Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.

Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.

Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.

I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.

In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.

I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.

I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281.

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


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Monday, January 31, 2011

Private Prison Watch AZ: Legislative Delegation

Legislative Delegation and Press Conference

on Prison Privatization

Tuesday, February 15, 2011, 11:00am

Arizona Capitol House Lawn

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) will send delegations of volunteers to meet with key legislators and deliver the testimonies and other materials gathered through our Public Hearing on Prison Privatization (Tucson, October 27, 2010) and other activities.

We will then gather on the House lawn for a brief press conference to report on our meetings with the offices of the Arizona Secretary of State and Attorney General, discuss our opposition to prison privatization, and renew our call for an immediate cancellation of the recently re-released RFP for 5,000 new private prison beds in Arizona.

Carpools from Tucson will be organized—please contact us at 520.623.9141 or email to participate!

Caroline Isaacs

Program Director,

American Friends Service Committee

Arizona Area Program

103 N. Park Ave., Suite 111

Tucson , AZ 85719

520.623.9141 p/520.623.5901 f

Killing us softly: The Death of Brenda Todd.

For those of you who missed it in the Phoenix New Times last week...Thanks, Stephen, for following this.

Those women in Perryville are all in danger due to the gross medical neglect and cost cutting measures that we keep hearing about. If Brenda's family is out there reading this, please contact me: Peggy Plews (480-580-6807). I will help you connect with a good attorney. These people need to be held responsible, or nothing there will change.


Brenda Todd's Death: Did Arizona Department of Corrections Personnel Ignore Her Cries for Help?

Phoenix New Times
Stephen Lemons
Thursday, January 27, 2011

Like most death announcements from the Arizona Department of Corrections, the one for Brenda Todd, who died January 21 in custody at Goodyear's Perryville Prison, is spare and unemotional.

It relates that Todd, 44, was found unresponsive in her cell, that medical responders attempted to revive her, but were unsuccessful, and she was pronounced dead. It also indicates that her death is "under investigation" by ADC.

Since Todd's death, I've been in touch with several individuals who claim Todd pleaded for medical attention days before she was found dead, and that she even banged on the wall or door of her cell the night before her demise, asking for help.

Todd was doing 2.5 years for an aggravated DUI out of Pinal County. She was housed in Perryville's minimum security Santa Maria Unit.

One of her fellow prisoners at Santa Maria Unit was Leona Nieves, who met Todd while Nieves was doing a ten day stint for aggravated DUI.

Nieves, who was given supervised release on Sunday, January 23, remembers Todd complaining about chest and neck pains during the two or three days before her death. She also believes Todd was on medication for asthma.

On the yard, Todd would tell anyone who would listen of her ailments.

"She's like, `I'm having trouble breathing, I have chest pains, the back of my neck hurts,' Nieves recalled Todd telling her. "A lot of times, she would go to lay down, because she just didn't feel good. But...even that wasn't making her feel comfortable."

Nieves said Todd informed prison staff of her symptoms, and she was told to fill out the paperwork to see a doctor. Nieves said she believes Todd was supposed to see a doctor the day of her death.

This next part, Nieves did not hear directly, but only discovered second hand from other prisoners. However, I've also gotten reports second-hand repeating this charge from relatives of prisoners at Santa Maria Unit and from local prison rights activists.

"The girls were saying they could hear [Todd] pounding, asking for help," said Nieves of the hours before Todd was discovered dead. "That's when they overheard [a corrections officer] saying, `Go lay down, sleep it off.'"

If true, Todd's death could be eerily reminiscent in some ways of the infamous 2009 death of Marcia Powell, a Perryville prisoner left for four hours in a human cage in the blazing Arizona sun. Some witnesses said Powell pleaded for water but was rebuffed by corrections officers.

In the fallout from Powell's death, reforms were implemented by ADC, at least 16 ADC employees were either sanctioned or fired, and ADC ultimately submitted a more than 3,000 page report to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, seeking indictments.

However, last year, the MCAO declined to prosecute any of those involved due to what it called "insufficient evidence."

Next of kin was located for Powell, her adoptive mother, but she declined to get involved.

Sure, Todd's death doesn't involve an outside enclosure. But the statements of Nieves and others raise serious concerns about how prison staff respond to inmates' basic needs, such as medical.

Todd was apparently a low-maintenance inmate, with absolutely zero disciplinary write-ups.

ADC spokesperson Bill Lamoreaux declined to comment on the allegations regarding Todd pending the outcome of ADC's investigation.

I also talked with ADC spokesman Barrett Marson, who explained that ADC will not be able to complete its investigation until the county medical examiner's report is in, and ADC will have no comment on the death until that time.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Restoration Project - Florence: doing justice...

Hey all -

Let's turn out and support these folks - they're doing good work in our communities, and we can learn a lot from them. Below is an excerpt from an email telling you a little more...


...Basically, the Restoration Project in Tucson and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project ( are collaborating on a new visitation and hosting project, tentatively named Restoration Project - Florence. The website is, and we are also on facebook ( The idea is to have a network of people in Phoenix and Tucson who are willing to support people in immigration detention, either by writing letters, visiting them, and/or hosting people upon release.

To do this, we're asking that people come to a training - the next two are scheduled for February 12th and March 5th, at 115 North 12th Ave, Phoenix, AZ. To RSVP or for more info, folks should contact Carol (, or her phone number is 520.429.9792). I am also happy answer questions that people might have.

Just so you know, the Florence Project is a non-profit legal services organization that serves people in immigration detention. We work with adults processed through the Eloy and Florence courts, and up here in Phoenix with unaccompanied minors in detention. I work with the kids, and am always very happy to talk to people about what we do - its a little known aspect of the detention/deportation system.

I'd love to talk to you about this more, if you're interested. And feel free to forward on the fliers about the trainings...

dorien ediger-seto

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Prepare the prey for prison profiteers: New 5,000-prisoner RFP Released.

Via the good folks at What a bizarre headline.

Funny they don't mention the Christmas Eve escape attempt at ASPC-Tucson/Manzanita. Think that still hasn't hit the mainstream press? No one ever talks about it...

More on all this another time. Here's just the news, for now.


Prison break prompts call for more prison beds
AP - January 27, 2011

PHOENIX -- State officials have released a revised request for 5,000 additional private prison beds following a months-long review prompted by three inmates' escape from a privately operated state prison near Kingman last summer.

Corrections Director Charles Ryan canceled the original request for proposals last September, saying it needed stronger requirements on security and operations to avoid repeats of the July 30 escape.

The three violent offenders who broke out have been apprehended. Two face charges of murdering an Oklahoma couple in New Mexico while on the loose.

Ryan has said the Kingman prison was riddled with security flaws that the department's oversight failed to detect.

The department released the new 186-page request for proposals for providing beds for minimum- and medium-security male inmates on Monday. A 14-page amendment was released Wednesday.

The new request includes detailed provisions on security, including ones requiring both random and scheduled perimeter checks of prisons. The original, now-canceled version didn't have those specifics.

The Kingman escapees were able to avoid the prison's scheduled perimeter patrol by timing its movements, enabling them to cut through fencing. They had made getaway arrangements with an alleged accomplice by using a telephone tossed into the prison yard, authorities said.

Also, the department said the revision include new requirements for reporting of problems, expanded evaluation criteria for proposals additional sanctions for violations, including those that pose a risk to public safety.

Under the state's request, proposals can be for the entire 5,000 beds or submitted in increments of 500. It said the state wants 2,000 beds available by April 2013 and an additional 3,000 by April 2015.

The request said the state could provide state-owned land at existing prison complexes in Florence, Buckeye, Litchfield Park and Yuma available for use.

The deadline to submit proposals is Feb. 24.

The Kingman escape became an issue in last year's gubernatorial race, with Democratic nominee Terry Goddard running a television spot attacking incumbent Gov. Jan Brewer in connection with the Kingman prison break.

Two of the three escapees and an alleged accomplice are charged with murdering Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., in eastern New Mexico's Guadalupe County, and the Goddard ad questioned whether Arizonans should feel safe with Brewer as governor.

Brewer, a Republican, was elected to a full term on Nov. 2.

The 5,000-bed expansion program was authorized under a 2009 law.

Arizona's prison system houses approximately 40,000 inmates, including nearly 5,300 in private facilities. Those include 2,200 at the Kingman prison. The state's public prisons house approximately 34,700 inmates, above the design capacity of just over 31,000.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Taking prisoners: CCA and the outsourcing of Hawai'i.

From the weekly Criminal InJustice Kos blog at


Out of State, Out of Mind
by Emmet

In 1976, Delbert Kaahanui Wakinekona was serving a life sentence in Hawaii State Prison, having been convicted in a Hawaii court. He was seen as a behavior problem in the prison. In a couple of botched hearings, prison officials decided that he was a troublemaker who had caused the "failure of certain programs" in the maximum control unit. Hawaii transferred him to Folsom Prison in California. He sued. The Supreme Court held, in 1983, that, first, a prisoner convicted of a felony has no constitutionally protected right to serve his sentence in any specific state (e.g. the one whose laws he violated). And Mr. Wakinekona had no right to have the Hawaii prison regulations applied, because they didn't really limit the State's discretion anyway.

What happened as a result?

Well, because of Olim and similar cases, two things happened. First, states and the feds, which had been told in the past that they had to follow their own rules, realized that if they just made their prison policies and regulations good and vague, or better yet nonexistent, they wouldn't have courts looking over their shoulders. So they could put a prisoner in the hole indefinitely if they called the hole "administrative segregation" instead of "segregation" and said that the prisoner was there for "the security of the institution", instead of for "assault," e.g. smacking another prisoner over the head. Added bonus: they could do it even if said prisoner didn't smack another prisoner on the head. Extra added bonus, and the subject of this diary: they could even transfer the troublemaker out of state and never have to see him or her again, if they paid enough.


I saw this policy illustrated in 1985 in the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, when I watched a four year old boy sobbing and pounding at the glass that separated him from his father. Prisoners held out of state don't have the right to conditions like those in their own states. They're subject to the rules of the state/company to which they're sent. Federal prisoners at Marion didn't get contact visits, and neither did the state prisoners held there, who were one third of the population at that time. A couple years later I represented another prisoner transferred out of state and away from his family. They couldn't afford to go visit him at all. His six year old son told his mother, "I'm going to be really, really bad, so they'll send me to be with Daddy." Good times.

At first, involuntary out of state transfers were used for people like Delbert Wakinekona, "bad guys" who were disliked for one reason or another by prison authorities. Assaultive people and gang leaders were transferred, and so were writ writers and journalists and activists and political prisoners. Authorities got another state, or the Feds, to accept their bad guys, sometimes for money, sometimes in return for accepting the other state's bad guys. So a prisoner associated with a particular prison gang, or known as a "political" or as a gay rights activist, might be plucked out and sent alone to a prison where a large group of prisoners were hostile to his gang or his beliefs. And no one at the prison could vouch for him, because no one knew him personally. Sometimes he survived. Sometimes he didn't.


But sheer dislike is no longer the main reason for involuntary transfers. There was profit to be made. Corrections Corporation of America was founded in 1983, two months before the Olim decision. It opened the first real prison for profit seven years later. But it has never been about housing "bad guys." When possible, it has gone for the easy money, and prison overcrowding (brought on in large part by the War on Drugs and three strikes laws) offered a great opportunity. Nowadays, a prisoner is more likely to be transferred if he has GOODbehavior in prison. No escape attempts, good health, plus a long sentence yet to serve are other factors that make a prisoner, literally, marketable, and may put him or her on the chain to Arizona or Minnesota or any other of the 19 states and DC where CCA has facilities.

Five years ago, the National Institute for Corrections reported that there were then about 5,000 prisoners who had been transferred out of state, half to private prisons, the other half to the federal or other state systems. Almost all those transferred to private prisons were sent there because of overcrowding. Most sent to other state systems were sent for "security" reasons. 26 states had people serving their time in other jurisdictions (but remember that some may have been voluntary transfers -- notorious defendants or convicted police or prison guards, moved for their safety).

That number has probably quadrupled or quintupled since then. California alone has more than 10,000 prisoners out of state, almost all because of overcrowding. It's getting ready to send more. In November, 2010, California entered into no-bid contracts with CCA and another company to place 5800 prisoners out of state over the next two years. Was incoming Governor Jerry Brown consulted? Not clear.
Pennsylvania shipped over 2000 prisoners to other state (not private) prisons because of overcrowding.

What will stop this banishment practice, apart from a complete rethinking and reorganization of our society?

Not the courts. At least, not directly.

(Lawyerly interlude: An argument I really like, that transfer is "banishment," forbidden by some state constitutions, has been made without success with one exception that I know of: West Virgina, whose Supreme Court held that there is a state-created right to serve your sentence in-state.)

At this point there's a lot of money invested in prisons for profit and consequently in continuing prison overcrowding. It's been my experience (YMMV) that at least since the Warren court, courts don't respond to big injustices which require big reordering of financial interests until public opinion --or overriding financial considerations -- move in favor of change.

Recognizing the importance of economic considerations, enterprising prisoners and their lawyers have done their best to inflict death by a thousand cuts. They look at the fast-diminishing groups of rights they retain by constitution or statute. One is access to the courts. Another is the right to parole consideration (if their state has parole). So they demand access to their state's laws. You'd think it would be easy for a prison system to provide this, but it's not. Or they demand access to unmonitored phone lines to call their attorney. That can almost bring some private facilities to a complete halt. They demand in-person meetings with their parole board, demand that their records be transmitted to the board, demand that they have the progress meetings with prison officials that their state's parole laws mandate. And if a prisoner learns that he may be transferred because of overcrowding, he or she can always commit an infraction. There's a cost/benefit analysis there, and you have to choose your infraction carefully, so as not to screw up access to visits.

Current budget constraints may put the squeeze on private prisons too. In 2010, Kentucky pulled its prisoners out of a CCA facility IN KENTUCKY because some genius figured out that it was too expensive. There'd been over 500 Kentucky prisoners there at one time or another. Now the Ky CCA facility only has Vermont prisoners, sent to relieve overcrowding.


Many states have transferred prisoners out of state in order to relieve overcrowding and have resisted calls to release prisoners early, even people convicted of minor crimes. But when state budgets have to be cut past the point of pain, some states are going to realize that early release is a lot less expensive than paying a huge CCA bill every month. The more people talk about this, and write to their elected officials, and visit their elected officials, the more likely it is to happen. Like economic considerations, public opinion doesn't change overnight, but it does change and it can be nudged. For example, pressure from family members, especially in smaller states, can be effective if it's sustained.

And after the deaths and mistreatment of several Hawaiian prisoners in CCA mainland prisons, Hawaiian officials are taking another look. Incoming Governor Neil Abercrombie wants to bring Hawaain out of state prisoners home. Speaking about out-of-state transfer on December 16, 2010: "It costs money. It costs lives. It costs communities," he said. "It destroys families. It is dysfunctional all the way around -- socially, economically, politically and morally."

The next day, the former Hawaii Attorney General, Micheal Lilly, who argued Olim for the state, wrote a letter to the editor of the Hawaiian Star-Advertiser. He applauded newly elected Governor Neil Abercrombie's proposal of bringing almost all Hawaiian prisoners home. He excepted only the very worst. I bet that if he were asked, he'd even concede that Delbert Wakinekona could come home. Over the years, Delbert has gotten a lot older. Now he's housed in CCA. If Red Rock Correctional Facility in Arizona can hold him, the Hawaaian prison system probably can, too.

(Second lawyerly interlude: Mr. Wakinekona has had the same lawyer who argued his case in the Supreme Court for all these years. He's trying to get his client's sentence commuted.)

As far as I could tell, in the 34 years since he was transferred, Delbert Kaahanui Wakinekona has never gone home again.

BAN AZ Legislative Update Jan 2011

Boarder Action Network
Legislative Update: January 17-21, 2011
By Jaime Farrant, Policy Director

I. Introduction: Governor Brewer Files a Budget that puts Arizona on the Verge of a Public Health and Moral Crisis

Governor Brewer announced her proposed budget for Arizona last Jan. 14. The budget dominated this week’s political discussion, given our state’s current financial situation: depending on the estimate, Arizona’s deficit ranges between 1 and 2 billion dollars. However, instead of proposing a budget that considers all available options to save costs and raise revenues for the state, the Arizona Capitol Times described it as one that “hinges on empathy from the federal government, surviving potential lawsuits and a $330 million accounting gimmick that may not be legal”. Governor Brewer’s main plan to reduce government spending is a $561 million cut to AHCCCS, the state’s health insurance program for the poor. The cuts will end coverage for approximately 280,000 people, most of them childless adults, parents of eligible children and elderly, blind and disabled patients. The Governor also proposed a $170 million cut to the university system. However, not all agencies suffered cuts. Governor Brewer requested $8.4 million to hire 100 new correctional officers this year, to be followed by 200 more over the next two years. She also requested a $50 million bond to cover needs at the state's 10 prison complexes.

Speaking of budget cuts, Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Dist. 5) stated to the Arizona Guardian that these will send the message that “we’ve got to preach to people to save up for their colonoscopy, to save up for their welfare visits, to put some money back into their lives and their own responsibilities for healthcare”. The Arizona Guardian also asked Senate President Russell Pearce whether it was realistic for low-income people to save the money necessary for doctor visits and exams. His response was simply "that's the way it used to be."


II. Summary of Legislative Bills Filed and Discussed This Week

This was another busy week at the Legislature, with over 350 bills filed. As of the end of Thursday’s session, there are 756 bills before the 2 legislative bodies. Many of them will have a direct impact on Arizonans’ human rights, and on the direction this state takes. The following is a summary of several of these measures, with Border Action’s observations on them.

A. Measures Impacting Civil and Constitutional Rights and Public Justice

Some of the measures filed this week that impact civil and constitutional rights and our public justice system include:

1. HB 2444: Law Enforcement Officer Discipline. Rep. Steve Montenegro, R- Dist. 12. This measure prohibits filing disciplinary procedures against law enforcement officers if the investigation is not completed within 120 days after the employer received notice of the allegation. If disciplinary action is appropriate, the employer must give notice to the officer of intent to proceed with disciplinary action, along with a proposal of the specific action sought. The bill prohibits polygraph examinations in administrative procedures unless the law enforcement or probation officer and the employer agree to its administration. This measure has the effect of making it more difficult to hold law enforcement officers for inappropriate acts.

Read More…

B. Measures Impacting a Secure and Productive Border and Immigration Issues

On Thursday, January 20, the Senate’s Committee on Border Security, Federalism and States’ Sovereignty (chaired by Sylvia Allen, R-Dist. 5) held its first hearing. It began with Sen. Allen introducing the members, and then, by asking Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever and Pinal County Paul Babeu to speak about their county’s law enforcement efforts. 

Sheriff Dever talked for almost 1 hour. He stated that, as a way to resolve immigration issues, “until they (referring to the undocumented) aren’t incarcerated for a long period of time, they’ll continue to come back”. He also declared that there are delegations across the country ready to file bills similar to SB 1070, and that if the federal government “thinks that this is going to die, they are incorrect”. He said that he is interested to see if the Department of Justice will sue other states that pass Arizona-inspired laws. 

Senator Allen asked Sheriff Dever if he would like for the legislature to pass a law that would create a border security voluntary group that would provide him “with more bodies to help”. He responded that if that was ever to happen, that “he would like to see them under the supervision of the sheriff.” He also criticized Border Patrol’s efforts, because they are “scattered and not holding the frontline”, and because of their policy of measuring success by their number of apprehensions, saying “that’s measuring how many fish are in the lake by the number of fish you catch”.

Read More…

1. HB 2537: Immigration Legislation Challenges. Rep. Kirk Adams, R-Dist. 19. This is the House version of SB 1117, which seeks to amend last year’s HB 2162 (passed to amend SB 1070) and authorize the Senate President or House Speaker to direct counsel to initiate legal proceedings or appear on behalf of their respective chambers or on behalf of the legislature in any challenge in a state or federal court to SB 1070 and any amendments to it. Border Action Network spoke at the Senate last week opposing SB 1117, questioning the need of a measure that grants a blank check to these 2 persons to spend taxpayer monies during these difficult economic times.


C. Measures Impacting Employment and Workers Rights

1. HB 2263: Discrimination; Enforcement; Damages. Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Dist. 17. This bill seeks to increase the statute of limitations on filing employment discrimination charges to 2 years from 1 year. It also allows the recovering party in unlawful employment practice cases to recover punitive or compensatory damages under certain conditions. This is a positive measure that will help Arizona workers who are discriminated against.

2. HB 2271: Employment; Unlawful Termination; Family Responsibility. Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Dist. 17 (pictured right). This measure prohibits employers from firing or threaten to fire an employee for being notified by a school or law enforcement officer of an emergency regarding the employee's child or for leaving work to attend to the child's emergency, except in cases of excessive abuse of this protection.

3. HB 2367: Public Employees; Prohibited Negotiations. Rep. David Smith, R-Dist. 7. This measure prohibits the state and its political subdivisions from negotiating with a labor organization or employee association representing public employees about employee wages and benefits, hours of work, or other financial issues. This is a bill that seeks to further diminish labor unions’ ability to negotiate on behalf of their members in our state.

Read More…

D. Measures Impacting Education

1. HB 2505 – School pupils; lawful status; state aid. Rep. Carl Seel, R-Dist. 6; Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Dist. 18. This measure prohibits school districts and charter schools from counting children whose parents are unable to prove the child’s lawful presence in the US for purposes of determining average daily membership, the measure used to determine state funding to school districts and charter schools. This bill has the intent of forcing schools to turn away undocumented children from their schools, and an attempt to force a lawsuit to challenge the Supreme Court Decision of Plyler v. Doe, which established that all children in this country are entitled to a free public education.


E. Measures Impacting Integration and Civic Participation

Representative Carl Seel (R-Dist 6, pictured left), filed various bills this week that attempt to eliminate the advances made by various groups throughout AZ during last year’s elections to increase voter participation, by making it harder for Arizonans to register to vote and by creating mechanisms to deter organizations from assisting in voter registration efforts. These measures are:

1. HB 2240: Voter Registration; Assistance; Notary. Mandates that voter registration forms include a space for the registrant to provide the name of any person who assisted the registrant, including the name of that person's organization, if any. It also establishes that the signature of the voter in permanent early voter request forms (“PEVL”) be notarized by a notary public. Voters already on the permanent early voting list must submit a notarized renewal within 2 years or their name will be removed. The paper record provided by an electronic voting system must be used in manual audits and recounts on electronic equipment that uses a touch screen system or that is usable with assistive devices.

Read More…

F. Measures Impacting Health Care

While we have a budget that seeks to cut health care services to over 280,000 persons, several other bills were filed this week that will impact health care in our state. These are:

1. SB 1214: Interstate Compact; Health Care. Sen. Silvia Allen R, Dist. 5 (pictured right). This measure seeks to create an inter-state agreement to aggressively oppose President Obama’s health care reform law signed in Congress last year. SB 1214 seeks to:

a. Prohibit governmental agencies from depriving any resident of any party of any party state of the rights and freedoms guaranteed under their respective current or anticipated health care freedom laws.

b. Prohibit government agencies from penalizing residents of these states.

c. Allow cooperation between signatory states that will allow criminal prosecutions of anyone who violates the health care freedom criminal laws of any party state. The measure defines these “health care freedom criminal laws” as any state law that makes it a crime for anyone to interfere with a resident’s enjoyment of the freedoms protected and guaranteed obey the state’s respective health care freedom laws”. These freedom laws, in turn, are laws by which persons’ have the “freedom to pay or not to pay directly for lawful health care services and to participate or not to participate in health care plans and health care systems.”

Read More…

G. Measures Impacting Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development

There were several measures filed this week that should concern all of Arizona’s residents, particularly as our state struggles to correct its financial situation. They are:

1. SB 1210: Corporate Income Tax; Repeal. First Sponsor Sen. Lori Klein, R-Dist.6. This measure seeks to eliminate Arizona’s Revised Statutes (“ARS”) Chapter on Corporate Taxes effective December 31, 2011. It also instructs legislative council staff to prepare new legislation on this matter. Under this measure, Arizona’s corporations would not pay any income tax until a new corporate tax code is filed. Considering our state’s financial situation, this is an irresponsible measure that must be rejected.

Read More…

Want to stay informed as the Legislative Session continues? If you haven't already, click here to sign up for Border Action's AZ Legislative Updates!

Monday, January 24, 2011

AZ prisoner and immigrant support needed...

Just got tipped off to this meeting tonight. Though most of us will miss the chance to attend, there's a contact name, number and email address for more info on getting involved in supporting immigrant prisoners and detention releasees.

You can also contact me for info about support for folks warehoused in our state prisons. I'll be parking myself at Conspire (901 N. 5th St., PHX) every Thursday at 5pm (before the 6:30 pm Phoenix Anarchist Coalition meeting) for anyone interested in volunteering with AZ Prison Watch. Call me for more on that (480-580-6807). Prisoners' friends and family members who themselves need support in their efforts are also welcome.


From: dorien ediger-seto
Subject: Florence Visitation/Hosting Project info session

Hi all,

I know this is super last minute, but I wanted to invite all of you to an informational meeting hosted by the Florence Project and the Tucson Restoration Project on a brand-new, very exciting visitation and hospitality program that we are coordinating. The goal is to build a network of people willing to either host people being released from immigration detention (including my clients), or participate in writing letters and visiting people in immigration detention in Florence, AZ.

At the meeting, we'll be going through basic information about the program, as well as coordinating times for a training that will happen next month.


Visitation/Hosting Project Information Session
7pm, Monday January 24th
1203 W Polk Street, Phoenix, AZ
For information or directions you can call me at 480-291-2203

Hope to see you there! And please forward to anyone you think might be interested.

Thanks so much,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Deaths in Custody: Brenda Todd

To the family of Brenda Todd: please contact me ASAP.

To the rest of you: Pay attention to ASPC- Perryville in Goodyear. Marcia Powell isn't the only one who's died out there.


Peggy Plews



Saturday, January 22, 2011

Utah's Supermax Blogger: Brandon Green.

Brandon Green writes an excellent prisoner blog from a supermax in Utah. Here's an excerpt about solitary confinement.

If anyone knows of any AZ prisoners out there who want to set up a similar blog, drop me a line at Just make sure they know that if they use their real name, they'll be out on a pretty high limb...

"Home Sweet Home"

From: Solitarywatch:

October 16, 2010
by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

Brandon Green is imprisoned in Uinta 1, a supermax unit at the Utah State Prison in Draper. His writings appear on a blog created for him by Utah Prison Watch. In this piece, he challenges readers to imagine what is like to live in solitary confinement, as he vividly describes the physical and psychological deterioration that take place in an isolation cell.

Go to your bathroom door and kick a hole in it. Now lock yourself in tight. Throw all your hygiene items, except a tooth brush and toothpaste tube, out the hole. Everything. Now go to your tub and flip it over. This is where you’ll sleep. Now sit. The light switch disappears and the shower spigot. A little speaker replaces them. It listens and sometimes speaks to you. Laughs at you. Taunts you. Tells you your suffering is entertaining. You can’t shut off the light with no switch and you’ll have to shower using the sink.

As you sit, you hear ten or so voices outside the door. That’s funny. Sounds like that guy who robbed my mother’s house last year and put her in a wheelchair after brutally beating and raping her. It can’t be! Is that the judge that let the man run free too? And his twisted attorney? Why are they here!?!
The worst enemies you could imagine, or put a face to, have just moved into your house. As you sit in the bathroom. These people only wish you harm of the utmost. And your death would be nothing but joy for them. All your food, and any mail you might be expecting, will have to come from these “squatter enemies.” Good luck!

To make matters worse, these enemies of yours control all your heating, air conditioning, water from your sink and to your toilet. And to top it off, if they see you sleeping they’ll kick the door and yell at you. They laugh.
You can hear these men day and night right outside your door. You smell them barbecuing  and smoking. You’re hungry. You can hear these men torturing people. Sometimes other people in similar bathrooms next to yours are pulled out and placed in body bags. To the  amusement of these squatters.
 A day passes this way.

“My god,” you say, “what have I done to deserve this?”
A week passes.
 You cry.
A month.
You attempt suicide but your vein closes up before death.
A year.
You are now talking to yourself and running around naked. You are convinced the food you seldom receive, that’s halfway edible, is poisoned. As you eat the rotten “meat” your beard and mustache get in the way of the teeth chewing. You couldn’t cry if your life depended on it. And it used to. But you’ve forgotten why.
Two years.
You can’t remember. You’ve forgotten. Forgotten what? You don’t know. The “squatter enemies” come around and you look at them. They look at you. They laugh. You start to laugh too. You forgot why. But you do.
Three years.
You sleep 20 hours a day. You can’t help it. But your floor is clean. You keep it spotless. You don’t know why. But you do. You’re skinny. You’ve lost an easy 60 lbs. Your skin is turning yellow and your legs cramp up and atrophy. You don’t want to die anymore. Why bother? You’d rather sleep and dream. The dreams are so vivid. More real than these walls.

Five years.
You go home, you leave your bathroom, this year.
They tell you that. But why? Where do I go? I don’t want to leave now. I like my tub and sink…

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rape is Rape: More CCA abuses at Saguaro.

According to Courthouse News this week, a suit was filed against the State of Hawaii and Corrections Corporation of America due to the October 2009 sexual assault of a prisoner who was coerced to perform oral sex on CCA Saguaro Correctional Center guard Richard Ketland. Apparently in Eloy, Arizona, the rape of a prisoner brings - at worst - a felony charge of "unlawful sexual contact," and can be settled as a lesser offense so as to only require probation.

The guy he assaulted was just in on a drug charge, by the way, for those of you to whom it matters.

The real "truth in sentencing" in America is that you may be raped, regardless of the severity of your own crime. As for Ketland - on July 14, 2010 he plead guilty to "attempted unlawful sexual conduct" (a class 6 felony), and sure didn't hit the news or go to prison.

I doubt he did a day in jail, either.

You wouldn't know this kind of thing happens here from the mainstream media in Arizona. Here's an interesting article in the region's Tri-Valley Central notifying the nearby Florence community of sex offenders who have been released there. That was posted the day after Ketland's victim filed suit. I don't find any mention of a CCA guard sexually assaulting a prisoner at all, though, after a number of different searches of the publication: nothing on Ketland even in the deeper archives.

I only got six hits on Google when I looked up the terms " 'richard ketland' cca prison arizona", too.

I assure the uninitiated out there: forcing someone to their knees and ejaculating in their mouth is a pretty heinous form of penetration. Most of us would call that rape. Prison guards in this state have the authority to use lethal force against prisoners to prevent them from harming anyone else or escaping - and no one believes a "criminal" over a "cop". The victim could have easily been crucified by Ketland and CCA if he even survived putting up a fight.

I'd hope that if the same thing happened to me in Pinal County, the good sheriff and prosecutor would call rape what it is and treat it accordingly - especially if my assailant wore a uniform and a badge, and carried the responsibility of the public's trust.

I guess I should commend the Pinal County prosecutor for calling it a crime at all. Still, I'm disappointed. Some of you should remember that in December 18 other prisoners from the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy filed suit over brutality by guards on a massive scale. I have yet to hear anything about criminal charges being filed for the assault, intimidation, threats to prisoners and families, etc. - crimes that were apparently perpetrated with the blessing of the CCA warden.

So, I again urge the public that cares - wherever you may be - to contact the Pinal County Sheriff, Paul Babeu, the Pinal County Attorney, James P. Walsh, and the Arizona media to shine a spotlight on this abuse and prosecute the criminals working for CCA at Eloy's Saguaro Correctional Center. All the contact info you need is here from December: "Prosecute CCA prisoner abuse
." If you didn't speak up against violence and abuse then, please do so now.

For reference, here's the Private Corrections Working Group's rap sheet on CCA prisons across the country; they have four facilities in Eloy alone.

And here's the Hawaiian victim's actual legal claim...

Welcome to Eloy, AZ. Note their affection for Jesus.

He was a prisoner, too.

State of AZ robbing and killing us to pay Paul.

Hey folks: there's some bad stuff going down at the legislature and in executive offices at the Capitol now that they're back at work - check out Middle Ground Prison Reform's take on it and call to action. If Donna Hamm thinks it's worth contacting legislators about these proposals (which include new fees for families and prisoners), it's worth it.

Also on the budget issues: I was just at the legislature the other day demonstrating about the Governor's proposal to cut some 280,000 more people off of AHCCCS. (violating a voter-initiative that extended the coverage in the first place). I think she called them into special session for that purpose just to keep the resistance off guard - I was the only one down there with any sign of protest (so I spread it around). I was pretty outrag
ed that she'd call them all together to save money by killing more of the poor in this state, and wouldn't lift a finger to save those transplant patients that they collectively condemned to die.

So, what's more important to Arizonans: corporate welfare or human welfare; money or life? I know where my own priorities are, and my taxes aren't following them to pay for health care, housing or education - they're being hijacked by this fascist state to
further a racist, classist, misogynistic agenda and build more prisons. Call me crazy, but that kind of thing I can't help but protest...

The latest AHCCCS patient-killer bill, by the way, passed through

both houses on party line votes (see link above).

I just don't get this place...

Deaths in Custody: Smoke, Fire and Ronald Richie.

Soon after the Arizona Department of Corrections informed the media of the December 29, 2010 death of Ronald Richie at ASPC-Lewis/Buckley, I received information from two sources that it was a suspected homicide and posted it as such. 

I've since received conflicting information that Ronald took his own life - though I can't yet get the ADC to confirm or deny that (they dryly told me to check back when the investigation is done in 4 months). Therefore, I took my initial post on the matter down this week. My apologies to Ronald Richie's family and friends for any confusion or distress that post may have caused, and condolences for your loss.

I was reluctant to remove that post largely because of the evidence I've seen that the ADC has treated at least two probable homicides in the past two years as something else - and because they wouldn't come out and deny that they were looking at Richie's death as a possible homicide. In the current context of skyrocketing suicides and homicides at the ADC, how that fellow died means something to more than just his family. Whether it was due to negligent staff, ineffective or damaging departmental policy, the shoddy state of mental health care in our prisons, the inability of prison leadership to get a grip on the violence, or all of the above, it was not an isolated incident. 

The conditions resulting in the escalating lethal violence and suicides in our state prisons under Director Ryan affects everyone inside (including officers), as well as all those who love them. There's something to be said for allowing the ADC time to do their job right, but once they put out the initial death notices on someone, they never follow it up with another public release. They pretty much count on no one but the victim's family caring about their demise. Read the vicious comments in the media following articles about prisoner deaths and you'll see why. The ADC fans the flames of vindictiveness and ignorance by the way they manipulate data and mis-represent  just who they're holding prisoner and how those folks are dying in their care.

By obscuring the realities of the conditions of our prisons today, the ADC also condemns many more to be sent there not for punishment, but for "care". Many judges, prosecutors, and even public defenders seem to think that the more vulnerable public nuisances we no longer hospitalize or treat in the community for mental illness (Marcia Powell and Shannon Palmer come quickly to mind) will at least be "safe" and get the medical and mental health "treatment" they need in prison. The ADC Criminal Investigation Unit reports I've read recently on prisoner deaths since 2006 are evidence that the courts' - and the public's - trust has been misplaced, even betrayed. No one is safe in AZ state prisons (or our county jails) - especially not the seriously mentally ill.

Someone with more resources and investigative skills than myself needs to expose what the ADC is maintaining under a veil of secrecy. We desperately need the DOJ and ACLU National Prisons Project to step up now, as prisoners are still dying and our mainstream media has no apparent interest in taking this monster on. Please contact them.

As for Ronald Richie's death:

Carl Toersbijns, a former Deputy Warden at ASPC-Eyman for the ADC, has much better sources than I do, however, and identified Richie's death as a suicide in his own blog. He had some very worthwhile comments to go with his report, which I'm posting below. He's been working diligently to try to get the ADC to reform their policies and practices around the treatment of prisoners with serious mental illness and those at risk for both suicide and homicide, and has a number of interesting posts both at Associated Content and the Arizona Republic - they're all worth reading. 

Carl's analyses of the problems at the ADC are particularly useful because of his intimate knowledge of not only institutional policies and practices, but also the ADC's culture. Anyone investigating the dramatic rise in prisoner suicides and homicides at the ADC since Governor Brewer took office should track him down. Here are some of his recent thoughts in the wake of the death of prisoner Ronald Richie...


There's No Smoke Without Fire

High Suicide Rates Inside of Prison Draws Smoke Plums in Arizona Skies

By Carl ToersBijns
Associated Content
December 30, 2010

Reading the newspaper yesterday, it was posted that another inmate committed suicide at the Lewis prison facility making this a very common event within the last two years. The Arizona Republic wrote "An inmate died Wednesday while in the custody at a Buckeye prison, the Arizona Department of Corrections said Ronald Richie, 42, was serving a life sentence and was being held at the Buckley Unit of the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis in Buckeye, authorities said." One must ask the question, is this death an accomplice of the many fires [deaths] burning within the prisons or is it an isolated burn. According to the agency's own record, there have been 10 inmate deaths recorded within a 60 day period. Reflecting at the entire list, there are over 100 inmate deaths recorded in the past 2 years.

Realizing that during the holidays, depression is common and often the main reason for someone taking their own life, it has also come to mind that perhaps not all deaths inside the Arizona prison system can be simple explained as a suicide caused by depression. Recent studies show that Arizona prisons appear incarcerated mentally disabled persons at a much higher than other systems on a national average. In fact, it is very probable that these overcrowded and understaffed prison conditions are contributing to the high rate without any specific intervention or prevention by staff trained for such crisis management. Looking at the agency's death list creates an impression of uncontrolled burning within the system. So as we notice the plumes of smoke coming from the different prisons around the state, we must wonder where the fire is and what is causing this plume of smoke rise so high into the sky. What is starting the fire that is creating all this smoke?

Metaphorically speaking, a fire needs three things to exist. The first being a supply of oxygen, the second being an igniter and the third is fuel. Putting this in simple terms the creation of combustion of creating a fire [death] inside a prison is very simple and very easily accessible by many who choose to make a fire. In prison, the igniter is the negligence or lack of the appropriate level of services related to mental health programs available to these general population inmates. The fuel is the overcrowding and neglect of treatment for mentally disabled inmates and the fact that many are not compliant with their medication, if indeed, they have been diagnosed and treated with medicine. Third the oxygen is the environment that breeds contempt and inciting of violence and disorder eliminating any hopes of recovery for such depressed individuals for their disorder or illness.

One of the solutions to this problem is to remove one of those three elements to douse the fire and eliminate the continued rising of smoke. The ignition tool can be removed by implementing sound mental health treatment programs at all custody levels for the mentally disabled. The fuel can be controlled ensuring they are compliant with their medication. The oxygen can be removed changing the living environment thus changing the social culture and training of staff to address these mentally disabled inmates' needs so they can intervene, prevent and detect these critical masses before someone takes their own life. It has been established the peer pressure by other inmates not mentally disabled [and perhaps sociopaths by behavior] can create or cause an enormous amount of pressure on a mentally ill inmate and requires them to be moved to another location to avoid injury or harm that is imminent if he remains.

A Roman author said "A rolling stone can gather no moss" and the message is clear. The agency must continue to move ahead with more mental health intervention methods to address this crisis. The recent establishment of the behavioral management unit inside the maximum custody unit at Browning is the beginning of a trend that will allow the agency to address mental illness within their custodial responsibilities as prescribed by law. This will address the negative impacts of "solitary confinement" factors. Today, the prison administration needs to make a commitment to expand those services to all mentally disabled inmates at all the prison complexes incarcerated and allow them the treatment they deserve under their constitutional rights to be treated humanely and appropriately. A timely effort will prevent more work later.

Read more:

Monday, January 17, 2011

"The rope that lynches" in the Deep Southwest.

Happy Martin Luther King Day, Arizona!

To the rest of America:
Please boycott this racist state before our fear and hate kill anyone else.

Tucson School Board meeting, January 2011.

Visit for more on the state's continuing efforts to "stop La Raza...", and the lame new state Superintendent of Education leading it. The old superintendent behind HB 2281 is our new Attorney General. See, you just can't get into state executive office here without exploiting fear, racism, and hate - then you can help outlaw your opposition, and insure that your offspring inherit the state.

Anyway, as I said, Happy Martin Luther King Day. Youth like Westli are our greatest hope.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ohio Hunger Striker Victory; Executions still loom.

The SF Bay View does excellent coverage of both California's and the nation's issues related to political prisoners, conditions of confinement, mass incarceration, racial profiling, police brutality, etc., and will be following the Lucasville hunger strikers at the OSP - go straight there for your news. They often publish letters from prisoners across the country as well, so if you know any prisoners with something to say about the conditions of confinement where they are, turn them on to the SF Bay View.

Spacebookers, please hit the strikers' solidarity site and join. These guys still have a hard road ahead.

Also, a reminder that it ain't over yet in Georgia, either. The Black Agenda Report has been providing the best coverage of issues there, and is overall a great publication coming from the Black Left.

Finally, for those of you interested in supporting Arizona's prisoners and challenging the conditions of confinement here, contact me (see side column) or drop into the Conspire Art Collective at 901 N. 5th St, Phoenix (NE corner of 5th. St & Garfield) for a prisoner support group on Thursdays at 5:00pm. Look for me in red high tops and a cowboy hat. My cell is 480-580-6807 if you can't find me or just want to know more. The weekly meeting of the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition follows at 7:30pm.


A great rally, a great victory for the Lucasville hunger strikers

San Francisco Bay View

January 15, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

by Denis O’Hearn

Jan. 15, 4:33 p.m. – I have a short report on today’s rally at the Ohio State Penitentiary in support of the three men on hunger strike. But first, I can now report to you the wonderful news that all three have resumed eating because they achieved a victory. The prison authorities have provided, in writing, a set of conditions that virtually meets the demands set out by Bomani Shakur in his letter to Warden Bobby, provided below.

Ohio State Penitentiary

The hunger strikers send you all thanks for your support and state that they couldn’t have won their demands without support from people from around the world. But they add to their statement the following: This time they were fighting about their conditions of confinement, but now they begin the fight for their lives.

They were wrongfully convicted of complicity in 1993 murders in Lucasville prison and have faced retribution because they refused to provide snitch testimony against others who actually committed those murders. Now, because of Ohio’s – and other states’ – application of the death penalty, they still face execution at a future date. Ohio is today exceeded only by Texas in its enthusiasm for applying the death penalty. We need to take some of this energy that was created around the hunger strike to help these men fight for their lives.

So, we may celebrate a great victory for now. Common sense has prevailed in a dark place where there appeared to be no light. But watch this space [2]for further news on their ongoing campaign.

I hope to share a copy of the Ohio prison authorities’ written statement that ended this hunger strike in a short time.

As Bomani has told me many times, “It ain’t over …”

Jan. 15, 4:40 p.m. – The rally at OSP was attended by a large crowd, including many members of the families of the hunger strikers, despite the freezing weather. Family members met with the hunger strikers this morning and they reported that they were in high spirits on ending their hunger strike and winning their demands, but that they now had to turn their attention to their death sentences.

Statements of support came from all over the world and a small delegation of relatives, along with Alice Lynd, went to the prison and left a copy of our open letter for Warden David Bobby [3], signed by more than 1,200 people including prominent people from Ohio and around the world. Warden Bobby was not there, but a designated representative received the letter on his behalf with a promise that he would read it.

The crowd then proceeded to a church hall in downtown Youngstown for refreshments and some celebration over the good news. The organizers, especially Sharon Danann and Alice and Staughton Lynd, want to thank everyone who supported these men for their contribution to this victory.

Our thoughts are with Bomani, Hasan, Jason and Namir, and we will remain at their sides.

Denis O’Hearn is professor of sociology at Binghamton University SUNY. His book, “Nothing But an Unfinished Song,” is a biography of the Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands. This story first appeared on the Facebook page “In Solidarity with the Lucasville Uprising Prisoners on Hunger Strike [2].” Contact Denis O’Hearn through Facebook, at [4].

Letter from Keith LaMar (Bomani Shakur) to Warden Bobby of Ohio State Penitentiary

by Keith LaMar

Bomani Shakur

Jan. 3 – I’m writing to inform you that I am henceforth on a hunger strike. After 12 years of what can only be described as a double penalty, I am respectfully requesting that you cease this tortuous predicament that I am in. As a death-sentenced prisoner, I should be allowed the very same privileges as other similarly sentenced prisoners, and this is all I am asking, nothing more or less. Therefore, in spite of what your personal feelings are, I hereby appeal to your sense of professionalism and ask that you seriously consider the following demands:
  1. Full recreation privileges.
  2. Full commissary privileges.
  3. Full access to Access SecurePac catalog.
  4. Semi-contact visits.
  5. Access to computer database so that I can assist in the furtherance of my appeals.

These things are presently being offered to all death-sentenced prisoners and, again, I hereby respectfully request that I be granted the same. As you know, my appeals are fast approaching resolution, moving me closer and closer to a day of reckoning. Please allow me the opportunity to pursue whatever my end will be with the same level of dignity and respect that other similarly situated prisoners enjoy. You have this within your power to permit, and I ask that instead of abusing your power that you use it justly, and soon.

Bomani Shakur can be reached by writing to Keith LaMar, 317-117, P.O. Box 1436, Youngstown OH 44501. Addresses for the other Lucasville prisoners are:

  • Jason Robb, 308-919, P.O. Box 1436, Youngstown OH 44501
  • Siddique Abdullah Hasan, R 130-559, P.O. Box 1436, Youngstown OH 44501
  • James Were, 173-245, P.O. Box 1436, Youngstown OH 44501; refer to him by his preferred name, Namir Abdul Mateen.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Global solidarity with Ohio hunger strikers grows.

Hey all - tune into this SUPERMAX/death row hunger strike in Ohio. Check out the links at the bottom of the article for more. I'll follow this post with one about the rally. Here's the background post.

The letter that's been circulating (below) is being printed and given to OSP warden David Bobby, but nothing would stop readers from reprinting the letter or writing one with their own sentiments and sending it to the attention of:

Warden David Bobby, Ohio State Penitentiary;
Director Gary Mohr, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction; and
Chief William A. Eleby, Bureau of Classification, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation at:

Ohio State Penitentiary
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road
Youngstown, Ohio 44505

Fax (330) 743-0841

You can also call and express your concern/support for the hunger strikers:

(330) 743-0700;

Email for General Inquiries


Lucasville hunger strikers’ support rally outside Ohio State Penitentiary on MLK’s birthday Saturday, Jan. 15, 1 p.m.

San Francisco Bay View

January 14, 2011 @ 7:26 pm

Delegation to present Warden David Bobby’s representative with letter of support for the hunger strikers with hundreds of signatures

by Sharon Danann, Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network

This is the Ohio State Penitentiary, where supporters of the Lucasville prisoners on hunger strike will rally tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 15, on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday

Three inmates on death row at Ohio State Penitentiary have been on hunger strike since Monday, Jan.3, to protest the conditions of their confinement. All three prisoners received death sentences following the rebellion in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, and have been held at the highest security level, Level 5, since they were transferred to OSP In 1998.

The hunger strikers, Keith LaMar, Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders) and Jason Robb are simply asking that they be treated like other death row prisoners. A fourth prisoner, Namir Abdul Mateen (James Were), may join the hunger strike as his health permits. Other prisoners at OSP may go on hunger strike on Jan. 15 to show their support for the hunger strike in progress.

Robb has pointed out that other prisoners from the Lucasville disturbance have been transferred out of OSP or have had their security levels reduced so that they are not suffering the extreme restrictions of Level 5. In the words of LaMar, also known by his chosen name, Bomani Hondo Shakur:

“We have undergone penalty on top of penalty, kept from fully participating in our appeals, from touching our friends and families, denied adequate medical treatment, and so many other things that are too numerous to name. In a word, we have been tortured. And, yes, I’m aware that the word ‘tortured’ is a strong word to use, but I know of no other word that more adequately describes what we have been through. We have been put through hell.”

An “Open Letter” has been circulating and has collected more than 1,200 signatures (see below). In the sampling of the first 100 names, it can be seen that the prisoners have support from Ohio, many other states and all across the globe, among them many prominent citizens. After the participants in the rally have had the opportunity to add their names to the list, a delegation of friends and family members of the hunger strikers will proceed to OSP to present the signed letter to Warden David Bobby’s designated representative. Youngstown attorney Staughton Lynd is available to answer questions about the “Open Letter” at (330) 652-9635.

Supporters are driving in from other states and from several Ohio cities to participate in the rally at the gates of OSP. Family members of the hunger strikers will be in attendance. Messages of solidarity will be read that are coming in from across the country and around the world. In particular, people in Ireland are remembering the tragic deaths of 10 prisoners who went on hunger strike thirty years ago and are sending words of understanding and support.

The location for Saturday’s event is 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Rd., Youngstown, Ohio. The rally and press conference is a joint effort of the Youngstown-based prisoner-advocacy organization, LOOP (Loved Ones Of Prisoners), the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network and the Cleveland chapter of the New Black Panther Party.

Contact Sharon Danann and the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network at (216) 571-2518 [2].


Open letter to Ohio prison officials on behalf of the Lucasville prisoners on hunger strike

To: Warden David Bobby, Ohio State Penitentiary; Director Gary Mohr, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction; and Chief William A. Eleby, Bureau of Classification, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation

We the undersigned call for an end to isolated “supermax” imprisonment in Ohio State Penitentiary. We are especially concerned about the cases of Siddique Abdullah Hasan (Carlos Sanders), Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar), Jason Robb and Namir Abdul Mateen (James Were), who are on hunger strike in protest against their conditions of confinement. We understand that they have taken this course of action out of total frustration with their hopeless situation at OSP (Ohio State Penitentiary).

These men have been kept in isolation continuously since they were sentenced to death for their alleged roles in the 11-day rebellion at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville, Ohio, in April 1993. Hasan and Robb were two of the three men who negotiated a peaceful surrender in that rebellion and their actions undoubtedly saved lives.

Throughout their more than 17 years of solitary confinement, these four men have been subjected to harsher conditions than the more than 150 other men sentenced to death in Ohio. The conditions under which they are confined prevent them from ever being in the same space as another prisoner. Judge James Gwin of federal district court noted with amazement during the trial of the prisoners’ class action, Austin v. Wilkinson, that death-sentenced prisoners at the highest security level in the Ohio State Penitentiary wanted to be returned to Death Row!

The four have suffered Level 5 top security isolation since OSP was opened in 1998. This essentially means that they live in 23-hour lockup in a hermetically sealed environment where they have almost no contact with other living beings – human, animal or plant. When released from their cells for short periods of “recreation,” they continue to be isolated from others. During occasional visits, a wall of bullet-proof glass separates them from their visitors. They remain shackled, despite the fact that they could do no harm in these secure spaces. A few booths away, condemned men from death row sit in cubicles where a small hole is cut from the security glass between them and their visitors. They can hold their mother’s hand. With a little effort, they can kiss a niece or a grandchild. They do not have to shout to hold a conversation.

Hasan, LaMar, Robb and Were experience annual “security reviews,” but their outcome is predetermined. The prison authorities have told them, in writing:

“You were admitted to OSP in May of 1998. We are of the opinion that your placement offense is so severe that you should remain at the OSP permanently or for many years regardless of your behavior while confined at the OSP.”

The lack of a meaningful review violates the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Keeping men in supermax isolation for long periods clearly violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Moreover, the emphasized words above directly violate the explicit instruction of the Supreme Court of the United States in Wilkinson v. Austin.

These men are being held in solitary confinement permanently, until they are put to death by Ohio or their convictions reversed. This is not simply long-term solitary confinement, but in essence permanent solitary confinement.

Other prisoners sentenced to death for alleged crimes comparable to or worse than those for which Hasan, LaMar, Robb and Were were found guilty have been moved off of Level 5 – to Death Row, to Level 4 at OSP and out of OSP entirely. One of the four Lucasville defendants asks, “Must I have a mental breakdown in order to get off Level 5?”

We demand that the Ohio prison authorities remove these four men from Level 5 “supermax” security and that they end the cruel practice of long-term isolated confinement.

Signed by:

Jules Lobel, Vice President, Center for Constitutional Rights, Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh

Christine Link, Executive Director, ACLU of Ohio

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

David Goldberger, Professor Emeritus of Law, Ohio State University

Barbara Ehrenreich, author, academic, activist

Mike Ferner, National President, Veterans for Peace

Immanuel Wallerstein, academic and writer

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, University of Coimbra, Distinguished Legal Scholar, University of Wisconsin

Edward S. Herman, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Professor Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, Director, Dr. James Dale Ethics Center, Youngstown State University

Andrej Grubacic, author and lecturer at San Francisco Art Institute

Peter Linebaugh, historian, University of Toledo, Ohio

Michael Albert, founder, Znet

Professor Thomas Mathiesen, KROM, The Norwegian Association for Penal Reform, Oslo, Norway

Jana Schroeder, Former Director, American Friends Service Committee Ohio Criminal Justice Program

Jesse Lemisch, Professor of History Emeritus, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

Denis O’Hearn, Professor of Sociology, Binghamton University, SUNY

Ellen Kitchens, CURE-Ohio, Inc.

Christian G. De Vito, Associazione Liberarsi, Italy

Lorry Swain, migrant rights activist, Ohio

Robert W. McChesney, Gutgsell Endowed Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign

Jason Jaffery, Development Director, ACLU of Ohio Foundation

Kathie Izor, Colorado CURE Board

Raj Patel, author and scholar

Katherine Soltis, Chair, Cleveland Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Ioanna Drosou, Greek Initiative for Prisoners’ Rights

Immanuel Ness, CUNY, Editor, Working USA

Ron Keine, Assistant Director, Witness to Innocence

Carlos Ivan Ramos, Ph.D., Executive Director, Hispanic UMADAOP, Cleveland

Michael Parenti, author and scholar

Veronica Dahlberg, Board Member, ACLU Cleveland Chapter

Professor Phil Scraton, Law School, Queens University, Belfast

Sam Bahour, Management Consultant, West Bank, Palestine

Bob Fitrakis, Editor, Free Press, Columbus, Ohio

Faye Harrison, Southern Human Rights Organizers’ Network

Reverend Dorsey R. Stebbins, Cincinnati, Ohio

Herbert P. Bix, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, SUNY, Binghamton

John Polanski, ordained minister, Mineral Ridge, Ohio

Judith Stanger, retired teacher, Boardman, Ohio

James Gilligan, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Law, New York University

James E. Ray, ordained minister, Poland, Ohio

Marcus Rediker, Historian, University of Pittsburgh

John Stoffer, Elder of Presbyterian Church, Salem, Ohio

Kathleen McGarry, attorney, New Mexico

Mary Ann Meaker, Ohioans to Stop Executions

Paulette F Dauteuil, The Jericho Movement for PP’s/POW

Sarah L. Duncan, retired teacher, Vienna, Ohio

Fr. Joseph E. Mulligan, S.J., Nicaragua

Jim Jordan, assistant for autistic children, Vienna, Ohio

Joe Lombardo, co-coordinator, United National Antiwar Committee, UNAC

Andrew Lee Feight, Associate Professor of History, Shawnee State University

Jane Stoffer, retired drug counselor, Salem, Ohio

Margaret J Plews, Arizona Prison Watch

Peter Rachleff, Professor of History, Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Lynn Thompson Bryant, Presbyterian pastor, Akron, Ohio

And more than 1,100 others.

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