Reposting this important piece from Bound not Gagged:
Woman Dies in 107-Degree Cage in Prison: SWOP Remembers Marcia Powell
On Friday December 18th sex workers from around the country are gathering to remember Marcia Powell, a woman considered mentally impaired by the court, who was incarcerated for solicitation of oral sex and sentenced to over two years in prison. On May 20, 2009, Marcia Powell died after being left in an uncovered outdoor cage in 107-degree heat at Arizona’s Perryville women’s prison. Sex workers and prisoners’ rights activists rally at the Arizona Department of Corrections as part of a series of events in conjunction with the 7th Annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
Tucson, Arizona December 15, 2009 -December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event was created by Sex Workers Outreach Project, SWOP-USA (http://www.swopusa.org), a national social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of sex workers, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy.
In 2009, sex workers from around the globe met gruesome deaths and endured unspeakable violence. Some died at the hands of a solitary perpetrator; others were victims of serial “prostitute killers.” While some of these horrific stories received international media attention, other cases received little more than a perfunctory investigation. Many cases remain unsolved, sometimes forever.
On Friday December 18th, SWOP-Tucson calls on sex workers and other activists from around the country to gather in remembrance of Marcia Powell, a woman considered mentally impaired by the court, who was incarcerated for solicitation of oral sex and sentenced to over two years in prison. On May 20, 2009, Marcia Powell died after being left in an uncovered outdoor cage in 107-degree heat at Arizona’s Perryville prison for women. Attention to Powell’s death revealed that this type of confinement was routine; women were left in these cages regularly.
“Marcia was the victim of dual forms of injustice, as a sex worker and as a prisoner,” said Liz Coplen of SWOP. “The prohibition of prostitution results in selective prosecution that puts some of the most vulnerable in our society at the mercy of a system that robs them of their basic respect and dignity.” For decades efforts to curb sex work have not only failed to reduce incidences of prostitution, but they have corrupted our justice system resulting in selective enforcement, racial profiling and inhumane treatment of those who don’t have the financial resources to fight back.
Violence against sex workers is epidemic and rarely taken seriously. The criminalization of prostitution legitimizes this abuse so that sex workers are the targets of violent crime with little recourse. Incarceration is not a solution to the issues of poverty and security that some sex workers face. As the death of Marcia Powell in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) shows, prison sentences can include the most extreme form of neglect and abuse. As a result of an internal investigation, 16 people were disciplined. A criminal investigation, ongoing at the Maricopa County Attorney’s office, will determine whether criminal charges should be filed in her death. See “AZ corrections workers disciplined in inmate death,” Associated Press, 9/22/09 (http://www.newsvine.com/_news/2009/09/22/3302271-az-corrections-workers-disciplined-in-inmate-death) ; “Inquiry: Inmates often left in sun-exposed jails,” Arizona Republic, 9/25/09 (http://www.azcentral.com/12news/news/articles/2009/09/25/20090925powell0925-CP.html).
On December 18th, noon, SWOP, Arizona Prison Watch and Friends of Marcia Powell are gathering at the Arizona Department of Corrections in Phoenix for Marcia and other prisoners, and sex workers everywhere, as we call for respect for human rights.
To see full letter submitted to AZ Department of Corrections here: http://www.swopusa.org/files/December18thLetter.pdf
What: Rally-Remembering Marcia Powell and other prisoners and sex workers
When: Friday, December 18th, 2009, 12 Noon
Where: Steps of the AZ Department of Corrections, 1601 West Jefferson St. Phoenix, AZ 85007
On December 17th SWOP-Tucson, is presenting two events in Tucson:
A performance art/art installation called “No Human Involved (NHI),” 5- 6 PM at El Presidio Park,160 West Alameda Street, in Tucson, AZ and a “Memorial Ritual and Vigil” 6:30 – 7:30 PM at El Tiradito Shrine, a national historic site at 354 South Main Avenue in Tucson, AZ.
Visit SWOP USA’s website at http://www.swopusa.org/dec17 to find a December 17th event in your town.