I used to get pretty upset over things like this. (By “upset” I mean I would hold the Arizona Department of Corrections personnel responsible for their actions.) But over time, and through much meditation, I have figured out that reacting to every little thing (even things that are very stupid on their part) is only allowing them to get into my head and exert more control over me…so now I more carefully and more strategically pick my battles.

We have no outside advocates here…not really anyway. Our legal counsel will deal only with issues that pertain directly to our cases. (They claim there is not enough money for anything else.) They call occurrences like the aforementioned incident “issues of confinement” and say they call into the category of civil law and are not their concern.

But only rarely…very rarely…can we find a lawyer willing to take a case pro bono (without pay– we have no money either) because when taken to court, the Department of Corrections claims “isolated incident and new procedural measures are now in place to assure it won’t happen again” (which is almost always a lie!) and the court rules in their favor and the case is dismissed. And we can no longer bring cases to court ourselves because the state legislature passed a law that took away our legal library because inmates who were willing to invest the time were winning too many cases.

I try not to live with a lot of anger, but that can be difficult to do in this environment. I have begun to ponder the question of what may happen to me if the prison finds out that I have a blog and am telling the outside world about this place and what goes on in it.

The system does not like the truth. It functions on lies and the public’s willingness to believe lies that serve a purpose that may protect “the greater good”. (Or what they call “the greater good” anyway.)

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