Martori Farms: Abusive Conditions at a Key Wal-Mart Supplier

by: Victoria Law, Friday 24 June 2011
Truthout | News Analysis

In 1954, an 18-year-old black woman named Eleanor Rush was incarcerated at the state women’s prison. She was placed in solitary confinement for six days.
On the seventh day, Rush was not fed for over 16 hours. After 16 hours, she began yelling that she was hungry and wanted food. In response, the guards bound and gagged her, dislocating her neck in the process.
Half an hour later, Rush was dead.

The next morning, when the other women in the prison gathered in the yard, another woman in the solitary confinement unit yelled the news about Rush’s death from her window. The women in the yard surrounded the staff members supervising their activities and demanded answers about Rush’s death. When they didn’t get them, the women – both the black and the white women – rioted.
The riot lasted three and a half hours, not stopping until Raleigh, North Carolina, police and guards from the men’s Central Prison arrived.
The women’s riot brought outside attention to Rush’s death. As a result:
The State Bureau of Investigation ordered a probe into Rush’s death rather than believing the prison’s explanation that Rush had dislocated her own neck and committed suicide.

Until that point, nothing in the prison rules explicitly prohibited the use of improvised gags. After the riot and probe, the State Prisons director explicitly banned the use of gags and iron claws (metal handcuffs that can squeeze tightly).

The prison administration was required to pay $3,000 to Rush’s mother. At that time, $3,000 was more than half the yearly salary of the prison warden.

The prison warden, who had allowed Rush to be bound and gagged, was replaced by Elizabeth McCubbin, the executive director of the Family and Children’s Service Agency. Her hiring indicated a shift from a punitive model toward a more social service/social work orientation.

The women themselves testified that they had rioted to ensure that Rush’s death was not dismissed and that the circumstances would not be repeated.

Fifty-five years after Rush was killed in solitary confinement, Marcia Powell, a mentally ill 48-year-old woman incarcerated at the Perryville Unit in Arizona, died. The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has more than 600 of these 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. On May 20, 2009, the temperature was 107 degrees. Powell was placed in an unshaded cage in the prison yard. Although prison policy states that “water shall be continuously available” to caged prisoners and that they should be in the cage for “no more than two consecutive hours,” guards continually denied her water and kept her in the cage for four hours. Powell collapsed of heat stroke, was sent to West Valley Hospital where ADC Director Charles Ryan took her off life support hours later.

The ensuing media attention over Powell’s death caused the ADC to temporarily suspend using these cages. Once the media attention faded, the ADC lifted the suspension.(1)

Abuses at Perryville have continued. The ADC has sent its prisoners to work for private agricultural businesses for almost 20 years.(2) The farm pays its imprisoned laborers two dollars per hour, not including the travel time to and from the farm. Women on the Perryville Unit are assigned to Martori Farms, an Arizona farm corporation that supplies fresh fruits and vegetables to vendors across the United States (Martori is the exclusive supplier to Wal-Mart’s 2,470 Supercenter and Neighborhood Market stores).(3)

According to one woman who worked on the farm crews:

They wake us up between 2:30 and three AM and KICK US OUT of our housing unit by 3:30AM. We get fed at four AM. Our work supervisors show up between 5AM and 8AM. Then it’s an hour to a one and a half hour drive to the job site. Then we work eight hours regardless of conditions …. We work in the fields hoeing weeds and thinning plants … Currently we are forced to work in the blazing sun for eight hours. We run out of water several times a day. We ran out of sunscreen several times a week. They don’t check medical backgrounds or ages before they pull women for these jobs. Many of us cannot do it! If we stop working and sit on the bus or even just take an unauthorized break we get a MAJOR ticket which takes away our “good time”!!!

We are told we get “two” 15 min breaks and a half hour lunch like a normal job but it’s more like 10 minutes and 20 minutes. They constantly yell at us we are too slow and to speed up because we are costing $150 an acre in labor and that’s not acceptable.
The place is infested with spiders of all types, scorpions, snakes and blood suckers. And bees because they harvest them. On my crew alone, there are four women with bee allergies, but they don’t care!! There are NO epinephrine pens on site to SAVE them if stung.
There’s no anti venom available for snake bites and they want us to use Windex (yes glass cleaner) for scorpion stings!! INSANITY!!! They are denying us medical care here.(4)

Although Martori Farms contracts with the local fire departments to provide medical attention for injuries on the farm, farm supervisors do not always allow women to stop work when they need medical care. When “N” complained of chest pains, the farm representative refused to allow her to stop working. The next day, an hour after returning to work, she began experiencing chest pains. The farm representative told her, “Come on, the big bosses are here. You’ll be in trouble if you stop. It’s not break time. Work, work, work.” “N” complied, working while in pain, until the break. She resumed working for another half hour before she experienced even more severe pains:

“I have a steady deep dull pain with sharp stabbing pains periodically … Then all of a sudden, I can’t even lift the hoe in the air. My arms are no longer strong enough. By now, the chest pains are so bad it’s knocking the wind out of me. I’m straight seeing stars. I tell our substitute boss officer Sanders I can’t do it no more. I’m having really bad chest pains. I can’t even lift the hoe anymore.” The man accused her of faking these pains, but allowed her to stop working. While the woman was receiving medical attention, another farm representative stated, “Oh, so now they’re gonna start faking fucking heart attacks to not work. Great.”(5)

In addition, the prison has sent women to work on the farms regardless of their medical conditions. “N” was sent to West Valley Hospital where an emergency room doctor ordered that she be exempt from the farm work crew and any other physical exertion for three to four days. However, when “N” was returned to the prison, the nurse told her that they could not honor the doctor’s order and ordered her back to work.

Another woman concurs.

“There was one woman that is on oxygen, in a wheelchair, has an IV line and cancer that they sent to the gate to work on the farm … The captain asked if she could stand. She said yes. His reply was if you can stand, you can farm. She told him no and was issued a disciplinary ticket.”(6)

The women have not accepted these abuses quietly. They have launched complaints to prison administrators:

“Women have made their complaints on inmate letters and verbally to the lieutenant, sergeant, captains, deputy warden, counselors, supervisors and the major. Their solution was to give us an extra sack lunch and agree to feed us breakfast Saturday mornings. UGH!! Really … food is not what we were asking for. Though being fed on Saturdays is nice. Yah! They were not feeding us Saturdays because that’s a day Kitchen opens late because they give brunch on weekends. No lunch, so we were getting screwed! But as of this past Saturday they said they would feed us before work! Let’s see how long it lasts.”

Women have also stood up to unfair demands from the bosses at the farm. One woman recounted:

On Wednesday I go to work … it’s the second day in a row we are doing weeds. [I’m] up to my chest trying to weed to save a minimal amount of watermelon plants. Needless to say, the work was excessively hard – to put it mildly. So I must confess the day before I was “on one,” so to speak. My haunted mind was lost in the past and so I was just trucking through the weeds, plowing them down, not even connecting with my physical exertion and pain. So the next day I was completely exhausted and physically broke down!! I was in so much pain because the day before I did like double the work everyone else did. So anyways, the M Farm representative was pushing me so hard trying to get me to produce the same results as the day before … [He] has everyone at minimum teamed up helping each other plow through these weeds. Well everyone but me that is. I repeatedly asked him to give me a partner. I kept telling him that I was in pain. I also went as far as to tell him that I don’t think I can do this anymore, to PLEASE give me a partner also. His response was “No. You’re strong. You can do it by yourself.” I told him not true; I over-exerted myself yesterday because I was going through some things. Now I’m hurt and need help…. He thought my pleas were funny. I hated to degrade myself and plea so I stopped and continued.

After “N” had finished her assigned row, the farm representative demanded that she finish weeding two other rows that had been abandoned. When she again requested a weeding partner, stating that she was in pain, the representative replied, “When you get to the end, I’ll think about it.”

By this time, all the girls are finishing their rows because they’re all teamed up with 2 or three girls per row. Except me. So there are only two whole rows left on the field by now and he already placed six girls per row. That’s twelve women on two rows. And I can’t even get one helper. That’s RIDICULOUS … I tell him “Mariano all joking aside, all the others are finishing. Can I please get a helper?” He tells me “Seriously, no joking. When you get to the end, I’ll think about it.” At that point I’m pretty upset and broke down. I looked at him and said “Is that right?” I paused staring at him waiting for him to stop his male chauvinist domination games or whatever he’s playing. When he didn’t say anything, but just stared. I told him, “Fine Mariano I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. I’m hurt and struggling through this. After what happened to me before I would think you would provide me help when I need it. Since you won’t look out for my health and well-being, I will. Someone has to. I’m done for today. I’m going to sit on the bus.”

The supervisor demanded that she return to work, threatening to call the prison to have disciplinary tickets written up. She refused.

At this point I’m so angry that this jerk would make me lose everything because I’m not submissive and I don’t obey him like the women back in Mexico do that I admit I blew up and acted unprofessional. I told him “Mariano, Fuck you and your tickets. Go write them if you want. In fact I’ll write them for you to make sure you get the facts straight.”…

At this point the two women who were on the bus got all riled up and were yelling, “That’s not fair. She’s your best worker and you’re going to punish her with tickets!!!” “She’s hurt I heard her asking for help all day!” “We’ve been sitting on the bus for over an hour and we’re not getting tickets, why is she the only one getting a ticket?”(7)

Not only did “N” stand up for herself, but the other women defended her actions at the risk of being ticketed as well. Their combined efforts ensured that “N” was not issued a ticket in retaliation for standing up for herself.

Women have also alerted outside advocates and activists about these inhumane conditions, again at great risk to themselves. If not for their courage in speaking out, the outside world would remain unaware of the exploitation and abuse on the farm.

While the women both endure and challenge these abuses, those outside prison gates remain largely unaware of their struggles. Those involved in social justice organizing need to recognize that prisons and prison injustices are exacerbations of the same social issues in the outside world and recognize that these struggles intersect. Safe from the retaliation of prison authorities, outside organizers and activists can and should raise their voices and take action to help the women inside challenge and ultimately stop these abuses.

Footnotes:
1. As of April 15, 2010, these cages (or “temporary holding enclosures”) remain in use. Arizona Department of Corrections, Department Order Manual, Department Order 704: Inmate Regulations.
2. Nicole Hill, “With Fewer Migrant Workers, Farmers Turn to Prison Labor,” Christian Science Monitor, August 22, 2007. Reprinted here.
3. Press release, “16-Year Relationship Between Wal-Mart and Arizona Business Grows, Thrives,” September 7, 2007. The 2470 figure is as of August 1, 2007.
4. Letter from “N,” dated April 24, 2011.
5. Letter from “N,” dated April 24, 2011
6. Letter from “H,” dated May 22, 2011.
7. Letter from “N,” dated May 7, 2011.

From: http://www.truth-out.org/abusive-conditions-martori-farms/1308844017

International Sex Workers’ Rights Day: March 3, 2011.


In memory of Marcia Powell,
and all our other brothers and sisters dying out there….

————–

SEX WORKERS and HUMAN RIGHTS: Best Practices

Report on The United States of America 9th Round of the Universal Periodic Review – November 2010

1. This report is submitted by the Best Practices Policy Project, Desiree Alliance, and the Sexual Rights Initiative. It focuses on civil and human rights violations of those engaged, or perceived to be engaged, in sexual trade and sex work in the U.S.

Background and Context

2. People involved in sexual trade or sex work in the U.S. are found in a wide array of settings and circumstances; perform a variety of services; and communicate with clients through clubs, on the street, through newspapers, phonebooks, and the internet. They include people of all gender identities who work in clubs, in brothels, in their or other’s homes, in hotels, outdoors, and in other spaces. While sex work is generally stigmatized and aspects of it criminalized, street-based or outdoor workers, transgender or gender non-conforming people, people of color, migrants, and youth consistently bear a particularly heavy burden of police abuse and harassment, institutional discrimination, and violence.

3. Stigmatization of sex workers and those profiled as such in tandem with “zero-tolerance” policing in urban areas where poorer communities are being displaced, operate to ensure that these populations are disproportionately impacted by the prison system. Sex workers in these areas face additional burdens of police violence and abuse. Arrests for sex work can lead to a cycle of continued exclusion from housing and other job opportunities, and to re-imprisonment. Furthermore, because many forms of sex work in the U.S. are treated as a crime, law enforcement officials frequently fail to recognize that sex workers can be victims of crime, and thus deny justice or support to sex workers who seek their help.

Legal and Institutional Framework

4. Criminal prohibition of sex for money and surrounding activities exists in most states (with the exception of some counties in the state of Nevada). Some forms of sex work, such as exotic dancing, may not be prohibited by state legislation but they are always regulated by state and municipal policies. Sex work that occurs in public spaces is also often policed under legislation prohibiting loitering, public nuisance, trespassing or “failure to obey” a police officer’s directive to move along. More states in the U.S. are now mandating minimum sentences so that judges are required to give people convicted for prostitution-related offenses jail time and some states have sentencing guidelines and judicial practices which make a third charge for prostitution-related offenses a felony.

5. While the United States has only ratified a few of the major U.N. human rights treaties, (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture (CAT), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), these treaties have direct bearing on sex workers’ human rights. These include: the right to be free from discrimination; freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; the right to healthcare; and the right to equal protection under the law.

The Right to Equal Protection under the Law

6. Sex workers of color in the United States are disproportionately targeted by the police for arrest because of their minority status, violating the U.S. Constitution, international standards against discrimination and treaties such as CERD and ICCPR. Furthermore, people of color from the lowest income communities who do sex work in public spaces to meet their most urgent and immediate needs, are relentlessly and disproportionately targeted by the police. Arrest and subsequent conviction for prostitution and prostitution-related offenses intensifies the homelessness or housing precariousness experienced by people from low-income communities because people with criminal records are barred from accessing, or may lose, their public housing.

7. Transgender women, especially those of color, in the United States are profiled, targeted, harassed, cited and/or falsely arrested by the police as sex workers for simply walking outside. Male sex workers may be harassed by the police in part because of homophobia and women sex workers who are perceived to step outside of traditional female roles (e.g. by failing to be subservient) may be disproportionately targeted for arrest. Gender based discrimination against women and gender non-conforming people violating their right to equal protection under the law is reinforced by anti-prostitution legislation. For example, legislation enacting “Prostitution Free Zones,” areas in which police may move along and arrest people who they believe to be prostitutes, erode legal protections barring officers from detaining individuals on the basis of how they are perceived or the way they are dressed.

8. Another particularly discriminatory practice by state agents is sex offender registration of people convicted for sex work related offenses. In some parts of the U.S., these sex workers are registered as sex offenders for ten years and must carry an identification card with “sex offender” stamped on it, among other penalties. The majority of people sentenced this way are African-American and almost all are women and transgender women. They then face discrimination from employers, housing agents and are unable to qualify for education loans, making it impossible to secure even menial, low-wage work. Because they become completely shut out from other forms of work, many people who are registered as “sex offenders” have no other option but to continue in sex work, potentially returning to prison after subsequent arrests.

9. Many people engaged in sexual exchange, particularly street-based workers, face violence, including assault and rape, and numerous sex workers are murdered each year. The notion that sex workers are “disposable” may be the root cause of this violence. The legal establishment does not conceive that sexual workers can be sexually assaulted and may obstruct sex workers’ attempts to seek justice for crimes committed against them. Such violations of sex workers’ rights lead to a lack of faith in the State providing them with adequate promotion and protection of their lawful human rights, including protection from violence. Furthermore, sex workers fear further harm, humiliation, and/or arrest when turning to the authorities for assistance. Youth thought to be engaged in the sex trade face discrimination and neglect from a wide range of institutions, including hospitals, shelters, treatment centers, Child and Family Services agencies, and law enforcement agencies.

10. Migrant sex workers face the double burden of stigmatization for working in criminalized labor sectors and for their immigrant status. A portion of migrant sex workers are undocumented but even if migrants have correct immigration paperwork, engaging in sex work can both invalidate visas causing deportation and prevent entry into the United States. Anti-prostitution laws can therefore become a tool for immigration officials seeking to deport migrants: recently police have begun arresting large numbers of Latinas, charging them with prostitution related offenses leading to their deportation. When arrested or in court immigrants are often not provided with an interpreter, so they may be completely unaware of the charges brought against them and/or the need for attendance at follow up court dates significantly impacting on their access to criminal justice.

11. Misguided U.S. law and policy addressing trafficking in persons makes the lives of migrant sex workers more difficult. Migrant workers may be arrested, detained and subsequently deported in “raid and rescue” missions carried out by local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. The current prosecution-oriented approach to anti-trafficking work in the US also traumatizes trafficked persons. People trafficked into the sex sector in the United States are forced to comply with law enforcement and endure possible “re-victimization” in order to get benefits and status. Migrant sex workers have become increasingly wary of service providers because of the operation of some anti-trafficking organizations that have provided information about work places to law enforcement authorities leading to raids, arrest and deportation. U.S. anti-trafficking policies undermine the health and rights of sex workers both domestically and internationally by requiring that organizations seeking funding adopt a policy against sex work (“anti-prostitution pledge”).

Freedom from torture, and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment

12. U.S. sex workers’ greatest fear is abuse by the police and other state agents. Organizations working with sex workers have documented a pattern of practice by police towards sex workers, which includes assault, sexual harassment and rape that constitutes torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Street sex workers and other people who are often profiled as prostitutes (such as transgender women) are very frequently subjected to this kind of treatment. When sex workers seek recourse for crimes committed against them, officers do not take their reports seriously or may further violate these sex workers by arresting them, physically assaulting them or pressuring them for sex.

The Right to Adequate Health Care

13. Criminalization, marginalization and stigma prevent sex workers from enjoying their right to health by undermining their access to adequate health care and the conditions in which they live and work. The U.S. Government has failed to ensure adequate access to health services and support for sex workers. They are not provided with HIV prevention and education services that would help them protect their own health and the health of their customers. Furthermore, policing directly undermines sex workers’ ability to prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections because of the widespread law enforcement practice of using condoms as evidence and/or destroying condoms and safe sex materials.

14. Sex workers in the United States are very unlikely to discuss their work with medical providers because of fears about how they will be treated in addition to their fears of the law. These fears are based on real lived experiences. Sex workers who approach police with severe injuries from violence perpetrated against them are routinely belittled and blamed for the attacks against them and are not escorted, or even referred, to emergency rooms. Further, individuals in medical facilities seeking care for injuries sustained from attacks against them who are profiled as sex workers have been accusatorily questioned by police prior to receiving medical care. Sex worker friendly services providers capable of addressing the full range of their health needs (reproductive health care, sexual health, counseling, assistance with domestic violence, etc) are few and far between in the United States and significantly under-funded. Many mainstream service providers are not prepared to understand sex workers’ needs; services for men in sex work are extremely limited.

Recommendations

The United States of America should:

15. Implement rigorous training of law enforcement officials on legal and human rights standards with regards to sex work. e.g. police training on issues relating to gender, race, ethnicity, age and addressing crimes that may be committed against sex workers including the importance of referring victims of crime to rape crisis and trauma support agencies.

16. Institute mechanisms that allow sex workers to find redress for human rights violations and hold law enforcement accountable for their actions, e.g. officers who subject sex workers to degrading treatment and abuse, must be subject to appropriate disciplinary procedures. Sex workers must be able to report police misconduct and violence while being protected from retaliation.

17. Repeal laws, including laws against prostitution and prostitution-related offenses, and eliminate policies, such as “zero tolerance” of prostitution, “prostitution free zones,” and “quality of life” measures, that undermine protection and respect for human rights of sex workers, people in the sex trade and other marginalized groups. Sex workers should also be able to expunge any criminal records relating to these laws.

18. Repeal the application of felony-level charges and mandatory minimum sentencing against people arrested for sex work and expunge the records of those arrested and charged under these laws.

19. Remove any and all sex offender registration requirements of those arrested for engaging in prostitution or “unnatural copulation,” and expunge the records of those arrested for sex work and charged under laws that mandate sex offender registration.

20. Change policies that prevent sex workers from applying for and/or receiving student loans and public housing.

21. Invest resources in education, job training, healthcare, and housing programs for marginalized people engaged in sex work and the sex trade. Specifically, funding for low-income communities and communities of color should be allocated to provide job training, education programs, apprenticeships, healthcare, and housing opportunities;

22. Provide funding for harm reduction and rights based health care services for male, female, and transgender sex workers. Lift all restrictions on federal funding for harm reduction programs.

23. Prohibit agencies that receive public funding from discriminating against people engaged in sex work or in the sex trade.

24. Immediately end the law enforcement practice of using possession of condoms and other safe sex supplies as evidence of a crime.

25. Provide comprehensive services and legal support for migrant sex workers, including language interpretation in the criminal justice system.

26. Reorient anti-trafficking campaigns to be in line with the standards set by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.

27. Repeal and remove “anti-prostitution pledge” requirements for U.S. Global AIDS Funds and anti-trafficking funds.

International Sex Workers’ Rights Day: March 3, 2011.


In memory of Marcia Powell,
and all our other brothers and sisters dying out there….

————–

SEX WORKERS and HUMAN RIGHTS: Best Practices

Report on The United States of America 9th Round of the Universal Periodic Review – November 2010

1. This report is submitted by the Best Practices Policy Project, Desiree Alliance, and the Sexual Rights Initiative. It focuses on civil and human rights violations of those engaged, or perceived to be engaged, in sexual trade and sex work in the U.S.

Background and Context

2. People involved in sexual trade or sex work in the U.S. are found in a wide array of settings and circumstances; perform a variety of services; and communicate with clients through clubs, on the street, through newspapers, phonebooks, and the internet. They include people of all gender identities who work in clubs, in brothels, in their or other’s homes, in hotels, outdoors, and in other spaces. While sex work is generally stigmatized and aspects of it criminalized, street-based or outdoor workers, transgender or gender non-conforming people, people of color, migrants, and youth consistently bear a particularly heavy burden of police abuse and harassment, institutional discrimination, and violence.

3. Stigmatization of sex workers and those profiled as such in tandem with “zero-tolerance” policing in urban areas where poorer communities are being displaced, operate to ensure that these populations are disproportionately impacted by the prison system. Sex workers in these areas face additional burdens of police violence and abuse. Arrests for sex work can lead to a cycle of continued exclusion from housing and other job opportunities, and to re-imprisonment. Furthermore, because many forms of sex work in the U.S. are treated as a crime, law enforcement officials frequently fail to recognize that sex workers can be victims of crime, and thus deny justice or support to sex workers who seek their help.

Legal and Institutional Framework

4. Criminal prohibition of sex for money and surrounding activities exists in most states (with the exception of some counties in the state of Nevada). Some forms of sex work, such as exotic dancing, may not be prohibited by state legislation but they are always regulated by state and municipal policies. Sex work that occurs in public spaces is also often policed under legislation prohibiting loitering, public nuisance, trespassing or “failure to obey” a police officer’s directive to move along. More states in the U.S. are now mandating minimum sentences so that judges are required to give people convicted for prostitution-related offenses jail time and some states have sentencing guidelines and judicial practices which make a third charge for prostitution-related offenses a felony.

5. While the United States has only ratified a few of the major U.N. human rights treaties, (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture (CAT), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), these treaties have direct bearing on sex workers’ human rights. These include: the right to be free from discrimination; freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; the right to healthcare; and the right to equal protection under the law.

The Right to Equal Protection under the Law

6. Sex workers of color in the United States are disproportionately targeted by the police for arrest because of their minority status, violating the U.S. Constitution, international standards against discrimination and treaties such as CERD and ICCPR. Furthermore, people of color from the lowest income communities who do sex work in public spaces to meet their most urgent and immediate needs, are relentlessly and disproportionately targeted by the police. Arrest and subsequent conviction for prostitution and prostitution-related offenses intensifies the homelessness or housing precariousness experienced by people from low-income communities because people with criminal records are barred from accessing, or may lose, their public housing.

7. Transgender women, especially those of color, in the United States are profiled, targeted, harassed, cited and/or falsely arrested by the police as sex workers for simply walking outside. Male sex workers may be harassed by the police in part because of homophobia and women sex workers who are perceived to step outside of traditional female roles (e.g. by failing to be subservient) may be disproportionately targeted for arrest. Gender based discrimination against women and gender non-conforming people violating their right to equal protection under the law is reinforced by anti-prostitution legislation. For example, legislation enacting “Prostitution Free Zones,” areas in which police may move along and arrest people who they believe to be prostitutes, erode legal protections barring officers from detaining individuals on the basis of how they are perceived or the way they are dressed.

8. Another particularly discriminatory practice by state agents is sex offender registration of people convicted for sex work related offenses. In some parts of the U.S., these sex workers are registered as sex offenders for ten years and must carry an identification card with “sex offender” stamped on it, among other penalties. The majority of people sentenced this way are African-American and almost all are women and transgender women. They then face discrimination from employers, housing agents and are unable to qualify for education loans, making it impossible to secure even menial, low-wage work. Because they become completely shut out from other forms of work, many people who are registered as “sex offenders” have no other option but to continue in sex work, potentially returning to prison after subsequent arrests.

9. Many people engaged in sexual exchange, particularly street-based workers, face violence, including assault and rape, and numerous sex workers are murdered each year. The notion that sex workers are “disposable” may be the root cause of this violence. The legal establishment does not conceive that sexual workers can be sexually assaulted and may obstruct sex workers’ attempts to seek justice for crimes committed against them. Such violations of sex workers’ rights lead to a lack of faith in the State providing them with adequate promotion and protection of their lawful human rights, including protection from violence. Furthermore, sex workers fear further harm, humiliation, and/or arrest when turning to the authorities for assistance. Youth thought to be engaged in the sex trade face discrimination and neglect from a wide range of institutions, including hospitals, shelters, treatment centers, Child and Family Services agencies, and law enforcement agencies.

10. Migrant sex workers face the double burden of stigmatization for working in criminalized labor sectors and for their immigrant status. A portion of migrant sex workers are undocumented but even if migrants have correct immigration paperwork, engaging in sex work can both invalidate visas causing deportation and prevent entry into the United States. Anti-prostitution laws can therefore become a tool for immigration officials seeking to deport migrants: recently police have begun arresting large numbers of Latinas, charging them with prostitution related offenses leading to their deportation. When arrested or in court immigrants are often not provided with an interpreter, so they may be completely unaware of the charges brought against them and/or the need for attendance at follow up court dates significantly impacting on their access to criminal justice.

11. Misguided U.S. law and policy addressing trafficking in persons makes the lives of migrant sex workers more difficult. Migrant workers may be arrested, detained and subsequently deported in “raid and rescue” missions carried out by local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. The current prosecution-oriented approach to anti-trafficking work in the US also traumatizes trafficked persons. People trafficked into the sex sector in the United States are forced to comply with law enforcement and endure possible “re-victimization” in order to get benefits and status. Migrant sex workers have become increasingly wary of service providers because of the operation of some anti-trafficking organizations that have provided information about work places to law enforcement authorities leading to raids, arrest and deportation. U.S. anti-trafficking policies undermine the health and rights of sex workers both domestically and internationally by requiring that organizations seeking funding adopt a policy against sex work (“anti-prostitution pledge”).

Freedom from torture, and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment

12. U.S. sex workers’ greatest fear is abuse by the police and other state agents. Organizations working with sex workers have documented a pattern of practice by police towards sex workers, which includes assault, sexual harassment and rape that constitutes torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Street sex workers and other people who are often profiled as prostitutes (such as transgender women) are very frequently subjected to this kind of treatment. When sex workers seek recourse for crimes committed against them, officers do not take their reports seriously or may further violate these sex workers by arresting them, physically assaulting them or pressuring them for sex.

The Right to Adequate Health Care

13. Criminalization, marginalization and stigma prevent sex workers from enjoying their right to health by undermining their access to adequate health care and the conditions in which they live and work. The U.S. Government has failed to ensure adequate access to health services and support for sex workers. They are not provided with HIV prevention and education services that would help them protect their own health and the health of their customers. Furthermore, policing directly undermines sex workers’ ability to prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections because of the widespread law enforcement practice of using condoms as evidence and/or destroying condoms and safe sex materials.

14. Sex workers in the United States are very unlikely to discuss their work with medical providers because of fears about how they will be treated in addition to their fears of the law. These fears are based on real lived experiences. Sex workers who approach police with severe injuries from violence perpetrated against them are routinely belittled and blamed for the attacks against them and are not escorted, or even referred, to emergency rooms. Further, individuals in medical facilities seeking care for injuries sustained from attacks against them who are profiled as sex workers have been accusatorily questioned by police prior to receiving medical care. Sex worker friendly services providers capable of addressing the full range of their health needs (reproductive health care, sexual health, counseling, assistance with domestic violence, etc) are few and far between in the United States and significantly under-funded. Many mainstream service providers are not prepared to understand sex workers’ needs; services for men in sex work are extremely limited.

Recommendations

The United States of America should:

15. Implement rigorous training of law enforcement officials on legal and human rights standards with regards to sex work. e.g. police training on issues relating to gender, race, ethnicity, age and addressing crimes that may be committed against sex workers including the importance of referring victims of crime to rape crisis and trauma support agencies.

16. Institute mechanisms that allow sex workers to find redress for human rights violations and hold law enforcement accountable for their actions, e.g. officers who subject sex workers to degrading treatment and abuse, must be subject to appropriate disciplinary procedures. Sex workers must be able to report police misconduct and violence while being protected from retaliation.

17. Repeal laws, including laws against prostitution and prostitution-related offenses, and eliminate policies, such as “zero tolerance” of prostitution, “prostitution free zones,” and “quality of life” measures, that undermine protection and respect for human rights of sex workers, people in the sex trade and other marginalized groups. Sex workers should also be able to expunge any criminal records relating to these laws.

18. Repeal the application of felony-level charges and mandatory minimum sentencing against people arrested for sex work and expunge the records of those arrested and charged under these laws.

19. Remove any and all sex offender registration requirements of those arrested for engaging in prostitution or “unnatural copulation,” and expunge the records of those arrested for sex work and charged under laws that mandate sex offender registration.

20. Change policies that prevent sex workers from applying for and/or receiving student loans and public housing.

21. Invest resources in education, job training, healthcare, and housing programs for marginalized people engaged in sex work and the sex trade. Specifically, funding for low-income communities and communities of color should be allocated to provide job training, education programs, apprenticeships, healthcare, and housing opportunities;

22. Provide funding for harm reduction and rights based health care services for male, female, and transgender sex workers. Lift all restrictions on federal funding for harm reduction programs.

23. Prohibit agencies that receive public funding from discriminating against people engaged in sex work or in the sex trade.

24. Immediately end the law enforcement practice of using possession of condoms and other safe sex supplies as evidence of a crime.

25. Provide comprehensive services and legal support for migrant sex workers, including language interpretation in the criminal justice system.

26. Reorient anti-trafficking campaigns to be in line with the standards set by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.

27. Repeal and remove “anti-prostitution pledge” requirements for U.S. Global AIDS Funds and anti-trafficking funds.

Marcia Powell’s Death Unavenged: County Attorney Passes on Prosecuting Prison Staff

From: Phoenix New Times:
,

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has chosen not to prosecute Arizona Department of Corrections staff in the death of inmate Marcia Powell.

Powell, 48, died May 20, 2009, after being kept in a human cage in Goodyear’s Perryville Prison for at least four hours in the blazing Arizona sun. This, despite a prison policy limiting such outside confinement to a maximum of two hours.

The county medical examiner found the cause of death to be due to complications from heat exposure. Her core body temperature upon examination was 108 degrees Fahrenheit. She suffered burns and blisters all over her body.

Witnesses say she was repeatedly denied water by corrections officers, though the c.o.’s deny this. The weather the day she collapsed from the heat (May 19 — she died in the early morning hours of May 20) arched just above a 107 degree high.

According to a 3,000 page report released by the ADC, she pleaded to be taken back inside, but was ignored. Similarly, she was not allowed to use the restroom. When she was found unconscious, her body was covered with excrement from soiling herself.

Powell, who was serving a 27-month sentence for prostitution, actually expired after being transported to West Valley Hospital, where acting ADC Director Charles Ryan made the decision to have her life support suspended. 
 

(Ryan lacked the authority to do this, but that’s another story, which you can read about, here.)
ADC conducted its own criminal investigation into Powell’s agonizing demise. The information I have indicates that ADC submitted its conclusions to the county attorney earlier this year. (Please see update below.) ADC was seeking charges of negligent homicide against at least seven c.o.’s, as well as related charges against other prison staff.

Why didn’t the county attorney’s office pursue those charges? Apparently, they didn’t think they could prevail in court.

County attorney spokesman Bill Fitzgerald issued the following terse statement.
“There is insufficient evidence to go forward with a prosecution against any of the named individuals,” he e-mailed me, declining to elaborate further.

Donna Hamm of the advocacy group Middle Ground Prison Reform wasn’t buying it.
“Having read the bulk of those 3,000 pages of reports,” she told me, “if someone in a prosecutorial position can’t find a crime in those pages, they have absolutely no credibility in my opinion.”
Hamm noted that guards passed Powell several times throughout her stay in the cage, and that some mocked her pleas for water. As for c.o. claims that Powell was given water, Hamm countered that Powell’s eyes “were as dry as parchment,” and that the autopsy results show there was no sign of hydration.
Hamm was incredulous that the county attorney couldn’t find enough evidence to bring charges.
“It’s just beyond comprehension,” she stated. “This is the same office that has prosecuted mothers who left their babies in a couple of inches of water to go outside and take a cell phone call or look in the mail.”
She also cited the case of “Buffalo Soldier” Charles Long, who was prosecuted by the MCAO for negligent homicide in the 2001 death of a kid who had enrolled in his program for troubled teens and died after being exposed to the heat and put in a bath, where he inhaled water.

The ADC did make some reforms in the wake of Powell’s death. It was discovered that the cages were being used to control unruly prisoners, and the ADC claims this practice has stopped. However, Hamm says she has uncovered a case of a man in a Tucson facility who, earlier this year, was held all day and overnight in an outside cage.

Some 16 prison employees were sanctioned in one way or another as a result of the Powell incident, and some were fired. But Hamm says she believes some of those sanctioned have been reinstated.
The outdoor cages are still in use, but have been retrofitted to provide shade, misters, water stations, and benches, which, ironically, Hamm says are metal, and would thus soak up the heat. She’s toured ADC facilities to see the redone cages, and admits that changes are positive, but too late to save Powell’s life, obviously.

“All the retrofitting in the world is worthless if the staff doesn’t follow the policy,” she insisted.
Powell had been diagnosed as mentally ill, and was on more than one psychotropic drug, drugs that increased her sensitivity to heat, sunlight and lack of water. All the more reason, according to Hamm, that prison staff should be held accountable.

The only next of kin that was located for Powell was an aged, adoptive mother in California, who had not had contact with Powell for years, and did not want to take possession of the remains.
So, with the help of Hamm and others, Powell’s ashes were interred last year at Phoenix’s Shadow Rock Church of Christ.

Brophy College Preparatory School also dedicated a plaque to Powell on school grounds this year.
But with no one with standing to bring a federal lawsuit (Hamm says the deadline for a state lawsuit has expired), and with the MCAO unwilling to bring a case against those responsible for Powell’s well-being, there looks to be no justice for the schizophrenic deceased woman.
I asked Hamm what this means for the case.

“It means they’ve gotten away with the most colossal example of brutality I have seen against a female prisoner in the history of the Arizona Department of Corrections,” remarked Hamm, adding, “And they got off scot-free.”

Update, 9/1/10 2:29 PM: ADC spokesman Barrett Marson told me today that the ADC submitted its criminal investigation to the MCAO back on August 20, 2009. He said he did not know if the ADC asked for charges on certain employees.

From Arizona Prison Watch: Protest on 12-18 at AZ DOC


This comes from our Allies at Arizona Prison Watch, who do a good job in creating consciousness in the Prison Industrial Complex. They also supply a creative and clear voice to protest the killing of AZ inmate Marcia Powell in an outdoor cage, on May 20th, 2009.

Protest on 12-18 at AZ DOC by SWOP and others. Open Letter from the Sex Workers Outreach Project and allies to Charles L. Ryan, Director of the Arizona DOC

When: Friday December 18th, 2009 NOON

Where: AZ Department of Corrections
1601 West Jefferson St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Sex Workers and allies are coming together in front of the AZ Department of Corrections on December 18th, as part of International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, an annual event to call attention to violence committed against sex workers all over the globe. Marcia Powell was a prisoner of the State of Arizona who collapsed and died from heatstroke last May after being locked in an outdoor cage and ignored for four hours in 107 degree heat.

What: Protest Rally: Marcia Powell’s death, AZ Department of Corrections.

You are invited to join us in Tucson, Arizona on December 17, 2009 (performance art/public installation and a candelight vigil) and in Phoenix, Arizona on December 18, 2009 (protest rally on the steps of the Arizona Department of Corrections).

Bring red umbrellas, to stand in solidarity! Signs are welcome.

Sex Worker Rights are Human Rights!

——————–

Open Letter from the Sex Workers Outreach Project and allies to Charles L. Ryan, Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections. Posted and delivered December 11, 2009.
­
December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event was created by Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA), a national social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of sex workers, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy.
In 2009, sex workers from around the globe met gruesome deaths and endured unspeakable violence. Some died at the hands of a solitary perpetrator; others were victims of serial “prostitute killers.” While some of these horrific stories received international media attention (Boston, Grand Rapids, Albuquerque, Tijuana, Hong Kong, Moscow, Great Britain, Cape Town, New Zealand), other cases received little more than a perfunctory investigation. Many cases remain unsolved, sometimes forever.

Today we are here for Marcia Powell, who was incarcerated for solicitation of oral sex and sentenced to over two years in prison – despite being found so mentally impaired at the time of sentencing that she had just been appointed a legal guardian. On May 19, 2009, after informing prison staff that she was suicidal, Marcia was placed in an uncovered outdoor cage at Arizona’s Perryville prison for women, where she would presumably be “observed” until she was transferred to a more appropriate location. Reportedly, that’s what they did with women who caused problems there: they put them in a cage and “waited them out”. The same cages were used for “recreation” and as waiting rooms for those needing medical attention: the prisons filled up so cages were erected in the yards to add more space. Putting someone in there was routine; women were left in there all the time beyond policy, so no one thought much about Marcia complaining – except the other prisoners. Four hours later – after her pleas for water were ignored or mocked by guard after guard – she was found, collapsed, in 107-degree heat, and died on May 20th in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Marcia was the victim of dual forms of injustice, as a sex worker and as a prisoner. Sex Workers Outreach Project and other organizations are fundamentally opposed to criminalization of sex work. The prohibition of this work results in selective prosecution that puts some of the most vulnerable in our society at the mercy of a system that robs them of their basic respect and dignity. For decades efforts to curb sex work have not only failed to reduce incidences of prostitution, but they have corrupted our justice system resulting in selective enforcement, racial profiling and inhumane treatment of those who don’t have the financial resources to fight back. Violence against sex workers is epidemic and rarely taken seriously. The criminalization of prostitution legitimizes this abuse so that sex workers are the targets of violent crime with little recourse. Marcia was referred to – after her death – as a “biological serial killer” in an employee blog (The Lumley Vampire). That suggests that her degraded social status as a “criminalized” sex worker had a considerable effect on the way she was treated at the hands of ADC staff the day she was left to die. It also raises the question of her abuse being the result of bias against her for a disability she may have also had.

Women prisoners are also the victims of an unjust system, facing extreme medical neglect, sexual harassment and abuse. The women’s prison population in the United States has grown 800% in the past three decades, twice the rate of the male prison population. 2/3 of women in prison were incarcerated for non-violent offenses. (Institute on Women and Criminal Justice). As the death of Marcia Powell in the care of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) shows, prison sentences can include the most extreme form of neglect and abuse.

We are here for Marcia and other prisoners, and sex workers, as we call for respect for human rights. As a result of an internal investigation, 16 people were disciplined. An investigation is currently underway to determine whether or not criminal charges should be filed in her death.

“It’s not enough to change a few people and policies. There is a culture embedded in the ADC that is pervasive throughout the prison system that reflects a disregard for the fundamental human rights of prisoners. There are exceptions to that, and the prisoners know who they are,” says Peggy Plews of Arizona Prison Watch.

No critical analysis of the institutional culture that contributed to this abuse has been made public, but that analysis is essential to ending state violence.

In response to the death of Marcia Powell while in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections, we expect the following:

1. The Arizona Department of Corrections has an influential role in shaping policy. We ask that leadership be provided by the ADC in exploring models of restorative justice and addressing strategies such as criminal code and sentencing reform, early release programs for low-risk prisoners, community support through harm reduction, and re-entry programs to stop the revolving door syndrome that traps so many people.

2. An analysis of violence against sex workers (both inside and outside the Arizona prison system) should be conducted and a plan should be developed for reducing violence against sex workers in Arizona.

– An analysis of violence against sex workers (including male and transgendered workers) should include victimization while in state custody, police brutality, and domestic and occupational violence.

– Efforts to reform the prisons must go deeper than investigations into individual responsibility for Marcia’s Powell’s death. An analysis of how the culture of the correctional system employees/officers contributes to violence against prisoners is crucial.

3. A community-organized process for oversight in the prisons should be recognized which includes the voices of prisoners and their families.

4. Grievance policies should be reviewed and strengthened.

5. Cages should never be used to hold prisoners or to address overcrowding, which is the current practice. Overcrowding must be addressed through reducing incarceration and recidivism rates.

6. Allocate sufficient resources to address the special needs of prisoners with psychiatric and physical disabilities, including education about complications of medications.

7. May 20th should be observed each year in memory of Marcia Powell and other prisoners who died in state custody. On that day ADC should prepare a report addressed to prisoners, families and community-based oversight groups on human rights violations that have occurred over the past year and actions ADC has taken in response. The report should also include the Department’s plan for the upcoming year to improve respect for human rights.

Sex workers around the United States are shocked to see this criminalization result in a death sentence for a prostitution crime. This is one of many cases in which we observe conditions that are abusive, degrading and dangerous ranging from rape and other violence, to extreme medical neglect. These conditions violate the human rights of all persons deprived of their liberty to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) should be applied to all individuals.

In the wealthiest country in the world, where taxpayers spend billions on the prison system, it is horrific that this justice system has led to a death sentence for someone arrested for prostitution. It’s been over 60 years since the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) has been adopted. The Arizona Department of Corrections has been woefully negligent, in following the human rights protocol, which Eleanor Roosevelt, along with so many others, have developed. In less than a decade we’ve almost doubled the amount spent on our prisons in Arizona, and the Arizona Department of Corrections fails even the most basic requirement, to keep prisoners safe.

We ask that the Arizona Department of Corrections look at the 30 articles in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and review the treatment of individuals in the prison system in the light of these principles. Every ADC employee/correctional officer should have training in human and prisoners’ rights principles and practices. ADC should provide leadership that demonstrates a respect for human rights.

We look forward to the day when prisons are no longer used to address our most pressing social problems. As social justice activists we challenge the discrimination that leads to criminalization and incarcerations. We promote human rights for all, as well as specific law reform. Recently enacted by the Arizona legislature, felony charges should be rescinded for prostitutioni charges. Although the ADC does not have jurisdiction over many aspects of these injustices, ADC does have great deal of influence in many of these matters and ADC is also directly responsible for how prisoners are treated within this system. Sex Worker Outreach Project, in tandem with Arizona Prison Watch and Friends of Marcia Powell expects that the ADC establish real justice in the death of Marcia Powell.

Sincerely,

Tara Sawyer
Board Chair
Sex Workers Outreach Project

Peggy Plews
Arizona Prison Watch
Friends of Marcia Powell

Penelope Saunders
Best Practices Policy Project

Carol Leigh
BAYSWAN