Over Detention Of Inmates May Be Systemic

From: KHON2
Reported by: Andrew Pereira

A local attorney and the Hawaii chapter of the ACLU believe the Department of Public Safety is violating prisoners’ constitutional rights by keeping them jailed longer then their sentences require.

The ACLU has been concerned about over detentions for quite some time,” said Dan Gluck, senior staff attorney for the Hawaii chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
We have some very serious concerns about how the facilities are being run and inmates’ constitutional rights.”
In 2002 the state paid $610,000 to inmates who were jailed past their mandated prison sentences.  The ACLU secured damages after filing a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of nine prisoners.  
After gaining class action status the litigation eventually covered 180 inmates who were paid $1,000 for every extra day they stayed in prison.  Some prisoners also received $3,000 for each strip search they were subjected to when they should have been freed.
On Wednesday State Auditor Marion Higa released a report on the Department of Public safety that showed over detention could be systemic.
According to the audit, 280 out of 985 release date errors were found at the Halawa Correctional Facility while reviewing the August 9, 2010 inmate roster report.
“One of the easiest things to check is whether the release date is correct,” said Higa.  “Well we found in almost 30 percent of the cases the release date is already passed.”
“The audit shows that we are likely wasting large sums of money,” Gluck told Khon2. “The ACLU for years has been talking about the need for greater oversight, transparency and accountability and the audit shows exactly that.”
Meanwhile the state may be forced to payout even more money to inmates who were held in prison longer than what their sentences required.
A federal civil rights lawsuit filed in August of last year is awaiting a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on whether the case can go to trial.  Civil Rights attorney Jack Schweigert represents six of the nine plaintiffs.
“Once I went to court on these guys they were released instantly,” said Schweigert, who believes DPS is acting with indifference to inmates’ constitutional rights.
Schweigert says much of the problem arises from DPS calculating inmate sentences consecutively rather than concurrently.  

For instance, if an inmate is convicted of two separate charges that require two years in jail for each count, judges often allow the prisoner to serve both sentences at once.  Schweigert says DPS often decides erroneously that sentences should be served back-to-back, turning a two year jail sentence into a four year imprisonment.

Read the rest here.

Auditor blasts Hawaii oversight of CCA Prisons

Auditor blasts Hawaii oversight of private prisons
By HERBERT A. SAMPLE – Dec 30, 2010 9:20 AM ET
By The Associated Press, Bloomberg

Via the Real Cost of Prisons blog

HONOLULU (AP) — The state’s auditor on Wednesday blasted the Hawaii Department of Public Safety’s management of a contract to house prisoners in privately owned Arizona prisons.

In a 77-page report, Marion Higa also criticized the financial data about the arrangement the department has provided legislators and the public for using a flawed methodology and containing inaccurate or insufficient figures.
“Without clarified guidance by policymakers, the department has no incentive to perform better and will continue to evade accountability by providing unreliable and inaccurate reporting of incarceration costs,” Higa wrote in the audit’s conclusion.

“In addition, the department has misused its procurement authority to circumvent the process designed with safeguards to protect the state’s interests,” she added.

Interim Public Safety Director Jodie Maesaka-Hirata said her agency acknowledges the auditor’s recommendations “and will address the concerns raised in the report. In addition, we will review all administrative rules, practices, and existing policies as it relates to the mainland and federal detention center branch.”

Much of the audit’s findings were critical of actions taken before current Gov. Neil Abercrombie took office earlier this month, succeeding Gov. Linda Lingle. Abercrombie has said he wants to stop exporting inmates to other states but hasn’t specified how that would be accomplished.

Spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said possible solutions include “revisiting ideas of increasing prison capacity in Hawaii and ensuring successful transitions into the community.”

About 2,000 male Hawaii prisoners are housed in the Florence, Red Rock and Saguaro correctional centers owned by the Corrections Corp. of America, according to the audit.

The state in 2006 signed an “intergovernmental agreement” with Eloy, Ariz., where the facilities are located, but deals almost exclusively with CCA, the report contended.

The arrangement allowed agency officials to circumvent and manipulate the state’s competitive procurement process to steer business to CCA, the audit found. The department also treated CCA as a government agent instead of a private vendor operating for a profit, it contended.

The CCA contract is set to expire on June 30. But the report concluded the state as of early October had no plan to address that looming deadline.
Without such a plan, “the department is shirking its responsibility to provide for the safety of the public through correctional management, and leaves the operational staff ill-prepared to contract for private prison beds and services,” the audit stated.

The report also aimed at the department’s reporting to the Legislature. It asserted that agency officials reported “artificial cost figures” that were derived from a calculation that itself was “based on a flawed methodology.”
“Because funding is virtually guaranteed, management is indifferent to the needs of policymakers and the public for accurate and reliable cost information,” the audit said. “As a result, true costs are unknown.”

In addition to improving its financial and program data, and its monitoring of operations at the CCA prisons, the auditor called on the state’s chief procurement officer to suspend the public safety department’s contracting authority for private prisons until its practices and policies are changed and staff have been better trained.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-30/auditor-blasts-hawaii-oversight-of-private-prisons.html

Hunger strike of the Lucasville Uprising prisoners – starting Monday, Jan. 3

Posted on December 25, 2010 by Denverabc

Dear family members, friends and supporters of the Lucasville uprising prisoners,

Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar), Jason Robb and Namir Mateen (James Were) will start a hunger strike on Monday Jan. 3 to protest their 23-hour a day lock down for nearly 18 years. These four death-sentenced prisoners have been single-celled (in solitary) in conditions of confinement significantly more severe than the conditions experienced by the approximately 125 other death-sentenced prisoners at the supermax prison, Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown. They are completely isolated from any direct human contact, even during “recreation”. They are restricted from certain kinds of good ordering including gold weather items for the almost unbearably cold conditions in the cells. They are denied access to computer databases they need in order to prepare their appeals. It has been made clear to them that the outcome of their annual “security level reviews” is predetermined, as one reads, “…regardless of your behavior while confined at OSP.”
Prisoners whose death sentences were for heinous crimes are able to win privileges based on good behavior, but not the death-sentenced Lucasville uprising prisoners.

Meanwhile out in the world, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted additional due process rights to some of the Gauantanamo prisoners, some death-sentenced prisoners have been exonerated or had their sentences commuted, an evidentiary hearing was ordered for Troy Anthony Davis, and prisoners in Georgia are engaging in a non-violent strike for improvements in a wide range of conditions. So the four death-sentenced Lucasville uprising prisoners have decided that being punished by the worst conditions allowable under the law has gone far enough, especially since their convictions were based on perjured testimony. They are innocent! They were wrongfully convicted! They are political prisoners. This farce has gone on far too long and their executions loom in the not too distant future. These brave men are ready to take another stand. We ask that you get ready to support them.

The hunger strike will proceed in an organized manner, with one prisoner, probably Bomani Shakur starting on Jan.3. The hunger strike becomes official after he has refused 9 meals. Therefore the plan is that 3 days later, Siddiquie Abdullah Hasan will start his hunger strike and 3 days later, Jason Robb will follow. Namir Mateen has a great willingness to participate and plans to take part to the extent that his diabetes will allow.

On the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Saturday, Jan. 15, we will be holding a press conference about the hunger strike and other issues pertaining to Ohio State Penitentiary. Details of time and location are being worked out. There will very likely be a brief rally near the gates of OSP, as we have in previous years to honor Dr. King, to protest the death penalty and to protest the farce of the Lucasville uprising convictions. There will probably be one or more vans and/or a car caravan to OSP for the event. Stay tuned for more information.

Please forward this email to other people you think would be interested, here in Ohio, around the country and around the world.

the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network
******************************************************

Hunger Strike At Ohio State Penitentiary

By Staughton Lynd

Source: OhioCURE
Friday, December 31, 2010
http://www.zcommunications.org/hunger-strike-at-ohio-state-penitentiary-by-staughton-lynd
As this is written on Christmas Eve, a small group of death-sentenced prisoners at the Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) have declared their intention to begin a “rolling hunger strike” on Monday, January 3.

Who are they? What are their objectives? What is this all about?

The four hunger strikers are Siddique Abdullah Hasan, formerly known as Carlos Sanders; Keith LaMar; Jason Robb; and Namir Abdul Mateen, also known as James Were. (A fifth member of the group, George Skatzes, was transferred out of OSP in 2000.)

All these men were sentenced to death in trials conducted in 1995-1996 for their alleged roles in the 11-day rebellion at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville, Ohio in April 1993. See my book Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising (Temple University Press: 2004), to be re-issued in 2011 by PM Press, Oakland, CA, with a Foreword by Mumia Abu Jamal.

Hasan and Robb were two of the three men who negotiated a peaceful surrender. Tragically there were ten deaths during the disturbance (nine prisoners and one hostage officer). But thanks to the way the “Lucasville riot” ended, there were far fewer fatalities than at Attica, New York in 1971, where more than forty persons died.

At the request of Ohio authorities, Attorney Niki Schwartz of Cleveland helped to negotiate the surrender. During a forum on the Lucasville events held at Cleveland State University in November 2010, Attorney Schwartz asked, in effect: If we seek the death penalty against men who helped to bring a bloody riot to a peaceful end, what will happen the next time?

Persistent Discrimination Against Death-Sentenced Lucasville Defendants

Judge James Gwin of federal district court noted with amazement during the trial of the prisoners’ class action, Austin v. Wilkinson, that death-sentenced prisoners at the highest security level in the Ohio State Penitentiary wanted to be returned to Death Row!

The fundamental reason offered by the Lucasville defendants for a hunger strike is that throughout their more than seventeen years of solitary confinement, they have been subjected to harsher conditions of confinement than the more than 150 other men sentenced to death in Ohio. The conditions under which the death-sentenced Lucasville prisoners are confined prevent them from ever being in the same space as another prisoner.

At the time of the 1993 uprising Ohio’s Death Row, as well as its execution chamber, was located at Lucasville. In the mid-1990s, the execution chamber remained at SOCF but death-sentenced prisoners were transferred to the Mansfield Correctional Institution (ManCI) north of Columbus. One reason for the transfer, it seems, is that correctional officers at SOCF came to recognize death-sentenced prisoners as human beings and found it distressing to be part of execution teams.

The Lucasville capital defendants consider that from the beginning their conditions of confinement have been harsher than the circumstances of confinement for other death-sentenced prisoners. They have launched several previous hunger strikes. Skatzes wrote to the authorities about one such strike at ManCI: “All we want is . . . being placed on our proper ‘security’ level.” LaMar drafted the group’s demands during another hunger strike. One of their group needed immediate medical attention, LaMar wrote, and: “Surely he is entitled to the same attention that is accorded to everyone else.”

The frustration expressed in the Mansfield hunger strikes came to a climax on September 5, 1997. Prisoners in DR-4, the living area at ManCI in which the Five along with a much larger number of other death-sentenced prisoners were being held, occupied the “pod” for approximately six hours. The correctional officers on duty were overpowered and then released unharmed. There was some prisoner-on-prisoner violence against Wilford Berry, who had given up his appeals and volunteered for execution. When a SWAT team of officers assembled from all over Ohio stormed DR-4 late in the evening, the prisoners had returned to their cells. An investigating committee consisting wholly of prison administrators found that the SWAT team had used excessive violence. Jason Robb, apparently singled out because of his alleged role in the riot four years earlier, was beaten especially badly, had his skull fractured, and almost lost an eye. 
At OSP

Unequal treatment continued when the death-sentenced Lucasville defendants were transferred to OSP in Youngstown. Judge Gwin found that OSP was constructed “in reaction to the April 1993 riot at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville.” Consistently with this conclusion, the five alleged leaders of the 1993 occupation were transferred to OSP within two weeks of its opening in May 1998. At OSP they are housed, not in the less restrictive conditions experienced by other death-sentenced prisoners, but in the high maximum conditions specific to the highest level of security in Ohio, so-called Level 5.

Professor Denis O’Hearn, director of graduate studies in sociology at the State University of New York (Binghamton), regularly visits LaMar and Robb. As described by Professor O’Hearn:

  — They are “in 23-hour lockup in a hermetically sealed environment where they have almost no contact with other living beings — human, animal, or plant.” When released from their cells for short periods of “recreation” they continue to be isolated from other prisoners.

During occasional visits, “a wall of bullet-proof glass separates the prisoner from the visitor. A few booths away, a condemned man from death row sits in a cubicle where a small hole is cut from the security glass between him and his visitors. He can hold his mother’s hand. With a little effort, despite the shackles he must wear on a visit, he can kiss a niece or a grandchild. He does not have to shout to hold a conversation.”

Hasan, LaMar, Robb, and Were experience “security reviews” annually but the outcome of these reviews is predetermined. The Lucasville defendants have been told by the authorities, in writing:

“You were admitted to OSP in May of 1998. We are of the opinion that your placement offense is so severe that you should remain at the OSP permanently or for many years regardless of your behavior while confined at the OSP” (emphasis added).

The emphasized words violate the explicit instruction of the Supreme Court of the United States. In its opinion specifically concerning conditions of confinement at OSP, the high court held that due process required that a prisoner might be placed at OSP only on the basis of “a short statement of reasons,” and that in subsequent classification review that statement “serves as a guide for future behavior.”

But Hasan, LaMar, Robb, and Were have been told that they will remain in the conditions of confinement decreed by State administrators regardless of their “future behavior,” that is, their behavior while at OSP.

Other prisoners sentenced to death for alleged crimes comparable to those for which Hasan, LaMar, Robb, and Were were found guilty have been moved off Level 5: to Death Row at OSP, to Level 4 at OSP, and out of OSP entirely to ManCI. One of the four Lucasville defendants asks, Must I have a mental breakdown in order to get off Level 5?

For Whom The Van Leaves

Another apparent reason that these men are desperately opting for the life-threatening practice of a hunger strike is the State of Ohio’s present practice of seeking to execute one man every month.

The 17th century British poet John Donne commented on the practice of ringing church bells when a person died. No one should ask for whom the bell tolls, the poet observed, because “it tolls for thee.”

In the Youngstown diocese, Catholic churches continue the practice of ringing their bells when an execution occurs. At OSP, prisoners know when the van is about to leave OSP to take a man to Lucasville to be killed. A person whom they have known as a friend, alive and well, is suddenly gone and dead. This works a psychological hardship on survivors. The remaining death-sentenced prisoners, some with a specific “date,” know that sooner or later the van will come for themselves.

Incredibly, Ohio was the only one of the fifty states to execute more prisoners in 2010 than in 2009. In 2010 Ohio executed more prisoners than any other state except Texas. Of the 46 executions in the entire country, Texas executed seventeen and Ohio eight, or 17 percent of the total number of executions nationwide.

And Besides, We’re Not Guilty

There is strong evidence that the Lucasville capital defendants have been singled out because of their supposed leadership roles in the 1993 rebellion, not because they killed anyone.

Two prisoners very badly injured by other prisoners during the riot were visited in the SOCF infirmary by officers of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Johnny Fryman had almost been killed by other prisoners at the beginning of the rebellion. He states under oath that in May 1993 he was taken to the SOCF infirmary and interviewed by two members of the Ohio State Highway Patrol:

“They made it clear that they wanted the leaders. They wanted to prosecute Hasan, George Skatzes, Lavelle, Jason Robb, and another Muslim whose name I don’t remember. They had not yet begun their investigation but they knew they wanted those leaders. I joked with them and said, ‘You basically don’t care what I say as long as it’s against these guys.’ They said, ‘Yeah, that’s it.'”

The State of Ohio still does not know who actually killed hostage officer Robert Vallandingham. In various court pleadings, the Special Prosecutor has offered different lists of the hands-on killers. None of the men sentenced to death appear on any of these lists.

Conclusion

Professor O’Hearn ends his comment by saying: “If deprivation of human contact is what led these men into lives where they committed horrific deeds, why do we punish them by continuing and even intensifying that deprivation? Why not give them the one thing that could have brought them from the brink in the first place: a little bit of loving, human contact? A clasp of a loving hand from time to time. The chance to show that they can be better men than they were. None of us can be hurt by this small mercy.”

Staughton Lynd

Early resolution plan in works to move criminal justice system along

From: Deseret News

By Emiley Morgan, Dec 22nd 2010

SALT LAKE CITY — An ambitious plan to streamline the criminal justice process by eliminating as many as 50 percent of felony cases within the first 30 days after they are filed is set to launch in February.

The “aggressive” initiative known as Early Case Resolution is meant to not only streamline the court process and lead to quicker resolutions but also free up more jail space and lower recidivism rates.

“We need something concrete,” 3rd District Presiding Judge Robert Hilder said. “We need something that will really make a difference.”

Hilder — one of two judges who have been working to implement the system for close to two years — said that now it is not uncommon to sit in a hearing for as many as three hours only to have the hearing continued to a later date. Roll call hearings, scheduling and status conferences can be continued several times.
“We have a long history of those things happening not just once or twice, but five, 10, 15 times with no movement forward,” he said.

It was frustration with this process that led current District Attorney Lohra Miler and the Salt Lake City Council to consider this model, Hilder said.

“We’re trying to avoid hearings that do not advance a case,” Hilder said. “We want hearings that are meaningful. This will free up more time management for more complex cases.”

For that to happen, there has to be cooperation from those at all levels, Salt Lake City prosecutor Sim Gill said. Gill will take over as district attorney in January. In addition to prosecutors, he said law enforcement agencies, defense attorneys, probation and parole officers and those in the Salt Lake County 3rd District Court are on-board.

“This is a collaborative effort of multiple stakeholders who are being brought together under a common model, because they all have a role to play in it,” Gill said. “This model works on the premise that everybody, every stakeholder, has something to gain.”

Gill said the project targets those defendants who attempt to “fatigue” the system in hopes of getting a better deal and aims to eliminate the bottleneck that is created by numerous continuations of hearings. It should also make interactions with defendants more valuable.

“This is not just about an efficient process,” Hilder said. “It’s a very different way of doing business. It’s about early resolutions where people take responsibility. It’s about their performance on probation, a sentence that is tailored … lesser jail or no jail and probation. … People are more likely to succeed.”

He said similar models are currently in place in Florida, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and California, but Salt Lake County would be the largest criminal court in the country to undertake the task. The closest in size, in Sonoma County, Calif., has seen noticeable results, Hilder said.

Read the rest here.

Ohio second only to Texas in executions for 2010

From: Marion Star

BY DAN HORN • The Cinncinati Enquirer • December 24, 2010

MARION — Ohio executed more inmates in 2010 than in any year since the state returned to capital punishment almost three decades ago, and four death penalty cases are pending in Marion County courts.
 
The state’s eight executions ranked Ohio second in the nation – behind only the 17 carried out in Texas – and bucked a trend that has seen the number of executions in the United States fall by about 60 percent since the 1990s.
State officials say the resolution of court cases that had held up many executions in Ohio is the main reason the numbers increased this year. Those cases, which challenged lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment, delayed several cases and led to a temporary execution moratorium.
 
With most of those cases resolved, Ohio’s executions occurred at a faster pace than usual in 2010.
 
“Those cases have finally run their course through the courts, so they can start scheduling those execution dates,” said Brian Niceswanger, a Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokesman.
Ohio, which executed five people last year, was the only state to see an increase this year. The jump pushed the state ahead of Alabama for the second most executions in the nation.

 
Texas once again was the leader by a wide margin, but executions there fell from 24 to 17.

Read the rest here.

CCA, Eloy: Jesus was a Prisoner, too.



Driving home from visiting a state prisoner for Christmas today, I was struck by how many prisons and detention centers are in towns (and wasteland) right off of the I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson – most located in Pinal County. Eloy is one such town – “city”, rather, as I discovered when I turned off of the highway at one of their exits.

Lo and behold, not only is Eloy teeming with prisons (4 of Correction Corporation of America‘s 6 institutions of incarceration are located there, including Red Rock and Saguaro Correctional Centers), but it is also apparently a City of God. Christ’s Father, that is.

Look closely at their sign…


Now, I actually found hope in that sign, but there are a lot of ways that could be read. Eloy, like virtually all prison towns, feeds largely on the lives of people imprisoned there from other places – mostly poor neighborhoods of big cities like Phoenix. Just listen to how prisons are sold to hungry communities: while saving the state money they promise revenue to build local schools with, jobs to fuel the economy, and bodies to add to the census and political pocketbook – bodies of people who have been stripped not only of their freedom as punishment, but also of the one right that most distinguishes U.S. citizens from non-citizens: the right to vote.

How that perverse penalty for most felons, regardless of the severity of their crime, is not considered a violation of the 8th Amendment in light of Trop v. Dulles, I don’t know. I have my own feelings about citizenship in this country, but that’s another blog post for another time. The point is that in a case in which a soldier was stripped of citizenship, the Supreme court found that “the total destruction of the individual’s status in organized society… is a form of punishment more primitive than torture, for it destroys for the individual the political existence that was centuries in the development. The punishment strips the citizen of his status in the national and international political community. His very existence is at the sufferance of the country in which he happens to find himself…”

It’s worth looking at, this whole felon dis-enfranchisement thing. It’s a holdover from the Reconstruction era when former slaves were criminalized just so they couldn’t vote or live free. That was well over a century ago. What are we still doing it for? I think it’s one big contributing element to guards dehumanizing prisoners such that they can perpetrate the most disturbing violence on them without much regard to consequences – the fact that we already collectively diminished their basic rights.

In any event, American prisoners are not only widely marketed, traded and sold as commodities because states pay to confine them, but – as an end run around the Emancipation Declaration – they are even constitutionally defined as slaves. Both their labor and their mere existence are exploited to generate income for “host” (actually, “parasitic”) communities, private investors, corporate and municipal employers of prisoners, vendors of all sorts – from those supplying commissaries/canteens to those monopolizing lucrative contracts for collect calls home to impoverished families.

The most revered beneficiaries of the criminalization and incarceration of vast numbers of the poor are those whose livelihoods (and children’s medical care) depend on “fighting crime,” “insuring justice,” and “promoting public safety”. Let’s not forget our beloved politicians, too. They rake in money, adoration, and power from that in all sorts of ways.

Add all those folks up and it’s no surprise that our society – particularly this state – fails to invest in proven strategies for reducing crime and victimization in favor of disenfranchising and dis-empowering those people who might resist the machinery that so violently destroys their lives and communities in retaliation for their offenses against property and the state.

One such person engaged in resistance would have been Christ. He really was a freedom-fighter, actually. A lot of people conveniently forget this, but he was a prisoner, too. Remember that line about “whatsoever you do for the least of these, you do for me”? He was talking about prisoners, among others.

So, to say that “the world needs Jesus” could mean that the world needs more prisoners, or it could mean that the world needs more forgiveness and grace. It could mean we need more bodies to buy and sell – and more consumers and workers to exploit for profit – or it could mean we need to overturn the moneylenders’ tables and loudly protest the torture of our prisoners at the hands of sadistic and vindictive guards.

I don’t know what the City of Eloy means to say by promoting Christ in the world – they will have to show us that themselves. I know what Jesus said about poverty, exploitation, judging others harshly, and caring for our prisoners. It’s all spelled out pretty clearly in the Gospels. If you read only one, choose Matthew. Hit the Sermon on the Mount and then Matthew 25:35-40 in particular. Then tell me if the world needs more prisoners, or more mercy. More punishment or more care...

We have been at war in Afghanistan for nine years now, and in Iraq for almost as long (or more than twice as long, if you count the casualties of the sanctions). That’s longer than any declared war in our national history, and there’s really no end in sight, despite what time-lines the President offers. We’re still sending our youth off to kill or be killed in the name of liberty and justice for all around the world, while doing so little to defend those two values here at home.

I find that unacceptable.

My wish for the new year is that the spirit of the Christ whose life and teachings I myself have learned something from is recognized and honored in every prisoner we hold in our facilities of detention, correction, and punishment – particularly by those among us who identify as “Christian”. They seem to hold most of the keys to those places, ironically.

If the City of Eloy is truly a City of God, as it would seem they purport to be – then the Pinal County Sheriff and prosecutor would go after the abusive guards at Saguaro as swiftly and surely as CCA will go after the prisoners who rioted at Red Rock this week. They would not fear the political reprisal of honest citizens for doing so. If anything they would be seen as heroic for aggressively championing the human rights of people literally in chains who are at the mercy of their tormentors.

Likewise, if Eloy is a City of God, then CCA wouldn’t get away with defending the employee misconduct at their institutions that we’ve heard about this month from Hawaiian prisoners. They would be out in front of this lawsuit, disciplining and referring the guards in question – as well as the warden there – for criminal prosecution, which the local criminal justice system would jump on. Of course, last I saw CCA was defending the despicable videotaped brutality of their guards in Idaho, too, so I don’t expect that much of them. But I expect more of a City of God.

The state feeds us fear to maintain power, but in truth most American prisoners haven’t physically harmed anyone but themselves. Even many who are charged with “violent” crimes never struck a soul. Robbing a bank with nothing more than a squirt gun or a note, for example, is considered a “violent” crime. So is brandishing a box cutter at security guards chasing you down for shoplifting (that got one mentally ill kid I adore 5 years, including a year in Supermax).

Now, if those are violent crimes, what do we call repeatedly assaulting and threatening to rape, torture, and kill helpless people? Why is every City of God not up in arms? Which of our brothers are we forgiving for what, and whose cries are we drowning out with our choirs on Sundays? Shall we continue to extract an eye for a dollar or a tooth for every rebuke of the state, and pay a dollar of our own money to those who threaten to extinguish prisoners’ lives?

That isn’t even how it was supposed to work in the Old Testament, much less the one dominated by Jesus.

I’ve been born more than once, I am sure, but because of the way Christ’s life and message and symbols have been abused, I don’t call myself a “Christian” or abide by the mandates of any religion. I just try my best to live by the principles and values that ring true to me, most of which are common but not exclusive to the Christian faith. Self-professed Christians out there need to consider for themselves what his truth is and how to live it; I just wish that if they identify Jesus as their role model they would follow his guidance a little more closely. The world would be a bit better for it…and we wouldn’t constantly be at war in his name, either.

Christ, I have no doubt, would deeply disapprove of our system of “justice” in America – particularly Arizona – and how we perpetrate violence on our prisoners. After all, he was criminalized for defying both capital and the state, and lived and died as a prisoner himself. As I read it, he went out that particular way for a reason, too.

Anyway, for the sake of the thousands of disenfranchised, incarcerated and otherwise detained souls whose misery they have profited from, I hope Eloy is a City of Jesus’ version of God. How they and CCA deal with the perpetrators of abuse in their prisons will tell us much more than the signs they’ve placed at their gates do.

(read CCA’s rap sheet at the Private Corrections Working Group’s website. Catch up on CCA’s Idaho “Gladiator School“, too. But give the people of Eloy a chance…)

Eloy Red Rock Riot update: Christmas Eve.

The latest word from Red Rock (in a news release via K-Gun in Tucson) is that 43 prisoners have been identified as being involved in the riot today and are in administrative segregation under investigation (isolated in detention units). According to them, seven prisoners were treated for injuries at a hospital, only one of whom was admitted (his injuries are reportedly non-life-threatening).

It still appears as if only California’s prisoners were involved.

(photo credit: TriValley Central)

Prison Talk has a thread going (that’s the link to the most current page, as of this evening) where family and friends of prisoners there are sharing info about which yard was involved, what’s happening with visitation, etc. I can’t figure out much more from that yet, but they usually know what’s going on before the media does – and will keep talking about it long after the media loses interest.

The families will be more current than I am, as well, so follow them if you’re really concerned about what’s going on and how other prisoners there are being affected. While rumors may sometimes fly in forums like Prison Talk, CCA’s news releases aren’t necessarily the whole truth. They don’t even have anything about the Red Rock Riot or the lawsuit at Saguaro up on their newsroom website, so don’t turn to CCA for “news” on their prisons.

My friend, Frank Smith from the Private Corrections Working Group (a private prison industry watchdog), dropped me a line today that he left the following remark about the Red Rock Riot on the TriValley Central website. Frank’s insight is often worth repeating:

———————————-

“These prisons are chronically troubled.

Thanks to campaign support and contributions to Republicans there is virtually no oversight. Arizona officials have no clue as to whom they hold; what murderers, pedophiles, rapists, kidnappers have been imported from hundreds or thousands of miles away. The female staff is endlessly sexually harassed by management. Escapes and riots are as regular as rain in the tropics.

When charges are successfully brought against murderers from out of state, it is Arizona taxpayers who will pay to keep them for most or the rest of their lives.

This “minor” incident, as the for-profit prisons are careful to term them, overtaxed Pinal County emergency services. Who will be paying for the costs of the medivac choppers to Maricopa County? Who will be called to address a “major” incident?

In Colorado, there was a 1999 riot in a badly constructed prison built by the same outfit to which Mohave County sole-sourced the Kingman prison, thanks to promoters who are now hovering over Arizona communities like a flock of vultures. It took law enforcement from four states to put down that riot. In 2004 a CCA riot in the same prison cost the state about three quarters of a million to put down, but it only got $300,000 or so in reimbursement.

These ineptly run lockups have long since exhausted the potential labor pool in Pinal county and low-wage labor required to run them will come from Maricopa or Pima counties.

Despite the staggering incompetence of the for-profits, Coolidge officials have welcomed still another such mistake, this one to be run by MTC, the outfit that gave us riots in Pima and Mohave county this year, and the escapes of three murderers who killed a vacationing Oklahoma couple. MTC has had escapes, riots and murders in other states as well, including California, Texas, New Mexico and their home state of Utah. MTC was thrown out of Canada, where cooler legislative heads prevail and politics are not dominated by special interests.”