Hawaiian prisoners coming home

It’s about time…

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State Retrieves Inmates From Private Prisons
By PURNA NEMANI
Courthouse News
February 1, 2011

HONOLULU (CN) – Hawaii’s new governor, Neil Abercrombie, kept his promise last week by bringing 243 inmates back to Hawaii from Arizona prisons run by the Corrections Corporation of America. Abercrombie acted after more than a dozen inmates filed lawsuits claiming they were subjected to brutal treatment inside CCA prisons.

Hawaii, which has been strapped for prison space, has relied on two CCA prisons in Arizona to house its inmates: roughly 1,800 Hawaiian inmates at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy and about 50 at Red Rock Correctional Center.

But the Hawaii Department of Public Safety had to investigate CCA and intervene after a string of incidents brought inmate lawsuits alleging assault and battery, criminal indifference, cruel and unusual punishment, retaliation and negligence. One complaint claimed that even the warden joined in.

In December, 18 inmates at the Eloy prison claimed to have been “beaten and assaulted, including by having their heads banged on tables while they were stripped to their underwear and while their hands were handcuffed behind their backs,” by a group of prison guards and “the warden himself.”

According to that complaint, guards “deliberately destroyed and failed to preserve evidence of their wrongdoing, including videotapes,” and “deliberately falsified reports,” including threats of harm to inmates’ families and death threats to inmates if they told anyone of the beatings. (Here is Courthouse News’ Dec. 15 report on that lawsuit.)

Then in January, a Hawaiian inmate at Saguaro sued CCA, claiming a guard forced him to give the guard a blow job in his cell.

Both lawsuits were filed against CCA. The 18 inmates also sued Hawaii, seeking a protective injunction; they claimed that Hawaii’s Public Safety monitor, on site at Saguaro, allowed the prisoner abuse incident to go unchecked.

Gov. Abercrombie brought the inmates back on Jan. 19-20, placing most of them at three Oahu facilities and 26 on Maui and the Big Island, according to Hawaiian news reports.
Public Safety Chairman Will Espero said: “If we’re going to spend $60 million a year to house inmates, I’d rather spend it here in Hawaii.”

Other states are using lockdowns – confining prisoners to their cells for a day – to save money by sending staff home during the lockdowns.

States use private prisons to try to reduce prison costs, particularly on salaries and benefits, as it relieves the states of pension obligations.

“If any state prison system needs relief, it’s California’s,” Reuters reporter Jim Christie wrote last week. “The matter of its notorious overcrowding has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which could back a lower court’s order to reduce the states’ roughly 147,000 adult inmate population to 115,500 – still a tight squeeze in prisons designed for 84,000.”

California is housing 10,300 inmates in CCA prisons, Reuters reported, and may increase that numbers to 12,850 this year. But California’s prison guards union has immense political power, and surely will fight any efforts to reduce hours or benefits for prison guards.

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:

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“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.”

Eloy again: Riot at CCA’s Red Rock Prison


Below is the AP release on the CCA Red Rock Correctional Facility riot yesterday in Eloy, AZ, which involved only the California prisoners located there.

Something is amiss in that town. As some readers may be aware, this facility is operated by the same Corrections Corporation of America that runs the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy. They also operate the La Palma Correctional Center and Eloy Detention Center there.

Hawaiian prisoners confined at Saguaro are suing for the abuse they endured in the wake of a smaller disturbance/uprising there in July of this year, during which at least one guard was injured. Again, no Hawaiian prisoners were involved in this incident yesterday.

Here is the link to a more complete article about it from Tri-Valley Central, the local media there (the source of the photo here). Read the comments that follow it – those are always interesting (though sometimes very troubling). According to Tri-Valley’s report, no guards were hurt but three prisoners had life-threatening injuries. They have not been publicly identified.

Still looking for this from the prisoners’ and families’ point of view – please forward what you may come across out there. I will post more as soon as I have it…For those of you planning holiday visitation, call ahead. Both Red Rock and Saguaro are now on lock down.

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10 inmates injured in riot at Arizona prison

San Francisco Chronicle
December 23, 2010

17:37 PST

Eloy, Ariz. (AP) — Ten inmates have been injured after a riot at a private prison in central Arizona. Eloy police say the disturbance occurred during Thursday afternoon’s lunch hour at the Red Rock Correctional Facility and involved an estimated 110 inmates. They say the riot was in an area of the prison that houses only California inmates.

It’s unclear what triggered the riot, but prison staff used pepper spray and ended it within 10 minutes. They say no staff members were injured and seven of the 10 inmates hurt were taken to hospitals outside the prison for treatment of injuries ranging from moderate to serious.

Prison officials say the 1,596-bed facility now is in lockdown.

Red Rock Correctional Center is owned by Corrections Corporation of America and houses male inmates for California and Hawaii and detainees of the U.S. Marshals Service. CCA managers along with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation investigators are investigating the disturbance.