Deaths in Custody – Homicide: Nunuha family sues CCA and state.

This poor man’s murder was preventable – and horrendous. Condolences to his loved ones. I hope you make CCA and the State of Hawai’i pay – it’s the only thing that seems to make these people change how they abuse and neglect other human beings. If you need the support of other prisoners’ families surviving similar traumas, please let me know (Peggy Plews 480-580-6807 prisonabolitionist@gmail.com). I am in Phoenix, AZ.
Arizona State Legislature, Phoenix.
February 15, 2011
—————-from the ACLU of Hawai’i————–

Family of Hawaii Prisoner Murdered in Mainland Prison Files Lawsuit Against State of Hawaii, Corrections Corporation of America

Today the family of Bronson Nunuha, a 26-year-old Hawaii prisoner who was brutally murdered at a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) (NYSE:CXW) private prison in Arizona in 2010, filed a lawsuit in state court against CCA and the State of Hawaii.  The suit exposes CCA’s business model of grossly short-staffing prisons and cutting corners in every way possible to make its private prisons profitable.  These systemic practices violated fundamental safety requirements and subjected Hawaii prisoners to rampant gang violence in under-staffed prison units.  Bronson Nunuha was just months away from release on a burglary conviction when CCA forced him to share housing with extremely violent, gang-affiliated prisoners in the same unit.  A copy of the complaint is here

“Bronson’s death was senseless and preventable.  CCA and the State of Hawaii needlessly put him in danger,” said attorney Kenneth M. Walczak, who, along with the Human Rights Defense Center and the ACLU of Hawaii, represents the Nunuha family. 

“Private prisons are known to have higher levels of violence due to understaffing and high staff turnover that result from their goal of generating ever-greater profits,” added HRDC director Paul Wright. “But prison companies are not allowed to make profit more important than human life.  Unfortunately, CCA’s desire to turn a corporate profit needlessly cost Bronson Nunuha his life.”

Bronson was transferred to CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona as part of a controversial practice in which Hawaii prisoners are sent to for-profit mainland facilities. He was serving a 5-year sentence for burglary and property damage when he was killed by other prisoners. Bronson, who was only months away from completing his sentence and returning to his family on Oahu, left behind a grieving mother, sisters, and his seven-year-old son. 

Under Hawaii law, the State was required to return Bronson to Hawaii when he had only a year left on his sentence so that he could complete necessary programs to help him re-enter the community.  The State ignored this law.

Bronson was murdered in CCA’s “Special Housing Incentive Program,” or SHIP. The SHIP program places rival gang members and prisoners who do not belong to any gang together in one unit, where they share recreation time and sometimes the same cell.  Predictably, this practice results in violent incidents like Bronson’s murder. Only one CCA employee was present to oversee approximately 50 prisoners in the SHIP unit where Bronson was housed.

While at the CCA prison, Bronson had asked to be removed from the SHIP unit but CCA staff denied his requests.  On February 18, 2010, two gang members attacked Bronson in his cell; the cell door had been opened by a CCA employee, who then left. Bronson was beaten and stabbed over 100 times. His assailants carved the name of their gang into his chest and even had time to leave his cell, shower and change clothes before CCA staff knew that Bronson had been killed. 

One of Bronson’s assailants, Miti Maugaotega, Jr., had previously been involved in several attacks on other prisoners at a different CCA prison. Maugaotega, a gang member, was serving multiple life sentences for attempted murder, rape, and armed robbery. CCA and the State knew that Maugaotega was dangerous and capable of extreme violence but still housed him in the same unit as Bronson, a non-violent offender close to finishing a 5-year sentence.

CCA prisons that house Hawaii prisoners have been plagued with problems. In addition to Bronson’s murder, another Hawaii prisoner, Clifford Medina, was killed at the Saguaro facility in June 2010. In 2009, Hawaii removed all of its female prisoners from CCA’s Otter Creek Correctional Center in Kentucky following a scandal that resulted in at least six CCA employees being charged with rape or sexual misconduct. Other Hawaii prisoners have sued CCA, charging that the company has tolerated beatings and sexual assaults in its mainland prisons, and for refusing to allow them to participate in native Hawaiian religious practices.

“Why the State of Hawaii continues to contract with this company is mystifying, frankly,” said Wright. “After two murders, disturbances, allegations of rampant sexual abuse and a lack of accountability by CCA employees, it’s fairly obvious that CCA is unable or unwilling to safely house Hawaii prisoners, and the State is unable or unwilling to adequately monitor conditions at mainland prisons. Hawaii taxpayers are certainly not getting what they’re paying for.”

ACLU of Hawaii Senior Staff Attorney Dan Gluck added, “the ACLU has long warned the State about the damaging effects of its short-sighted policy of shipping prisoners to the mainland. This tragedy is bound to be repeated unless Hawaii adopts more effective prison policies.” 

Bronson’s family is represented by the San Francisco law firm of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP, by HRDC chief counsel Lance Weber, and by the ACLU of Hawaii’s Dan Gluck.  The attorneys ask anyone with information about Bronson’s death – or information about violations of other safety rules at the CCA Saguaro Correctional Facility – to contact them.              
 
###

The Human Rights Defense Center, founded in 1990 and based in Brattleboro, Vermont, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes Prison Legal News, a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has almost 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website (www.prisonlegalnews.org) that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents. 

 Rosen Bien & Galvan, LLP has a unique practice blending public interest and private sector litigation.  The firm represents individuals and companies in complex trial and appellate litigation in state & federal courts.

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Hawaii AG report blasts "humonetarianism" and dependence on private prisons

This document could go a long way towards changing the Hawai’i prison system; I’m impressed that it was released by the state Attorney General. That, in turn, could have ripples elsewhere – certainly in Eloy, AZ, where Corrections Corporation of America incarcerates nearly 2000 Hawai’ians.  Eloy has real problems – as does CCA.18 Hawai’ian prisoners are suing employees at Saguaro prison there for torture, and one is suing for sexual assault (the guard who perpetrated it was actually prosecuted).  

All either Eloy or CCA seem to be concerned with is the money they can make in Arizona, of course, not reducing crime or victimization in Hawai’i or human rights abuses in their own community. If Hawai’ian legislators don’t get on the ball with sentencing and prison reform, they should be called out as either incompetent or corrupt – no one can afford for any of them to be indifferent to the prison crisis anymore.


Read the report this links to, then find your state legislators here.


Call or write to them here:


Senate Clerk’s Office

State Capitol, Room 10
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808)586-6720 phone
(808)586-6719 fax
sclerk@capitol.hawaii.gov


House Clerk’s Office
State Capitol, Room 27
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808)586-6400 phone
(808)586-6401 fax
hclerk@capitol.hawaii.gov

The key term is “evidence-based practice”. Good luck. I hope you manage to wage a successful boycott of Eloy and CCA by the time this battle is over. Israel outlawed private prisons because the profit motive is in direct opposition to human rights concerns – maybe Hawai’i will abandon them as well, for all the right reasons.



—from Hawaii.gov—


Here’s the Executive Summary:

This study examined the records of the 660 persons who were released on parole in the State of Hawaii between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006 (Fiscal Year 2006). It addresses two main questions: What are the demographic and criminal history profiles of parolees who have been incarcerated in Hawaii and in private prisons out of state? And, how do the recidivism rates of these two groups compare? Using records obtained from the Hawaii Paroling Authority, the Department of Public Safety, and the Department of the Attorney General, parolees were tracked for three to four years after their release from prison.

The study found that:

– 54 percent of Hawaii’s prisoners are incarcerated in private prisons on the mainland — the highest percentage among all U.S. states.

– As of the end of 2009, it cost approximately $118 per day to incarcerate an inmate in Hawaii, and at least $62 per day to incarcerate him or her in a private prison on the mainland. Note, however, that unlike the in-state per day cost, the private prison cost estimate is not all-inclusive.

– 75 percent of Fiscal Year 2006 parolees never served time in a private prison on the mainland, while 25 percent did serve time there.

– Of the one-quarter of parolees who have been imprisoned on the mainland, 70 percent served half or more of their time there.

– The average time served on the mainland was 3.5 years.

The analysis of the parolees’ demographic and criminal history profiles found that:

– Parolees averaged 56 total prior arrests and 24 convictions per parolee, including an average of 20 prior felony arrests and 8 felony convictions.

– Parolees in the mainland cohort had somewhat more felony arrests and felony convictions per person than did parolees in the Hawaii cohort.

– Parolees in the mainland cohort had been convicted of fewer property and drug crimes, and more violent and “other” offenses, than had the parolees in the Hawaii cohort.

– The average maximum sentence for parolees who had been incarcerated on the mainland was longer: 10.9 years, versus 8.5 years for the Hawaii cohort.

– The average time served by the mainland cohort was longer: 6.2 years, versus 3.2 years for the Hawaii cohort.

– The mainland cohort included substantially more males than did the Hawaii cohort: 20 male parolees for every female parolee in the mainland group, versus 4 male parolees for every female parolee in the Hawaii group.

– As compared to their male counterparts, female parolees in both cohorts were more likely to be property and drug crime offenders.

– There were no statistically significant differences in ethnicity between the two parole cohorts. Most notably, Native Hawaiians comprised 40 percent of each cohort.

The analysis of recidivism found that:

– Parolees in the mainland cohort received significantly lower scores on the Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R). Hence, mainlanders had fewer needs for service and a lower average risk of recidivism than did parolees in the Hawaii cohort.

– In the aggregate, the LSI-R scores predicted recidivism fairly well.

– A little more than half of parolees in both cohorts failed on parole within three years.

– The average time to recidivism in both cohorts was about 15 months.

– The recidivism rate for the mainland cohort (53 percent) was slightly lower than the recidivism rate for the Hawaii cohort (56 percent), but this difference is not statistically significant.

– There was more recidivism among the mainland cohort for parolees in the higher-risk LSI-R categories.

– There was more recidivism among the mainland cohort for violating conditions of parole.

– Nearly half of all rearrests were for violating the conditions of parole.

– In both cohorts, older people recidivated less than did younger people. Age is a powerful ally of efforts to stop criminal offending.

– There were few significant differences between the two cohorts in acts of misconduct committed while in prison.

– Parolees in the mainland cohort were more likely to violate parole conditions than were parolees in the Hawaii group.

– Furlough programs were related to significantly lower rates of recidivism among mainland parolees, but not among parolees who were imprisoned only in Hawaii.

Recommendations from this study:

– Since there is no empirical justification for the policy argument that private prisons reduce recidivism better than public prisons, the State of Hawaii should decide whether to continue, discontinue, expand, or contract its reliance on private prisons based on other criteria. While cost is one criterion, it is not the only one that is important to consider.

– It is ill-advised to rely on a framework for thinking about corrections (herein termed humonetarianism) that stresses short-term financial savings at the expense of programs aimed at improving the prospects for offenders’ rehabilitation and the satisfaction of their basic needs and rights. Long-term savings are often found in forward-thinking policies and programs.

– The State of Hawaii needs to calculate more inclusive and accurate estimates of the cost of incarceration in-state and in private prisons on the mainland.

– Much more research needs to be done in order to adequately describe the contours and consequences of Hawaii’s correctional policy. One high priority is a study that explores who gets sent to prison (and where). The present study examined only persons who were released on parole.

– The State of Hawaii should conduct more research about its correctional policies and outcomes, especially given a policy world that is increasingly evidence-based.

– The Department of Public Safety and the Hawaii Paroling Authority need an integrated records management system. At present, inmates’ records are often incomplete, scattered, and difficult to locate.

Eloy Council blesses CCA prison proposal

Here’s the local coverage of last week’s Eloy City Council meeting – there really is such a thing as a free press in Arizona. The people of Eloy should be proud of that, despite the performance of their public officials. Kudos to Lindsey Gemme, editor of the Eloy Enterprise at Tri-Valley Central for giving the private prison issue the fair hearing this month that the Eloy City Council wouldn’t.

I had no expectation of such a comprehensive report on the meeting – I drove Frank to it; this is a good account of how it went down. The mayor, as noted, is on Corrections Corporation of America’s payroll (is it any wonder?), and the rest of them showed more concern for roads and traffic lights than for the lawsuits and human rights claims filed against the CCA prisons in their town.


I was actually astonished that there was no council discussion of the abuse – no sign of disapproval, even. People have been brutalized and raped in the City of Eloy’s care – Hawai’i is even talking about pulling their prisoners out. If CCA and Eloy can’t be responsible for those already committed to their custody – at quite a cost to the public, in more ways than one – why should Arizona pay them to warehouse and dehumanize our people, too? What kind of critical public service is that really providing – torturing drunks, drug addicts and burglars already bound in chains? It not only diminishes our collective humanity, it puts us all at risk to let prisoners be abused in the end.
Gemme – you may or may not agree with my own editorial above, but I think identifying the allegations of CCA’s prisoner abuse in the meeting took integrity and courage – I think most editors in a similar situation might have considered that ice to be too thin. Good luck with the fallout. There are a lot of Hawai’ian and Californian families who will be watching your back now, at least – they need news they can trust more than anyone these days. We’ll be watching, too.

————————————-

The private life of prisons

Researchers address Council on dangers, costs of private prisons

By LINDSEY GEMME
Editor – Eloy Enterprise Tri-Valley Central.com
Published: Thursday, February 24, 2011
What seemed to be a housekeeping issue before Council during its regular meeting last Monday, Feb. 14, opened up a can of worms when three agreements with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) came on deck.
Mayor Byron Jackson abstained from the discussion and approval of the CCA items, as his being a contract employee for CCA for landscaping presented a conflict of interest. Vice-Mayor Frank Acuna oversaw the discussion in his place.

The first of the three items were merely to formalize in writing a verbal agreement with an existing contract between CCA and the Dept. of Public Safety in Hawaii. Though the city had been involved, it had never officially designated in writing or policy the lawful roles of each member in the agreement.

“It creates a separate agreement defining the city’s and CCA’s previous agreement to house the State of Hawaii and Dept. of Public Safety inmates in Eloy,” City Manager Ruth Osuna explained.

The second was a request of Council’s support in a proposal CCA was sending out for a contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections for 5,000 prison beds. Pending the results of that bid, CCA could be building a new facility to accommodate those state inmates, or expanding on an existing one. Eloy is one of several locations CCA would considering siting a new facility, if needed.

The proposal will be submitted today, Feb. 24. The 5,000 beds could be split up into several facilities, and it is uncertain exactly what CCA will opt to do.

“Both out of the respect for the RFP process and for competitive reasons, it’s too early in the process and it’s premature for CCA to discuss what that proposal would entail,” CCA Public Affairs Director Steve Owen later explained.

Before approval of the items last week, two members of the audience addressed Council during the Call to the Public about the agreements with the for-profit correctional company.

Local resident Frank Smith explained that he has been researching private prisons for 15 years. Besides helping to build criminal cases in the past, he’s also become quite knowledgeable about the drain private prisons put on a municipality. For example, he said, prisoners use 150 gallons of water a day, each. Multiply that times 5,000 prisoners, that’s 273 million gallons of water a year in Eloy.

“You’re talking about a tremendous amount of water,” Smith pointed out. “You’ve got problems with water in Arizona, you’ve got the Salt River Project. It’s a consideration you should investigate before you approve this agreement.”

CCA tends to depend on the towns where their prisons are located to supply infrastructure like sewer lines and paving, he went on to say. “Not always, but most of the time. There is a liability here, you can get into trouble.”

Another liability, he added, were escapes from these facilities, such as the one in Kingman last year. According to Smith, the state is being sued $40 million for the Kingman escape.

“An escape that was inevitable given the level of training and turnover of the guards that were there,” he said. “It took them hours to notify the Mojave County Sheriff. After three hours, they didn’t even know who was gone…and it took another hour and an half or so before the EDC was notified who they were.

“You’ve got serious problems here. I think the city should investigate its exposure to liability.”

He cited the pre-Christmas riot in December last year where seven inmates were sent to the hospital as another instance of liability for the city to consider. Especially, he said, in light of the lawsuit being waged against CCA by 18 Hawaiian prisoners who reported serious abuse at the hands of CCA staff at the Saguaro prison.

Costs are another thing he warned the city to be wary about. “You don’t see the numbers that CCA should be giving you. And you don’t get the jobs here. There’s a very high turnover.”

For example in Texas, he said, the state discovered that seven of their private prisons had 90 percent turnover a year. “That’s not correctional officers, you’re talking about fast food workers with badges. That’s tremendous turnover.”

Vice-Mayor Acuna had to cut Smith off at the three-minute mark, and Caroline Isaacs came to the podium. Isaacs is director of the American Friends Service Committee Office in Tucson, which is a national organization associated with the Quaker religion and concentrates its efforts on criminal justice reform. She has been working with AFSCO for 15 years.

She began by announcing to Council about the public hearing on for-profit incarceration that they helped host in Tuscon on Oct. 27, 2010, during which several area community leaders presented their exhaustive research on private prisons.

According to the AFSC’s Web site, many Tucson area government officials were in attendance at last October’s public hearing regarding prison privatization. Correctional representatives from the Arizona Dept. of Corrections, CCA, and the Management and Training Corporation, although invited, were not in attendance,.

Those in attendance were: Phil Lopez (Ariz. State Representative, District 27), Assistance Tucson City Manager Richard Miranda, Richard Elias (Pima County Supervisor, District 5), Steve Kozachik (Tucson City Council, Ward 6), Nancy Young-Wright (Ariz. State Representative, District 26), and former associate editor for the Tucson Citizen, Mark Kimble, moderated by Mari Herraras from Tucson Weekly.

Presenters were Stephen Nathan with the Prison Privatization report International, Susan Maurer with the New Jersey Dept. of Corrections, Victoria Lopez with ACLU Arizona, Joe Glen with the Juvenile Corrections Association, and Jim Sanders with the Real Estate Appraiser in Tucson.

Some of the findings revealed at the meeting were that overall, it costs more to utilize private prisons than state-run institutions, are understaffed and Isaacs gave several examples from over the last year illustrating the safety concerns there are for prisoners.

This past summer, a Hawaiian inmate at Saguaro was strangled by his cellmate while the prison was in lock down in June 2010. That same month, another inmate was stabbed to death at Saguaro by two other inmates who could face the death penalty, and an employee suffered a broken nose and cheekbones and eye socket damage during a 30-inmate brawl over an Xbox game in July.

That’s not to mention the recent lawsuit pending against CCA by 18 of its inmates in December for abuse that went unchecked by the state’s on-site contract monitor.

Isaacs also explained to Council the uncertainty of the prison company’s cost nunbers, according to an audit done by a Hawaiian company for Saguaro.

“CCA chooses to report artificial cost figures derived from a calculation based on a flawed methodology,” she read directly from the audit. “Without clarified guidance by policy makers, the department has no incentive to perform better, and will continue to evade accountability by providing unreliable and inaccurate reporting of operating costs…”

At the end of her three minutes, Isaacs left information for Council to review at their leisure.

Council then turned to the task at hand, which were the three agreements with CCA.

The third agreement was to formalize a verbal contract between the city and CCA about the company’s role in building certain infrastructure to service its three newest prisons.

Councilman Joel Belloc questioned whether the roads around the newest prison, LaPalma, were completed and who was responsible for the upkeep of those roads. CCA representative John Gluch was present, and told Council that the roads were complete and were now in the hands of the city.

“[This agreement] is just to put into writing the timing of the improvements,” Rick Miller said about the final agreement. “It is good to know that they’re going to be anticipating those costs, which, in time, will need to be paid. We’ll need traffic signals and that infrastructure will go in and they will be a participant in their share of that.”

All three agreements were unanimously approved.

“We certainly are very appreciative of the level of support that the city of Eloy has shown us and by extension, the broader Pinal County area, as well as the recognition they’ve given the services that we provide,” Owen later commented, “and the economic impact we have with our facilities. We look forward to our long term relationship withe community continuing.”

Prisoner’s Post: Celling Hawai’i.

I’ve been encouraging the prisoners I correspond with lately to write about their experiences, perspectives, etc. so I can publish them. This is one of the first responses I’ve received to that invitation. The author’s address is below if anyone wants to discuss his thoughts with him; he took some risk doing this so others could get a look inside the place. We’re going to keep in touch just to make sure he makes parole as scheduled without any problems from CCA.

So, heads up there, CCA. I’m inside your prisons, now, too.


– Peg, Arizona Prison Watch

—————————————-

January 27, 2011

To those who want to know the truth:

My name is Thad Thompson. I’m from Hawai’i. I’m currently incarcerated in Hawaii’s Department of Public Safety. I am presently at a private CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) facility named Saguaro Correctional Center over here in Arizona.

Where do I start, y’all? This place is a disgrace to all decent humanity. First of all, I’d like you to think about what it means to be a “private” facility. Yes it means that these places are owned and operated just like Walmart. THESE PLACES ARE FOR PROFIT!!! Everything they do, they are actually trying to keep people locked up so that they can make money. As a cowboy or cattle ranchers main product is cattle, his or her main focus is to exploit, or make money off of, cattle. And so as a private facility’s main products are prisoners we prisoners are exploited to make money off of. Things are bad and only getting worse.

To give you a specific example of how bad it is, listen to this. There’s this program here called the SHIP (Special Housing Incentive Program) which is a program completely devised and ran by CCA. They claim it’s a rehabilitation program. And by presenting this program to the State of Hawaii they got MORE money per head then the average for each bed occupied in this program. So if you think about this,l you’d see that these guys are locking us up in a program which has similar to Supermax housing for 18 months for no other reason but to get this extra money. They totally fabricated write-ups and situations to put anyone they want into this program. And in this program we’re going without proper hygiene (i.e. lotion, deodorant, etc.) warm clothing, or even cleaning chemicals. I could go on and on.

And then to top off all that these guys are literally making stuff up to issue out write-ups while in this program which in the end end holds people back longer in this program. What they’re doing is making sure this program is filled with as many inmates as possible!! More inmates means more money.

For another example of how bad things are and are getting worse, check this out. Hawai’i has had inmates in CCA facilities since 1995. In 2007 Hawai’i bought and built its own facility (this one) to be filled only with Hawai’i inmates as we were previously spread out among a few different CCA’s across the country. In 2010, only 2 1/2 years after arriving our population experienced its first and second murders (inmate on inmate) ever, since being involved with CCA facilities. And also we’ve had a severe beating of a staff member here which all shows that the amount of abuse being committed against us is starting to take it’s toll and the negative effects are showing. You can only beat a dog so much before it will start to act up and bite back.

I hear this abuse here is being explained all over the internet. Take a look. Maybe you can help. I’m still here!!!

E a me aloha,

Thad Thompson #A5013250
Saguaro Correctional Center
1252 East Arica Rd
Eloy, AZ 85131

Rape is Rape: More CCA abuses at Saguaro

From Arizona Prison Watch:

According to Courthouse News this week, a suit was filed against the State of Hawaii and Corrections Corporation of America due to the October 2009 sexual assault of a prisoner who was coerced to perform oral sex on CCA Saguaro Correctional Center guard Richard Ketland. Apparently in Eloy, Arizona, the rape of a prisoner brings – at worst – a felony charge of “unlawful sexual contact,” and can be settled as a lesser offense so as to only require probation.

The guy he assaulted was just in on a drug charge, by the way, for those of you to whom it matters.


The real “truth in sentencing” in America is that you may be raped, regardless of the severity of your own crime. As for Ketland – on July 14, 2010 he plead guilty to “attempted unlawful sexual conduct” (a class 6 felony), and sure didn’t hit the news or go to prison.

I doubt he did a day in jail, either.

You wouldn’t know this kind of thing happens here from the mainstream media in Arizona. Here’s an interesting article in the region’s Tri-Valley Central notifying the nearby Florence community of sex offenders who have been released there. That was posted the day after Ketland’s victim filed suit. I don’t find any mention of a CCA guard sexually assaulting a prisoner at all, though, after a number of different searches of the publication: nothing on Ketland even in the deeper archives.

I only got six hits on Google when I looked up the terms ” ‘richard ketland’ cca prison arizona”, too.

I assure the uninitiated out there: being forced to your knees and having someone ejaculate in your mouth is a pretty heinous form of penetration. Most of us would call that rape. Prison guards in this state have the authority to use lethal force against prisoners to prevent them from harming anyone else or escaping – and no one believes a “criminal” over a “cop”. The victim could have easily been crucified by Ketland and CCA if he even survived putting up a fight.

I’d hope that if the same thing happened to me in Pinal County, the good sheriff and prosecutor would call rape what it is and treat it accordingly – especially if my assailant wore a uniform and a badge, and carried the responsibility of the public’s trust.

I guess I should commend the Pinal County prosecutor for calling it a crime at all. Still, I’m disappointed. Some of you should remember that in December 18 other prisoners from the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy filed suit over brutality by guards on a massive scale. I have yet to hear anything about criminal charges being filed for the assault, intimidation, threats to prisoners and families, etc. – crimes that were apparently perpetrated with the blessing of the CCA warden, however.

So, I again urge the public that cares – wherever you may be – to contact the Pinal County Sheriff, Paul Babeu, the Pinal County Attorney, James P. Walsh, and the Arizona media to shine a spotlight on this abuse and prosecute the criminals working for CCA at Eloy’s Saguaro Correctional Center. All the contact info you need is here from December: “Prosecute CCA prisoner abuse.” If you didn’t speak up against violence and abuse then, please do so now.

For reference, here’s the Private Corrections Working Group’s rap sheet on CCA prisons across the country; they have four facilities in Eloy alone.

And here’s the Hawaiian victim’s actual legal claim

Welcome to Eloy, AZ. Note their affection for Jesus.

He was a prisoner, too.




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

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…)