Exile to the Desert: 3 more years of CCA’s abuse.

Shame on the state of Hawaii for continuing this contract after all the abuses (including torture and the sexual assault of a prisoner by a guard) that have occurred in Saguaro Correctional Center in the prison town of Eloy under CCA’s watch. The people of the Islands should oppose this vociferously…your prisoners are just in for more abuse at the hands of Arizonans – especially your Indigenous. In fact, following this news article is a link to a decent piece by a friend of mine, Frank Smith from Private Corrections Institute, who’s an expert on the private prison industry. He did some extensive research into the experience of Native Americans in private prisons – it’s worth reading.


State Signs New Three-Year Arizona Prison Deal

Hawaii Reporter

June 23, 2011

BY JIM DOOLEY – The state has signed a new, three-year contract with Corrections Corporation of America to house up to 1,900 prison inmates at private prisons in Arizona.

The price carries a one per cent increase over the curent contract with CCA, which expires at the end of the month. The Department of Public Safety will pay CCA $63.85 per inmate per day. The old rate was $63.22.

CCA is believed to have submitted the sole bid for the contract.

The new deal, which carries two possible one-year contract extensions, was signed as Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s administration is making plans to end the longstanding policy of imprisoning Hawaii inmates in out-of-state facilities.

Public Safety officials are drawing up a plan for the return of out-of-state prisoners, but its completion is sometime in the future and will depend on construction of new correctional facilities here and development of new community-based programs for men and women now locked behind bars.

The Hawaii State Auditor said in a report issued late last year the total cost of the private prison program more than tripled since 2001, from just under $20 million to more than $60 million.

The per-day charges under the new contract would total some $44.3 million, although there are millions the state must pay in associated costs which the contract with CCA doesn’t cover.

The actual number of Hawaii inmates now held at CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Facility in Eloy, Arizona is now believed to have dropped under 1,800 as the state has stepped up efforts to bring certain categories of prisoners home.

Some 60 Hawaii inmates are also being held at CCA’s Red Rock Correctional Facility, next door to the Saguaro complex.

————————–Native Americans in Private Prisons——————

Native Americans in Private Prisons.

Arizona Prison Watch
Friday, December 3, 2010

The following is the intro to a piece written by my friend Frank Smith, an expert on private prisons with the Private Corrections Working Group (where I dig up all those rap sheets on prison profiteers). Here’s the testimony he gave to the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons several years back – which makes some good points still relevant to the violence and abuse of prisoners at CCA’s Idaho Correctional Center, among other places.

Follow the link for the full text of the article, which I found posted to a great website on Lenape (Delaware Indian) culture and issues. The article was originally published as a chapter in the book “Capitalist Punishment: Prison Privatization and Human Rights” (Elizabeth Alexander, et al), a worthwhile text for any library on crime and punishment.


Incarceration of Native Americans and Private Prisons
By Frank Smith


There are currently slightly over two million inmates in local, state and federal jails and prisons. Of these, some 1.6 percent are Native Americans and Hawaiian Natives; in Federal institutions, Native Americans constitute 2 percent of the population, since the U.S. government is involved in criminal justice enforcement on reservations. Because approximately 6 percent of all U.S. inmates are held in private prisons, the total number of Native Americans in these for-profit prisons is comparatively rather small. For that reason, this article presents a picture of the conditions in which Native Americans are held given that limited experience.

Historical Perspective

In order to achieve an informed understanding of the current situation with regard to Native Americans in prison, it is necessary to place it within a larger historical and sociological context. While most residents of the US have the notion their country was founded on the principles of justice and freedom, closer examination reveals that perception is not accurate, particularly in the case of Native Americans.1

The more progressive of our founding fathers whom we remember so fondly as protectors of these ideals include Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Paine consistently referred to Indians as “savages”, and used them as a negative comparative stereotype. Jefferson considered his contemporary Indians to be hindrances to colonial progress. The US only granted Natives citizenship in 1924, five years after women and 59 years after Black males were allowed to vote.

African Americans have undoubtedly been pervasively discriminated against in US history–their dehumanization was even embodied in the Constitution. Schoolchildren learn of the more egregious Supreme Court-approved violations of the rights of Blacks such as the Dred Scott decision or Plessy v. Feurgeson,2 and that the Civil War was fought in part over slavery.

They may have read the Emancipation Proclamation and even the Thirteenth to Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The sordid history in America of slave owning, in the north and south, of lynching, of Jim Crow, is discussed in most schools. The role of such historic figures as Frederick Douglas or Sojourner Truth is widely recognized. Martin Luther King Jr., is certainly better known than many mediocre presidents. Selma, Alabama, and Little Rock, Arkansas are familiar mileposts, as is Brown v. Board of Education. Students may even understand the meaning of racial profiling, of the immensedisparity between sentencing for crack cocaine, more prevalent in inner-city neighborhoods, and powdered cocaine, more favored by wealthier uburbanites.

They may possibly be aware that a Black adolescent has perhaps a 50 times greater chance of being placed in an adult penal institution than a white youth who has been charged with exactly the same crime,3 and that perhaps one of three young Black men has been subjected to some criminal sanction, such as probation, parole, jail or prison.

Yet how many Americans, young or old, fully understand that this same disenfranchisement; this same disproportionate treatment by the criminal justice system, has affected Native Americans since the Articles of Confederation were signed? How many realize that broken treaties have been the order of the day for over two hundred years? Do they know that the early settlement of this nation involved pushing indigenous peoples into ever smaller, less habitable reservations?

How many school children are taught the cruel facts behind the genocidal removal of the inhabitants of the post-Revolutionary Southeast? There is hardly a Native American tribe that does not have a history of broken treaties and persecution. What this long, troubled relationship between European Americans and Natives constitutes is deliberate disregard for and discrimination against Native culture. Theft of lands, exiles, dispossessions, and a prevailing condemnatory and paternalistic attitude provide the background for the problems of Native Americans in prisons, both public and private, today. It particularly pervades the conditions of confinement of Indians in private prisons…

Prisoners Post: to the CEO of CCA, Damon Hininger.

Hope some of Hawai’is legislators are paying attention to this – look at what you really get for your dollar in Arizona.

This is a courageous, frank letter from a prisoner of the Corrections Corporation of America and the City of Eloy out at the Saguaro Correctional Facility (where 18 prisoners are suing for torture, and one is suing a guard for sexual assault).

I sure hope Thad was right when he guessed that the CEO may actually answer his letter, though, if he’s right about all this, then they’ll be sure to send someone to his cell to harass and write him up, at the very least.

Keep us posted on how you’re faring in there, Thad. We still want to see you make it out of there soon. He makes a hell of a lot of money off of prisoners like you behaving yourselves, so I’d think he’ could afford the grace to listen...

– Peg

“Prisoners Have Families, Too”.
Maricopa County Jail: Tent City.

Phoenix, AZ. (April 6, 2011)

PS: Here’s the follow-up post to this letter. Thad got harassed alright – he was hit for another year by the parole board after they had already given him an out date, thanks to a personal call from the good warden at Saguaro after this post went up. As far as I’m concerned, they’re corrupt through and through in Eloy, Arizona: the City of God.


To The CEO of CCA:
Damon Hininger

Corrections Corporation of America

10 Burton Hills Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37215

Phone: (615) 263-3000; (800) 624-2931
Fax: (615) 263-3140

Taking prisoners: CCA and the outsourcing of Hawai’i.

From the weekly Criminal InJustice Kos blog at www.dailykos.com:


Out of State, Out of Mind
by Emmet

In 1976, Delbert Kaahanui Wakinekona was serving a life sentence in Hawaii State Prison, having been convicted in a Hawaii court. He was seen as a behavior problem in the prison. In a couple of botched hearings, prison officials decided that he was a troublemaker who had caused the “failure of certain programs” in the maximum control unit. Hawaii transferred him to Folsom Prison in California. He sued. The Supreme Court held, in 1983, that, first, a prisoner convicted of a felony has no constitutionally protected right to serve his sentence in any specific state (e.g. the one whose laws he violated). And Mr. Wakinekona had no right to have the Hawaii prison regulations applied, because they didn’t really limit the State’s discretion anyway.

What happened as a result?

Well, because of Olim and similar cases, two things happened. First, states and the feds, which had been told in the past that they had to follow their own rules, realized that if they just made their prison policies and regulations good and vague, or better yet nonexistent, they wouldn’t have courts looking over their shoulders. So they could put a prisoner in the hole indefinitely if they called the hole “administrative segregation” instead of “segregation” and said that the prisoner was there for “the security of the institution”, instead of for “assault,” e.g. smacking another prisoner over the head. Added bonus: they could do it even if said prisoner didn’t smack another prisoner on the head. Extra added bonus, and the subject of this diary: they could even transfer the troublemaker out of state and never have to see him or her again, if they paid enough.


I saw this policy illustrated in 1985 in the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, when I watched a four year old boy sobbing and pounding at the glass that separated him from his father. Prisoners held out of state don’t have the right to conditions like those in their own states. They’re subject to the rules of the state/company to which they’re sent. Federal prisoners at Marion didn’t get contact visits, and neither did the state prisoners held there, who were one third of the population at that time. A couple years later I represented another prisoner transferred out of state and away from his family. They couldn’t afford to go visit him at all. His six year old son told his mother, “I’m going to be really, really bad, so they’ll send me to be with Daddy.” Good times.

At first, involuntary out of state transfers were used for people like Delbert Wakinekona, “bad guys” who were disliked for one reason or another by prison authorities. Assaultive people and gang leaders were transferred, and so were writ writers and journalists and activists and political prisoners. Authorities got another state, or the Feds, to accept their bad guys, sometimes for money, sometimes in return for accepting the other state’s bad guys. So a prisoner associated with a particular prison gang, or known as a “political” or as a gay rights activist, might be plucked out and sent alone to a prison where a large group of prisoners were hostile to his gang or his beliefs. And no one at the prison could vouch for him, because no one knew him personally. Sometimes he survived. Sometimes he didn’t.


But sheer dislike is no longer the main reason for involuntary transfers. There was profit to be made. Corrections Corporation of America was founded in 1983, two months before the Olim decision. It opened the first real prison for profit seven years later. But it has never been about housing “bad guys.” When possible, it has gone for the easy money, and prison overcrowding (brought on in large part by the War on Drugs and three strikes laws) offered a great opportunity. Nowadays, a prisoner is more likely to be transferred if he has GOODbehavior in prison. No escape attempts, good health, plus a long sentence yet to serve are other factors that make a prisoner, literally, marketable, and may put him or her on the chain to Arizona or Minnesota or any other of the 19 states and DC where CCA has facilities.

Five years ago, the National Institute for Corrections reported that there were then about 5,000 prisoners who had been transferred out of state, half to private prisons, the other half to the federal or other state systems. Almost all those transferred to private prisons were sent there because of overcrowding. Most sent to other state systems were sent for “security” reasons. 26 states had people serving their time in other jurisdictions (but remember that some may have been voluntary transfers — notorious defendants or convicted police or prison guards, moved for their safety).

That number has probably quadrupled or quintupled since then. California alone has more than 10,000 prisoners out of state, almost all because of overcrowding. It’s getting ready to send more. In November, 2010, California entered into no-bid contracts with CCA and another company to place 5800 prisoners out of state over the next two years. Was incoming Governor Jerry Brown consulted? Not clear.
Pennsylvania shipped over 2000 prisoners to other state (not private) prisons because of overcrowding.

What will stop this banishment practice, apart from a complete rethinking and reorganization of our society?

Not the courts. At least, not directly.

(Lawyerly interlude: An argument I really like, that transfer is “banishment,” forbidden by some state constitutions, has been made without success with one exception that I know of: West Virgina, whose Supreme Court held that there is a state-created right to serve your sentence in-state.)

At this point there’s a lot of money invested in prisons for profit and consequently in continuing prison overcrowding. It’s been my experience (YMMV) that at least since the Warren court, courts don’t respond to big injustices which require big reordering of financial interests until public opinion –or overriding financial considerations — move in favor of change.

Recognizing the importance of economic considerations, enterprising prisoners and their lawyers have done their best to inflict death by a thousand cuts. They look at the fast-diminishing groups of rights they retain by constitution or statute. One is access to the courts. Another is the right to parole consideration (if their state has parole). So they demand access to their state’s laws. You’d think it would be easy for a prison system to provide this, but it’s not. Or they demand access to unmonitored phone lines to call their attorney. That can almost bring some private facilities to a complete halt. They demand in-person meetings with their parole board, demand that their records be transmitted to the board, demand that they have the progress meetings with prison officials that their state’s parole laws mandate. And if a prisoner learns that he may be transferred because of overcrowding, he or she can always commit an infraction. There’s a cost/benefit analysis there, and you have to choose your infraction carefully, so as not to screw up access to visits.

Current budget constraints may put the squeeze on private prisons too. In 2010, Kentucky pulled its prisoners out of a CCA facility IN KENTUCKY because some genius figured out that it was too expensive. There’d been over 500 Kentucky prisoners there at one time or another. Now the Ky CCA facility only has Vermont prisoners, sent to relieve overcrowding.


Many states have transferred prisoners out of state in order to relieve overcrowding and have resisted calls to release prisoners early, even people convicted of minor crimes. But when state budgets have to be cut past the point of pain, some states are going to realize that early release is a lot less expensive than paying a huge CCA bill every month. The more people talk about this, and write to their elected officials, and visit their elected officials, the more likely it is to happen. Like economic considerations, public opinion doesn’t change overnight, but it does change and it can be nudged. For example, pressure from family members, especially in smaller states, can be effective if it’s sustained.

And after the deaths and mistreatment of several Hawaiian prisoners in CCA mainland prisons, Hawaiian officials are taking another look. Incoming Governor Neil Abercrombie wants to bring Hawaain out of state prisoners home. Speaking about out-of-state transfer on December 16, 2010: “It costs money. It costs lives. It costs communities,” he said. “It destroys families. It is dysfunctional all the way around — socially, economically, politically and morally.”

The next day, the former Hawaii Attorney General, Micheal Lilly, who argued Olim for the state, wrote a letter to the editor of the Hawaiian Star-Advertiser. He applauded newly elected Governor Neil Abercrombie’s proposal of bringing almost all Hawaiian prisoners home. He excepted only the very worst. I bet that if he were asked, he’d even concede that Delbert Wakinekona could come home. Over the years, Delbert has gotten a lot older. Now he’s housed in CCA. If Red Rock Correctional Facility in Arizona can hold him, the Hawaaian prison system probably can, too.

(Second lawyerly interlude: Mr. Wakinekona has had the same lawyer who argued his case in the Supreme Court for all these years. He’s trying to get his client’s sentence commuted.)

As far as I could tell, in the 34 years since he was transferred, Delbert Kaahanui Wakinekona has never gone home again.

Hawaii DPS to investigate AZ prison.

Wonder why they wouldn’t be confident in AZ ADC or DPS investigating CCA ourselves?

This Star Advertiser reporter is really on this story. Follow her as it unfolds.


State to investigate killing of island inmate in Arizona
By Mary Vorsino
Honolulu Star Advertiser

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST,
Jun 15, 2010

Amid growing scrutiny of the state’s practice of shipping inmates to the mainland, a state Department of Public Safety team left for Arizona yesterday to investigate the killing of a 23-year-old Hawaii inmate at Saguaro Correctional Center.

Arizona authorities expect to charge a 21-year-old Hawaii inmate in connection with the killing at Saguaro, a private prison in Arizona where nearly 1,900 Hawaii inmates are housed.

1,871 male inmates at Saguaro
1,897 beds at Saguaro
$61 million per year to house male inmates on mainland

Eloy, Ariz., police said Mahinauli Silva strangled his cellmate, Clifford Medina, while the prison was in lockdown on last Tuesday.

The killing is the second of a Hawaii inmate on the mainland this year and is prompting calls for new attention to the out-of-state prison population.

State Sen. Will Espero, chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee, said the two inmate deaths raise serious questions about the state’s policy of shipping out inmates and will undoubtedly raise the prominence of the discussion in the 2011 legislative session.

“Maybe this could give us a reason to pause,” he said, adding that the Hawaii team in Arizona to investigate Medina’s death needs to answer this question: “Is this prison unsafe, and are there some major security breaches?”

Meanwhile, Medina’s family said they are not getting any details on the killing from the state Department of Public Safety and plan to travel to Arizona to look into the death themselves.

“It’s so frustrating,” said Loke Medeiros, Medina’s aunt. “No one from Public Safety talks to us.”
Medeiros said that Medina had cognitive disabilities and attention deficit disorder and had recently been placed in isolation. As a result, he could call his family only once a month.

“The day of his death was the day he was supposed to call home,” said Medeiros, of Puna. “He had told us he was in what they call the hole.”

DPS Director Clayton Frank said he had not gotten official word yesterday on Medina’s cause of death and so could not comment on the case. But he did say the DPS team would be working with Eloy police and with prison officials to investigate what happened and evaluate security at the facility.

Some 1,871 male Hawaii inmates are at Saguaro, a 1,897-bed prison owned by Corrections Corp. of America. About 50 more are at a separate CCA prison in Arizona.

The state spends about $61 million a year to house male inmates on the mainland because there is not enough room for them at Hawaii prisons. Last year, allegations by female Hawaii inmates of widespread sexual abuse by guards and employees at a CCA facility in Kentucky prompted the state to pull all 168 of its female inmates from the prison and bring them back to the islands to serve their time.

Silva, the suspect in the killing last week, remains in custody at the Saguaro Correctional Center and is expected to be charged today or tomorrow, said Sgt. Michelle Tarango, of the Eloy Police Department.

Police did not provide information yesterday on a motive in the killing and could not say why the prison was in lockdown.

Tarango said Silva confessed in police custody to strangling his cellmate, then waiting a “short while” before pushing an emergency button to call for guards.

Medina was sent to Arizona about six months ago and was serving time for first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer, two counts of second-degree burglary, second-degree theft and bail jumping. He would have been eligible for parole in 2012.

Silva was serving time for burglary and theft.

Saguaro was also the site of the stabbing death of Bronson Nunuha on Feb. 18. Two Hawaii inmates — Micah Kanahele and Miti Maugaotega Jr. have been indicted on first-degree murder charges in the case.

Nunuha was the first Hawaii inmate killed in a private prison on the mainland since the state started housing inmates out of state in 1995, though others have been seriously assaulted.

Officials have said Nunuha’s death appeared to be gang-related. There are no indications Medina’s death was linked to gangs.

Suspect arrested in CCA murder at Saguaro

Cellmate arrested in death of Hawaii inmate
By Mary Vorsino
Star Advertiser
POSTED: 10:54 a.m. HST, Jun 14, 2010

Arizona police are questioning a 21-year-old Hawaii inmate in the death of his cellmate, a 23-year-old Hawaii man, last week at the Saguaro Correction Center.

Mahinauli Silva is expected to be charged with second-degree murder.

Eloy, Ariz., police said Silva admitted to strangling his cellmate, Clifford Medina, in their cell last Tuesday when the prison was in lockdown.

Police had no immediate information on a motive in the killing.

Officials had earlier declined to confirm how Medina was killed. Medina was found unresponsive in his cell Tuesday morning.

An emergency medical services team tried unsuccessfully to revive him, according to a brief statement from the Corrections Corp. of America, which operates Saguaro.