Stop the McFarland GEO Women’s Prison!

From the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Aug 8th, 2014

Letter signed by women and trans prisoners at CCWF and CIW

 STOP THE MCFARLAND GEO WOMEN’S PRISON!

 We the undersigned incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) and  the California Institution for Women (CIW) are outraged that CDCR has signed a contract with the GEO Group, the 2nd largest private, for-profit prison corporation in the U.S. According to the contract, GEO will open a new women’s prison in McFarland, CA by fall of 2014.

We call upon California State Legislators to direct CDCR to cancel the contract with GEO and implement existing release programs instead of opening a new prison!

 Once again we are shuffled around without regard for our well-being or our human rights. Since VSPW was converted to a men’s prison in January 2013, we have been subjected to overcrowding at historically high levels (CCWF is now at 185% capacity), even while the state is under court order to reduce the prison population. This is discrimination against people in women’s’ prisons!  As a result of this overcrowding, health care, mail services, food and education have greatly deteriorated. We are locked down more frequently, leading to heightened tensions, drug overdoses and suicides. The prison staff has responded by locking more people into solitary, further violating our human rights.

CDCR could easily implement existing programs to reduce overcrowding, such as: Alternative Custody Programs (ACP); Elder and Medical Parole; and Compassionate Release. Instead, on April 1, 2014 GEO announced its new contract with CDCR to open a 260 bed women’s prison with an “enhanced rehabilitation and recidivism reduction program.” This is nothing but a bad April Fool’s joke! The 260 women who are “chosen” to go to McFarland could be released through one of these other programs instead. None of us should be hauled off to showcase a so-called “gender responsive” prison and to put money in the pockets of GEO investors.

GEO is a private corporation whose business makes profit from imprisoning primarily people of color and immigrants. GEO’s press release about the new prison reports expected revenue of $9 million in McFarland’s first year. Think of how much $9 million could do for providing community-based re-entry services!

GEO has been the subject of numerous lawsuits around the country about atrocious, unconstitutional conditions. Private prisons are notorious for operating with even greater secrecy than the CDCR: assaults are 49% more frequent; racist behavior and sexual abuse by staff are widespread.

GEO is responsible for human rights violations at many of their facilities.  In 2012 GEO was forced to close the Walnut Grove, Mississippi youth detention Center after being condemned for allowing, in the words of Fed. Judge Carlton Reeves, “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk.”

  • In March 2014, 1200 people detained in GEO’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA (for immigrants) went on hunger strike to protest the grossly inadequate medical care, exorbitant commissary prices and low or NO pay for work within the center.  Other GEO prisoners have since gone on hunger strike at detention facilities in Conroe, Texas and Stewart, Georgia.
  • In January of 2014, Governor Jerry Brown’s reelection campaign reported $54,400 in donations from GEO Group. GEO Group has spent $7.6 million on lobbying and campaign contributions in the U.S. in the last decade.

 GEO lobbied strongly to advance laws that increased the time served for drug convictions and other non-violent crimes through mandatory minimum sentencing, three-strikes laws, and truth-in-sentencing laws. GEO was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) when the model bill that became AB 1070 (profiling immigrants in Arizona) was drafted. These legal changes resulted in significant profits for GEO.

  • In McFarland, CA, GEO has signed a contract incentivizing prolonged incarceration over release by charging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation less per prisoner if the facility is more than half full.
  • GEO operates reentry facilities around the state, including the Taylor Street Center at in San Francisco and the Oakland Center in Oakland.  Residents experience these facilities as “re-entry prisons” that are structured to threaten and punish people rather than providing support for people to reenter community life.  .

It is shameful that CDCR is about to open a for-profit “boutique prison” that does nothing positive to solve the disproportionate overcrowding in the women’s prisons at this time. Assembly Members and Senators, please intervene!  Stop the GEO prison from opening. Instead use this $9 million to fully implement existing release programs immediately and fund community-based (not for-profit) reentry programs.

Thank you for listening to this urgent request,

Natalie DeMola, CCWF

Jane Dorotik, CIW

Fonda Gayden, CCWF

Anne Marie Harrison, CCWF

Valerie Juarez, CCWF

Terah Lawyer, CCWF

ChiChi Locci, CCWF

Maydee Morris, CCWF

Amy Preasmeyer, CCWF

Patrice Wallace, CCWF

Vermont: One Tiny State’s Movement to Ban Private Prisons

An interesting and well researched article about prisons for profit and mass incarceration:

By: Jonathan Leavitt, From: Toward Freedom
Thursday, 24 January 2013

Vermont, the most progressive state in America, spent over $14 million last year to lock up Vermonters in for profit prison like Lee Adjustment Center, located in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest. Private prisons like Correctional Corporation of America (CCA)’s Lee Adjustment Center offer no mental health, educational or rehabilitational services, but they do post massive corporate profits; CCA posted $1.7 billion in 2011 revenue alone.

As best-selling author Michelle Alexander notes in her seminal book The New Jim Crow, more black men are under correctional control now than were enslaved in 1850. A recent New Yorker piece noted more Americans are now incarcerated than there were imprisoned in Stalin’s gulags.

Clearly a dialogue about mass incarceration, budget crises, and privatization is unfolding. A group of Vermonters working out of Church basements and living rooms is attempting to build a movement to push this conversation forward by passing a historic law banning Vermont’s use of for-profit prisons.

Behind the Profitable Private Prison Wall

Between 2002 and 2003, according to the Rutland Herald, the number of prisoners in Vermont increased at “nearly five times the national average.” The number of teenagers and young adults in Vermont jails surged by more than 77 percent. A racialized “get tough on crime” ideology, mandatory minimums, and harsher sentencing guidelines from the failed war on drugs left then Republican Vermont Governor Jim Douglas at a moment of departure: build new prisons, or start shipping Vermonters incarcerated under these controversial policies into the deep south to be warehoused without even the “rehabilitative” programs found in Vermont prisons.

According to Prison Legal News’ Matthew Clarke, CCA doubled the population of Lee Adjustment Center in three months in 2004 with a massive influx of some of the first Vermont prisoners housed in private prisons. These conditions and what State Senator James Leddy called a “rogue warden” led to an uprising at Lee Adjustment Center involving 100 inmates. The Louisville Currier Journal and The Times Argus detailed how those involved in the riot tore down fences, began “tearing apart” a wooden guard tower with a guard still inside and toppled the guard tower. In addition, fires “heavily damaged the administration building and guard shack.”

“The inmates literally had control of this place, the inner compound,” said Adam Corliss, an inmate from Springfield, Vermont. A week and a half after the riot, the Montpelier Vermont daily The Times Argus printed an excerpt of a Vermont inmate’s letter home to his fiancé detailing the uprising: “Inmates chasing guards with 2x4s breaking everything in sight…It was so hostile that the S.W.A.T. team of guards came in, launching tear gas, armed with shotguns.”

When the Assistant Warden summoned the 20-person response team only three responded. Clarke details the precipitating conditions: racial and regional prejudices, overcrowding, poor nutrition, and CCA’s warden undertaking, “a zero-tolerance disciplinary crackdown that gave guards the ability to discipline prisoners without proof of misconduct and even put them in solitary confinement for 60 days without disciplinary charges.”

These conditions and the riot they produced happened in the first months of Vermont’s experiment with private prisons. Rather than serving as a cautionary tale about the hollowed-out services privatization provides, policymakers have since only increased the number of Vermonters housed in Lee Adjustment Center and other CCA prisons.

The Moral Consequences of Privatization

“I could write a book about violations [against Vermonters in private prisons],” says Frank Smith, of the Bluff City, Kansas-based Private Correction Working Group. “I visited Beattyville after the September 2004 riot and I have Open Records Act info on it. In Marion Adjustment Center (a CCA prison in St. Mary, Kentucky) there was sexual abuse by guards. CCA did very little to stop it or to help track down the offenders after they fled to avoid prosecution from MAC and the women’s prison -also known as, the ‘rape factory’ – at Otter Creek, Kentucky.”

The same year of the Lee Adjustment Center uprising, The Vermont Guardian reported that Republican Governor Jim Douglas requested corporate bids for the healthcare for (what was then) 1,700 in-state prisoners. Douglas went with the lowest bidder, Prison Health Services, for $645 million over ten years, and Vermonters under their care started literally dying from inadequate care, including Ashley Ellis, a 23 year old woman serving a 30 day sentence.

Prison Health Services broke the contract, not due to concerns related to the deaths, but due to their projected profits never materializing. Prison Legal News editor Paul Wright was quoted by The Associated Press as saying Vermont “cannot contract out the public’s fundamental right to know how their tax dollars are being spent and the quality of services the pubic is getting for its money.”

Powerful Allies, Monolithic Opponents

According to a bombshell 2008 memo detailing the cost of Vermont’s for-profit prisons use, newly sworn in Vermont Auditor Doug Hoffer wrote, “Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) does not provide mental health services. […] CCA does not provide services related to sexual abuse, substance abuse, or violent offenders.” According to the memo there’s a laundry list of programing provided here in Vermont facilities which are conspicuously absent at the for-profit prisons. “DOC programs not available through CCA include the Cognitive Self Change program for violent offenders; the Intensive Domestic Abuse Program; Batterers Intervention Program; the Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Programs; and the Discover Program for those with substance abuse problems.”

Suzi Wizowaty, a Democratic Vermont State Representative from Burlington and lead sponsor of H.28 which states “As of July 1, 2013, all Vermont inmates shall be incarcerated in correctional facilities that are owned and operated by the federal, state, or local government (‘public’).“ Wizowaty, in explaining her bill, makes the case that in this time of austerity Vermonters wanting to use these public dollars responsibly means using public oversight. “The idea that private prisons save money is illusory and has been debunked, the most optimistic studies show that they are a-wash in spending, because there are higher rates of recidivism, less job training, therapy and programming. All we are doing is putting profits in the pockets in the prison corporations.”

Another elite schism which lends credence to Vermont’s anti-privatization efforts comes from an unlikely place, Florida’s Republican Party. Florida Republican State Senator Mike Fasano led a successful effort to stop the privatization of 27 prisons, saying, “We have a 10 percent-plus unemployment rate in the state of Florida, and the last thing we should be doing is moving prisons that were paid for by the taxpayers into the hands of corporations, that would probably put many of these families out of work, who have mortgages to pay, homeowner’s insurance to pay, food on the table. This would be devastating to—not only to their families, but also to the community they live in.”

One might assume that given these financial and moral arguments policy makers would be feel compelled to discontinue using private prisons, if only because risk-adverse state governments typically dislike courting law suits. However, the prison corporations Wizowaty and Hoffer have critiqued are Wall Street monoliths. CCA send a letter to 48 states, dangling hundreds of millions of dollars in front of the cash strapped, austerity budget-minded governors, if only those states will privatize their prisons for the next twenty years. And, oh yeah, one other tiny piece of fine print: the prisons must be kept at least 90% full for the duration of the contract. Seemingly, this would create a contractual incentive for states to enact harsher sentencing guidelines and policing procedures. Meanwhile as best-selling author and legal scholar Glenn Greenwald writes, “Since there is no well funded lobby advocating for penal reform or promoting the interests of prisoners, the prison lobby goes virtually unchallenged and can buy the ability to shape pertinent laws at bargain basement prices.”

The military refers to mission creep as “the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals.” Corporate prisons who only know how to maximize profits for shareholders have expanded their mission to incarcerating 50% of immigrants detained in the US. Perhaps unsurprisingly the number of immigrants detained has exploded during the same period. Which begs the question: to what degree can a $1.7 billion per year prison corporation like CCA shape public policy? As a December 2008 Boston Phoenix article details: “[private prisons] regularly lobby against criminal punishment reforms, and for the creation of new criminal statues and overly harsh prison sentences. While these efforts are cloaked as calls for public safety, they are essentially creating more business for themselves […] CCA spent more than $2.7 million from 2006 through September 2008 on lobbying for stricter laws.”

Or, as CCA states in plainsong in its 2010 annual report: “Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new corrections and detention facilities. This possible growth depends on a number of factors we cannot control, including crime rates and sentencing patterns in various jurisdictions and acceptance of privatization. The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any change with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number or persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”

The Primacy of Movement-Building

“It is absolutely essential that we raise the profile of this issue. We will not get anywhere without people calling their public officials, we will not get anywhere without that kind of organizing,” says Wizowaty. With that in mind, in a Burlington church basement this Martin Luther King Day, community organizers like Infinite Culcleasure began what they hope to be the first of many conversations about private prisons. “The grassroots component,” says Culcleasure, “is invaluable in overcoming the special interest and apathy that currently exists on this mass incarceration. With all of the competing crises for communities to manage, our greatest challenge in making this a watershed moment for prison reform is to make it a local issue that is directly relevant in people’s everyday lives.” With a network of 145 churches statewide interested in hosting similar conversations, it seems the tiny state of Vermonters are poised to bring forward a very different vision than corporate mass incarceration.

That said, the CCAs of the world are well-versed in utilizing their taxpayer dollars to leverage Vermont’s political elite: they helped finance former-Governor Douglas’ Inaugural Ball and donate to influential state senators’ re-elections. This is an industry which, as Glenn Greenwald notes in With Liberty and Justice for Some, has spent $3.3 million on state political parties and politicians in the 2002 and 2004 political cycles, according to a 2004 National Institute on Money In State Politics report.

Dick Sears, the influential state senator who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that this bill will have to emerge from, has received more campaign donations from private prisons than any other policymaker in Vermont’s Statehouse. CCA’s annual reports assume that this rarified historical moment where The New Jim Crow is a bestseller, The House I Live In has won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and Stop and Frisk has been declared unconstitutional won’t last forever. Certain social and political factors which prefigure a new social movement emerging are appearing: a loss of legitimacy in former institutions and attitudes, elite schisms, and unifying motivations. The question is one of organizing to scale. As with making health care a human right, decommissioning a failing nuclear power plant, and getting drivers’ licenses for migrant workers, if the Green Mountain State is to lead the country forward on the issue of private prisons, it will depend on Vermonters making good on their aspirations to build a statewide movement which will compel  VT senators such as Dick Sears to move this bill forward.

As the first of many Vermont church basement organizing conversations on private prisons unfolds, high schoolers hands are flashing in the air: “How is this moral?” “Why do corporations do this?” and in so many different ways “What can I do?” Infinite Culcleasure and Suzi Wizowaty have skillfully transfigured the church basement of teenagers into eager community organizers. Before the conversation reaches its midpoint the high schoolers are poised to bring this dialogue out into the larger community, to hold their elected officials accountable and draw Vermonters across the state together to share their stories and build a movement which can be a sufficient countervailing force to the influence of Wall Street’s private prisons. Afterwards the interstitial space of the Church hallway is luminous with excitement; the Pastor offers Suzi and Infinite the opportunity for similar conversations about for-profit prisons in congregations around Vermont. Just down the corridor a new generation of organizers is sending so many social media appeals to shutter the Lee Adjustment Center, shutter CCA and to shutter the private prison industry. Their prescient questions haunt me as I walk out into the snow: “How is this moral?” “Why do corporations do this?” and in so many different ways “What can I do?”

Jonathan Leavitt a journalist, community organizer, and teaches college classes about social movements in Burlington, VT Email: jonathan.c.leavitt(at)gmail.com

Link to article: http://www.towardfreedom.com/home/special-reports/3119-vermont-one-tiny-states-movement-to-ban-private-prisons

Prisoners In CCA Georgia Prison Charged Five Dollars Per Minute For Phone Calls

From:
The Huffington Post by Harry Bradford
First Posted: 11/18/11
Via The Real Cost of Prisons.

For inmates at one Georgia prison, a one minute phone call could cost them five times more than they earn for a day of work.

The Correction Corporation Of America’s Stewart facility, a private prison in Lumpkin, Georgia, is forcing prisoners to pay five dollars per minute to use the phone, Alternet reports (h/t ThinkProgress). The exorbitant rate would break most people’s budget, but it’s especially costly for inmates that the prison who make just one dollar per day to work at the facility.

Faced with huge budget shortfalls, states are increasingly relying on privatized prisons to house criminals in their state and the for-profit corporations behind those prisons are coming up with various ways to maximize revenue. The money the Stewart prison is collecting from its 2,000 prisoners to use the phone helped the prison net profits of $35 to $50 million a year, ThinkProgress reports.

Compared to the total earnings of CCA that sum may seem small, however. Last year, the private prison company raked in $1.7 billion in revenues, according to FOX Business. GEO Group, another for-profit prison corporation headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, saw $1.3 billion in revenues in 2010.

The telephone rates are just one way private prisons are maximizing revenues. To help keep their facilities stocked with inmates, the private prison industry helped to draft Arizona’s tough immigration law and lobbied aggressively to get it passed, NPR reports. Indeed, while they make up only 10 percent of prisoners nationwide, according to a separate NPR report, the number of prisoners in private prisons has increased 1,600 percent from 1990 to 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union reports.

An even more controversial private prison source of income is the what federal prosecutors are calling “Kids for Cash,” — owners of private juvenile detention giving kickbacks to judges to sentence minors for benign offenses in an effort to boost revenue — FOX Business reports. In Pennsylvania, two judges were recently sentenced to over 40 years in prison combined for accepting kickbacks from the owner of a juvenile detention center.

The judges sentenced minors for offenses that included a 10-year-old girl accidentally lighting her room on fire and a 13-year-old boy throwing food at his mother’s boyfriend, according to Fox Business.

Meanwhile, government-run prisons face dire budget constraints forcing them to take unprecedented measures. A prison in Riverside, California announced that it will start charging prisoners $142.42 a day to save an estimated $3 to $5 milllion, CNNMoney reports. The Texas, thousands of prisoners are two meals a day on weekends, after the prison system made cuts to deal with budget constraints.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/17/prisoners-in-private-georgia-prison_n_1099669.html

Prison fails to treat heart patient: More Questions than Answers about Jackie’s condition

More Questions than Answers about Jackie’s condition
Posted on May 30, 2011 by Disarm Now Plowshares

Friends,

This has been, and continues to be, a difficult time for all of us who know and love Sr. Jackie Hudson. First – Please know that there is an extraordinary convergence of people, including lawyers and physicians who are working virtually 24/7 on Jackie’s behalf. As of this moment none of us has had direct contact with Jackie, and so we cannot confirm her present health status. That having been said, here is what we know.

Since Sr. Carol Gilbert, who is also at Irwin County Detention Center (Georgia), informed us (on May 29th) of Jackie’s severe chest pain and that nothing was being done for her medical condition, Joe Power-Drutis immediately set a process in motion to secure her transportation to a hospital to reserve proper medical care. He contacted everyone possible, and engaged 2 physicians and 3 attorneys to engage directly with the prison staff. The prison has been completely uncooperative, only saying that Jackie “was being taken care of.” She is evidently in the prison medical facility (God only knows what that is like!!!).

At one point there was an indication that Jackie may have been transported to the local hospital and then returned to the jail. However, a followup conversation with staff at the local hospital confirmed that Jackie has not been admitted there, and he staff indicated that theirs is the only hospital in the area. There is absolutely no evidence that Jackie has been sent anywhere for proper medical evaluation.

The prison medical facility, as far as I know, is ill equipped to evaluate or treat Jackie’s possible medical condition and experts (MDs) agree that based on her presentation to prison medical staff, she should have been immediately transported to a hospital emergency facility for a thorough cardiac work-up.

Based on all the information we have received it appears that her treatment since her chest pain began, even beyond her basic medical needs, has been substandard and inhumane.

The legal team working on Jackie’s behalf includes Bill Quigley, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Anabel Dwyer, lawyer and international human rights expert; and Blake Kramer, Tacoma-based attorney who has been deeply involved in defending the Disarm Now Plowshares. I understand that the legal team is currently working every possible angle, and one involves getting the Judge for the Y-12 trial, which was the reason for Jackie’s current imprisonment, to order her release/transport to the hospital.

Another major concern and an egregious disregard for the rule of law is prison’s refusal to allow Jackie’s right to legal counsel. Jackie’s court-appointed attorney, Brad Henry, found out at the jail that the Warden told all the staff at the jail that no information was to be given out about Jackie, including her appointed council. The prison is stonewalling every step of the way.

Beyond the obvious moral and ethical implications of the prison’s treatment of Jackie Hudson, it is evident that she is being deprived of her Constitutional rights as well as essential human rights. This on top of Jackie’s very real status as a Prisoner of Conscience, quite literally a political prisoner in a nation that flouts both national law and international humanitarian law and then imprisons those who follow their conscience and the law to speak and act out to call on our nation to uphold these laws.

This maltreatment must not stand. The people operating Irwin County Detention Center, a private, for profit prison, must be held accountable for their actions. If this is how they treat Jackie, someone with a broad base of support, I can only imagine the mistreatment of a vast number of prisoners who have no one to advocate on their behalf. What of the forgotten???

Besides the work being done by this dedicated group to whom I’ve referred, many of you out there are working on Jackie’s behalf, and for this I thank you all! We evidently flooded the prison phone line with calls, and I have no doubt that this has had an impact. They know we are watching! I have contacted the ACLU of Georgia, asking them to act on Jackie’s behalf. We are working on alerting media locally(Georgia), regionally and nationally to Jackie’s plight, and will also be contacting members of Congress to act on her behalf.

What can you do to help Jackie? For one thing, we can continue to call, fax and/or email the prison to let them know we are watching and demand that they send Jackie to the hospital. The phone number is 229-468-4121. You may get a recorded message during some hours. There is also an email listed: info@irwincdc.com. Fax is 229-468-4186 Additional phone numbers: Warden Barbara Walrath – warden of Irwin County Detention Center, 229-468-4120, Dr. Howard C. McMahan – Medical Director of Irwin County Detention Center, 229-468-5177. If you get into a message system, LEAVE A MESSAGE!

Irwin County Detention Center
132 Cotton Drive, Ocilla, GA 31774
Telephone: 229-468-4121 Fax: 229-468-4186 Email: info@irwincdc.com

Here are some suggested talking points:

Sr. Jackie Hudson, who is in your care and for whom you are responsible, has had intense heart pain, which began Saturday afternoon. She is being obstinately denied proper medical care. Her symptoms suggest that she may have one or more occluded coronary arteries. If this is the case, her heart, as a muscle, will progressively worsen in the hours and days to come.

Jackie must be taken to an emergency room immediately. The Emergency Department at the Irwin County Hospital verifies that Sr. Jackie has not been taken to their hospital, and that there is no other local hospital to which she might have been taken. They Emergency Department has been in contact with the ICDC to no avail.

Such treatment constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and if Sister Jackie is not moved to an emergency room immediately and suffers any negative medical consequences as a result I will hold Michael Croft Enterprises, operator of ICDC and in particular Warden Barbara Walrath and Medical Director Howard C. McMahon personally responsible.

Those supporting Jackie Hudson must have direct access to her and her physicians so they know her whereabouts, her condition and her treatment. These people include: Sue Ablao, Sr. Jackie’s housemate at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, Poulsbo, WA; Frank Hudson, Sr. Jackie’s brother; Sister Nathalie Meyer O.P., provincial of the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Sr. Jackie’s religious order; and Brad Henry, Jackie’s attorney.

Send an email to (or call) any news media contacts you have, or even if you don’t have any you email the newsroom (look them up in the contacts section of that newspaper’s Website).

I understand that the Koinonia Partners community in Americus, Georgia, is planning a vigil at the prison tomorrow.

As I stay focused on dear Jackie’s immediate needs I find myself also focusing on a much broader issue. Here is a person with so much support from so many wonderful people. And yet, there is a huge percentage of the U.S. prison population (with the largest incarceration rate in the world) for whom there is no support. What becomes of these forgotten prisoners when they become ill??? We will take up that issue once we get Jackie taken care of!!!

One last thing before I close; an excerpt from something by Liz McAllister and Chrissy Nesbitt of the Jonah House community that I find quite pertinent today:

It is Memorial Day as we write. Meaning no disrespect, but on this “war heroes’ weekend”, isn’t it time to also honor those who have “fallen” in a different battle – against the slaughtering wars?

It often takes a different kind of moral and, yes, even physical courage to resist a war and/or a weapons system that you believe is a crime, when all your family, friends, teachers and the vast American majority support them.

But what about the Sr. Jackie Hudsons who don’t want to kill people, who don’t believe it is right to build more and more weapons of mass destruction? They’re an odd breed who count among their number such as Muhammad Ali, Mahatma Gandhi, Sergeant York, David Hockney, three US weapon-refusing combat medics who won the medal of honor. What kind of guts does it take for war objectors, whether they’re Quakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonites or Roman Catholic, who simply don’t want to kill? On this Memorial Day, it might be a time to think about the outcasts who refuse to take life. Should Sr. Jackie Hudson be required to give her life in a jail that displays absolutely no respect for life? Is this what the U.S. is about?

That’s all for now. In between these emails I am regularly updating the Disarm Now Plowshares Blog as I hear of anything that you should know. Please check in at the top of the home page occasionally for updates. And – Please forward this email far and wide.

Thanks to all who have offered to help in so many ways. As bad as this all is, Jackie is surrounded by such a wonderful, loving community, and I can imagine that this knowledge is deeply embedded in Jackie’s heart and mind, and that it is a great comfort to her.

Peace,
Leonard

Update on Jackie May 31, 2011
Joe Power-Drutis

This day promises to be a pivotal one in Jackie’s life and ours.
Whatever struck Jackie in the afternoon of May 28th, we can only
assume it heart because of its symptoms, she has remained in pain,
frequently crying out for assistance, and at least many of her cries
have gone forth unanswered by her human captors.

Nearly 65 hours have elapsed since Sr. Carol Gilbert first called
pleading for someone to come and provide Jackie much need care. Yes,
65 hours have elapsed when medical authorities tell us minutes make a
difference. It is 65 hours that Ardeth, Carol, Jean and Bonnie had to
sit helpless, literally feet away from where Jackie would lay. During
these 65 hours the legal system would ostensibly shut down and
everyone would go to the beach over Memorial Day Weekend.

Well now we are at the end of that 65 hour period and I feel confident
in my heart that Jackie will be liberated from, as Dorothy Day would
say, “this dirty filthy rotten system” that keeps her in chains and
without the care she so desperately needs.

Over the past 48 hours you have been a part of a very large response
from people North to South and East to West, that have wrote, called,
planned and made contacts on behalf of our sister Jackie. This morning
Medical, Legal and Political representatives will weigh in on Jackie’s
behalf and I believe they will accomplish their objective.

Our main hope is that the courts will intervene and order Jackie either
released from Jail so that we might ensure her care or order the
Irwin County Detention Facility in Ocilla to send her to the Irwin
County Hospital immediately for proper evaluation and treatment.

Nothing short of this will be acceptable. I am making plans for going
to Ocilla soon and will send out word through this service when I
catch wind of any development.

I pray this day that the men and women, who will do all they can on
Jackie’s behalf, will be successful in ensuring she receives the care
she desperately needs.

Hawai’i prisoner held in private prison in AZ speaks out on money being earned on prisoners

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,  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

The U.S. System of Punishment: an expanding balloon of wealth, racism and greed

by Jenny Truax on October 28, 2010
From: Jesus Radicals

A few years ago at a Karen House community meeting, Tony brought a reading for discussion. He had just finished the book “Are Prisons Obsolete?” by Angela Davis, and read some quotes, asking us to consider the question: are prisons, in fact, obsolete?

To be honest, I was shocked by the question. I considered the prison, while probably unjust, to be as ingrained an institution as churches, schools, and apple pie. I understood the Catholic Worker Aims and Means, but had never applied them to the U.S. system of punishment. As anarchists and pacifists, we in the Catholic Worker try to reflect on the root causes of violence, where resources are allocated, and how systems (like the prison system) affect the poor. We believe that a decentralized society might better serve people’s needs better. At Karen House, we see that the majority of the women who stay with us have either been in jail before, or have a family member who has been in jail. Many of their offenses were drug-related, and many of their lives have been uprooted by long incarcerations. At Karen House, we read in the papers about white-collar criminals (who may have stolen millions) and even peers receiving very light penalties, and we live with women who have received years-long sentences for drug and poverty/property related offenses.

Most of us have a general sense that laws in the U.S. overly-penalize people who happen to be poor, and who happen to not be white. But we also have a deeply-held belief that the system, though flawed, is basically just, and that wrong-doers deserve the punishment they receive. We like the neat package of “3 strikes you’re out” and automatic sentencing. In the words of Angela Davis: “Prison frees us from considering the complex problems of racism and poverty (and increasingly, global capitalism,) by creating an abstract place in which to put evil-doers.”1

Beginnings..

Around the time of the American Revolution, new forms of punishment for criminals were adopted in the United States. Before this time, criminals awaited death or physical punishment while in a prison. Later, the penitentiary itself became the consequence. Inmates would become rehabilitated, or penitent, with manual labor and solitude to reflect upon wrong-doings. This change was seen as a progressive, more humane method of dealing with criminals.

The prison system in the U.S. remained generally unaltered until the Civil War ended. Following the Civil War, slavery was abolished as a private institution, but the cleverly worded 13th Amendment provided a very large exception, stating: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime…shall exist within the United States.” In the ensuing months and years, states revised the Slave Codes into new “Black Codes,” imprisoning former slaves for acts such as missing work, handling money carelessly, and performing “insulting gestures.” A massive influx of former slaves into the penitentiary resulted, a new form of slavery was born, and the racialization of the U.S. punishment system took root. The unpaid labor of the newly created, mostly black, convict lease system helped the South achieve industrialization.

Read more here on the Jesus Radicals site.

Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law

NPR
by Laura Sullivan for NPR
October 28, 2010

Picture: Glenn Nichols, city manager of Benson, Ariz., last year two men came to the city “talking about building a facility to hold women and children that were illegals.”

Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.

Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.

“The gentleman that’s the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger,” Nichols said. “He’s a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman.”

What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.

“They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community,” Nichols said, “the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate.”

But Nichols wasn’t buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years — decades even — with illegal immigrants?

“They talked like they didn’t have any doubt they could fill it,” Nichols said.

That’s because prison companies like this one had a plan — a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona’s immigration law.

Behind-The-Scenes Effort To Draft, Pass The Law

The law is being challenged in the courts. But if it’s upheld, it requires police to lock up anyone they stop who cannot show proof they entered the country legally.

When it was passed in April, it ignited a fire storm. Protesters chanted about racial profiling. Businesses threatened to boycott the state.

Supporters were equally passionate, calling it a bold positive step to curb illegal immigration.

But while the debate raged, few people were aware of how the law came about.

NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.

(photo: Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce)
Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, pictured here at Tea Party rally on Oct. 22, was instrumental in drafting the state’s immigration law. He also sits on a American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) task force, a group that helped shape the law.

The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce says the bill was his idea. He says it’s not about prisons. It’s about what’s best for the country.

“Enough is enough,” Pearce said in his office, sitting under a banner reading “Let Freedom Reign.” “People need to focus on the cost of not enforcing our laws and securing our border. It is the Trojan horse destroying our country and a republic cannot survive as a lawless nation.”

But instead of taking his idea to the Arizona statehouse floor, Pearce first took it to a hotel conference room.

It was last December at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. Inside, there was a meeting of a secretive group called the American Legislative Exchange Council. Insiders call it ALEC.

It’s a membership organization of state legislators and powerful corporations and associations, such as the tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association. Another member is the billion-dollar Corrections Corporation of America — the largest private prison company in the country.

It was there that Pearce’s idea took shape.

“I did a presentation,” Pearce said. “I went through the facts. I went through the impacts and they said, ‘Yeah.'”

Drafting The Bill

The 50 or so people in the room included officials of the Corrections Corporation of America, according to two sources who were there.

Pearce and the Corrections Corporation of America have been coming to these meetings for years. Both have seats on one of several of ALEC’s boards.

Key Players That Helped Draft Arizona’s Immigration Law

Source: NPR News Investigations

Credit: Stephanie D’Otreppe/NPR

And this bill was an important one for the company. According to Corrections Corporation of America reports reviewed by NPR, executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market. Last year, they wrote that they expect to bring in “a significant portion of our revenues” from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants.

In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it.

“There were no ‘no’ votes,” Pearce said. “I never had one person speak up in objection to this model legislation.”

Four months later, that model legislation became, almost word for word, Arizona’s immigration law.

They even named it. They called it the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.”

“ALEC is the conservative, free-market orientated, limited-government group,” said Michael Hough, who was staff director of the meeting.

Hough works for ALEC, but he’s also running for state delegate in Maryland, and if elected says he plans to support a similar bill to Arizona’s law.

Asked if the private companies usually get to write model bills for the legislators, Hough said, “Yeah, that’s the way it’s set up. It’s a public-private partnership. We believe both sides, businesses and lawmakers should be at the same table, together.”

Nothing about this is illegal. Pearce’s immigration plan became a prospective bill and Pearce took it home to Arizona.

Campaign Donations

Pearce said he is not concerned that it could appear private prison companies have an opportunity to lobby for legislation at the ALEC meetings.

“I don’t go there to meet with them,” he said. “I go there to meet with other legislators.”

Pearce may go there to meet with other legislators, but 200 private companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to meet with legislators like him.

As soon as Pearce’s bill hit the Arizona statehouse floor in January, there were signs of ALEC’s influence. Thirty-six co-sponsors jumped on, a number almost unheard of in the capitol. According to records obtained by NPR, two-thirds of them either went to that December meeting or are ALEC members.

That same week, the Corrections Corporation of America hired a powerful new lobbyist to work the capitol.

The prison company declined requests for an interview. In a statement, a spokesman said the Corrections Corporation of America, “unequivocally has not at any time lobbied — nor have we had any outside consultants lobby – on immigration law.”

Read more here

Listen to the Story [7 min 47 sec]

Produced by NPR’s Anne Hawke.

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