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The Inmate Who Moved Death Row

August 29, 2017

The move from our sensory deprivation supermax cells on Browning Unit’s Death Row to another facility and open yard was a physiological and psychological shock for all of us. Us, being the approximate 100 prisoners on Arizona’s Death Row, whom qualified to move a few miles West to a level five open yard infamously known as Central Unit. The place hasn’t changed much since Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor filmed their hit move here: Stir Crazy (1980).

We looked confused and responded to our new environment like caged animals on one of those nature shows, being released into the wild for the first time–“The sensory overload was hard to process the first few days,” said Scott Nordstrom, who won the conditions of confinement claim against Arizona’s Department of Corrections (ADC).

I knew exactly what he meant. In our supermax cells everything we possessed in our windowless cell had ben cataloged: pre-approved and hand delivered by a correctional officer (C.O.), all we had to do was sign for it.

In contrast, we now leave our cells without handcuffs or leg irons four to six times per day. During our first week here, just before we’d leave our cells in the morning the C.O.’s would yell out; “you must wear pants, socks and shoes, tuck in your shirts and grab your ID’s. It’s all reminiscent of directions a first-grade teacher would give to her class prior to going to lunch: and sadly, we needed those directions as we navigated about in our new environment with muted wanderlust.

Nordstrom is 6’3”, 215 lbs. and resides comfortably in the eye of the storm – he created. At morning chow, I asked someone to point him out for me, he did, and as I approached The Nordstrom table/office I observed and listened as numerous prisoners darted in and out. Each one sharing bits of information and progress on pending grievances, lawsuits; pending and future. Perhaps 15 minutes passed before the beehive of activity subsided, Nordstrom gave me the nod: it was my turn. I held my hand out to shake his and said: “I understand you are the Dragon Slayer and wanted to congratulate and thank you for your desire and successful effort on getting us moved out of Hell.” Nordstrom quickly deflected my accolades saying: “Thank you, but all this couldn’t have been accomplished without the team at the Arizona Capital Representation Project (ACRP). We exchanged a few more pleasantries and parted ways.

 

A few days later, as the noise in my brain quieted, it dawned on me, Prison Legal News Magazine and other media outlets may be interest in this ‘David Slays Goliath’ story. So, once again I approached The Nordstrom Office, waiting my turn, watching and admiring the human computer. Millennials would be in awe, without a laptop or even a legal pad full of notes, Nordstrom spits cites from Case Law and A.D.C. Policies to those in need of such information. I get the nod. Wasting no time, I ask; “Would you be interested in sharing your story with the media to inspire the down trodden jailhouse lawyers out there?” Nordstrom replied, “As