By AFSC-AZ Staff |
Last week, we wrapped up our ReFraming Justice Mutual Aid campaign, which inspired donations of thousands of hygiene items to people incarcerated inside Arizona state prisons. Since the conclusion of this campaign, we’ve received lots of questions about this effort and what we are doing to ensure the donations get to their intended beneficiaries.
Why Mutual Aid?
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, AFSC-AZ established two goals for our work in response:
1.) Protect people in prison.
2.) Get people out.
We developed a multifaceted strategy to meet these goals. We (as well as other individuals and organizations) collected documentation from families and people inside state prisons that basic hygiene supplies like soap, disinfectant, and toilet paper were not being distributed.
In addition to our advocacy efforts to hold the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry (ADCRR) accountable and ask the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) to intervene, we felt it was important to mirror for people inside prison what many in our communities were doing on the outside—sharing resources, offering help, and showing care and concern. Mutual aid is a way for families of incarcerated people and others who care to take concrete action to solve a problem. In the process, we demonstrate our values:
We belong to each other. We take care of each other. No matter who, no matter what.
And mutual aid helps the people who love folks inside prison also realize that there is community for them, too. That alone is valuable because our voices and experiences, as directly-impacted people, are most frequently dismissed and held in contempt. We take up these efforts when we decide that we matter, our loved ones matter, and we are going to do everything that we can to show them and everyone around us that they/we are human beings.
What did the Mutual Aid Campaign Do?
Many of our ReFraming Justice (RFJ) Leaders reached out to ADCRR staff to ask if various prison units would accept donated supplies. In some cases, our RFJ Leaders have loved ones in the system or are they themselves system-involved. Some ADCRR administrators, when asked if they would accept donations, said no, while some said yes. Eventually, ADCRR assigned a point-person to work with AFSC-AZ for this campaign. The point-person approved different items for donation, instructed us on properly filling out donation forms, and coordinated our drop-offs.
AFSC-AZ used our program funds to purchase some of the donations through a local industrial supply warehouse. The rest of the donations were purchased by our supporters via an Amazon Wish List. Most Amazon items were delivered to a central delivery point in Phoenix and were then delivered to ADCRR by RFJ Leaders and AFSC-AZ staff.
Donations were delivered to three different locations: the warehouse at Arizona State Prison Complex (ASPC)-Perryville; ASPC-Phoenix; and the Pima Reentry Center (formerly known as SACRC) in Tucson. Two deliveries were made to Perryville warehouse; one delivery was made to Pima Reentry; and one delivery was made to ASPC-Phoenix. Each time deliveries were received by warehouse workers or ADCRR personnel.
After the first two deliveries, which included thousands of feminine hygiene products, we were told that ASPC-Perryville would no longer accept donations of tampons or other menstrual supplies. All remaining feminine hygiene products received after ADCRR’s instruction were delivered to The Earnest House, a transitional house in Tucson run by RFJ Leader Danny Howe. All feminine hygiene products we receive at our central delivery point in Phoenix going forward will be donated and delivered to the Navajo Nation.
We kept records of all donations. We posted pictures of drops and counts of each delivery on social media. We maintained constant contact with the ADCRR point-person to communicate deliveries and ask follow-up questions.
Over the course of this campaign, which ran from April 14 through May 13, we delivered to three different sites a total of:
- 48 boxes of gloves
- 895 bars of soap
- 1,850 masks
- 1,929 rolls of toilet paper
- 2,600 pads
- 3,470 tampons
How do I know the donations are being distributed?
While we collected sizable numbers of goods and are extremely grateful for your generosity, the total number of items was not nearly enough to ensure that every incarcerated person would receive them. Consider that there are 4,204 women incarcerated in Perryville and we collected a total of 3,470 individual tampons. There are 37,245 men incarcerated in Arizona prisons, but we were only able to provide 895 bars of soap. In other words, if your incarcerated loved one did not receive one of these items, it doesn’t mean that nobody did. We truly wish we were able to provide more.
It is also important to note that these items would not be labeled in such a way that the person would know that a bar of soap or roll of toilet paper came from this campaign. They were stored in the warehouses and will be given out with all the other supplies ADCRR distributes.
Finally, because the three drop-off locations were either in the Tucson or Phoenix area, it is unlikely that these goods would be distributed to prisons in other parts of the state, like Yuma, Kingman, Winslow, or Douglas.
What is AFSC-AZ Doing to Hold the Department of Corrections Accountable?
Many people are understandably distrustful of the Department and concerned that incarcerated people may not get the supplies. We have heard reports from one or two people from inside ASPC-Perryville that they do not believe the supplies were distributed to incarcerated women.
When we heard these reports, we relayed the concerns to our contact at ADCRR. We will formally ask the Department in the coming days to provide us with additional information about how and where the donations were distributed, and we will make their response publicly available as soon as we receive it.
We take these concerns very seriously. We recognize that those who donated to the campaign placed their trust in us to make sure their investment was well spent.
If you have information about the status of these donations, we invite you to please contact us directly by emailing ReFraming Justice Program Coordinator Grace Gámez, Ph.D., at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AFSC-AZ has been working for more than 20 years to bring transparency and accountability to our prison system—from opposing solitary confinement to fighting private prisons and demanding feminine hygiene supplies be made available to all incarcerated women.
You can be confident that we will never stop fighting on behalf of people in prison or their loved ones.