Lawyer claims Hawaii prisoners are harassed at Arizona prison

From: Hawaii News Now, Nov 24th 2012
By: Keoki Kerr

SUGUARO, Arizona (HawaiiNewsNow) —

A Honolulu lawyer who represents about 70 Hawaii inmates at an Arizona prison said officials there routinely harass and retaliate against some of those inmates for bringing complaints about their treatment behind bars.

Hawaii inmates at Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona often use the phone to talk to their Hawaii-based attorneys, such as Myles Breiner.  
But he said officials at the prison routinely listen to the prisoners’ side of the conversations and take notes on their contents, a violation of attorney-client privilege.

“Inmates, as a result, are intimidated.  They are reluctant to discuss anything over the phone,” Breiner said. “Our clients are told, ‘Why do you need that lawyer?  You don’t need that lawyer. We can help you without that attorney.'”

Breiner said Saguaro inmates who file complaints about abuse by guards, improper medical attention and other problems with staff are retaliated against with unfair misconduct violations, which can make them ineligible to get parole.

“Inmates who are pursuing litigation have a disproportionate number of misconducts filed against them by the facility,” Breiner said.

A spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that owns the prison where Hawaii houses more than 1,600 of its inmates, released a statement responding to some of Breiner’s allegations.
 “CCA takes the safety and dignity of the inmates entrusted to our care very seriously,” said Steven Owen, senior director of public affairs for the prison company. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for any form of retaliation and take any such allegations very seriously.”

Owen said the Saguaro Correctional Center has a “robust grievance process” that inmates can use to voice concerns or complaints, and he said the prison encourages them to do so.

But Breiner has other complaints.

“The warden has a habit of referring to me as ‘That Jew lawyer. That Jew lawyer Myles Breiner.” They hope to have me put in segregation,” Briener said.

In a letter he wrote to Hawaii’s Attorney General David Louie, Breiner said his clients tell him the prison warden and his assistant warden say they want to lock Breiner up if he visits the facility.

Read the rest and view the film here: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/20173244/lawyer-claims-hawaii-prisoners-are-harassed-at-arizona-prison

Female prisoners and forced prison labor in Arizona (2011)

From: Prison Abolitionist weblog:

Margaret T. Hance Park

May Day 2011



What immediately follows is an excerpt from one of two letters I received this past week regarding prison labor at Martori Farms, which I read at the May Day Rally today. The second letter is pasted at the bottom.


Note that refusal to accept these jobs is grounds for transfer to a higher security yard or detention unit- is that what we want to be spending our corrections money on, instead of programs and health care for these women?

May Day was awesome, by the way. More on that soon…


Remember Women Prisoners

Pinatafest, Margaret T. Hance Park

May Day 2011


—————–

4/24/11

Dear Peggy,

Happy Easter 🙂!!! I hope all was great for you today!!!

Well friend I regret to tell you this letter will not be a social call. I’m calling on you to advocate for me and do what you do. I’m in a TERRIBLE situation here. And I need help from the outside. We are totally being oppressed!!! And ABUSED by the system. The prison is out of control!!!! OK ready?….

It’s a doosey friend. You’re gonna be totally shocked. Perhaps you’ve heard already but we need help! I NEED help before they kill me!!

OK it’s about my job. I work on a work crew for Martori Farms. We work 6 days a week for 8 hrs. It’s a mandatory overtime job. We work in the fields hoeing weeds and thinning plants currently until it’s harvest time then it will be 12 hrs a day. It’s insane. Currently we are forced to work in the blazing sun for 8 hrs. Many times we run out of water several times a day. We ran out of sunscreen several times a week. They don’t check medical backgrounds or ages before they pull women for these jobs. Many of us cannot do it! And if we stop working and sit on the bus or even just take an unauthorized break we get a MAJOR ticket which takes away our “good time”!!!

We are told we get ‘2’ 15 min breaks and one ½ hr lunch like a normal job but it’s more like 10 min and 20 min. They constantly yell at us we are too slowand to speed up because we are costing $150 an acre in labor and that’s not acceptable.

The place is infested with spiders of all types, scorpions, snakes, and blood suckers. And bees because they harvest them. On my crew alone there are 4 women with bee allergies but they don’t care!! There are NO epinephrine pens on site to SAVE them if stung.

There’s no anti venom available for snake bites and they want us to use windex (yes glass cleaner) for scorpion stings!! INSANITY!!! They are denying us medical care here.

If we are “red lined’ meaning we have a DR or Nurse or Psych appt any other job holds you back because medical takes precedence over every thing. But not at this job. If we don’t go to work and choose to stay for medical we get a Major ticket. And if they’rereally short people or too many people are like screw it give me the ticket like last week they take you to “CDU” the hole!!! It is so not fair!!! COIV xxx is going crazy trying to find people to fill this contract it’s rumored to be a $40 Million contract but also heard $4.5 mill either way it’s big money. They are going to any lengths to fulfill this. Not caring about our civil rights, safety or health!!

Women have made their complaints on inmate letters and verbally to Lt., Sgt, Captains, DW, COIII, COIV, and the major. Their solution was to give us an extra sack lunch and agree to feed us breakfast sat mornings. UGH!! Really… food is not what we were asking for. Though being fed on Saturdays is nice. Yah! They were not feeding us Sats because that’s a day Kitchen opens late because they give brunch on weekends. No lunch so we were getting screwed! But as of this past Sat they said they would feed us before work! Let’s see how long it lasts. Because they also said they would allow us to be “Red lined”. But it only lasted 1 day.

They wake us up between 2:30 and 3:00 am and KICK US OUT if our housing unit by 3:30am then we get fed at 4:00am and our work supervisors show up between 5am and 8am. Then it’s an hour to 1 ½ hr drive to the job site. Then we work 8 hrs regardless of conditions. Even the porta potties are usually dirty. Sometimes NO SOAP and never any seat covers and women on my work crew are HIV+ and Hep C positive. Not sanitary at ALL!

They give us 1 long sleeve shirt to wear for 6 days! 2 pairs of pants, 2 socks, 2 short sleeve shirts, and 2 pairs of used panties, bras, and javascript:void(0)socks!!! YUCK!!! We need help Peggy...

—————ASPC-Perryville/San Carlos———-



It’s come to my attention that the women from ASPC-Perryville who are providing the prison labor to Martori Farms are being coerced into taking the jobs by the guards responsible for recruiting them, and are reportedly working at times without water, sunscreen, adequate nutrition and full breaks, and without regard to medical concerns or age. Those who refuse the jobs or don’t work sufficiently hard enough in the fields – or who even just complain – are threatened with being written up (a major ticket which can cost good time), or thrown into the hole.



The women are afraid for their health and safety; some are allergic to the bees they are harvesting, and others have been told to work through serious symptoms such as chest pain, still being dismissed as malingering – reminiscent of what happened to Brenda Todd and Susan Lopez, when they begged for medical care. They’re presently working 8-hr days/6 days a week (not including the 1+ hour trek to and from the farm). Come harvest time, they’ve been told they’ll be working 12-hour days.




Upon receiving this information, I called OSHA – the Department of Labor doesn’t have jurisdiction over prison labor, even when contracted to private farms. The only department in the state, outside of Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) they referred me to was the AZ Department of Administration’s Risk Management people – they’re the only ones who care about prisoner-worker “rights”, it appears, because they want to minimize liability (which has little to do with taking responsibility in practice, it appears).

The Department of Administration referred me back to the ADC, to a guy by the name of Barry Keith. I told them I already contacted the ADC”s general counsel’s office about the issue, and want outside eyes on the prison to assure worker’s rights are being protected. They had no one else to refer me to, though, so I left a message for Mr. Keith. We’ll see who gets back to me with what – I’m not on the best of terms with them these days.

Again, I’m urging people to contact the Chair of the AZ House Health and Human Services Committee, Rep. Cecil Ash, and request hearings on the conditions in the prisons.

He can be reached at:


Arizona House of Representatives

1700 W. Washington St.

Phoenix, AZ 85007

(cash@azleg.gov)

cc me (see margins), the Phoenix New Times (PO Box 2510, Phoenix, AZ 85002 / Phone: 602-271-0040 / Fax: 602-340-8806) and your own legislators on your concerns, please…let me know if I can print what you write.

Finally, here’s some info about prison labor, from a good DAILY KOS story in December 2010. An older Christian Science Monitor article about AZ prison labor as it relates to the issue of immigration comes first…and here’s something from another blog post last June: Slaves of the State: Prison Labor


————————–——————-



With Fewer Migrant Workers, Farmers Turn to Prison Labor





By Nicole Hill, Christian Science Monitor

Posted on August 22, 2007, Printed on April 29, 2011

http://www.alternet.org/story/60497/with_fewer_migrant_workers%2C_farmers_turn_to_prison_labor





Picacho, Ariz. — Near this dusty town in southeastern Arizona, Manuel Reyna pitches watermelons into the back of a trailer hitched to a tractor. His father was a migrant farm worker, but growing up, Mr. Reyna never saw himself following his father’s footsteps. Now, as an inmate at the Picacho Prison Unit here, Reyna works under the blazing desert sun alongside Mexican farmers the way his father did.

“My dad tried to keep me out of trouble,” he says, wearing a bandanna to keep the sweat out of his eyes. “But I always got back into the easy money, because it was faster and a lot more money.” He’s serving a 6-1/2 year sentence for possession and sale of rock cocaine.

As states increasingly crack down on hiring undocumented workers, western farmers are looking at inmates to harvest their fields. Colorado started sending female inmates to harvest onions, corn, and melons this summer. Iowa is considering a similar program. In Arizona, inmates have been working for private agriculture businesses for almost 20 years. But with legislation signed this summer that would fine employers for knowingly hiring undocumented workers, more farmers are turning to the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) for help.

“We are contacted almost daily by different companies needing labor,” says Bruce Farely, manager of the business development unit of Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI). ACI is a state labor program that holds contracts with government and private companies. “Maybe it was labor that was undocumented before, and they don’t want to take the risk anymore because of possible consequences, so they are looking to inmate labor as a possible alternative.”

Reyna and about 20 other low-risk, nonviolent offenders work at LBJ Farm, a family-owned watermelon farm, as part of ADC’s mission to employ every inmate, either behind prison walls or in outside companies. The idea is to help inmates develop job skills and save money for their release. “It helps them really pay their debt back to the folks who have been harmed in society, as well as make adequate preparation for their release back onto the streets.” says ADC director Dora Schriro.

If it weren’t for a steady flow of inmates year-round, says Jack Dixon, owner of LBJ, one of the largest watermelon farms in the western US, he’d have sold out long ago. Even so, last year 400 acres of his watermelons rotted on the ground – a $640,000 loss – because there weren’t enough harvesters. Mr. Dixon had applied for 60 H2-A guest worker visas, but only 14 were approved because of previous visa violations.

“We are in desperate need for hand labor,” says Dixon, who started working on the farm when he was 9, alongside mostly migrant workers. “It’s hard to get migrant workers up here anymore, with all the laws preventing them. It’s not what it used to be,” Dixon says. “It’s dangerous for them with all the coyote wars and smuggling.”

Other farmers wonder if inmates could be their solution. Dixon has received calls from a yellow-squash farmer in Texas inquiring about how to set up an inmate labor contract as well as from another watermelon farmer in Colorado seeking advice on how to manage inmate crews.

For labor-rights activists, federal immigration reform is the only viable solution to worker shortages.

Marc Grossman, spokesman for the United Farm Workers of America, says inmate labor undermines what unionized farmworkers have wanted for years: to be paid based on skill and experience. “It’s rather insulting that the state [Arizona] would look so poorly on farm workers that they would attempt to use inmates,” Grossman says. There is also the food-safety aspect, he says: Experienced workers understand sanitary harvesting.

“Agriculture does not have a reliable workforce, and the answer does not lie with prison labor,” says Paul Simonds of the Western Growers Association, a trade association representing California and Arizona. “This just underscores the need for legislation to be passed to provide a legal, stable workforce.” A prison lockdown would be disastrous, he points out, with perishable crops awaiting harvest. Other crops, like asparagus and broccoli, require skilled workers.

Although the ADC is considering innovative solutions – including satellite prisons – to fulfill companies’ requests for inmate labor, prison officials agree that, in the end, the demand is too high. “To go into a state where agriculture is worth $9.2 billion and expect to meet a workforce need is impossible,” says Katie Decker, spokeswoman for ADC. At any given time only about 3,300 prisoners statewide (out of a prison population of about 37,000) are cleared to work outside.

ACI provides inmates to nine private agricultural companies in Arizona, ranging from a hydroponics greenhouse tomato plant to a green chile cannery. Unlike other sectors where federal regulations require that inmate workers be paid a prevailing wage and receive worker compensation, agricultural companies can hire state inmates on a contract basis. They must be paid a minimum of $2 per hour. Thirty percent of their wages go to room and board in prison. The rest goes to court-ordered restitution for victims, any child support, and a mandatory savings account. Private companies are required to pay for transportation from the prison to the worksite and for prison guards.

For Reyna, his work on farms over the past couple of years has added $9,000 in his savings account and given him a renewed respect for his Mexican father’s lifetime of stoop labor.

At Dixon’s farm, it’s 103 degrees F. The inmate crews, wearing orange jumpsuits, work in a rhythmic line, calling out the number of the watermelons, and alongside the trailer. Just a few yards away, Mexican workers also work in a line. The inmates will quit at 4 p.m., while the immigrant laborers may work 13-hour days. “We go back, they stay out here,” Reyna says. “It really isn’t the same.”

In the farm’s office, watermelons line the counter, and photos of migrant workers hang in dusty frames. When asked why he doesn’t sell the farm, Dixon says, “the inmates, the migrants, these people are part of the family – that’s why I keep this darn place.”

Dixon says he supports the idea of a reformed, guest-worker program that would employ migrant workers during the harvest and return them to Mexico in the winter. But until that happens, he’s willing to fight for the workers he’s shared the land with for most of his life.

“People are crossing the border because they are starving to death,” Dixon says, “I don’t care what their status is. If they are hungry and thirsty, I am going to feed them.”

“I could sell this and quit,” he continues, “But I believe in supporting the American farming industry.”


© 2011 Christian Science Monitor All rights reserved.

View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/60497/



INSOURCING – Identifying businesses involved in prison labor or supporting those who are

byBob Sloan

DAILY KOS



Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 03:23 PM PST

Many readers have asked how a corporation can be identified as participating in the use of inmate labor. Actually there are three “categories” of those involved in prison labor and prison industry operations:


  1. corporations, businesses and companies that use direct inmate labor for manufacturing and service jobs,

  1. corporations, businesses and companies that contract with other companies to purchase products or services made by inmate labor (such as McDonalds), and,

  1. individuals, corporations, organizations and investment companies that support the use of prison labor or enable prison industry operations by contributing financial support to those directly involved in using inmates for labor or invest in or support private prison corporations.

To demonstrate how difficult involvement in prison industries and the use of inmate labor is to identify, we’ll begin with an investment firm involved in many of our 401(k) and retirement accounts.

Fidelity Investments (Fidelity). This “financial investment” corporation is involved in holding the retirement and 401(k) accounts of millions of Americans. Many of the largest companies in our country offer Fidelity Investments as the sole source of retirement investing for their employees.

Fidelity was previously identified as a funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in an earlir Insourcing blog. ALEC is deeply invested in supporting Corrections Corporation of American (CCA) and Geo Group (Geo) – that are both corporate members of ALEC. ALEC has willingly accepted responsibility for enactment of laws authorizing and increasing the use of inmates in manufacturing of products as well as the housing of those inmates by private corporations such as CCA and Geo.

Unfortunately if your retirement savings, 401(K) or other investments are held by Fidelity, chances are some of your money is invested by Fidelity in either the use of prison labor or in other operations related to the prison industrial complex (PIC).

I purposely mentioned McDonald’s in the intro because though they are not “directly” using inmate labor in their food service operations, they are dependent upon the use of inmate labor to reduce costs associated with those operations. The way they do this is by contracting to purchase their uniforms and some of the plastic utensils provided to customers from a company using inmate labor to make those uniforms and utensils. The uniforms are made by Oregon Inmates. Wendy’s has also been identified as relying upon prison labor to reduce their cost of operations – and they fund ALEC.

Two other U.S. companies relying upon prison labor for products sold in their stores are K-Mart and J.C. Penny. Both sell Jeans made by inmates in Tennessee prisons. The same prison in Tennessee provides labor for Eddie Bauer’s wooden rocking horses. There are other products we would not associate with prison made products: dentures, partials, eye glasses, processed foods such as beef, chicken and pork patties sold to and served in our schools, grocery stores and hospitals. I don’t know about you but putting dentures made in prison in my mouth just somehow causes me concern…just as buying a box of breaded chicken patties and fixing them for my family does.

What about services such as Insurance? Banking? Utilities – gas, oil, electricity? Prescription drugs? Are all of these services or commodities tied to prison labor and the PIC? Unfortunately, yes. Many insurance companies are tied to ALEC…as are corporations involving utilities provided to you in your city or town. To name jut a few brand names you’ll recognize that are invested in prison labor or PIC through ALEC are:

BANKS: American General Financial Group, American Express Company, Bank of America, Community Financial Services Corporation, Credit Card Coalition, Credit Union National Association, Inc., Fidelity Inestments, Harris Trust & Savings Bank, Household International, LaSalle National Bank, J.P. Morgan & Company, Non-Bank Funds Transmitters Group

ENERGY PRODUCERS/OIL: American Petroleum Institute, Amoco Corporation, ARCO, BP America, Inc., Caltex Petroleum, Chevron Corporation, ExxonMobil Corporation, Mobil Oil Corporation, Phillips Petroleum Company.

ENERGY PRODUCERS/UTILITIES: American Electric Power Association, American Gas Association, Center for Energy and Economic Development, Commonwealth Edison Company, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., Edison Electric Institute, Independent Power Producers of New York, Koch Industries, Inc., Mid-American Energy Company, Natural Gas Supply Association, PG&E Corporation/PG&E National Energy Group, U.S. Generating Company.

INSURANCE: Alliance of American Insurers, Allstate Insurance Company, American Council of Life Insurance, American Insurance Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Corporation, Coalition for Asbestos Justice, (This organization was formed in October 2000 to explore new judicial approaches to asbestos litigation.” Its members include ACE-USA, Chubb & Son, CNA service mark companies, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., Kemper Insurance Companies, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, and St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company. Counsel to the coalition is Victor E. Schwartz of the law firm of Crowell & Moring in Washington, D.C., a longtime ALEC ally.)

Fortis Health, GEICO, Golden Rule Insurance Company, Guarantee Trust Life Insurance, MEGA Life and Health Insurance Company, National Association of Independent Insurers, Nationwide Insurance/National Financial, State Farm Insurance Companies, Wausau Insurance Companies, Zurich Insurance.

PHARMACEUTICALS: Abbott Laboratories, Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Bayer Corporation, Eli Lilly & Company, GlaxoSmithKline, Glaxo Wellcome, Inc., Hoffman-LaRoche, Inc., Merck & Company, Inc., Pfizer, Inc., Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of

America (PhRMA), Pharmacia Corporation, Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, Inc., Schering-Plough Corporation, Smith, Kline & French, WYETH, a division of American Home Products Corporation.

MANUFACTURING:American Plastics Council, Archer Daniels Midland Corporation, AutoZone, Inc. (aftermarket automotive parts), Cargill, Inc., Caterpillar, Inc., Chlorine Chemistry Council, Deere & Company, Fruit of the Loom, Grocery Manufacturers of America, Inland Steel Industries, Inc., International Game Technology, International Paper, Johnson & Johnson, Keystone Automotive Industries, Motorola, Inc., Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee Corporation.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS: AT&T, Ameritech, BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc., GTE Corporation, MCI, National Cable and Telecommunications Association, SBC Communications, Inc., Sprint, UST Public Affairs, Inc., Verizon Communications, Inc.

TRANSPORTATION: Air Transport Association of America, American Trucking Association, The Boeing Company, United Airlines, United Parcel Service (UPS).

OTHER U.S. COMPANIES: Amway Corporation, Cabot Sedgewick, Cendant Corporation, Corrections Corporation of America, Dresser Industries, Federated Department Stores, International Gold Corporation, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Microsoft Corporation, Newmont Mining Corporation, Quaker Oats, Sears, Roebuck & Company, Service Corporation International, Taxpayers Network, Inc., Turner Construction, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

ORGANIZATIONS/ASSOCIATIONS: Adolph Coors Foundation, Ameritech Foundation, Bell & Howell Foundation, Carthage Foundation, Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, ELW Foundation, Grocery Manufacturers of America, Heartland Institute of Chicago, The Heritage Foundation, Iowans for Tax Relief, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, National Pork Producers Association, National Rifle Association, Olin Foundation, Roe Foundation, Scaiffe Foundation, Shell Oil Company Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, Steel Recycling Institute, Tax Education Support Organization, Texas Educational Foundation, UPS Foundation.

As the foregoing illustrates, many U.S. companies and corporations not only fund ALEC’s activities regarding prison labor and PIC, they have foundations that also contribute handsomely to ALEC. Many are represented upon ALEC”s Private Enterprise Board.

Commodities, services and various products sold to U.S. consumers provide profits to these companies/corporations that are used to further the goals of ALEC. They sell us our vehicles, Chrysler, Ford, GM…sell us the fuel to power those vehicles, insurance to cover our cars and trucks. Some of our homes are mortgaged through banks and mortgage companies affiliated with ALEC. Our homes are insured by carriers supporting the use of inmate labor. Our phones are provided by those who are also involved and our medications also fund these same ALEC activities. Even the fast food places we depend upon are part of the overall PIC operation – McDonalds and Wendy’s.

Reservations we make for American Airlines and the likes of AVIS rent-a-car are taken by inmates. More and more call centers are coming on line every day manned by inmates in both state and federal prison operations. Each position taken by an inmate, used to belong to private sector workers who are now unemployed.

Another industry I’ve briefly touched upon needs to be discussed here. That is the agriculture industry. One side effect of immigration laws being enacted in the Western states is the reduction of migrant workers in those states that have passed tougher immigration policies. Not one to miss such an opportunity, prison industries are vying to fill the voids created by these laws.

Colorado has been one of those states hardest hit because of new laws similar to that of SB 1070. In an effort of providing labor to the farmers in that state, the legislature has partnered with the state DOC to implement a new program allowing for the use of inmates on private farms.

To meet the needs of the capitalist farmers, the state legislature has partnered with the Colorado Department of Corrections to launch a pilot program this month that will contract with more than a dozen large farms to provide prisoners who will work in the fields. More than 100 prisoners will go to farms near Pueblo, Colo., to start the program in the coming weeks.

Prisoners will earn a miserable 60 cents a day. The prisoners will be watched by prison guards, who will be paid handsomely by the farmers. The practice is a modern form of slavery.

The corporate farm owners and capitalist politicians are defending the program. They claim that business needs to be “protected” for the sake of capitalist production in the agricultural sector.


There were many indicators that this was on the horizon over three years ago, when articles began to appear about several states switching from migrant farm workers to inmates:

As states increasingly crack down on hiring undocumented workers, western farmers are looking at inmates to harvest their fields. Colorado started sending female inmates to harvest onions, corn, and melons this summer. Iowa is considering a similar program. In Arizona, inmates have been working for private agriculture businesses for almost 20 years. But with legislation signed this summer that would fine employers for knowingly hiring undocumented workers, more farmers are turning to the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) for help.

It isn’t surprising that agricultural and farming needs would be pointed in this direction by state legislators…where ALEC’s efforts of eliminating “illegal” aliens from agribusiness work coincided with their SB 1070 and earlier state legislative efforts. They realized the impact the laws would have upon immigrant workers and that a labor force would be necessary to take the place of immigrants picked up or scared off by laws like SB 1070. CCA, Geo and state prison industry operators were informed of the expected future labor needs of U.S. farmers and began to gear up in 2007 when ALEC successfully proposed and was able to enact one of the first restrictive immigration laws in Colorado. I believe ALEC projected the impact on farming, predicted the labor need and advised prison industries to be prepared to put inmates out in agriculture work on short notice. As soon as the Colorado law went into effect, prison industries had inmates picked, vetted and with the proper custody level ready to step into the shoes of the missing migrant workers.

All in all a very effective business plan put into place by ALEC and their members – eliminate an entire industry workforce and replace it with a workforce supplied by their members at a wage scale of less than $1.00 per hour. At the same time salaries of the prison staff guarding the workers is paid for by the farmers. Talk about a win-win-win business plan.

Prison labor had been used in Arizona for more than two decades prior to SB 1070. However the enactment of that law made the need for inmate labor to treble – along with profits from that labor.

Other occupations are being impacted by privatization of prison related healthcare. Many doctors are now choosing to work in prison rather than private practice. Obviously this switch lowers the number of doctors available in the private sector. One reason for this change in direction by physicians is retirement benefits and free malpractice insurance offered by prison healthcare corporations, such as PHS.

If more information is needed to clarify the financial impact of continuing incarceration upon us as a society take a brief look at Washington State’s latest efforts to address the state deficit. The below cuts are necessary to reduce the budget by $600 million. A substantial need for such reductions was created because of the state’s continued reliance upon incarcerating more and more citizens, reducing private sector jobs through the use of prison labor by large WA. corporations such as Boeing and Microsoft.

Among the cuts approved by legislators: nearly $50 million from the Department of Corrections, including the closure of a prison facility; $50 million from K-12 education, including funding intended to keep class sizes small; $51 million from higher education, including at several of the state’s flagship universities; nearly $30 million from a state-subsidized health insurance program for the poor; and the elimination of non-emergency dental care for poor adults.

What a trade off, huh? More cuts to education and social programs that benefit the poor while they pay out millions to prison industries and private prison operators – and give tax breaks to Boeing and Microsoft. Washington citizens are getting the shaft – especially their students and the poorest among them.

While Washington state is making terrible cuts to the budget, elsewhere prison workers and their supporters are successfully keeping unnecessary prisons open to keep prison staffers from losing their employment. An action that keeps taxpayers funding their salaries – needlessly.

ETOWAH COUNTY, Alabama — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have agreed Thursday to delay removal of more than 300 inmates from Etowah County’s detention center until at least the spring, the Gadsden Times reports.

ICE officials had notified the county Saturday that they would be removing the inmates from the Etowah County jail, which is the only facility in Alabama with a contract to house ICE inmates.

On Thursday, after intercession by the county’s congressional delegation, ICE agreed to keep inmates at the facility and use Etowah County’s prisoner transportation services until March 31, 2011, according to the Gadsden Times, which cites a news release from Sheriff Todd Entrekin.

The decision stops what would have been a substantial economic loss for the jail and could have resulted in the loss of some 49 jobs.”

While this fight to keep jobs and inmates in AL. is fought, another fight results in the loss of a successful privately operated reentry program for ex-offenders in Virginia. The state has decided to “re-vamp” its reentry efforts and closed this and 12 other successful programs. Even in instances where volunteers and organizers step-up to address recidivism, the state steps-in and thwarts their efforts. It’s almost like there are efforts going on at the state levels to keep incarceration and recidivism rates up.

Our country is being turned into a nation of prisoners and those who pay for their incarceration costs – period. Everything else is being cut to keep the PIC in place and profitable. Medicare and Social Security are next in line in the next U.S. Congress. Don’t you find it odd that of all the rhetoric about our failing economy, the cuts to social and community programs, unemployment and unemployment compensation arguments – none of our lawmakers are openly voicing calls for any reduction in imprisonment? I mean there have been hundreds of articles identifying incarceration costs as being responsible for necessary cuts in funding for education and other necessary programs…but no one wants to go on the record as supporting a stop to mass incarcerations? How is it that our elected officials continue to cut more and more out of annual budgets to pay for incarceration and make no effort of reducing the need for that incarceration? I believe it is because they’re paid handsomely to avoid any effort of reforming laws or reducing incarceration. It is simply too profitable to allow us to stop sending men, women and our children to jail and prisons.

This is exemplified by a recent article on Louisiana’s practice of housing state prisoners in local Parish jails:

Legislators wonder why the budget for the Department of Corrections is so large,” said one state employee who is familiar with the department. “As long as they keep trying to criminalize everything they find personally offensive in the name of law and order for the benefit of the folks back home, the budget is going to keep growing.

”Each legislative session, dozens of bills are introduced by Louisiana lawmakers to either create new criminal statutes or to increase penalties for existing laws. Only rarely does a bill attempt to reduce penalties for crimes. In the 2010 regular session alone, for example, 68 of 93 bills addressing criminal procedure and crime, called for jail time for new crimes or longer sentences for existing laws. Those included crimes ranging from “unlawfully wearing clothing which exposes undergarments or certain body parts” to cyberbullying, and terrorist acts.

“Local sheriffs relish the opportunity to house state prison inmates because it infuses needed cash into the local coffers. One state official said the actual cost to sheriffs to house the state prisoners is only a fraction of the $24.39 daily income per prisoner. “It’s a big bonus for the sheriffs,” he said.

Right now prisoners in Georgia are striking due to being used as slave labor by that state’s prison industries. Such strikes are unheard of and one reason is the huge amount of “get-back” available to the prison staff and their willingness to use physical means to force compliance. My heart goes out to these men, as I’ve been there and know how dire their circumstances must be to cause such a dangerous mission from behind bars. Many are trying to provide assistance to them through phone and email communications with prison authorities, but so far the prisons involved (6) remain on indefinite lockdowns with reports of retaliation at each facility being reported via cell phone calls from the inmates. There has been limited media coverage of this historical strike (and no mainstream media attention) – again, it is not in their best interests to publicize this action to the public, for fear of creating a discussion on the merits of using inmate labor in a “slavery like” manner – though from reports, thousands of inmates are participating in the strike. These men represent those who are now performing the work previously performed by Georgia private sector workers, and doing it for pennies on the dollar.

As shown by the above information, every facet of our lives are now touched in some way by prison privatization, prison healthcare, feeding of prisoners or by working prisoners in the PIC. This puts their products in our homes, on our grocer shelves, in our produce consumption and reduces available private sector jobs – including positions for physicians. Sadly we must realize that all of this is financed with our tax dollars that are quickly converted to “profits” once received into the coffers of corporations participating in the PIC.

Many comments have been made to my Insourcing Series saying we should identify those involved and boycott their products and services. As this segment demonstrates, it is nearly impossible to identify each corporation, group, organization or individuals involved in PIC and prison industries. Their products are so vast and diverse, each of our homes now have one or more of those products in use. Even picking up the phone and calling for technical assistance with products, making a reservation or inquiring about services may put us in touch with an inmate on the other end of the phone. The Prison Industrial Complex is simply too vast to avoid or boycott – in a manner typically used by consumers and concerned citizens.

Boycotting is usually an activity used to refuse our business to those involved in practices we object to. In this case it is just too difficult to accurately identify prison industry participants.

I’m working on developing a program now that may allow all of us to identify those companies, businesses and corporations not involved in any way with prison labor or the PIC. We can eliminate the profits realized by corporations using inmate labor, by reducing sales of their products. Just as those participating in the PIC transfer our tax dollars into profits, we can transfer their anticipated future profits back to the private sector worker through participation in this program. The only thing these corporations understand is “profit”. Money drives them and is what gets their attention. So let’s get their attention by denying them sales – not boycotting.

I intend to set up a website allowing those not connected with the PIC, not investing in or funding prison industries and not selling any products made by inmates or inmate provided services to be named. The site is intended to list corporations, retailers, providers and businesses certified as not involved in PIC operations. Links to these certified non-participating company websites and online catalogs, local outlets and products lines will be made available. In addition those industries, corporations, investors, banks, finance companies and others identified as profiting from PIC or prison industries in any form will be identified and “blacklisted”. In this way one comprehensive site can be used to identify those products, services and companies to avoid while providing links to U.S. retailers and companies not involved, that provide the same products or services without the use of prisoners.

In order to participate, these companies must “Certify” in writing that they use no inmate labor, do not invest in or sell products made in prison. Secondly they will be required to use the “Made in U.S.A.” labels with products and services provided by American workers and offer those products to U.S. consumers.

Prison made goods include those made in China and elsewhere that are finding their way to our retail shelves more and more of late. There are strict prohibitions against allowing imported products into the U.S. when those products were made by prison, slave or child labor. These strict provisions are being circumvented in some instances and deliberately ignored by our Custom Service in others. Companies, businesses, retailers and manufacturers wishing to be listed within the proposed site, must certify non-use of those foreign prison-made goods as well.

The site is intended to allow consumers to identify those not involved in prison labor related products and offer shoppers a discount direct from participating U.S. manufacturers, retailers and service providers for purchasing their products or services made by U.S. workers in our private sector markets. This will help increase jobs and deny continued profits to those using inmate labor.

This effort will be time consuming and expensive to develop and put into operation. Sponsors and volunteers will be needed to assist in this endeavor. This is going to need the expertise of a website developer, software programmers, advertising and accounting assistance. We are going to need people to submit to us the names of businesses they own, work for or invest in that are not associated or affiliated with prison labor or products. Money is going to be needed to advertise the site and make consumers aware that such a site exists to provide them with alternatives to prison made products. If successful this will put money into the pockets of those manufacturers and retailers who refuse to become involved in prison made goods for profit. It will provide those businesses with income to hire more workers due to increased production and sales.

Any volunteers…suggestions…advice…assistance? If you believe this is a good idea to help us take back our jobs, eliminate the vast profits made off of cheap prison labor and promote “real” products made by free American workers, write and let me know. If you want to participate or assist in this development, I’m listening…

Originally posted to Bob Sloan on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 03:23 PM PST.

Celling Arizona: AFSC-Tucson calls for moratorium on further prison-building


At least, that was a big thing I got out of the press conference: NO NEW PRISONS! We can’t even take care of the prisoners we have, after all.

Caroline Isaacs and Matt Lowen (mlowen@afsc.org) at the American Friends Service Committee office in Tucson are excellent resources on the politics of private prisons in Arizona, and have done extensive research on both the issue of prison privatization, and the abuses of solitary confinement (see Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in Arizona’s Prisons and Jails).

I especially encourage prisoners, family members, and lawyers and activists pursuing civil rights suits on the conditions of confinement in Special Management Units (SMU) and prolonged detention/isolation to contact them about their research into the effects of such treatment. The National ACLU has recently announced a campaign to end the abuse of solitary confinement, particularly as a management tool for seriously mentally ill prisoners (which is too often done instead of providing medical/psychiatric treatment).

You can reach them at:

AFSC-Tucson
103 N Park Avenue, Suite 111
Tucson
, AZ 85719

520.623.9141

afscaz@afsc.org

—————————————–

Private-Prison Watchdog Criticizes State
Group: Arizona Does Not Need Additional Private Prison Beds

KPHO.com

POSTED: 5:07 pm MST February 15, 2011
UPDATED: 6:56 pm MST February 15, 2011

PHOENIX — A private-prison watchdog group says questions about safety and cost should prompt state leaders to cancel a plan to privatize 5,000 prison beds.

Representatives of the American Friends Service Committee met with state leaders Tuesday to hand over research they’ve conducted about private prisons in Arizona.

The group’s findings include revelations that Arizona pays private prison companies $55 per night for medium security inmates, while it only costs $48 for the same inmates in state-run facilities.

“And the evidence overwhelmingly shows that for-profit prisons are more expensive, less safe and are not accountable to the tax payers,” said Caroline Isaacs, who is the AFSC Arizona program director.

Last summer, the Arizona Department of Corrections canceled a plan to privatize 5,000 prison beds, after three inmates escaped from a for-profit prison in Kingman. The prison break resulted in a multistate manhunt. Authorities say two of the escapees murdered a man and woman in New Mexico while on the run.

At the end of January, the state reopened the contract process for the 5,000 prison beds after the director of the Department of Corrections issued new rules for oversight of private prisons.

Isaacs said the state needs new laws that tighten private prison reporting requirements to ensure the facilities are safe and economical. She also called on Gov. Jan Brewer and state leaders to scrap the plan to expand the private prisons already operating in Arizona.

———————–

see The Tucson Citizen’s blog, Cell-Out Arizona for more on Arizona’s private prison industry.

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.”

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

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.




Eloy AZ: 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…)