The 'Friends of Marcia Powell' are autonomous groups and individuals engaging in prisoner outreach, informal advocacy, and organized protest and direct actions in a sustained campaign to: promote prisoner rights and welfare in America; engage the Arizona public in a creative and thoughtful critique of our system of "justice;” deconstruct the prison industrial complex; and dismantle this racist, classist patriarchy...

Retiring "Free Marcia Powell"

As of December 2, 2010 (with occasional exceptions) I'm retiring this blog to direct more of my time and energy into prisoner rights and my other blogs; I just can't do anyone justice when spread so thin. I'll keep the site open so folks can search the archives and use the links, but won't be updating it with new posts. If you're looking for the latest, try Arizona Prison Watch. Most of the pieces posted here were cross-posted to one or both of those sites already.

Thanks for visiting. Peace out - Peg.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Prison Abuse Remedies Act

Below is an editorial by the New York Times urging revision of the Prison Reform Litigation Act, which has been preventing prisoners from obtaining legal remedies to neglect and abuse since 1996 (another piece of legislative garbage Clinton signed to repress resistance).

The follow-up to the Times Editorital is a good example of what a lot of well-educated people could be doing. The authors below make the direct link between the abuses of that law by prison officials, and the deplorable conditions in American prisons today.

If Congress doesn't pass the Prison Remedies Act before they head full on into their 2010 campaigns, I think we should make it the number one campaign issue.

Thanks to Lois at the Real Cost of Prisons Project for passing this on to us. Perhaps in the meantime the draft legislation could be used as the foundation for new state legislation to remedy prison abuse.

Letter to the Editor: Abuse of Female Prisoners
Published: October 2, 2009
To the Editor:

Re “Prisoners’ Rights” (editorial, Sept. 24):

You are right to call for legislation amending the Prison Litigation Reform Act. We sued on behalf of female prisoners in the New York State prison system who reported that they had been sexually assaulted by staff members, and have been appalled to spend the last six years litigating whether these 17 women — each of whom bravely complained of her abuse to departmental officials — exhausted their administrative remedies sufficiently to satisfy the law.

As a result, New York State has been able to avoid addressing the prison system’s longstanding failure to protect female prisoners from sexual abuse, allowing more and more women to be victimized.

The Prison Litigation Reform Act was sold in Congress as a measure against frivolous litigation, but has served in reality to prevent the redress of the most serious violations of prisoners’ human rights. The time has come for reform, or better yet, repeal of the law.

Lisa Freeman
Dori Lewis
New York, Sept. 24, 2009

The writers are lawyers with the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society and lawyers for the plaintiffs in Amador v. Andrews.


Editorial - NY Times
Prisoners’ Rights
Published: September 23, 2009

In 1996, Congress passed a law that made it much harder for inmates to challenge abusive treatment. It has contributed significantly to the bad conditions — including the desperate overcrowding — that prevail today.
The law must be fixed.

Times Topics: Prisons and Prisoners

In the name of clamping down on frivolous lawsuits, the Prison Reform Litigation Act barred prisoners from suing prisons and jails unless they could show that they had suffered a physical injury. Prison officials have used this requirement to block lawsuits challenging all sorts of horrific conditions, including sexual abuse.

The law also requires inmates to present their claims to prison officials before filing a suit. The prisons set the rules for those grievance procedures, notes Stephen Bright, the president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, and they have an incentive to make the rules as complicated as possible, so prisoners will not be able to sue. “That has become the main purpose of many grievance systems,” Mr. Bright told Congress last year.

In the last Congress, Representative Robert Scott, Democrat of Virginia, sponsored the Prison Abuse Remedies Act. It would have eliminated the physical injury requirement and made it harder for prison officials to get suits dismissed for failure to exhaust grievance procedures. It would have exempted juveniles, who are especially vulnerable to abuse, from the law’s restrictions.

The bill’s supporters need to try again this year. Conditions in the nation’s overcrowded prisons are becoming increasingly dangerous; recently, there have been major riots in California and Kentucky. Prisoner lawsuits are a way of reining in the worst abuses, which contribute to prison riots and other violence.

The main reason to pass the new law, though, is human decency. The only way to ensure that inmates are not mistreated is to guarantee them a fair opportunity to bring their legitimate complaints to court.

This and other news about women and mass incarceration can be found at

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