QUESTION: how to find documentation about AZ women prisoners' rebellion from 1980s?

question / pregunta: 

I was told about a women prisoners' rebellion in Arizona between 1980 and 1984. The women, who were imprisoned in a converted motel at 32nd and Van Buren, were upset that they were denied access to the better paying, more technical construction jobs that were awarded to the male prisoners (men were paid 50 cents/hour to use the backhoe and women were paid 10 cents/hour to do the ditch digging by hand). The women filed written complaints. They also plugged in their prison-issued space heaters en masse, causing the electricity to blow out and the guards and prison staff to be locked in where ever they were because they could not open the electrically controlled sliding doors for several hours.

How would I find media or legal documentation about this uprising? (My source, a sort-of participant in this, didn't know)


This is what I heard from Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News. I will follow up on the question when I find some more time. If you find out any information about it, I'd appreciate an email too. Cheers Richard

This is interesting, I have never heard of it and rebellion by women prisoners is so unusual it would certainly be news worthy. Besides rying the archives of the AZ Republic newspaper the next thing would be to contact any prisoner rights activists from that era in AZ. Try asking Donna Hamm.

Let me know what you learn as I am curious as well.

Paul Wright, Editor
Prison Legal News
P.O. Box 2420
West Brattleboro, VT 05303
Office: 802-257-1342
Fax: 866-735-7136

I found some potentially relevant newspaper articles. They pertain to possible causes for the rebellion, but not the rebellion itself. I'll email the news articles to you directly.

Here's the AZ dept of corrections official history of the prison, in case some bg info would be useful:

ASPC-Phoenix - Link:

Two other units are separated geographically but considered part of the Phoenix Complex. One, the Arizona Center for Women at 32nd Street and East Van Buren, has a designated capacity of 250; it opened in 1979,originally under a lease arrangement, and is now owned by the Department. The other is ASP-Globe, a 150-bed prison for adult males which was originally Pinal Mountain Juvenile Institution; it was legislatively transferred to ADC on July 1, 1991.

---> 32nd and East Van Buren is the same location as 3148 E VB, aka the old Hiway House

As I mentioned before, I'll email you the rest.

Good luck & I wish I could have found more directly relevant info.

Another librarian searched several newspapers from the period via ProQuest as well as Google News Archive. She found mentions of the prison, but nothing about resistance by prisoners.

I searched Arizona's legal cases via LexisNexis using the terms < (woman OR women) AND prison! AND buren > between 1980 and 1990. None of the three results was about a woman prisoner.

So I'm afraid there's not much out there that's via web searches. I suggest contacting the Arizona Historical Society, Arizona universities, or Arizona prison activist groups as a next step. I assume you've already done the last.