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, February 26, 2010

Mountains That Take Wing...

AZ Premiere of the film Mountains That Take Wing: 
Angela Davis & Yuri Kochiyama -
A Conversation on Life, Struggles, & Liberation.

TONIGHT - Friday, February 26th from 5:30-9PM (refreshments at 5:30 & video at 6. Q&A follows)

ASU Tempe Campus – Neeb Hall (

Sponsored by Local to Global Justice ( and The School of Social Transformation (at ASU)

We will be collecting donations at the event for survivors of the Haiti Earthquake.


Features conversations that span 13 years between two formidable women whose lives and political work remain at the epicenter of the most important civil rights struggles in the US. Through the intimacy and depth of conversations, we learn about Davis, an internationally renowned scholar-activist and 88-year-old Kochiyama, a revered grassroots community activist and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nominee's shared experiences as political prisoners and their profound passion for justice. On subjects ranging from the vital but largely erased role of women in social movements of the 20th century, community empowerment, to the prison industrial complex, war and the cultural arts, Davis' and Kochiyama's comments offer critical lessons for understanding our nation's most important social movements and tremendous hope for its youth and the future.

H. L. T. Quan (Ph.D. University of California-Santa Barbara) is an Assistant Professor and an Affiliate Faculty in African/African American Studies, Asian Pacific American Studies and Women's and Gender Studies a ASU
. Her research centers on race, gender and economic and political thought. She is currently writing a book about savage developmentalism and its tendentious propensity to secure order and capitalist expansion. This study investigates foreign policy conducts by Japan in military Brazil, the United States in occupied Iraq, and China in Sudan amidst humanitarian disasters. She is also working on a collaborative project on the historical and political development of Black capitalism in the United States, a 17-city comparison.

Professor Quan is also a co-founder and member of QUAD Productions, a not for profit production company that produces media for progressive community organizations and activists. She and C. A. Griffith (Associate Professor, School of Theatre & Film) are co-directors and co-producers of the "Mountains That Take Wing: Angela Davis & Yuri Kochiyama - A Conversation on Life, Struggles & Liberation" and "América's Home" (working title).

C.A. (Crystal) Griffith
Associate Professor, School of Theater and Film, ASU.

Professor Griffith was raised in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Stanford University (B.A.) and University of California, Santa Barbara (M.F.A). Ms. Griffith's credits include Juice (1992), award-winning PBS and BBC documentaries such as A Litany For Survival: The Life & Work of Audre Lorde (cinematographer), Branford Marsalis: The Music Tells You (camera operator), Depeche Mode 101, Eyes on the Prize I & II , and music videos including Tracy Chapman, Public Enemy, and The Rolling Stones. She was awarded a 2004 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Media Arts, the Panavision/Kodak University Outreach Program Grant and the Vision in Color Award of the New England Film/Video Festival.

Ms. Griffith also received a grant from Digital Media's Avid Feature Film Camp for her film, Del Otro Lado (The Other Side). Shot on location in Mexico City and screened extensively at U.S. and international film festivals, Griffith directed, co-edited and co-produced this Spanish language, independent feature in 1999.

With H.L.T. Quan, she is co-directing "Mountains That Take Wing: Angela Davis & Yuri Kochiyama - A Conversation on Life, Struggles & Liberation", a documentary on women of color cultural workers. C.A. Griffith's publications appear in Filming Difference (forthcoming), Black Feminist Cultural Criticism: Classic Readings, Black Women Film and Video Artists , Herotica 4, The Wild Good, the journals Meridians, Signs and Calyx. Ms. Griffith joins Arizona State University 's new Film Program from Columbia College Chicago (2000-06), Smith College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (1997-00).

 Department of Justice: Investigate Mumia's conviction.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

PUENTE Detention Protest Thursday, Noon-1pm.

Local Activists Demand “Dignity not Detention” and Call for an End to Human Rights Abuses in Arizona

PHOENIX – Local activists and community members will participate in a solidarity action in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in central Phoenix where they will deliver a letter calling on the federal government to end all immigration enforcement agreements with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office(MCSO). The action will take place from 12:00pm to 1:00pm ending with a press conference at 1:00pm. 

Despite DHS announcements made last fall regarding plans to reform the immigrant detention system, there is little evidence of change. In addition to detaining 3,000 immigrants in Arizona daily, and over 33,000 nationally, the Department of Homeland Security continues to work with MCSO through a 287(g) agreement in the county jails.

Who: Puente, American Civil Liberties Union-AZ

What: Action in front of ICE Office in Phoenix, Delivery of Letter calling on the federal government to end all immigration enforcement agreements with the Maricopa Country Sheriff's Office. 

When: 12:00pm-1:00pm Thursday February 25th, 2010

Where: 2035 N. Central Avenue Phoenix, AZ 

For more information about Puente please contact Carlos Garcia at or call 602-314-5870

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Antifa Party Tonight!

Life   Liberty   Freedom

Special Guests:

US Senate Candidate
JD Hayworth,
Senator Russell Pearce,
County Attorney Andy Thomas

Don Goldwater
Charmian of the Pachyderm Coalition

February 24th 6:30 PM
Held at Heidi's Event & Catering
2095 W. 15th Street
Tempe, Arizona 85281

Dress is Business/Professional

Please note that ticket purchases are being handled by Sir Barratt Enterprise's, Inc on behalf of Life Liberty Freedom. If you prefer, you can purchase your tickets by phone at 480-892-5154

Pearce Alert! Fascists and Cowards for SB 1097!

Well, I was expecting a House Committee on Sentencing meeting at 2pm Weds, but haven't been able to pin it down on the House website. At least the day has other things happening: it looks like there's just as much potential for fun and excitement with Russ Pearce in the Senate Building (their security is real uptight over there about chalking the sidewalks, though). 

Didn't I just say something last week about how the legislature hasn't even BEGUN to stick it to the teachers yet? This is the beginning of the beginning. The teachers, you see - en masse - betrayed both their race and class when they defied Russ Pearce. They have a whole lot more coming. School employees are being further criminalized with this bill - doesn't everyone get it?

Maybe it will still have to get a whole lot worse here before it gets better.

You know they're trying to do away with their term limits, too? They aren't going to cede power without a fight - not even if we're white (I believe our sympathies just makes us white trash - or some kind of terrorist - so we might as well throw in with everyone else they're screwing over at the state house these days.)

Get how he gives us the down low on supporting this fascist legislation, then signs off in the name of Freedom. How is it that chasing little children out of one of the few safe places they may have in our communities makes anyone more free? Little kids, now. That's who he's targeting.

There's something seriously wrong with this man's thinking. That's just mean - he's doing that to prove he can screw the schools all he wants, not because there's any real public safety need for this legislation. Now they're going to sneak in this REQUIREMENT that public schools extract tuition from families if they aren't considered Arizona residents?

My understanding of civics is that this is the country that I get to help create, too - it's not all up to people like you - no matter how much money or power you may have.

My grandfather was a Republican: he'd never treat people the way Pearce does - what makes him a Republican, anyway, other than the fact the the real Republicans are too scared of him to throw him out? Look at this guy: he is not of substance. He goes after children. Only cowards go after children and their teachers like that. Fascists and cowards running scared, holding school children hostage, do not get re-elected to high office. They eventually get exposed for what they are and run out on a rail...

Some image for an American legislator. Not unexpected when one hears it comes from Arizona, but sooner or later Arizonans are going to stop bragging about that and realize it means the rest of the world thinks that we're bigots and idiots because we repeatedly elect people like Sheriff Joe and Russ Pearce to represent us. I frankly don't know what other explanation there could be, than that the majority of the public here really is so ignorant or disturbed that we'd want those guys parading themselves around the country even one more day in our name...

This is too much like South Park Hell. 

Hi ,

SB 1097 (Student Data Collection):

Arizona Legislators will meet during a committee meeting this week to vote on bills mandating that all school districts gather information on the citizenship status of students, including the number of students who cannot prove lawful status. This information will then be given to the Department of Education. Any school district that fails to comply may have their state funding withheld.

SB 1097 will be heard at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 24, 2010 in Education Committee (SHR1), it will be amended to include a requirement to require a tuition for all students that are not legal residence of Arizona. 

To see the bill either click on the link below or cut and paste it in to your browser

If you are member of  just select the Senate Education Committee to send your email in support of this Bill.

For Freedom.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Who cares about diabetes and women in prison?

Here's the latest on Jamie and Gladys - and Mrs. Rasco: I'm so glad she got in to Mississippi and saw not only her daughters but looked Commissioner Epps in the eye, as well. What awesome women - all the folks who are involved in organizing this campaign are amazing.  It actually looks like we're making some headway. These women are led by Good Orderly Direction - I think their driver is Divine - so let's keep following their lead. Everyone from white evangelicals  to the Black Women's Defense League will be shoulder to shoulder at the Governor's mansion one of these days, I suppose... 

Speaking of: if anyone out there is up on the religious right these days, let Pat Robertson know that Governor Barbour - and Jamie - really need a letter from him and his friends about the power one demonstrates in the exercise of mercy. He seemed to have a real spiritual awakening around the execution of Karla Faye Tucker. I think there's an opening in his heart now, where there was once nothing but wall. I hope it's open to women like Jamie Scott, too. 

Me, I'm still out for justice, because I don't know if Mississippi is a state of much mercy. If I had the money I'd drive out there myself and do a report for the Nation or Mother Jones or someone - a good investigative journalist could end up doing a lot of the footwork this family needs, anyway, to make the truth visible. That alone should tell you something: how often are imprisoned people who are really "guilty" having friends and family put their legal documents on the internet, letting anyone in the world, literally, dig even deeper into their lives?

C'mon, Mass Media: why haven't you people picked up on the Scott Sisters, yet? Where is Oprah, anyway? Jamie needs proper care and these women should be free. Progressive Press: you have no excuse. This should be headlining everywhere. Race, Gender, Class – that’s the stuff that determines our access to quality health care and insurance on the outside. Criminal status just puts the nail in the coffin earlier in life. 

Why is there STILL so much disparity in the criminal justice and health care systems?  

It will be a huge disservice to us all if Mass Media ignores the Scotts' story until something even worse happens, and it's too late to save Jamie. You've at least got to see what's happening here - more websites are watching, more coalitions are forming - and there really isn't time to waste, given Jamie's rapid deterioration and the conditions of her confinement.

 There's a hundred ways to cover this. You can do a partner piece on diabetes in prisons that encompasses Native America's experience, too: look at Leonard Peltier's struggles to get proper nutrition and care, and he's regarded internationally as a political prisoner and a hero of indigenous movements. If that's what Leonard gets, what kind of health care access do the invisible Indians get? Keep in mind that I'm asking the DOJ to do a CRIPA investigation, too - and that Barbour may be running for president in 2012. There are all sorts of stories buried in this one...but the most important one right now is Jamie's.

As for the little people doing the real work: if you write to Epps, reaffirm his promise to Mrs. Rascoe and thank him for making sure she could see Jamie and Gladys. He does have the power to move Jamie to the hospital any time he wants; his hands aren’t completely tied, as he’d like us to believe. He just doesn’t want to set a precedent that has every prisoner’s family knocking at his door. 

Now, if this was a "medical release," her freedom, as I understand it, actually would be up to him, not the governor - that was the case with the last guy we blogged on from Mississippi. Dr. Perry had to make a recommendation about the request for medical release, then it ended up on Epps' desk for the final word...Why couldn't Jamie get one of those? I'll find the criteria for that and post it here later. Maybe that’s just the last step before the governor. I’m still pretty illiterate about compassionate releases, commutations, pardons and the like, considering how much I write about them. Every state is different, too.

Note the call to get health care and medical organizations involved. Anyone else contact the Mississippi Kidney Foundation this week? If you're not from Mississippi, call the national chapter or your own. Mississippi’s hasn’t responded to me. I don’t even know if they’re working on this. 

It sounds like Jamie’s renal failure is secondary to her diabetes. Diabetes is such a major health problem in prisons because of the diet served there, and because it's fed to the disproportionately high concentration of people serving long sentences who are most vulnerable to develop diabetes - such as Native Americans and African Americans. For people of all colors, I believe (and those with none), diabetes is also disproportionately among the poor

Not surprisingly, diabetes develops in prisoners younger and kills patients faster inside than it does on the outside. I'd think there'd be a few organizations interested in studying why that is, what the racial, gender and class discrepancies are all about, and how co-morbidity and mortality rates for diabetic prisoners can be reduced. Help me find them, folks. 

(That's you I'm talking to, by the way, if you're reading this now. Don't let this be like the famous, brutal murder in the urban apartment complex in which some 35 neighbors heard a woman scream for help for 30 minutes, but no one called 911 or otherwise responded because they all thought someone else would have done so already. You are the ones we're counting on. Do what you can, then let the folks at the Scott Sisters’ blogspot know what you did.)

Those of you with diabetes in your own family, especially, contact the diabetes organizations and tell them you want to know what kind of work they’re doing with/bout prisoners with diabetes, and tell them Jamie’s story. What are they doing in our state? What if Jamie was your daughter or sister or Mom? What will they do to help her? Jamie is precisely the kind of patient who needs the influence of these organizations the most – and the media they would bring.

The American Diabetes Association must have something to say about all this, regardless of what the Kidney Foundation is willing to take on. Here’s the link to Diabetes Advocacy, too. The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors has both a Diabetes Council and a Woman’s Health Council. The contact for both (Denise Cyzman at the DC and Laura Shea at the WHC) should be interested in what the states are doing about treating chronic illnesses – like diabetes - in prison. Ask them what they know about Mississippi – what organizations would be most needed to help the Scotts work through Jamie’s medical issues, as well as explore the overall quality of health care for prisoners there.

May 9-15 is National Women’s Health Week according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, by the way. Start planning to recognize issues in women's health care in prison that week with community health groups. DHHS also has the Minority Women's Health Panel of Experts (there are all sorts of good contacts on that page).

A woman Jamie's age should not be going into renal failure from diabetes unless she wasn't getting adequate help with managing her illness all along. Renal failure and years of dialysis often await people with diabetes - especially those who have had the least ability and resources in their lives to manage their illness. Jamie has had very little power over her daily movements, much less her health care and diet over the past 16 years. 

Wherever you are, though, look first in your own backyard - ask your state and local groups, even your personal physicians, to get involved in issues regarding prisoner health care – then ask them to weigh in on this. They should contact their counterparts in Mississippi and ask them how they’re responding to it – and we should follow up and find out what they’ll be doing for prisoners and families here. They're all connected through national organizations and conferences (contact them, too, at the links above), and I know they've got people who are interested in this very thing. We need to balance them out with radical feminists and patient advocacy groups, too.  

Really, there isn't a single American for whom something might not be at stake in the realm of patient and prisoner rights. What happens next should matter to everyone - diabetes may have its favorites, but it's not limited to people who are poor, black, female, or in prison. I seriously doubt that Arizona's health care resources for prisoners are any more generous than they are in Mississippi - and we have a real knack for wrongful imprisonment - so as I see it, my mom could easily be in Jamie's shoes, too. 

White privilege reduces our chances of being criminalized or imprisoned to begin with, but it doesn’t buy as much in prison: whatever your guilt, income, gender or race, you're just another criminal to the state - a piece of human waste - being warehoused at the cheapest possible rate (at great profit, perhaps, to someone invested in nothing more than our compliance and the cost of our living).

Personally, I believe our prisoners are far from the garbage heap: they're on the front lines, under heavy fire, and what we let happen to them will soon befall the rest of us. We should be thanking many of them for their perseverance, their voice, and their courage. 

So, “ thanks” to all prisoners out there right now who have been fighting for their health care rights – in the process, they have been defending ours, too…that includes Jamie and Gladys.

- Peg.

Subject: CHECK IT: 2/20 JAMIE SCOTT UPDATE (Scott Sisters) ~ By Sis Marpessa

Greetings all,

Mrs. Evelyn Rasco has been going non-stop in Mississippi advocating on behalf of her daughters since the 2/17 update, she is absolutely incredible and a force to be reckoned with!

Mrs. Rasco was able to get into see both of her daughters on 2/18. Gladys reports that she is doing OK but is of course greatly concerned about Jamie.  Jamie was able to come to the visiting room and visit with her
mother and son but was very obviously not doing well medically.  She has lost weight and is extremely weak.
The temporary catheter in her neck has been replaced twice but is still malfunctioning with infection in her neck and breast area, which she was able to show her mother evidence of. One of her medications is being denied to her because the state won't pay for it.  Jamie's blood pressure and diabetes are not under control.

As soon as Mrs. Rasco left the prison she attended a meeting of the legislature in the Capitol Bldg. in Jackson dealing with prison budget cuts and other prison-related issues.  She recognized Commissioner Epps from his photo at the prison and walked right up to him and told him all about Jamie's poor condition and shoddy medical treatment.  He stated that he was getting messages from all over the world (thanks to all of you!).  He stated that he was going to do everything that he could to obtain clemency or pardon for the Scott Sisters and that he was giving his word on this, although he had no power to actually make it happen himself.  Dr. Gloria Perry was also there and defended the medical care that Jamie Scott is receiving despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

Mrs. Rasco has done several MS radio shows and even spoke at a high school last night.  She was preparing to return home today but received a call in the middle of last night telling her that she needed to get back to the prison today (2/20) and see about Jamie.  Since today is Jamie's regular visiting day she was able to go right down there to see her. This a.m., however, Jamie was too weak to walk to the visiting room, but Mrs. Rasco was able to go to the infirmary where Jamie is being kept on a hospital bed inside of a cell.

She was horrified at Jamie's living conditions in the infirmary, she could not believe what she saw there.  She stated that there was trash all over the floor.  Jamie's bedding was dirty and her facebowl and toilet were filthy.  Jamie's floor had bags of dirty clothes.  The paint was peeling and the infirmary was nasty.  Jamie told her that the dialysis machine broke down again, this time during her last treatment and that she only received one hour on there.

The nurse said that Jamie needs to be hospitalized RIGHT NOW because of a huge knot of infection that has amassed in her neck. The catheter has drifted and is again non-functional.  The nurse is giving her antibiotics and said she should have been hospitalized yesterday but that the paperwork had not been completed.  She is hoping that Jamie will get sent back to the hospital on Monday.  The food in the tray that was delivered to Jamie while Mrs. Rasco was there was swimming in water and unfit to eat.  Jamie refused it and said she has not been receiving the nutrition that dialysis patients are supposed to have.

One of Mrs. Rasco's legal advisers, Chokwe Lumumba, urged that we strive to get support from a medical foundation or institution that can help to get Jamie moved into a medical facility ASAP in order to save her life. The infections and her horrible living conditions, her lack of consistent dialysis, medications, and nutrition and her serious illnesses have left Jamie barely able to walk.
If you are able to help Jamie purchase her food, or even would like to put money on Gladys' books, please go to; and register for Access Corrections to help them.

Jamie Scott #19197
B Zone, Bed 196
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8550

Gladys Scott #19142
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8550

Please continue to contact the Governor, prison officials, politicians and media, there is a lot of renewed focus on the case of the Scott Sisters and Mrs. Rasco said that information is going out all over Mississippi radio.  Please continue to sign onto the compassionate release petition for Jamie at;
we have almost reached our goal of 1,000 signatures!

There are some upcoming events for the Scott Sisters, including a gathering at the Capitol in Jackson, MSThe MWM/Black Women's Defense League rally is being organized by Empress Chi for March 26, 2010.  The  "FREE THE SCOTT SISTERS" Protest Demonstration and Rally will also help to further the building of the "FREE THE SCOTT SISTERS" DIRECT ACTION TASK FORCE that is being coordinated by the BWDL.  To get involved with the FTSS-Task Force or for more information call 267-636-3802 or e-mail: or

Please subscribe to the mailing list and check the website and Facebook Group for updates.  Mrs. Rasco is still unable to respond to e-mails as she is away from her computer, so please send urgent messages to until she returns.

Visit and LINK to:;
being organized by Bro. Lumumba for next week.
Subscribe to our group:  Send a blank e-mail to and share information!

Facebook Group: Free The Scott Sisters
Compassionate Release Petition:;

Free the Scott Sisters Petition:;

Legal Transcripts:;

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mail Art 4 Mumia Campaign!

From "etta and the mailart4mumia working group". Sounds like an awesome idea. Great links at the bottom.
please translate – please forward – Please respond electronically to

Flood the White House – Mail Art 4 Mumia

Mumia Abu-Jamal – The world’s most well-known political prisoner may be re-sentenced to death.

Demand a new fair trial! Mail your solidarity!

Send your own Mail 4 Mumia to the White House anytime during the week of April 24th 2010
Although if you miss the deadline – the white house never closes –aka never too late to send art to the white house for Justice

Barak Obama – The Whitehouse 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Washington, D.C. –20500 usa

Create Paintings, Prints, Drawings, Collages, Sculpture, Extremely, Beautiful Letters, Anything Mailable.
 Anything Non Liquid, Non Perishable, Non Hazardous.

Why send art to the White House?

Art is a form of expression that needs no translation. By sending your own creative petition to the White House it demonstrates worldwide support and draws attention to Mumia’s unjust imprisonment. Tell the U.S. government that we stand with Mumia and will not allow him to be EXECUTED!

Please send a photo, copy or some sort of documentation for Local Art Show. Mumia lives in Solitary Confinement one hour from PittsburghAll contributions will be responded to.

Mailart 4 Mumia – 3807 Melwood AvePittsburgh, PA 15213  usa–
Here's a short list of websites with history on Mumia's case, legal background, audio interviews, movies, youtube clips, and Mumia's radio essays. Follow these for updates and background on the case:

Journalists for Abu-Jamal (great site, lots of links to others, audio and video on the right hand column:
Free Mumia Coalition, NYC:
Free Mumia, San Francisco:
Educators for Mumia:
The MOVE Organization:

Mumia's Radio Commentaries, updated weekly:

Movies Online

Framing an Execution: Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Media (narrated by Danny Glover):
A Case of Reasonable Doubt, HBO Documentary:

Video Interviews with Mumia:
Mumia on Political Parties:
Mumia Fighting for his life:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Scott Watch: Keep calling Epps and Barbour.

Nancy Lockhart sent a message to the members of Free The Scott Sisters.


Subject: Please Call And E-mail Christopher Epps (Prison Commissioner) & Haley Barbour (Governor of MS)

Samples of the e-malis that I've sent are below. While calling, I've used basically the same format. Many people have asked for a sample but, please feel free to write your own. Contact information for both Haley Barbour's Assistant and Christopher Epps are within this e-mail as well as, in the discussion section of the FB group. In addition, FB has taken about 9 hours to send messages and several persons have indicated that they are receiving 4 or 5 of the same messages, this is beyond our control and thank you for understanding.

Commissioner Epps:

I am respectfully writing to request that you allow Jamie Scott to receive the medical care that she is deserving of and entitled to.  A specialist is willing to volunteer his time behind the walls to examine Jamie and I am asking that this is permitted.

Please don't allow this young otherwise healthy daughter, sister, mother and friend to die unnecessarily.  I am sure you know that time is of the essence so please do not wait; her life is at stake.


Governor Barbour:

Jamie Scott # 19197 and Gladys Scott #19142 have been incarcerated over 15 years for a crime in which $11 dollars was netted. Witnesses stated that they were coerced and threatened to implicate the sisters. Please commute the sentences of both Jamie and Gladys Scott. Presently, Jamie is fighting for her life with kidney failure and is receiving inadequate medical care.


Christopher Epps Commissioner
Mississippi Department of Corrections
723 North President Street
Jackson, Mississippi 39202
601-359-5621 (Phone)
601-359-5680 (FAX)

Haley Barbour -
Personal Assistant
Dorothy Kuykendall
P.O. Box 139
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
(601) 359-3150
(601) 359-3741-FAX


To reply to this message, follow the link below:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Black Women's Defense League Unit Rallies for Scotts.

Here's the latest on the Scott Sisters: these women rock! This is what we've been needing so much...


Subject: MWM/BWDL Action/Radio for Scott Sisters ~ via Sis. Marpessa


Official Report from the Million Woman Movement/Black Women's Defense League Unit
For more information contact:

February 12, 2010

The Black Women's Defense League one of the official ACTION cadre's of the International Million Woman Movement will be presenting the case of the Scott Sisters  to the participants of the 2010 Black Nation Day gathering that will take place in Jackson Mississippi at the end of March (which will also be end of Women's History Month).

Along with a "Teach In" on the case of the Scott Sisters and other cases of injustices infringed upon Black women (women of African descent) in the US, a People's Rally in front of the Capitol State Building is being planned to be held on Fri. March 26, 2010 to demand the release of Jamie and Gladys Scott and a federal investigation into racist, prejudicial, and/or judiciary misconduct.

This, a pre-requisite assembly that will lead up to a more extensive campaign and mass Rally that will take place later in the Fall will serve as the first phase in the  People's Demand and Complaint  that is being logged and against the Government of Mississippi  (Jackson & Pearl Judiciaries and Law Enforcement).  Additionally, the Rally and Teach-In will  provide an abundance of  information, facilitate the workings for much needed awareness,create and spark motivation for "action", while demonstrating and building Unity amongst the masses (the community at large).

The March 26, 2010  "FREE THE SCOTT SISTERS" Protest Demonstration and Rally will also help to further the building of the "FREE THE SCOTT SISTERS" DIRECT ACTION TASK FORCE that is being coordinated by the BWDL  To get involved with the FTSS-Task Force or for more information call 267-636-3802  or  or

Tune in to the Feb. 13, 2010 segment of "NU Day Resurrection and Liberation" 10:30 PM - 12midnight EST to hear important updates on the Scott Sisters and action steps when we talk LIVE with Sis. Attorney Jaribu Hill  who is the grassroots organizer, human rights fighter, and  legal adviser to Mrs Evelyn Rasco, mother of the Scott Sisters.  Hear about the new campaign that is geared to the ministers etc.  Tune in on line (internet) at:;; or podcast at:  646-652-2232

Sis. Attorney Jaribu Hill

Executive Director,

Mississippi Workers’ Center For Human Rights
Greenville, Mississippi
Sis. Jaribu Hill


To reply to this message, follow the link below:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Arizona Republican Tax Shift Shuffle

(From Friday, Feb 12 - just moved this up so it greets everyone Monday morning, instead of the nonsense from Pearce. It may bounce around a few more times. Anyway, I expect to see you all at the legislature. Don't let them vote in those tax cuts for the rich without lodging your protests...) 

The real story here is not just the sales tax hike everyone is talking about (which disproportionately hits the poor, working and middle classes) - it's the tax cuts for business and the rich that are to follow. 

I think the media obscures the stark reality - here's the vision our GOP state leadership has for us:

They want to make higher education less affordable for more middle and working class Arizona families at a time when we need it the most; 

Instead of reducing all the social, economic, and human costs of crime and punishment, they plan on filling at least 5,000 more prison beds in the state in the next couple of years (which towns are competing with each other to host, in order to have such wonderful jobs without college degrees); 

They're going to slash vital resources to people (again) living on the edge (inevitably pushing some into $22,000+/year room and board - at our grandkids' expense - at the AZ Department of Corrections); and 

They'll keep screwing the teachers over (for resisting them to begin with) - making those "difficult choices" to save the state from this "budget crisis" (caused by the greed of the wealthy few - like them - not by the poverty or crimes of the many. Remember?). 

In the process, with a sleight of hand, they'll shift the tax burden even further off of those profiting from our labor or incarceration - encouraging more of their kind to move here on our dime, requiring more of us to supply them with low-wage labor for their service sector. The only belts the Governor and Legislature have been tightening are the ones around our necks. Their own are stuffed with money - and guns. Let's just ask them to "walk all over us, please".

Is Arizona really going to go for this? Are the cops and firemen still on board with all that? You guys are union - aren't you? Doesn't that mean anything here? Most people in this state have surrendered, it seems. You're catching on to what's really happening, aren't you?

I know they didn't get to every last one of you.

You should at least wonder what's in store for your kids here, if this is really still the direction we're going. I frankly think the folks following Pearce's wagon train are going to run off a cliff before November - first they have to shake good old Sheriff Joe loose, though. That still gives them a lot of time to do some damage, so I think we need to intensify resistance now, rather than later. This budget deal they made is going to get signed into law this week - next Monday at the latest. 

I think this strategy the Republicans are employing across the country - with their budget "crises" and hysteria about health care reform driving us all into ruin -  is shock and awe, or disaster capitalism - something like that. Someone's coined the term to describe it already. They're trying to ram as much garbage down our throats at once while we're still stunned from the last round of cuts and anti-working class legislation. They dragged us off to war, raided all the cupboards and hoarded all the goods, then blamed Medicaid recipients and people who wanted All-day K for being the cause of revenue shortfalls (see how that sounds compared to framing it as a "budget deficit"? Defining the problem and prescribing a solution is pretty tied up in the language we use, which the media plays a big part of manipulating, and we so seldom cue into). 

Now they're trying to take their tax cuts out of our elderly and disabled (though we oddly submit to paying for them to live and die in prison); they're all like bullies on the playground. With guns. The AEA shouldn't be deluded into thinking that they've already been hit hard enough - they're going to make sure you're finished off by the end of this legislative session, which you will be if you don't get back on your feet and resist this tax burden shift - this is all landing right on you and your kids.

Good for Senator Davis. Not a single Democrat should support this tax shift. Not a single one - I'm sure they understand what it's all about - a few have tried to articulate it. But enough will vote for it to make up for the libertarian resisters, because they've already made their deals, selling out one set of constituents for another - trying to do the most for the common good. And they'll answer us by wringing their hands about being powerless against the Right all the while. 

We'll always be outgunned and too poor, but it doesn't mean we should give up the fight. Progress may take generations to see, but depends on our persistence and commitment. This IS The Revolution. It's happening here and now, and is on-going, as the global struggle for justice and liberation have always been. 

As for our resources these days - all this blogging is pretty much free - free for me to do, and for the public to use. That's the awesome thing about all these new Prison Watches going up around the country (sorry, I haven't kept up my links, but will update them soon with new states). Me and my friends aren't an organization or registered charity, and don't have to deal with donations or anything; we count up our change every couple of months, basically. The biggest expenses I have with my three blogs are the P.O. box, postage to prisoners, and an occasional ink cartridge and paper. I'd be on-line and printing stuff anyway, so it's hardly anything out of my pocket - I could probably do this with ten or fifteen dollars a  month. 

And it's not all on me - when I get sick I can take time off. Anyone else can help author and edit the sites themselves - from anywhere in the world, really - as long as they can access a computer and the internet. It takes time and research - and being on good list-serves - but we don't have to sit around and wait for someone else (someone with "authority") to tell us they're fixing the problem, after who-knows-how-many-more people have died...

This is the easiest program to learn. Just remember if you take it on, once it's out there, it's almost impossible to shake loose from being Googled with something you said or wrote; you don't want to cringe when you come across it again. I do sometimes. It's also evidence that will undoubtedly be used against you, if you really cause a fuss, so be sure that what you write is something you're willing to answer for. Freedom of Speech only goes as far as they let it. It may cost you a lot.

Anyway, from what I've seen, it's about to get worse before it gets better for prisoners and outlaws, so if you're out there thinking that you have some state prisons of your own to watch - or maybe you want to see what's happening with elderly prisoners, or those across the country seeking compassionate release or hospice care - drop any of us prison watchers (here or at the Prison Reform Community Center) a line. I'm still buried in both email and snail mail right now, but be patient - I'm working my way through. I'll be back up to speed in a couple of weeks.


Ariz. Senate Backs Vote On Sales Tax Hike
POSTED: 5:18 pm MST February 2, 2010
(Excerpt from AP Story)

..."The public are not getting the message that we are going to (both) raise their taxes and cut services," said Sen. Debbie McCune Davis, a Phoenix Democrat who voted against the referral.

The legislation's fate is in question in the House, where majority Republicans and minority Democrats can't even agree on what process to use for their budget work.House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said many GOP representatives are reluctant to vote for the sales-tax referral before the Senate votes on a House-passed tax and jobs bill. It would provide immediate business tax breaks for creating new jobs and future general tax cuts. Meanwhile, many House Democrats say the sales-tax referral wouldn't do enough to protect services and that its passage may only serve to provide money for Republican-pushed tax cuts.

According to Secretary of State Ken Bennett, the Legislature has until Feb. 16 to authorize the proposed May 19 special election.Because lawmakers have been debating Brewer's sales tax proposal for nearly a year, the current budget already includes $8 million to pay for holding the election. Legislators first considered a sales-tax referral last summer, falling just short of sending the issue first raised by Brewer last March to a fall special election ballot. Minority Democrats balked at that version because it would have been accompanied by long-term tax cuts sought by majority Republicans. Democrats later balked at a subsequent Republican push to also ask voters to relax voter-approved spending mandates...."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Petition for Jamie's Compassionate Release

Hey folks,

Check out the link to the petition below. Sign it, and please pass it on to others. The article at SF Bay View is a good summary to forward to others as well. More will be at Mississippi Prison Watch.

Subject: 2/10/10 Update On Jamie Scott ~ Please Contact The Governor ~ By Sis Marpessa

PLEASE keep on blasting Governor Haley Barbour's office! Jamie Scott was taken by ambulance to the hospital yesterday and returned to the prison thereafter and we've been told that she is very severely depressed. We have no official report on what was done to her there but believe that it could at the very least have included her having a dialysis treatment performed. We have some important organizing updates to share, so please forward and ACT!

The Action Committee for Women in Prison just posted a BRAND NEW petition specific to getting compassionate release for Jamie Scott and we need to get as many people to sign on as quickly as possible, so please go to; and SEND IT TO OTHERS.

Peggy Plews of Mississippi Prison Watch did an outstanding appeal to the Mississippi Kidney Foundation at; , which includes the following powerful statement:

"It may well be that Jamie's crisis is the catalyst that gets so much needed focus on the critically and terminally ill in prison; without her voice, countless others may suffer in invisibility. And her example of survival and resistance is an inspiration to other women living and dying there, too." Check it out, she was very thorough!

The Women Behind the Wall blogtalk radio program hosted by Mary Ellen and Gloria on 2/9 provided a lot of education and insight from those who could personally testify to being sick inside of those hellholes and the lack of caring offered by the corporations which dole out what passes for medical care, some of which has to come directly from the inmates' own pockets! This program featured Mrs. Rasco and Shakeerah Abdul al-Sabuur, paralegal, and is archived at;

The fantastic San Francisco Bay View continues to be our leading print resource and has posted a wonderful new piece today at the site:;

We've added in a new link to the Govs' assistant and ask that folks please CALL into the governor's office for maximum effect, but additionally follow-up with e-mails, letters, faxes and anything possible. Please do something rather than nothing at all!

Thank you so much, everyone!


Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
1-877-405-0733 or 601-359-3150
Fax: 601-359-3741
(If you reach VM leave msgs, faxes, and please send letters)

Dorothy Kuykendall
Personal Assistant to Gov. Barbour
(601) 359-3150
P. O Box 3150
Jackson, MS 39205

Christopher Epps, Commissioner of Prisons for the State of Mississippi
723 North President Street
Jackson, MS 39202

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Women Behind the Wall: Jamie Scott

I just found this posting, but you can still hear the show at blogtalk radio, below. Women Behind the Wall is hosted by two women who were exonerated after years in prison, and now try to help other women who were wrongfully convicted or are being unjustly treated. They did an episode about Marcia's death, which is linked to in the margins or below. This one is for Jamie and her family, via Mississippi Prison Watch.

A special edition of WOMEN BEHIND THE WALL, devoted to the desperate medical situation of Jamie Scott and efforts to obtain a compassionate release for Jamie before she dies of medical neglect in a woman's prison.
Tuesday 2/9/10 at 6:00 PM EST on, call in number 646-378-1432.

Nor Meekly Serve Her Time...

Hey All,

This may be my last blog post for awhile. I've been pretty ill these past few months, and this last round of antibiotics doesn't seem to be doing much. I may be in the hospital and inaccessible for a few days, if this fever doesn't break tomorrow. I'll still be following up with the individual case work I've started - or will get help doing so - and will post prisoner SOS calls and updates as I'm able to, but I won't be keeping up too well with politics and private prisons, and certainly won't be going to any protests for awhile. I need to gain a few pounds before I go chalking up the town again, too. My hope is to at least prepare a statement for the House Committee on Sentencing meeting, which is on for February 24. If I can do that much, I should be back up and blogging as well.

Friends of Marcia Powell can still log into that site under their own Gmail accounts, by the way - try to keep things looking alive, there, and post updates about our Anarchist/Indigenous bloc comrades. Think of something cool to do for state prisoners for Valentine's Day, too...

Speaking of - Free Marcia Powell was apparently confiscated in the mail room as contraband at Perryville Prison recently. Don't know what blog post it was - my friend just told me that she mailed something in there, and got a letter back from her friend saying they only gave her the envelope. I found that kind of amusing at first - I just dropped below a hundred pounds this weekend, can't keep up with the daily news anymore, and the most fortified institution in the state actually considers me a threat.  

I suppose I should take it as a compliment, but now I'm kind of annoyed, instead. I hope I don't have trouble corresponding with prisoners myself - there are a few I just need to express support to - just to give them comfort - not get them all riled up...I wouldn't necessarily include everything in a letter that I put in my blogs, anyway. In any event, I won't be sneaking in - they'll see me coming. I don't think I have anything to hide. I guess they do, though...

Maybe it's not even me - maybe it's really the "us" that's the threat - the idea of solidarity between women on the inside, and those of us on the outside. We just might even constitute a "gang" - we're all pretty scary, with our chalk and signs. Seriously: this could be a dangerous new alliance forming: Sex Workers, anarchists, union members, food-not-bombers, angry prison moms and wives, families of the wrongfully convicted, people who were recently incarcerated, advocates for prisoners with Hep C, and a few free madwomen like me...we could really cause a ruckus if we can get in one place at the same time.

I'm thinking that Perryville Prison on May 20, 2010, would be a good place and time. We could have our first annual memorial service for those who have died in the custody of the state (jails, prisons, hospitals, etc) on the anniversary of Marcia Powell's death. I think we should ask the governor to issue a proclamation and have a ceremony, like she does to honor other crime victims. In fact, instead of freaking out the ADC by showing up at Perryville, we might work on trying to get a memorial plaque placed at Wes Bolin Plaza. Everyone else has one there - even the state's K-9s killed in the line of duty...including those left out too long in the sun. 

If they don't give us a spot at Bolin Plaza, then maybe we should just take one that day. I have a nice corner already picked out, facing the Capitol, opposite the crime victims' memorial. 

Just something to think about.

We should definitely connect and begin organizing before the Liver Life Walk on March 20 (see post below). I'll try to put together something at my place when I'm not quite so delerious.

It seems fitting to sign off for now with the following article by Vikki Law, remembering Marcia Powell. I thought I posted this already, but I guess I just held onto it closely for awhile because I thought it was so cool. I was pretty blown away to see the company we keep - humbled. It takes a lot more courage and creativity than I think I have to resist from the inside - self-restraint, too. In high school they just threw me out for my mouth (well, and a few other things). In prison they keep you longer. I'd spend my entire sentence in the hole for being too quick to clench my fist or pull out my fighting voice. It'd sure be hard to help anyone from there.

Anyway, I think it's pretty awesome that Vikki's been watching what's going on here with the women in Arizona's prison, and lending her support (and zines!) to our efforts. We've learned a lot from the women whose voices she's helped to amplify, and from her critical analyses of women's resistance in prison. She's been a steady source of encouragement, too, when I've wondered what the hell I'm doing out here and why. This isn't the "career" move most women my age are making (I think my family is finally getting worried about me). 

I actually think I want to write a musical about all this - something like Rent (Linda and I just saw her kid play Roger - he was awesome), only with the music and poetry and history of women's resistance that's already at our disposal...just not all of it has already been told.

Maybe it'll be about women organizing to help a fellow prisoner get lifesaving treatment that's not on the state formulary, or trying to win her compassionate release - something that will address the major issues we've been coming across calling for criminal code revision and sentencing reform, the shredding of the PLRA, and the ouster of legislators like Kavanaugh (Mr. Private Prison) and Pearce (no further comment). Some of those stories are related below.

Wouldn't it be something if Ryan let us in to collaborate with Perryville prisoners on this kind of thing?

Yeah. No chance in hell. I think I might just ask anyway. If he says no, we'll just work it into the script somehow. He makes a pretty good bad guy, I think. He can be the predictable faceless monster of prison bureaucracy, if he chooses to be. Or he can put Dora to shame, and do something remarkable for an old white male cop: help empower poor women. Let them use their voice.

How's that for a challenge? C'mon, Ryan. You must see the potential in this - it's not all bad for you. On some level, even Karyn Klausner has to be tempted to go for that. You guys aren't hiding state secrets anymore. We already know how evil the ADC is...maybe this could help you redeem yourselves.

That, and helping me help Mr. Tripati, could get you on the right track, anyway.

Just thinking aloud, fever's peaking again.  I actually almost went to the ER this weekend, but think I can slide by without them now. Dancing to Bob Marley every morning and Nina in the afternoon seems to help, but so does getting more sleep - my schedule's kind of out of whack, now. I think this is a sign I need to crash for a few days straight.

Save your cards and well-wishes for Mississippi - please help keep the pressure on there, and come up with some other creative ways to work with them. Follow-up with the Kidney Foundation and other patients' rights groups.

Email may take me a couple of weeks to sort through - I've been kind of incapacitated for a week already, so if you need me, call. 480-580-6807.

Back with you all sometime soon. Enjoy the read.


Nor Meekly Serve Her Time: Riots and Resistance in Women's Prisons

Victoria Law

New Politics ( Vol:XII-4
Winter 2010: 48
IN 1974, WOMEN IMPRISONED at New York's maximum-security prison at Bedford Hills staged what is known as the August Rebellion. Prisoner organizer Carol Crooks had filed a lawsuit challenging the prison's practice of placing women in segregation without a hearing or 24-hour notice of charges. In July, a court had ruled in her favor. In August, guards retaliated by brutally beating Crooks and placing her in segregation without a hearing. The women protested, fighting off guards, taking over several sections of the prison, and holding seven staff members hostage for two and a half hours.

Male state troopers and (male) guards from men's prisons were brought in to suppress the uprising, resulting in twenty-five women being injured. In the aftermath, twenty-four women were transferred to the Matteawan Complex for the Criminally Insane.

      Three years earlier, male prisoners in Attica, New York, captured headlines nationwide when they took over the prison for four days demanding better living and working conditions. The governor ordered the National Guard to retake the prison; 54 people (prisoners and guards) were killed. The rebellion catapulted prison issues into public awareness, becoming the symbol of prisoner organizing. In contrast, the August Rebellion is virtually forgotten today, leading to the widespread belief that women prisoners do not organize or resist.

      Women prisoners have always resisted. When imprisoned in male penitentiaries and work camps, they refused to obey the rules. When states began housing them in separate facilities, they protested substandard conditions, sometimes violently. In 1835, New York State opened its first prison for women. The environment was so terrible that the women rioted, attacking and tearing the clothes off the prison matron and physically chasing away other officials with wooden food tubs.[1]

      A century later, women continued to protest horrifying prison conditions: In 1975, women imprisoned in North Carolina held a sit-down demonstration demanding better medical care, improved counseling services, and the closing of the prison laundry. When prison guards attempted to end the protest by herding them into the gymnasium and beating them, the women fought back. Using volleyball net poles, chunks of concrete, and hoe handles, they drove the guards out of the prison. Their rebellion was quashed only after the state called in over one hundred guards from other prisons.[2]

      Some instances of resistance remain little known outside the prison. Former political prisoner Rita "Bo" Brown recounts that women imprisoned in Nevada took action against the prison's psychiatrist who had been pushing psychotropic medication, even to women who did not need it. One woman died as a result. Her death unleashed the women's anger. The next time the psychiatrist visited the prison, the women threw chairs, tables, and anything they could lift, driving him not only off-premises but also off the job. Not only was the psychiatrist replaced (with the prison's first woman psychiatrist who did not share her predecessor's enthusiasm for drugging patients), but so were the prison's doctor, warden, assistant warden, and other higher-ups in the prison administration.

      The women's action did not make the news. Brown learned of it only after arriving at the prison itself two months later. Former political prisoner Laura Whitehorn also recounted tales of resistance that, were she not outside telling them, would have remained buried behind prison walls. When she first arrived at the Baltimore City Jail in 1985, she quickly learned that she would have to fight for her rights, even those she was entitled to under jail regulations, state law, and the constitution. "As a white middle-class woman, I really hate waiting on lines. I didn't want to. But I had to learn the difference between making that an issue, which no one else there thought was the big issue, and fighting for things that were really important to people. And taking leadership from the women who knew better than I did what was important to resist."

      She recounted that, like many other jails and prisons, the food was almost inedible. "We had been hoping that at Thanksgiving, we would get a piece of turkey, something that was decent," she recounted. "Come Thanksgiving, they [the guards and administration] hand out these, I don't know, they were dinosaur legs! You could break a window with them. And, in this prison, when you come in and you had dentures, they would take your teeth away. So most of the women didn't have teeth. I couldn't eat them with my big choppers and other women couldn't either. We were all furious. We marched out and we threw them all in the garbage and walked out. That was the first little bit of resistance around this issue.

      "So me, with my 'We're going to make a revolution here,' I started talking to my friends. And I said, 'At Christmas, let's do a hunger strike,' or 'Let's throw the trays back at them' or something. And people were like, 'No, we don't want to do that.' And what they came up with, which was much better, was that we should not go to dinner that day. Just not go, and that we should organize the community people that came in, which were a nun, a teacher, a chaplain, and the decent guards to bring food and make a Christmas party. And so we got that. And the whole time I'm thinking 'Oh yeah, this is really revolutionary, a Christmas party.' Well, it was. Because it was saying 'Fuck you. You don't want to give us our rights but we're going to take them in this small way.' It was the most wonderful thing. It was really great."[3]

MORE RECENTLY, WOMEN INCARCERATED in Arizona attempted to protest and draw public attention to the use of cages in Arizona prisons. The only coverage was a short article in the Arizona Republic.[4] The incident might have been forgotten had blogger Peggy Plews not taken on the issue, reprinting the article on her blog, reaching out to other prisoner rights advocates, organizing protest actions, and demanding accountability from Arizona prison and elected officials.[5] Arizona has more than 600 outdoor cages where prisoners are placed to confine or restrict their movement or to hold them while awaiting medical appointments, work, education, or treatment programs.[6] On May 20, 2009, Marcia Powell, a mentally ill 48-year-old incarcerated in Perryville, died after being left in an unshaded cage for nearly four hours in 107 degree heat. Two and a half weeks later, three women at the same prison simultaneously set fire to their mattresses in an attempt to draw outside attention to these conditions.[7]

      Women have also resisted in less visibly dramatic ways. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 allows male guards to work in female prisons. Many states do not restrict guards' access to the women, often leading to sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. However, incarcerated women have resisted staff sexual abuse, both individually and collectively. One woman, incarcerated in Ohio during the early 1990s, recounted that a male officer constantly harassed her cellmate. "He'd make nasty insinuations about her breasts and what he would like to do to them and how he would like to do it and what he'd do to her."[8] The guard threatened to place cocaine among their possessions if she or her friends reported his behavior. His threat worked; the women kept quiet about his harassment. One night, he assaulted his victim. Her cellmate and another prisoner heard her screams and found her with semen on her face. Despite their fears, the three filed a complaint with prison officials and later testified before a grand jury, leading to the officer's arrest and conviction. Their actions encouraged other women to resist male guards' abuse of power.

      "It was a funny thing after that happened," the woman stated. "A lot of the nastiness and that vulgarness . . . was seeming to cease a little bit and to ease up a little bit, because they began to get nervous. And more women stood up, and two other officers were escorted off because the women found enough courage to stand up."[9]

      Laura Whitehorn has a similar story from her incarceration at the federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky.
There was this one guard. We called him "John Wayne." . . . He would pat-search us. They're not supposed to put their hands on our breasts or in between our legs, they're supposed to just go around the area. But he grabbed my breasts and squeezed them and so I rammed my elbow into whatever [body part] was nearest behind me. And he tried to lock me up. I was taken to the lieutenant's office.

One of the other dykes on the compound, who was a good friend, saw me. I said, "John Wayne just grabbed my breasts." She brought two others and they all stood outside the lieutenant's office, which is off-limits, and said, "We demand that this be taken seriously." And so they didn't lock me up . . .We then grieved it . . . And we lost. They said he had acted professionally. But the lieutenant . . . took two of us aside and said, "We want you to know that they're making John Wayne watch the training videos over and over again. And they didn't have him at the checkpoint where the most people go through."[10]

      Although the women's actions did not remove "John Wayne" from the prison, it did warn him that his behavior would no longer go unchecked and removed him from working in areas where he could do the most harm.

      Women have also organized collectively to limit male guards' access and abuse. In 1996, 500 women who had been sexually assaulted by guards while incarcerated in Michigan filed Neal v. MDOC. In July 2009, the suit was settled. Male guards were prohibited from entering areas in which women would be partially or fully undressed (i.e., sleeping, shower, and toilet areas). The settlement also provided for a $100 million settlement for the women who had been assaulted and payment of all legal fees.[11]

      Another issue that women have organized around is education. Access to education is particularly important given that women in prison come from the groups least likely to finish high school or attend college: women in poverty, disproportionately African-American and Latina.[12]

      In 1973, Michigan was one of several states that provided basic education programs in male but not female prisons.[13] In 1977, women imprisoned in Michigan's Huron Valley State Prison filed Glover v. Johnson, a class-action suit claiming that prison officials violated incarcerated women's rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by denying them access to the vocational and educational programs that were available to their male counterparts. When asked what prompted her to file the suit, lead plaintiff Mary Glover stated, "I wanted to go to college." Both she and her husband had been sentenced to prison. Her husband had the opportunity to enroll in both college and vocational programming. Glover, who was sent to the women's prison, did not.[14]

      In 1979, the court ruled in their favor and ordered the state to establish a general education program for women that was the equivalent to the one offered to men.[15]

      The court also ordered that the prison offer a course on legal skills to the women "because skilled women inmates are needed to provide access to the courts." In the court's opinion, although the prison law library met constitutional standards, women still lacked the access to the courts guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause. Male prisoners had a tradition of jailhouse lawyering and thus had developed expertise in utilizing legal resources, but "the women do not have a history of self-help in the legal field; the evidence tends to show that until recently they have had little access to adequate resources."[16] Some of these women, including Mary Glover, took these courses and then went on to file other suits against MDOC (including Neal v. MDOC).

      Women have also organized to defend their access to educational programs. In 1972, radical feminists formed the Santa Cruz Women's Prison Project (SCWPP), the first program to ever offer university courses in a women's prison. In contrast to the prison's existing vocational programs, such as hairdressing, sewing, and office work, the SCWPP offered courses that challenged students to analyze the social issues affecting their lives, such as Women and the Law, Drug Use in U.S. Culture, and an Ethnic Studies course which focused on the historical and sociological perspective on women of color in the United States.[17]

      The project also connected women inside with current events and foreign political struggles. After learning about the experiences of women in Vietnam, women at CIW wrote letters of solidarity to women political prisoners in Vietnam. The letters were not only delivered to the women imprisoned in South Vietnam but also published as a pamphlet entitled From Women in Prison Here to Women of Vietnam: We Are Sisters.

      In 1972, when one of the SCWPP founders was temporarily banned from the prison and the program suspended, students organized a work strike and a sit-in before the warden's office.[18] When the project was barred again in 1973, the students circulated petitions, held work strikes, and met with the administration to protest the project's removal.

      During one of the periods in which the project was banned, a woman who had been at the prison for years observed:

I witnessed something I would have believed [three years ago] was impossible. We had an [illegal] meeting where Black and White were united, under one common cause. There were women there who in the past would never have spoken to each other but here they were standing together, agreeing, touching shoulders. The tone of the meeting was not loud or wild. It was a confident approach to bringing back the workshops. It is something we all want. It was beautiful. We elected a six-woman committee to speak for the group. We are not afraid.[19]

The opportunity to critically examine issues affecting their lives and to challenge prevailing stereotypes built bridges between prisoners who had previously believed they had nothing in common. And, when this opportunity was threatened, these women already had the groundwork to set aside their differences and unite to pressure the prison to reinstate the program.

      Even today, access to education has a tremendous impact on women behind bars, many of whom enter prison with low self-esteem, self-worth, and self confidence after years of physical and/or sexual abuse.[20] Marcia Bunney, incarcerated in California, recounted, "Difficult experiences at school during my childhood and adolescence had left me with memories of loathing conventional education and everything connected with it." The abuse that she had suffered in previous relationships had implanted the idea that she was not smart enough to attend college: "I was skeptical of the idea of returning to school, certain that college was beyond my ability, ready to give up before I had given myself a chance to start."[21]

      However, without the continual discouragement of abusive lovers and with the encouragement of her fellow prisoners and her prison work supervisor, Bunney overcame her doubts and fears about education, earning an associates degree. That was not her only lesson: "Beyond the specific components of the curriculum, I learned many valuable lessons, the greatest of which was that I was capable. After a lifetime of seeing myself as a failure and as inferior, this represented a complete reversal, one that admittedly required effort to accept and absorb."[22]

      How is education linked to resistance? Women with more education are often sought by their peers. Broomhall observed that less literate women rely on others to write their requests to staff members. "They are simply incapable of clear expression," she noted.[23] Dawn, a woman incarcerated in Texas, concurred: "Frequently, I will hear women ask someone to help them write a grievance." She also noted that when a woman writes a grievance about a condition affecting all or most of the women on her unit, others will copy her complaint. "They believe that there is some right or wrong way to fill these [grievance forms] out and that somehow they are not qualified to write on this 'official form,'" she noted. "It's very daunting to some of them."[24]

      Education has also led women to challenge systemic abuses: both the writing skills and the self-confidence that Marcia Bunney gained during her college classes led her to learn to use the prison grievance system to dispute prison injustices. Prison officials transferred her to the Central California Women's Facility where she took advantage of her job as a library assistant and taught herself law. She joined the National Lawyers' Guild, becoming one of five prisoner representatives of the National Steering Committee of the Guild's Prison Law Project. She also initiated contact with an attorney known to be interested in litigating to change prison conditions: "Soon I was organizing the active acquisition of information to support claims of systematically inferior medical care, including the names and particulars of prisoners willing to come forward to be interviewed." In addition, Bunney began educating herself about civil litigation, again drawing on the skills she learned through her college classes: "My strong composition skills were an asset, and I grew adept at drafting clear, concise declarations as a means of documenting the serious medical problems of many women, including several who proceeded to file individual actions for damage."[25]

      During the 1970s, outside activists and organizers recognized that the injustices occurring on the inside were exaggerated mirrors of those on the outside and often worked in solidarity with people in prison to challenge and change prison conditions. Today, although many on the left are alarmed about the trend of mass incarceration, few are making the personal connections with people inside resisting and organizing. Why aren't we connecting the struggles for social justice outside with those on the inside?

      Incarcerated women and their advocates have suggestions on how activists and organizers on the outside can support their resistance behind bars:
  • Make contact with women in prison. As a woman incarcerated in Florida put it, "Visits, phone calls, and letter writing are essential. Only with a firm foundation, a strong foundation, can we together be able to build a greater movement."
  • Speak out or write about prison issues, especially when they intersect with issues that are considered "non-prison" issues.
  • Raise awareness in other creative ways. Activists infuriated by Marcia Powell's death have been placing "Free Marcia Powell" signs in well-trafficked areas, spreading the word not only about her death but also systemic prison atrocities.
  • Send literature and news from the outside.
  • Participate in support organizations that include the participation and leadership of currently and/or formerly incarcerated women.
  • Peer education groups need up-to-date information on health issues and treatments! They also need outside people who are willing to provide services not available (but much needed) within the prison.
  • For those connected to universities or other educational institutions: look into setting up a women's studies course or other program within a women's prison that helps articulate and challenge the dominant ways of thinking and the power structure. 


1. Nicole Hahn Rafter, Partial Justice: Women, Prisons and Social Control, 2nd ed. (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1990), 17-18.
2. The New York Times, "Women Inmates Battle Guards in North Carolina," June 17, 1975, 18.
3. Laura Whitehorn, "Women on the Margins: Incarceration and Resistance in the Current Era." Left Forum, Pace University, April 19, 2009.
4. Megan Boehnke, "Three Perryville Inmates Set Mattresses on Fire in Goodyear," Arizona Republic, June 7, 2009.
5. In an open letter to the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Charles Ryan, Plews asked: "What has the department done to the women who set their mattresses on fire in organized protest? It is my understanding that they are in administrative segregation now (commonly referred to as being put into the hole), and may only receive legal assistance if charged in criminal court; they are on their own defending themselves in internal disciplinary proceedings, even though the outcome could seriously affect the kind and length of time they end up doing in the long run."
6. Arizona Department of Corrections, Chapter 700: Operational Security. Department Order 704: Inmate Regulations. 704.09: Temporary Holding Enclosures. (accessed July 7, 2009).
7. Peggy Plews, "Smoke Signals in the Desert," Prison Abolitionist, June 7, 2009 (accessed July 7, 2009).
8. Patricia Gagne, Battered Women's Justice: The Movement for Clemency and the Politics of Self-Defense (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998), 185.
9. Gagne, 185.
10. Whitehorn. "Women on the Margins."
11. For more on the settlement, see here.
12. Michelle Fine, Kathy Boudin, Iris Bowen, Judith Clark, Donna Hylton, Migdalia Martinez, "Missy," Rosemarie Roberts, Pamela Smart, Maria Torre and Debora Upegui, Changing Minds: The Impact of College in a Maximum Security Prison, 2001.
13. R.R. Arditi, F. Goldberg, Hartle and Phelps, "The Sexual Segregation of American Prisons," Yale Law Journal 82 (1973): 1242.
14. Mary Glover, telephone interview with author, October 12, 2008.
15. Glover v Johnson, 478 F. Supp. 1075 (E.D.Mich. 1979).
16. Ibid.
17. Karlene Faith, "The Santa Cruz Women's Prison Project, 1972-1976," in Schooling in a "Total Institution": Critical Perspectives on Prison Education, ed. Howard S. Davidson. (Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey, 1995), 177-8, 180-181.
18. SCWPP founder Karlene Faith had ended a letter to a prisoner with the word "Venceremos" (literally "we will conquer"), a colloquialism that many activists used to indicate overcoming all obstacles to freedom. However, the guard who read her letter assumed that Faith was connected with a group called "Venceremos," which had claimed credit for an escape from a neighboring men's prison. Faith -- and the program -- was allowed to return to the prison only after a thorough investigation of her background (Faith, "Women's Prison Project,"182-3).
19. Faith, "Women's Prison Project,"185. Faith does not go into detail about what had caused that particular break in the program or what the women had resolved to do in that instance.
20. Caroline Wolf Harlow, Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and Probationers, special report for the U.S. Department of Justice, April 1999, 1.
21. Marcia Bunney, "One Life in Prison: Perception, Reflection and Empowerment," in Harsh Punishment: International Experiences of Women's Imprisonment, ed. Sandy Cook and Susanne Davies (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999), 24.
22. Ibid., 26.
23. Jerrye Broomhall, letter to author, January 30, 2008.
24. Dawn Reiser, letter to author, February 11, 2008.
25. Bunney, "One Life in Prison," 28-29.

Author Bio:
Victoria Law is a writer, photographer, and mother. She is a co-founder of Books Through Bars -- New York City, an organization that sends free radical literature and books to prisoners nationwide, and editor of the 'zine Tenacious: Writings from Women in Prison. Her latest book, Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women, is the result of 8 years of listening to, writing, and supporting incarcerated women nationwide.