MARGARET J PLEWS
PO BOX 20494
PHOENIX, AZ 85036

arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com

480-580-6807

Established: July 18, 2009
Editor: Peggy Plews


This site is to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. If you're unfamiliar with prison abolition, check out Critical Resistance. I'm a freelance writer and human rights activist, and have no legal training, FYI.




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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prison (HBO)

America's prisons are broken. Just ask John Oliver and several puppets.

THE I-Files: Teens in Solitary Confinement

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

130 Crowd Tucson Public Hearing on Prison Privatization in Arizona!


Source: Tucson Citizen
Also in: Censored News

More than 130 people packed the Public Hearing at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus last night for the first ever hearings on prison privatization in Arizona. Exceeding all expectations for this event, the crowd listened intently throughout the two hour hearing to both presenters and the public comment. Sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Private Corrections Working Group, this public hearing was the first of a series of three planned throughout the state. Not surprisingly, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Management and Training Corporation (MTC), and the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) sent no official representatives to the hearing though they were repeatedly invited.

Stephen Nathan, the Editor of Prison Privatisation Report International and all the way from London, England for this public hearing, started the evening off with his expert testimony on the failure of private prisons throughout the world. Representative Nancy Young-Wright reminded the standing room only crowd that Arizona had recently accomplished some very dubious distinctions – specifically that “Arizona is now second in the US for poverty, 50th in spending on education for public school students, and fourth in the nation on our prison costs,” and thus placed the focus on the (in)ability of private prisons to educate and rehabilitate prisoners while incarcerated. Later, Tucson City Councilman Steve Kovachik raised the question as to whether incarceration – public or private – is the best way to respond to crime in the first place, citing alternatives to prison that have been used in other states.

The conveners of the hearing were Representative Phil Lopes, Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias, Assistant Tucson City Manager Richard Miranda, Tucson City Councilman Steve Kovachik, Representative Nancy Young-Wright, and former Tucson Citizen Editor Mark Kimble. Other speakers of note were Victoria Lopez from the ACLU of Arizona, Susan Maurer formerly of the New Jersey Corrections Department, and Jim Sanders. Soon we will have video of the highlights from the hearing, but for now we have an assortment of photos from last night. Thanks to all who showed up and participated last night! It was a tremendous success. Press release here.

Tucson Public Hearing - CCA and (above) ADC empty chair
Source: Matthew Lowen/AFSC

CCA were also not there...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The profit motive, private prisons, criminalization and immigration

This is a good article making the rounds among my friends and comrades, so I decided to share it here. It's timely in light of the public hearings on prison privatization.

This is why we must be wary of doling out prison sentences and criminalizing whole classes of people - there is often an "invisible hand" at work behind the creation of new laws and the privatization of criminal justice system functions.

Even Israel's high court outlawed the private prison industry last year, as the profit motive from corporations like CCA and the GEO Group will always trump prisoner needs and human rights.
So far, Americans are still more than willing to sacrifice people for the right to profit off of storing our living, breathing bodies - and those of our children. I find that rather disturbing.

When you're done with the piece below and the one on Israel (that one's astonishing), you might want to check out the link to this decent story from NPR on private prisons and SB 1070.


--------------------from www.Counterpunch.org--------------------


Following the Money

By PETER CERVANTES-GAUTSCHI

Over the past four years roughly a million immigrants have been incarcerated in dangerous detention facilities in our taxpayer-financed private prison system. A growing number of news reports and investigations confirm that for many of the people funneled into this system, it is a living nightmare. Children were abused, women were raped, and men died from lack of basic medical attention.

These facilities are run by two Wall Street-backed companies that actively promote the criminalization and incarceration of immigrants in the United States -the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.

The T. Don Hutto immigrant detention facility in Taylor, Texas provides a now well-known example of the abuses that take place within private prisons for immigrants. Beginning in May 2006,the Don Hutto prison was used to house children and their parents who were on a path to deportation. Reports began to surface of widespread abusive treatment of immigrant children by staff of Corrections Corporation of America. An ACLU lawsuit filed on the basis of documented cases of abuse finally led to the closing of the Don Hutto facility for housing families in 2008. After the children were excluded, the Don Hutto only held women detainees. But the abuses continued. Evidence has surfaced that a number of women were sexually abused over the past two years in Don Hutto by CCA staff. Sexual abuse, including rape, has been documented in several detention centers.

The other large private prison corporation contracted by the federal government to run immigrant prisons is the GEO Group. The GEO detention facilities have also racked up many reports and complaints of abusive treatment of immigrant detainees and corrupt staff practices that violate the basic human rights of prisoners. Last month we spoke with the sibling of a detainee in a GEO-run facility who was denied basic medical attention for lack of funds to pay. The detainee’s family had to raise funds to get their relative medical attention in the facility from GEO. Other GEO detainees have died from a lack of medical attention.

Another relative of a GEO detainee told us that prisoners who avoid getting on the wrong side of GEO guards could aspire, at most, to a job in the prison that pays 17 cents an hour for doing office work.

GEO recently agreed to pay restitution for its employees’ physical abuse of prisoners who were strip searched in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, and New Mexico. In another case, GEO was ordered to pay $40 million in the wrongful death of a prisoner in its custody in Raymondville, Texas. GEO has also been sued by seven children who were sexually assaulted by a guard while being held in a GEO facility.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), based in Nashville, Tennessee, and the GEO Group, a global corporation based in Boca Raton, Florida are the nation’s two largest prison companies. They run highly integrated operations to design, build, finance and operate prisons. GEO rakes in $1.17 billion in annual revenue, and CCA tops that at $1.69 billion. Together these companies are principal moving forces in the behind-the-scenes organization of the current wave of anti-immigrant legislative efforts, which, if successful, would dramatically increase the number of immigrant prisoners in over 20 states.

Following the Money

GEO CEO, George Zoley, was a Bush “Pioneer” who bundled more than $100,000 in contributions for the Bush-Cheney campaigns in 2000 and 2004. In October 2003, GEO was successful in securing the contract to run the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

GEO hired the services of lobbyists who had held influential positions in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Prisons, Office of the Attorney General, and the office of then-Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell, to lobby their former employers and Congress. Throughout 2005 and leading up to the largest immigration raid in U.S. history in December 2006, GEO and CCA spent a combined total of over $6 million on lobbying efforts.

On May 1, 2006, while millions of people marched in favor of immigrant rights in 102 cities across the country, GEO and CCA were lobbying the federal government for more business. The marchers, despite their historic turnout and broad citizen base, could not block the growing wave of government support of GEO’s and CCA’s business plans.

The December 2006 raid, in which over a thousand men and women employed at Swift meat-packing plants in several states were detained, marked a change in the federal government’s enforcement of the 1995 immigration law. For the first time, many of those picked up were charged with crimes such as falsifying identity documents or identity theft that carry long prison sentences, rather than misuse of a social security number, a misdemeanor.

This single change in enforcement of existing law created a potential “market” of over 10 million new felons almost overnight, multiplying the lucrative incarceration market for the private prison industry and sending a shock wave through immigrant-related communities across the country. At the time of the Swift raid, USA Today quoted the Reverend Clarence Sandoval of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Logan, Utah, as saying, “They are taking mothers and fathers and we’re really concerned about the children. I’m getting calls from mothers saying they don’t know where their husband was taken.”

Through this change in how federal law is enforced, CCA and GEO suddenly had a huge pool of captive clients, and began to rake in millions of dollars in public funds to house, transport, feed and control immigrants.

Predictably, costs to taxpayers skyrocketed. From 2006 to the present, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) budget for the identification, custody, transportation, detention and removal of immigrants has increased 51%. The U.S. Marshall budget for the custody and transportation of immigrants over the same period has increased 15%, and the Bureau of Prisons budget for detention of immigrants over the same period has gone up 9%. The billions of dollars in increased expenditures have provided the primary source for the billions in increased revenue for CCA and GEO.

In addition, currently 625 state, county and municipality law enforcement agencies are providing identification, custody, transportation and detention of immigrants through agreements with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

According to a federal Government Accounting Office study conducted last year the cost of this program to local taxpayers is unknown because 60% of state and local governments do not keep data on their personnel, equipment, supplies and other costs related to these agreements, and therefore are not reimbursed for those costs. Whatever the exact cost, local taxpayers will feel the pinch as this program is expected to expand to all 3,100 state, county and municipal detention jurisdictions in the nation by the end of 2011. Consequently CCA and GEO can expect to increase their revenues as states and counties increasingly subcontract incarceration responsibilities to these companies.

Last year Seeking Alpha, a website of actionable stock market opinion and analysis popular on Wall Street, reported that GEO’s income from prison health care services ending in March of 2009 topped $1.0 billion, a 5.8% profit. Seeking Alpha also stated that CCA’s profit for the same period in 19 states was over $1.6 billion, with a profit margin of 9.4%. In an article entitled “Where Delinquencies Make for Good Business” the same publication noted, “Crime, unfortunately, is a growth industry and GEO Group has proven to be a successful player in the outsourcing trend for governments at many levels.” Pushing criminalization of immigrants to cast a wider net in society has been a key part of that “success.”

Soon after the Bush Administration implemented the change in law enforcement affecting immigrants, Wall Street advisors publically recommended buying stock in private prison companies like CCA and GEO. At the time, Vice President Dick Cheney was heavily invested in Vanguard, one of a handful of major shareholders in GEO.

The lobbying paid off for both companies, in huge revenue increases from government contracts to incarcerate immigrants. From 2005 through 2009, for every dollar that GEO spent lobbying the government, the company received a $662 return in taxpayer-funded contracts, for a total of $996.7 million. CCA received a $34 return in taxpayer-funded contracts for every dollar spent on lobbying the federal government, for a total of $330.4 million. In addition, both companies increased revenues over the same period from detention facility contracts with a number of states.

In 2007, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) conducted 30,407 immigration raids in workplaces, neighborhoods, and public gathering sites such as bus stops and commuter train platforms. The number of raids conducted that year was double the 2006 total. The number of immigrants placed behind bars, for what amounts to the crime of having been born in the wrong place, increased from 256,842 in 2006 to 311,169 in 2007.

As a result of fear induced by the raids and other factors, pro-immigrant May Day marches in 2007 were much smaller than those of the previous year. In mid-2007, while many activists and organizers were focused on legislative reform, public protests, eliminating the raids, and trying to help families and friends of those who had been taken away by ICE and other enforcement agencies, GEO and CCA shareholders reaped a huge profit. Both companies issued 2-for-1 stock splits that roughly doubled the value of their shareholders’ stake.

Although stockholders profited handsomely as revenues from prison contracts rose for both companies, the increase wasn’t large enough to satisfy some of their respective major shareholders. J.P. Morgan Chase, a major owner of GEO, dumped most of its stock and relinquished its leadership position in the company.

One problem for major investors seeking huge gains from the for-profit prison business was that revenue rates couldn’t keep rising because federal agencies didn’t have enough personnel to arrest and process more immigrants than the expanded number they were now handling. It became apparent that the only way to significantly raise revenue through increasing the numbers of people picked up, detained and incarcerated was to hire more law enforcement personnel.

The private prison industry now needed a new source of low-cost licensed law enforcement personnel. CCA and GEO then turned to state governments as the focus of business expansion. Both companies stepped up efforts to acquire contracts with state and local governments that were entering into lucrative agreements with the Department of Homeland Security to detain immigrants in state and local detention and correctional facilities.

The result of this shift in business focus is exemplified by CCA’s role in Arizona’s SB 1070 and both CCA’s and GEO’s roles in other legislative efforts aimed at dramatically increased numbers arrests of undocumented immigrants in over 20 states. Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer, who received substantial campaign financing from top CCA executives in Tennessee and employs two former CCA lobbyists Chuck Coughlin and Paul Sensman, as top aides, signed SB 1070 into law on April 23.

On Friday, July 30, 2010 the Republican Governors Association, which so far this year has received over $160,000 in contributions from CCA and GEO, and their respective lobbyists, sent out a nationwide solicitation written by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer requesting contributions to fund an appeal of the partial injunction issued by a judge against SB 1070.

In addition to funds raised by the partisan appeal, Brewer’s legal effort has been bolstered by supporting briefs filed with the appeals court by three states– Florida, Texas and Virginia–that have contracts with GEO or with both GEO and CCA. The two prison companies are currently ramping up their political involvement in these states and in several others that have anti-immigrant bills moving through their respective legislatures. In all, twenty states are considering SB 1070-inspired bills, which have been endorsed by their respective Republican gubernatorial candidates, financed in large part by the Republican Governor’s Association.

Last November, CCA’s top management in Tennessee contributed the largest block of out-of-state campaign contributions received by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.[1] CCA, which already has several detention facilities in Arizona and hopes of expanding its immigrant prison business in that state, is expected to gain a huge increase in revenues with the implementation of SB 1070. Currently, Latinos driving out of the city of Tucson in any direction are being stopped at checkpoints, where they are asked to show their papers.

GEO and CCA are now heavily involved in the governor and state legislative races in states where they plan to expand their respective shares of the prison and incarceration market. GEO, for example, backed first-term Republican Governor, Bob McDonnell, in Virginia last year, and has contributed heavily to the Republican Governor’s Association and to the Florida Republican Party. In addition to Jan Brewer in Arizona, CCA is contributing to the campaigns of both, Republican Meg Whitman, and Democrat Jerry Brown, for governor in California. CCA is also giving money to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, even though Jindal isn’t currently facing an election, and to the Republican Governors Association, which has contributed over $1.5 million to state races this year.[2]

Since the change of administration in Washington D.C., GEO has expanded its presence there by adding the services of lobbyists who formerly served in high positions in the Obama presidential campaign, the Clinton White House, and the Senate and House Appropriations committees. Currently, GEO retains the services of three Washington D.C. lobbyists who also work for Wells Fargo, GEO’s top shareholder. One of GEO’s Washington D.C. lobbyists, Barbara Comstock, is also a member of the Virginia state legislature. CCA relies on its officers to do its lobbying in Washington DC,[3] where some board members, such as former Arizona U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini, are well-connected.

CCA’s and GEO’s share of the taxpayer-funded immigrant incarceration business has grown substantially since 2006. Today, for example, in California, anyone picked up by ICE in Los Angeles is sent to a CCA facility in San Diego, while those picked up by ICE in Seattle or Portland, OR, are sent to a GEO facility in Tacoma, Washington, because detention facilities owned and operated by the federal government are at 137% capacity, with no room to house more prisoners.

Wall Street’s Role

CCA and GEO are owned by major Wall Street institutions, which profit from the immigrant incarceration business as major shareholders.

The most influential investor in CCA is a hedge fund, Pershing Square, which is run by Wall Street investment guru activist investor, Bill Ackman. Ackman also plays a powerful role in Target Corporation and Kraft Foods. Wells Fargo is the most powerful investor in GEO.

Other major investors with the power to influence management in one or the other of the two companies are Vanguard, Lazard, Scopia, Wellington Management, FMR (Fidelity), BlackRock and Bank of America. Each of these major owners is sensitive to public opinion in one way or another. These major investors do not need to rely on either CCA or GEO to make money, since most of their money is invested in enterprises unrelated to private prisons.

By almost any measure, the increased number of deportations of immigrants has not had the desired effects on anyone other than the private prison industry. Unemployment among native-born citizens in the U.S. has skyrocketed as the number of immigrants being deported has risen to over 400,000 a year.

The United States now has more people in prison than any other country on earth. At over 2 million, the U.S. has a half million more people behind bars than China, which has the second highest number of prisoners.

One would like to think that bringing this information to Congress’s attention would be enough to compel them to abandon policies that criminalize immigrants. However, that is not likely to happen soon.

This probable reluctance on the part of Congress to act isn’t merely because of the substantial campaign contributions that Senators and members of Congress receive from the private prison industry. Most members of Congress have personal investments in one or more of CCA’s or GEO’s major shareholders.

While it is true that many people are invested in CCA or GEO through their pensions without knowing it, reports on the personal finances of some key members of Congress suggest some of them have more than a casual interest in the fortunes of CCA or GEO.

One example of a Washington DC powerhouse with a substantial financial interest in CCA is Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, one of a small group of investors in Pershing Square, a hedge fund that holds the most stock in CCA of any of the company’s shareholders. Senator Enzi, a senior Republican who sits on the Senate Budget Committee, was awarded a 100% approval rating by U.S. Border Control (USBC), which describes itself as “a non-profit, tax-exempt, citizen’s lobby. USBC is dedicated to ending illegal immigration by securing our nation’s borders and reforming our immigration policies.”

As Congress is currently tasked with finding ways to reduce the burgeoning deficit and alleviate the suffering caused by the economic crisis, shifting priorities from programs that benefit prison companies to much-needed programs that benefit taxpayers only makes sense. Compelling Congress to abandon immigrant criminalization policies is probably going to require, among other things, that citizens convince some combination of our pension funds, Wells Fargo, and a key hedge fund or two, to pull out of the private prison industry and to go elsewhere to make money.

We should be able accomplish this. IBM and Ford, when challenged, found themselves unable to justify their investments in apartheid in South Africa. As a result of a swelling movement of students, faith-based organizations, unions and shareholders, these companies divested in 1986, contributing to the fall of the racist apartheid system and a transition to democracy.

Similarly, Wells Fargo, Pershing Square, and other financial giants shall be hard-pressed to justify investments in the massive suffering caused by the criminalization of immigrants, as a movement comes together to expose the harm done to the public good by their current investments in the immigrant prison industry.

Who knows? Some of these financial institutions might even see the wisdom in investing in companies that produce family-wage jobs.

Peter Cervantes-Gautschi is the Director of Enlace, a Portland, OR based organization focused on strategic organizing, campaigns, and training in organizational development around workers’ struggles, and the impacts of multinational corporations in the lives of people in all sectors of society. Peter has been a labor activist since 1965, starting as a young farm worker in Southern California. He is a frequent contributor to the Americas Program www.cipamericas.org.

Sources

[1] Arizona campaign contribution reports compiled by the National Institute On Money in State Politics show that CCA’s CEO Damon Hininger, CFO Todd Mullenger, CDO Anthony Grande, and then General Counsel, Gus Puryear, contributed to Jan Brewer’s campaign.

[2] National Institute on Money in State Politics.

[3] Center for Responsive Politics, Open Secrets.org


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tucson: Think before you drink from the for-profit prison industry.

City of Tucson considering jail privatization?

Tucson Citizen (October 21, 2010)

by cell-out-arizona on Oct. 21, 2010, under AFSC, City of Tucson, Jail, Privatization, private prison

Nick Oza/The Arizona Republic

At the City Council meeting Tuesday (10/19/10), Council Member Steve Kozachik initiated a very thoughtful discussion about the high cost of jail incarceration and what the City might do to bring jail costs down while promoting better public safety outcomes.

High points included an excellent presentation from Adult Probation on the use of Evidence-Based Practices in sentencing, Council Member Ulich’s suggestion to bring together a collaborative planning body that could iron out differences between the City and County, and Council Member Romero’s heartfelt plea that the discussion not overlook the importance of alternative courts, such as the Veteran’s Court.

Unfortunately, one of the options placed on the table by TPD’s Assistant Chief John Leavitt was a “Private Prison RFQ.”

Apparently, this had been under serious discussion in the past, in this case, the management of a DUI facility (a favorite gateway drug for the for-profits). The fly in the ointment at the time was the fact that the private operator wanted a gender-segregated facility for men only. Women are simply too expensive to incarcerate, and for-profit prisons rarely take them.

While Leavitt acknowledged the for-profit’s propensity to cherry pick, he still touted the projected cost savings such a facility could generate.

We would suggest that our friends at the City Council talk with their counterparts in Brooksville, Florida. They recently took the Hernando County Jail back from Corrections Corporation of America, because they discovered that the county could run it more cheaply. The case is a fascinating cautionary tale for local officials who believe that privatization is a cheap alternative.


Consider the following:

•The annual 4% increase to the per diem that CCA built into their 5-year contract ended up crippling the county budget


•Nearly $7 out of every $100 property owners paid in taxes in 2008 went to pay for the jail


•CCA withheld $422,000 it owed to the county from income on additional beds in the jail


•In 2009, the Sheriff announced that he could run the jail more cheaply: “The difference between us doing it and CCA doing it is, we don’t have to carry the corporate load…We don’t have to support all the staff (at company headquarters) in Nashville. We don’t have to show a profit margin for shareholders.” (March 5, 2010 St Petersburg Times)


•Then the county discovered major structural and maintenance problems in the jail, including “roof leaks, rusted doors, safety problems, cracks and separations on the concrete floor, walls and ceiling.” (April 13, 2010 Hernando Today). County taxpayers were on the hook for millions of dollars in repair cost due to years of neglect.


•Finally, in April of 2010, CCA announced that it was walking away from its contract to run the jail, giving the county just 120 days notice. CCA also announced that they would remove beds, mattresses, cameras and other safety equipment that the company believed it owns.


•When the County finally took over the facility, guards’ pay increased. The Sheriff announced that all sworn deputies will receive the same base salary of $39,401. For those CCA employees who qualify for the new deputy position and are already state-certified corrections officers, their salaries will be bumped up more than $7,000, from their current $32,169 to $39,401.


•As a parting shot, CCA is suing the County over money held back from the firm and equipment the county claims to own.


For the whole sordid history, see Private Corrections Working Groups’ “Florida Hall of Shame”: http://www.privateci.org/florida.htm#Hernando County Jail

We would be curious to know if any of the private prison corporations have come sniffing around recently. Between SB1070 and the 5,000 bed RFP issued by the Department of Corrections, the for-profit prison industry has been having a feeding frenzy in Arizona over the past year or so.

CCA is looking to build yet another prison down on Wilmot Road, south of the freeway. It’s only logical that their highly-paid consultants might want to chat up the folks at the City about a new jail while they’re here getting the land re-zoned for the proposed state prison.

All we can say is, buyer beware.

Risks, Benefits of Private Prisons: Public Hearing OCT 27, Tucson.

Public Hearings on Prison Privatization in Arizona:
Risks and Benefits

Sponsored by American Friends Service Committee, Private Corrections Working Group, UA Latino Law Students Association, and St. Francis in the Foothills Church

Wednesday
October 27th

6:00-8:00 pm


Pima Community College, Downtown Campus:

Amethyst Room.



CONVENERS:


Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias

Tucson City Council Member Steve Kozachik

Assistant City Manager Richard Miranda (former Chief of Tucson Police)

State Representative Phil Lopes

Former Assoc. Editor of the Tucson Citizen Mark Kimble


PRESENTERS:


Stephen Nathan, Editor of Prison Privatization Report International

Joe Glen, Spokesman, Maricopa & Pima Juvenile Corrections Associations

Brent White, Law Professor, University of Arizona

Jim Sanders, Real Estate Appraiser

Susan Maurer, Retired Corrections Commissioner, New Jersey

Victoria Lopez, ACLU of Arizona

Representative of Arizona Department of Corrections (invited)

Representative of Corrections Corporation of America (submitted a bid to the Arizona Department of Corrections to build a new prison in Tucson) (invited)

Representative of Management and Training Corporation (manages the Marana Community Correctional Treatment Facility) (invited)


The Hearing will be moderated by Mari Herreras of the Tucson Weekly

These hearings are being held in the interest of government accountability, integrity of our corrections system, and public safety: Many elected officials have called for legislative hearings, but none have been scheduled and critical questions remain unanswered. The Tucson hearing will be the first in a series of hearings to be held around the state.

The second will be held in Kingman on Monday, November 8th from 6:00-8:00pm at the Elks Lodge, 900 Gates Ave.

Members of the public will also have an opportunity to present testimony. The hearings will be video recorded and will be presented to the state legislature and the Governor, along with written materials produced through the hearings. Members of the public wishing to present testimony are asked to bring a printed copy of their remarks to enter into the record.

For more information, please contact AFSC at 520.623.9141 or afscaz@afsc.org



Caroline Isaacs
Program Director,
American Friends Service Committee
Arizona Area Program
103 N. Park Ave., Suite 111
Tucson, AZ 85719

520.623.9141 p/520.623.5901 f

http://afsc.org/office/tucson-az

Appeals court upholds Arizona execution restraining order: but not for long.

(Never mind those pesky death penalty appeals in Arizona, folks. You can count on the Governor to ignore the Board of Executive Clemency's recommendations, and the current US Supreme Court to encourage cruel and all-too-common punishment. Technicalities like the 8th amendment rights of prisoners don't slow us down for long in this place: Landrigan was executed the following day, as promised. 11/07/10)
------------------------------

Judge delays execution set for today


Arizona Republic

The scheduled execution of convicted killer Jeffrey Landrigan was put on hold Monday by a federal judge, but pending legal actions late in the day made it unclear if the reprieve would keep him from his appointment in an Arizona death chamber at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

State Attorney General Terry Goddard promised to appeal the federal restraining order, a harshly worded ruling referring to Arizona as "obstructive."
...
Goddard confirmed to The Arizona Republic on Monday that the drug was imported from Great Britain.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the restraining order sometime before 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. The state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Check back for updates on the high court's ruling Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Prison Watching Compa.


Less than two months after I started blogging at the Prison Abolitionist last summer, I came across Nevada Prison Watch and a couple of other sites my dear friend ASE was involved with. I saw that she'd somehow helped compile a bunch of medical records and testimony for the ACLU with the guys in prison there to initiate legal action and posted them to her site, along with the results of inquiries, letters to (and about) the administration about cleaning up Ely State Prison, and letters from prisoners themselves. My friend's main focus in her prison outreach and blogging has been on amplifying prisoner voices rather than her own.

Most of what I've learned about watching prisons and working with prisoners I've learned from her. That means that a lot of folks have been spared some of my own trial and error. If you've landed on a fledgling Prison Watch site for just about any other state in the nation, ASE is probably the one who helped get it up and keeps it going. She's also behind Prison Watch for Imprisoned Women, Immigrant Detention Watch , and Prison Watch International.

No one but the prisoners she corresponds with, a handful of other prison watchers, and a few state administrators probably even knows her name, much less her face or where in the world she's blogging from. Whether she's been 5 or 5000 miles away, though, she's never been very far from any of us.

Anyway, I've been blessed to have her company on this leg of my journey, and I don't think I tell her that often enough. Tonight I thought I should.


--------------

A. -

You have been one of the most devoted constant friends and comrades I've ever had. Knowing that you're there, always checking in on me, ready to back me up, telling me how awesome I am - and praying for me, I bet - has made it possible for me to push these people harder and for longer than I ever would have been able to do otherwise.

You inspired AZ Prison Watch, and helped me Free Marcia Powell. You've seen me through both the highs and the lows that might have derailed me without the solid ground that only the well-grounded could be a bridge to. You've taught me a lot about being steady and strong for prisoners, and about collaborating with others to build something bigger than both of us. And by example you've shown me that if you keep the faith and hang in there long enough, you just might be able to shine enough light on a dark place in the world to bring the exiled out of the shadows - and maybe even bring some home.


I wouldn't still be doing this today without you.

Gracias.

Justicia Ahora!!!

Love,

Peg

On Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 2:37 PM, Nevada Prison Watch wrote:

Dear Peg,

It is bedtime here, but I wanted to say you do such great work, thank you!
I am so glad to have you in my life.
Am back on Facebook, was on holiday from that for a while...

Love!

A.


--
"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness, and our ability to tell our own stories..."

- Arundhati Roy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Justicia Ahora: Resist State Violence this Friday.



National Day of Action Against Police Brutality

Friday, October 22, 2010 11am- 1pm

MEDICAL NEGLECT
IS VIOLENCE:

STOP KILLING THE PRISONERS!!!

Arizona Department of Corrections
1601 W. Jefferson St. (at 16th Ave)
Phoenix, AZ 85007
(park in the SE lot at Wes Bolin off Jefferson - the ADC is across the street.)


17 suicides/15mos
5 homicides/9 months
6,000 HCV+ prisoners and counting…

HARD TIME HEP C ALLIANCE - AZ
http://hardtimehepc.blogspot.com

For more information, contact:
Peggy at 480-580-6807 or
prisonabolitionist@gmail.com

ALL FAMILIES WELCOME:
CHALK, BUBBLES,
and GREAT PEOPLE WILL BE THERE.

PLEASE WEAR BLACK.
BYOB. A sack lunch would be smart, too.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cruel and Unusual: Joe Arpaio's Jail and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Here's the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling ordering Arpaio to treat his prisoners like human beings. It's about time. Let's see how long it takes for him to figure out a new way to subvert the US Constitution in order to make people suffer. I can't believe he was allowed to spend public money pursuing this all the way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. What a whiner. He shows as much contempt for the Bill of Rights as he does for the people here.

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GRAVES v. ARPAIO
FRED GRAVES and ISAAC V. POPOCA, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. JOSEPH M. ARPAIO, Sheriff of Maricopa County, Defendant-Appellant, and FULTON BROCK; DON STAPLEY; ANDREW KUNASEK; MAX W. WILSON; MARY ROSE WILCOX, Defendants.

No. 08-17601.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Argued and Submitted March 8, 2010—San Francisco, California.

Filed October 13, 2010.
Michele M. Iafrate and Courtney Rachel Cloman, IAFRATE & ASSOCIATES, Phoenix, Arizona, for the defendant-appellant.

Larry A. Hammond, Sharad H. Desai, and Debra A. Hill, Osborn Maledon, P.A., Phoenix, Arizona; Dan Pochoda, ACLU of Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona; and Margaret Winter, ACLU — AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, Washington, D.C., for the plaintiff-appellee.

Before: Betty B. Fletcher, Richard R. Clifton, and Carlos T. Bea, Circuit Judges.
Per Curiam Opinion.

OPINION
PER CURIAM.
Defendant Joseph M. Arpaio, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, appeals the district court's Second Amended Judgment. The judgment requires him to take affirmative measures to address conditions in Maricopa County jails that violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Sheriff Arpaio challenges two provisions of the Second Amended Judgment: its requirement that he provide pretrial detainees taking psychotropic medications with housing in which the temperature does not exceed 85° F, and its requirement that he provide detainees with food that satisfies the United States Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans ("Dietary Guidelines"). He argues that these provisions are procedurally flawed because the district court ordered prospective relief without giving him an opportunity to propose alternative remedies, and substantively flawed because the relief ordered by the district court is not the least intrusive means for correcting a current and ongoing violation of the rights of pre-trial detainees. For the reasons that follow, we disagree and affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In 1977, three indigent prisoners brought suit against the Maricopa County Sheriff and Board of Supervisors on behalf of all pretrial detainees held in Maricopa County jails. The detainees claimed that the harsh conditions of confinement at the jails violated their constitutional rights. They challenged, inter alia, prison overcrowding, inadequate recreational time, dangerously high temperatures, limited access to reading material, and inadequate food. The parties negotiated a comprehensive agreement that addressed each of the detainees' claims, and the district court entered a judgment adopting the terms of that agreement in 1981. The judgment was amended in 1995 to reflect changes in the prison population, new jail construction, advances in medical treatment, and evolution of the law.
The following year, Congress enacted the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), Pub. L. 104-134, § 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (codified as amended in scattered sections of 18, 28, and 42 U.S.C.). In 1998, the defendants filed a Motion to Terminate the Amended Judgment. The district court denied the motion, the defendants appealed, and the Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's denial and remanded this case in 2001.
Defendants submitted a Renewed Motion to Terminate the Amended Judgment. After some delay in the district court, the case was transferred to a different judge in April 2008, and that judge scheduled an evidentiary hearing for August 2008. The district court noted that this schedule, which was more rushed than either party desired, was necessary because the PLRA required the court to "promptly rule on any motion to modify or terminate prospective relief in a civil action with respect to prison conditions." 18 U.S.C. § 3626(e)(1). When the defendants asked that the hearing be postponed, the district court again emphasized the "grave urgency of this proceeding" and denied their Motion to Continue.
The parties jointly submitted a report recommending a schedule for discovery in anticipation of the August hearing. The report contemplated that the hearing would focus on whether there were ongoing and systemic violations of the rights of pretrial detainees held in Maricopa County jails. Plaintiffs briefly suggested that, if the district court found that there were ongoing violations, the court then hold a second hearing where defendants could propose a plan for addressing those violations. The district court largely adopted the parties' scheduling recommendations, but made clear that there would be only one hearing covering both liability and remedies. Combining the hearings posed no hardship to either party, the district court explained, and there was no reason for further delay.
The district court heard twelve days of evidence and argument in August and September 2008. While the hearing was ongoing, each party submitted a brief suggesting that the court hold a second hearing on remedies if plaintiffs prevailed on liability. The district court issued the Second Amended Judgment and accompanying Findings of Fact and Law in October 2008.
Sheriff Arpaio timely appeals.
DISCUSSION
I. Separate Hearing on Remedies
Sheriff Arpaio contends that the district court did not give him an adequate opportunity to propose a plan for correcting the ongoing constitutional violations found by the district court. In Lewis v. Casey,518 U.S. 343 (1996), the Supreme Court held that the district court erred when, after finding ongoing constitutional violations in prisons operated by the Arizona Department of Corrections, it delegated responsibility for devising a remedial plan to a special master. Id. at 363. Although the Arizona Department of Corrections was given an opportunity to object to the special master's proposed plan, "[t]he State was entitled to far more than an opportunity for rebuttal." Id. "[C]onsiderations of comity . . . require giving the States the first opportunity to correct the errors made in the internal administration of their prisons." Id. at 362.
[1] While Lewis is clear that prison officials must be given an opportunity to propose remedies in the first instance, the Supreme Court did not specify whether that opportunity must come after the district court finds ongoing constitutional violations. The Court did suggest that, ideally, a district court would first determine whether there are ongoing violations, then assign the state "the task of devising a Constitutionally sound program" to correct those constitutional violations, and then finally approve the state's plan subject to any amendments necessary to address well-founded objections raised by the prisoners. Id. at 362 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court recommended this procedure but did not require it.
[2] The district court did not err by requiring Sheriff Arpaio to propose remedies at the twelve-day hearing on the Renewed Motion to Terminate. District courts have broad discretion when it comes to trial management. See Navellier v. Sletten,262 F.3d 923, 941 (9th Cir. 2001) ("We review such challenges to trial court management for abuse of discretion."); Hangarter v. Provident Life and Acc. Ins. Co.,373 F.3d 998, 1021 (9th Cir. 2004) ("A district court's refusal to bifurcate a trial is accordingly reviewed for an abuse of discretion."). Federal-state comity requires a district court to give prison officials an opportunity to propose remedies; the Constitution does not also dictate the precise timing for that proposal or how that proposal should be submitted for consideration by the court. Such logistical issues are best left to the district court's discretion. In light of the PLRA's clear instruction that a district court "promptly rule on any motion to modify or terminate prospective relief in a civil action with respect to prison conditions," 18 U.S.C. § 3626(e)(1), and the lower court's reasonable desire to act quickly to curb ongoing civil rights violations at Maricopa County jails, we cannot say that it was an abuse of discretion for the district court to hear evidence on both rights and remedies at one hearing.
II. Relief Necessary to Address Current and Ongoing Violations of Prisoners' Rights
The district court ordered Sheriff Arpaio to house pretrial detainees taking psychotropic medications in cells where the temperature does not exceed 85° F and to provide detainees with food that satisfies the Dietary Guidelines. Sheriff Arpaio argues that this prospective relief violates the PLRA because the temperature and food in Maricopa County jails do not violate the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments and, even if it did, the ordered relief is not the least intrusive means to correct those violations.
[3] Under the PLRA, prospective relief regarding prison conditions is terminable upon the motion of any party. 18 U.S.C. § 3626(b)(1)(A). The 1995 Amended Judgment, like the original 1981 judgment, was "granted in the absence of a finding by the court that the relief is narrowly drawn, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right, and is the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right." Id. § 3626(b)(2).1 The PLRA provides that such a judgment must terminate immediately unless the district court makes written findings demonstrating that prospective relief "remains necessary to correct a current and ongoing violation" and satisfies the need-narrowness-intrusiveness requirements. Id. at § 3626(b)(3). Rather than terminate the prospective relief, the district court opted to modify the Amended Judgment and make the required written findings.
[4] When a party moves to terminate prospective relief under § 3626(b), the burden is on the movant to demonstrate that there are no ongoing constitutional violations, that the relief ordered exceeds what is necessary to correct an ongoing constitutional violation, or both. See Gilmore v. California,220 F.3d 987, 1007-1008 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk County Jail,502 U.S. 367, 383 (1992) ("[A] party seeking modification of a consent decree bears the burden of establishing that a significant change in circumstances warrants revision of the decree."). In his Reply Brief, Sheriff Arpaio argues that the district court erred by placing the burden on him to demonstrate that the § 3626(b) requirements were met. The district court did not err and, in any event, arguments raised for the first time in a reply brief are waived. See United States ex rel. Meyer v. Horizon Health Corp.,565 F.3d 1195, 1199 n.1 (9th Cir. 2009).
The district court's factual findings regarding conditions at the Maricopa County jails are reviewed for clear error. See Hallett v. Morgan,296 F.3d 732, 744 (9th Cir. 2002). Whether those facts demonstrate an Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment violation is a question of law that we review de novo. Id. If we agree with the district court that there are ongoing and systemic constitutional violations in Maricopa County jails, then we must decide whether the prospective relief ordered by the district court was appropriate. The standard of review is abuse of discretion. See Hoptowit v. Ray,682 F.2d 1237, 1245-46 (9th Cir. 1982). The district court abuses its discretion by fashioning relief that violates the PLRA. See Molski v. Evergreen Dynasty Corp.,500 F.3d 1047, 1056-57 (9th Cir. 2007) ("A district court abuses its discretion when it bases its decision on an incorrect view of the law . . . ."). See also United States v. Hinkson,585 F.3d 1247, 1261-62 (9th Cir. 2009) (en banc) ("[T]he first step of our abuse of discretion test is to determine de novo whether the trial court identified the correct legal rule to apply to the relief requested . . . . [T]he second step of our abuse of discretion test is to determine whether the trial court's application of the correct legal standard was (1) illogical, (2) implausible, or (3) without support in inferences that may be drawn from the facts in the record." (internal quotation marks omitted)).
a. Prospective Relief to Address Dangerously High Temperatures
i. Factual Findings
The district court found that air temperatures above 85° F greatly increase the risk of heat-related illnesses for individuals who take psychotropic medications and found further that pretrial detainees taking psychotropic medications have been held in areas where the temperature has exceeded 85° F. These two findings are not clearly erroneous.
[5] Plaintiffs' psychiatric expert testified that many psychotropic medications, including those most likely to be prescribed to pretrial detainees, cause patients to suffer from a significantly increased risk of heat-related illness when ambient air temperatures reach 85° F. The defendants' own expert confirmed that high temperatures can "affect someone's state when they are taking . . . psychotropic medications." On the basis of this testimony, the district court reasonably concluded that temperatures in excess of 85° F are dangerous for pretrial detainees taking psychotropic medications. Sheriff Arpaio argues that this finding is wrong because the record shows that some psychotropic medications affect the body's ability to regulate heat, not all such medications. Even if the district court's over-generalization was incorrect, that error was harmless. Fed. R. Civ. P. 61. As we explain below, a more narrow factual finding would not have caused the district court to order more narrow prospective relief.
[6] Furthermore, plaintiffs' expert testified that he had found many seriously mentally ill detainees in segregation cells where temperatures are known to exceed 85° F, including some detainees on anti-psychotic medications. Although he had the burden of proof, Sheriff Arpaio did not introduce rebuttal evidence in support of his claim that pretrial detainees taking psychotropic medications are not housed in cells where the temperature is dangerously high. Considering the evidence in the record, we cannot say that the district court's findings of fact were clearly erroneous.
ii. Legal Conclusions
[7] The district court concluded that the "Eighth Amendment requires that the temperature of the areas in which pretrial detainees are held or housed does not threaten their health or safety." We agree. We have held that the "Eighth Amendment guarantees adequate heating" but not necessarily a "comfortable" temperature. Keenan v. Hall,83 F.3d 1083, 1091 (9th Cir. 1996). One measure of an inadequate, as opposed to merely uncomfortable, temperature is that it poses "a substantial risk of serious harm." Farmer v. Brennan,511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). The district court did not err, therefore, in concluding that dangerously high temperatures that pose a significant risk to detainee health violate the Eighth Amendment. Accepting the district court's factual finding that temperatures in excess of 85° F greatly increase the risk of heat-related illness for pretrial detainees taking psychotropic medications, it follows that the Eighth Amendment prohibits housing such pretrial detainees in areas where the temperature exceeds 85° F.
iii. Prospective Relief
Sheriff Arpaio argues that the prospective relief ordered by the district court violates the PLRA because it is not narrowly tailored to meet the requirements of the Eighth Amendment. The district court ordered Sheriff Arpaio to house all detainees taking psychotropic medications in temperatures that do not exceed 85° F, not just those pretrial detainees taking psychotropic medications that affect the body's ability to regulate heat. The Eighth Amendment protects against dangerously high temperatures, and temperatures in excess of 85° F are dangerous only for the latter, more narrow category of pretrial detainees.
[8] The PLRA does not require that prospective relief exactly map onto the requirements of the Eighth Amendment. Rather, the statute authorizes relief that is "necessary to correct" the ongoing constitutional violation found by the district court. 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(1)(A), (b)(3). The district court could have ordered Sheriff Arpaio to house pretrial detainees in areas where the temperature does not exceed 85° F if those detainees take psychotropic medications that affect the body's ability to regulate heat, but that relief would have been insufficient to correct the ongoing Eighth Amendment violations at Maricopa County jails. The district court found that mental health screening and recording-keeping in Maricopa County jails is inadequate, and as a result Sheriff Arpaio does not know which pretrial detainees are taking which medications. Sheriff Arpaio does not contest these findings. Given that Sheriff Arpaio does not know which pretrial detainees are taking medications that affect the body's ability to regulate heat, limiting relief to that category of pretrial detainees would have been impracticable and thus inadequate to correct the Eighth Amendment violation found by the district court. It was not an abuse of discretion for the district court to order prospective relief that covered all pretrial detainees who take psychotropic medications.2
b. Prospective Relief to Address Inadequate Food
[9] The district court concluded that the Eighth Amendment requires that "prisoners receive food that is adequate to maintain health." LeMaire v. Maass,12 F.3d 1444, 1456 (9th Cir 1993). The Amended Judgment required that detainees be provided food that meets or exceeds the Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 2400 calories daily for males aged 19-30 with a sedentary activity level, and 2600-2800 calories daily for males aged 19-30 with a moderately active lifestyle. The district court found that, if Sheriff Arpaio afforded pretrial detainees the amount of recreation time they were entitled to under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, most predetainees would fall into the "moderately active" category. The Maricopa County dietician testified that he designs menus to provide each prisoner with approximately 2400 to 2500 calories a day. The district court did not credit this testimony because the menus submitted to the court were exceedingly vague, it was clear that the dietician did not actually know what prisoners were fed, and substantial testimony from pretrial detainees established that they are often given food that is overripe, moldy, and generally inedible. The district court ultimately found that pretrial detainees are not given food that satisfies the Dietary Guidelines and that Sheriff Arpaio had produced no evidence showing that the Dietary Guidelines exceed what was necessary for adequate nutrition.
Sheriff Arpaio does not contest the district court's conclusion that the Eighth Amendment requires "adequate nutrition" or the court's factual findings.3 He argues only that the relief ordered by the Amended Judgment and now the Second Amended Judgment — that Sheriff Arpaio "provide food to pretrial detainees that meets or exceeds the United States Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans" — is not narrowly tailored to the requirements of the Eighth Amendment. We disagree.
As the movant, the burden was on Sheriff Arpaio to demonstrate that the relief ordered by the Amended Judgment went beyond what is necessary to remedy the ongoing constitutional violations at the Maricopa County jails. See Gilmore, 220 F.3d at 1008 (holding that the district court erred by not "plac[ing] the burden on the state to show that the 1972 Order exceeded the constitutional minimum"). Sheriff Arpaio does not point to any evidence in the record supporting his assertion that 2600 to 2800 calories is more than what is required for adequate nutrition. Instead, he relies on this court's decision in Hoptowit v. Ray,682 F.2d 1237 (9th Cir. 1982), which states that a court "may consider opinions of experts and pertinent organizations" when determining whether prison conditions violate the Eighth Amendment, "[b]ut these opinions will not ordinarily establish constitutional minima." Id. at 1246. While instructive, Hoptowit is not dispositive; Hoptowit discussed what a district court may consider when determining the minimum required by the Eighth Amendment, while we are concerned with whether the PLRA's narrow tailoring requirement is violated because the Dietary Guidelines are too far from the Eighth Amendment minimum.
[10] The abuse of discretion standard does not require us to measure the distance between the Eighth Amendment's adequate nutrition standard and the nutrition standards established by the United States Dietary Guidelines. It requires that we are satisfied that the two are not so far apart that adopting the Dietary Guidelines is "illogical, implausible, or without support in inferences that may be drawn from facts in the record," Hinkson, 585 F.3d at 1264, and therefore violative of the PLRA's narrow tailoring requirement. In light of the evidence in the record — which includes nothing from Sheriff Arpaio to suggest that the Dietary Guidelines exceed what is necessary for adequate nutrition — we cannot say that it was an abuse of discretion for the district court to order Arpaio to provide food that satisfies the Dietary Guidelines.
CONCLUSION
The district court gave Sheriff Arpaio an adequate opportunity to propose a plan for correcting the ongoing Eighth Amendment violations in Maricopa County jails. The prospective relief ordered by the district court did not go beyond what was necessary to correct those violations. Accordingly, the Second Amended Judgment is AFFIRMED.

Footnotes


1. Courts have referred to this as the "`need-narrowness-intrusiveness'" inquiry. Pierce v. County of Orange,526 F.3d 1190, 1205 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Handberry v. Thompson,436 F.3d 52, 64 (2d Cir. 2006)).
2. Of course, if record-keeping were to be improved so as to allow Sheriff Arpaio to determine which detainees take phychotropic medicine that does not interfere with the ability to regulate body heat, Sheriff Arpaio might wish to seek modification of the district court's order. But that situation was not before the district court, nor now before us.
3. Sheriff Arpaio contends in his Reply Brief that the district court's finding that the food served to pretrial detainees does not satisfy the Dietary Guidelines was clearly erroneous because plaintiffs did not introduce expert witness testimony in support of that finding. This argument was not raised in his opening brief and thus waived. See Meyer, 565 F.3d at 1199 n.1. Furthermore, the burden was on Sheriff Arpaio, not the plaintiffs, to prove current jail conditions. See Gilmore, 220 F.3d at 1007.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Secure borders and AZ deserts kill record numbers of someone else's loved ones.

I don't how all of America can't be deeply disturbed by what is happening here. We think it can never happen to us only because we haven't yet lived through the economic devastation that NAFTA nations to our south have. We profited from their losses, in fact, blamed them for their poverty, exploited their labor, and then criminalized them when we decided they presented the white supremacist power structure with too much of a challenge. That's why Russ Pearce is all about changing the 14th Amendment: Latinos are the next majority.

I think we should at least try to walk in their shoes, though. After all, the gap between the rich and poor in America is wider than ever - more people are falling down the ladder than moving up.

Just imagine the US economy crashing further, and Obamacare, Medicare D, and Medicaid all getting rescinded under President Haley Barbour and Vice President Palin in order to protect corporate welfare and preserve the Bush tax cuts for the elite.
That's not an unlikely scenario these days - look at what's been coming out of the Republican party of late.

Pharmaceuticals and most medical services are already more than what most of the middle class can afford without insurance. What would ordinary Americans do?

We'd do whatever we had to for the people we loved - just as ordinary Mexicans have done.

If Mexico decided to apply our policies to us in such an economic downturn, those would be our bodies showing up in the desert, trying to cross a fortified, hostile border to get health care and purchase antibiotics, insulin, AZT, and other lifesaving drugs - including narcotics for patients in exceptional pain.

The pharmaceutical industry would try to get both the US and Mexico to crack down on us - they'd call us all criminals and drug smugglers and finish the border wall, send more armed soldiers, and push us further into the wilderness where the heat and bandits take their toll.

While it may seem good for Mexico's economy to have all that new business, the American Medical Association, pharmaceutical industry, and US government will quickly buy their elected officials off in order to develop a cooperative "crime-fighting" strategy to thwart the efforts of desperate people just trying to keep themselves or others alive.
We'll even arm their paramilitary border patrols.

Our own legislators, at the urging of Arizona's pharmacies and physicians, would establish harsh criminal penalties for bringing drugs like penicillin into the country from Mexico, throwing thousands more ordinary people into prison.
Increasing numbers of children - whether obtaining medicines for family, or smuggling large quantities for drug cartels, would be charged and sentenced as adults on both sides of the border to teach us a lesson.

Parents seeking medical care for their sick children in Mexico would have to show proof of Mexican citizenship or risk arrest and criminalization - not just deportation. At all costs, the medical industrial complex and the US government would try to prevent us from subverting their control over the American people.

But that wouldn't stop us from trying to save our dying children, or deter youth from supporting their family by making pharmacy runs for the neighborhood, or prevent sisters from setting out to find the brothers who never came home. Did they die in the desert, or are they languishing in a Mexican detention center or prison? We "lose" family members in our immigrant detention centers all the time, and Arizona alone presently has over 6,000 foreign nationals in our prison system as "criminal aliens." We take such pleasure in punishing people in Arizona that instead of deporting migrants we don't want, we spend over $20,000 per year to incarcerate each one - most of whom are non-violent offenders.


What if Mexico started losing or imprisoning our loved ones like that?

Of course, organized crime would be expanding their own black market with all it's attendant violence and exploitation. Americans who couldn't buy direct from Mexican pharmacies would no doubt get their needed drugs from them. Some communities will organize neighborhood collectives in sheds and church basements where people can share pharmaceuticals as well as non-traditional medicinal resources. Such collectives will be outlawed as well, as will herbal and alternative medicines. Cancer and AIDS patient support groups will be infiltrated by the FBI in an effort to catch dying people seeking relief outside of the mainstream economy. In fact, they already do.

A whole class of "law-abiding" citizens would suddenly find themselves choosing between saving the lives of loved ones, or maintaining their allegiance to the laws that would let people needlessly die - some spending their final days or weeks or months in agony. Insistent that violent crime is rising due to people illegally seeking health care, Russ Pearce will make sure that those who know of such activity on the part of a neighbor, relative, or member of their church will also be criminalized if they fail to report them to the authorities.

Even the most trivial traffic stop or noise complaint will give the police reason to search for medical contraband and evidence that drugs or health care may have been criminally obtained - the poor and middle class, the sick and disabled, will be the likely suspects they profile. Then more of us will begin to understand a little more about what it is like to be Latino in Arizona right now.


That's the most comparable and truly possible scenario I can imagine in which large numbers of "honest", "decent" Americans would suddenly become criminal aliens, drug smugglers, and unidentified bodies in the deserts of Arizona and Mexico. Then they would begin to understand why people migrate here for life-sustaining resources, like jobs, and why that act alone does not make them dangerous, evil, or criminal.


Then perhaps the number of people being forced to cross our border in increasingly treacherous regions will be seen by the public and lawmakers as evidence of failed border and health care policies and unjust distribution of wealth and resources in our hemisphere, not evidence that we need more walls. Even though most Americans can't see it yet, we really are in this together with our neighbors from the South, and should hope that they will deal with us more graciously should we cross their border illegally than we have dealt with them. Those bodies we keep finding belong to someone's loved ones. It is only by way of fortune and grace that we and our loved ones have not yet had to face the same fate.


The following AZ Daily Star article comes via No More Deaths-Phoenix. They try to keep border crossers alive long enough to reach safety. Join them every Tuesday night if you can.

--------------------------------

Greetings,

these are the numbers of migrant deaths for Fiscal year 2010. As we know, there are hundreds of remains that will never be recovered. Please keep these migrants, and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

Remember, NMD-Phoenix is meeting tonight at 7:30pm at the Central United Methodist Church.

AZ border saw record 252 deaths in fiscal '10

Brady McCombs

Arizona Daily Star

Posted: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 12:00 am


The recently completed fiscal year set a record for deaths along a stretch of Arizona's border with Mexico.


The bodies of 252 illegal border crossers were found along Arizona's border from New Mexico to Yuma County from Oct. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010, the Arizona Daily Star's border death database shows. The database is based on information from Southern Arizona county medical examiners.


The 2010 total breaks the record of 234 set in 2007. It has been a deadly decade in Arizona's desert for illegal immigrants, with the bodies of nearly 2,000 men, women and children found since 2001.

The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office handled most of the bodies again this fiscal year: 228 of the 252. The office receives bodies found on the Tohono O'odham Nation and in Pima, Pinal and Santa Cruz counties.

The office recovered the bodies of 59 illegal border crossers in July alone. This summer tied with 1996 as the second-hottest Tucson summer on record.

It's difficult to determine exactly how much it costs taxpayers to perform the work because the recoveries, autopsies and investigations are blended with the rest of the county-funded office's work. But each autopsy runs about $2,000, which means the 228 done over the past fiscal year would add up to about $456,000.


The record for deaths comes during a fiscal year when the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector recorded reduced apprehensions for the sixth consecutive year. The downturn in arrests is one of several indicators that show significantly fewer people are illegally crossing the border, perhaps due to the U.S. economic recession.


Yet more people are dying than ever, which has led many experts to conclude that illegal immigrants face a deadlier trek than ever across Arizona's desert.


Border-county law enforcement, Mexican consular officials, Tohono O'odham tribal officials and humanitarian groups say the buildup of border fencing, technology and agents has caused illegal border crossers to walk longer distances in more treacherous terrain, increasing the likelihood that people will get hurt or fatigued and left behind to die.


The Border Patrol agrees that illegal immigrants are crossing in more remote areas because of the increased presence but says the blame should be placed on greedy smugglers leading them there, not agents protecting the nation's border. The agency points to its rescue efforts as evidence that its presence prevents deaths rather than causes them.


On StarNet: Search an online database of individuals who have died attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border at go.azstarnet.com/borderdeaths


Record year for border deaths


Here are the number of bodies of illegal border crossers recovered in Arizona's desert from New Mexico to Yuma County, by fiscal year:


2002 142
2003 177
2004 196
2005 233
2006 189
2007 234
2008 185
2009 215
2010 252


Source: Arizona Daily Star's border death database, which comes from data collected by the Pima and Cochise County medical examiner's offices. Pima County handles bodies found in Santa Cruz, Pinal and Pima Counties. The federal fiscal year runs Oct. 1 - Sept. 30.
Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com



--
Laura Ilardo
No More Deaths-Phoenix
(602)818-5447
www.my.calendars.net/nomoredeaths

Monday, October 11, 2010

LGBTQ Prisoner support: Communities of Resistance's Bent Bars Collective.

Got that cool transgender clip art symbol I used in the post above from these folks, the Bent Bars Collective. They're a British group that formed specifically to build a bridge between community members and LGBTQ prisoners. What follows is an intro and link to their current newsletter, after which is the intro and link to their first newsletter. The links to each are for pdf copies so you can print and mail them to prisoners who might be interested. The writing appears to be done by GLBTQ prisoners, and may be useful in reducing the isolation that GLBTQ prisoners here struggle constantly with. Perhaps it will inspire a similar solidarity collective to form here.


Communities of Resistance is the collective's parent group; the UK has a lot of prison abolitionists. Here's their mission statement:

Communities of Resistance (CoRe) is a new grassroots initiative that aims to stop prison expansion in Britain. We oppose building new prisons, because prisons do not make our communities safe. We support and believe in developing effective, community-based solutions to social problems that do not rely on models of imprisonment.


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Second Bent Bars Newsletter Now Out!


Welcome to the second Bent Bars Newsletter. Here we bring you another collection of writing, poems, images and information contributed by folks on the inside who are part of the project.

It has been a busy year for the Bent Bars Project as our small collective has been working hard to respond to all the communication we recieve. Each week brings another large bundle of letters with new requests, news from those who have now become old friends, news of situations that anger us, bring sadness, inspire us deeply, make us laugh out lud and question our perspectives.

It is a challenge to keep track of everyone contacting us from inside and outside, but we now have more than 70 long-term penpal connections. We are really thrilled that this includes those between people who were inside penpals, were then released and are now writing to others still inside. To read more, click on the link below for a PDF version (5.4MB in size) or write to us if you'd like a paper copy sent by post.

Click here to download the Second Bent Bars Newsletter!


Bent Bars Launches First Newsletter

The Bent Bars Collective is proud to announce our first newsletter! The newsletter is written by and for prisoners and the first issue is on the topic of 'coming out' in prison.

Click on the link below for a PDF version of our first newsletter or if you would like a paper copy, please write to us and we'll send you one.

Since the Bent Bars Project began in February this year, we have received many letters from those in prison. Among the various requests we regularly receive, many asked for information about ‘coming out’ in prison. Yet all the resources we could find on ‘coming out’ were not written with prisoners in mind. So we decided to create our own resource, by asking prisoners to share thoughts and advice on the topic. We put a call out for submissions in July – and asked you to tell us about your own experiences of being out, or not out in prison, and what advice you would give to other prisoners thinking about coming out. The responses are printed here.

One of the aims of the Bent Bars Project is to build links between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer and gender-nonconforming communities (LGBTQ) inside and outside prison. We work in solidarity with those inside to build stronger community links across prison walls. Issues around 'coming out' ring true for many of us, inside and out: the attitudes of families and friends; wanting to resist being pigeon-holed and identified only by sexuality; fears about prejudice, discrimination, rejection and violence.

Clearly these difficulties are made harder for those inside, where all these problems are increased by the severity and restrictions of prison life. We want to create a space where people inside can read the feelings and perspectives of others facing similar challenges in prison. We also want to make connections between those inside and other LGBTQ people who are currently outside. Prisons magnify repression of queer communities. This repression is at the root of social exclusion that leads to over-representation of LGBTQ communities, communities of colour and low-income communities, within the prison system.

In these pages then you will read the voices of people who answered our call out for writings. The words they have sent us are powerful, moving, funny, creative and harrowing in turn. They offer valuable ideas and raise many questions.


Many prisoners who wrote to us said that we could include their full names with their submissions. Although we wanted to honour those who are “out and proud,” we decided to publish first names or nicknames only for safety reasons. We hope that one day this will not be necessary – that one we will all be free to express ourselves fully and openly.


Once again we want to thank the contributors for all they have shared. It is important also to acknowledge that people inside make many different choices in order to survive, and there are many different ways of expressing identities and sexualities. Many people do not feel safe to come out or even to write to us: for this reason our newsletter cannot be fully representative. For those not able to, or choosing not to 'come out' in prison, we want to acknowledge the strength in those silences as well as the voices heard here.


~From your friends in the Bent Bars Collective


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