Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor 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. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.

Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.

Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.

I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.

In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.

I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.

I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281.

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


ANTICOLONIAL zines, stickers, actions, power

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Kinlani/Flagstaff Mutual AID


The group for direct action against the prison state!

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Privatization watch: Keefe keeps commissary contract

Glad to hear Aramark didn't get it, at least (we tried to kick them out of ASU for not paying a living wage) - though all these folks tick it to prisoners with their prices, which in turn comes out of poor families and communities.

No word yet on the privatization of all the state prison medical services, and still waiting to hear on the new private prisons. CCA already seems to think at least one new facility will be going up in Wickenburg - they're just waiting for the ADC to put out the press release or something, so stay tuned.

------------------from the Arizona Department of Corrections' website---------------

Contract Award for Commissary Services
(RFP Solicitation 110154DC)
August 30, 2011

ADC released an RFP for Commissary services (RFP solicitation 110154DC) on April 29, 2011. Keefe Commissary Network (the current vendor), Aramark Correctional Services, and the Compass Group all submitted responses. All were evaluated and found to be susceptible for award. ADC awarded the contract to Keefe on August 26, 2011. The new contract will begin on October 2, 2011.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Deaths in Custody: Joshua Haynes

Another death under investigation -

Condolences to Joshua's loved ones.

To the rest of you guys inside: please hang in there and look out for each other...I'm sure that help is on the way, I just don't know who it will be or how they'll help, but you need to outlive your sentences, in the meantime, if you can. This fellow was only doing six years (which seems a lot for burglary...)

I'll post an update on the cause of death once I get it. If anyone knows this prisoner and can fill in the blanks so we can know him better - and find out what really happened to him - please feel free to contact me at 480-580-6807 or

- Peggy Plews

UPDATE (9/28/2011): Joshua's obituary came in today from a reader. Our condolences, again, to his loved ones.

Joshua Michael Haynes

Phoenix, AZ - Joshua Michael Haynes, 38, formerly of Springfield, lost his battle with cancer on August 25, 2011...
A celebration of Josh's life is planned for a future date.

ASPC-Yuma officer suicides.

...maybe these aren't the kinds of jobs these prison towns should be wishing for their kids to grow into. The rate of suicide among corrections officers is reportedly higher than that of regular cops...

Our condolences to Dale's friends, family, and colleagues; suicide is a devastating way to leave.

--------from the Yuma Sun------

Correction officer's death believed to be suicide

A 52-year-old corrections officer at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Yuma died in an apparent suicide last week at the prison.

The corrections officer, now identified as Dale Thomas, fatally shot himself at about 10 p.m. Wednesday night, at the complex's parking lot shortly after his shift began, according to Barrett Marson, media relations administrator for ADOC.

Thomas, who was working the overnight shift that night, was a 12-year veteran of the job, having entered service with the Department of Corrections back in September of 1999.

The Arizona State Prison Complex - Yuma is located on the corner of Avenue B and Juan Sanchez Boulevard, east of San Luis.

Marson said the incident is under investigation.

Thomas is not the first corrections officer from ASPC-Yuma to have committed suicide while on the job.

In January of 2007 a male corrections officer died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the firing range during weapons training.

James Gilbert can be reached at or 539-6854.

Brutalizing the mentally ill: Gerster's Sentencing.



Maricopa County Courthouse (W. Jefferson / 3rd Ave)
March 2011

Went to Kevin Gerster's pre-trial this AM, only to learn that he entered a plea last week to three counts: a misdemeanor for tampering with criminal records (he gave a buddy the address of a guy his ex-girlfriend was dating, and the buddy stalked and assaulted them both), as well as two aggravated assault charges for beating up his mentally ill prisoners (both are just class 6 felonies, though - charging him for assaulting "vulnerable adults", as I strongly urged the prosecutors to do, would have made it a class 2 felony).

Here's what really troubles me, though: ev
en though he's a repeat offender of violent crimes against vulnerable persons, they let him off the hook with "non-dangerous/ non-repetitive" designations on his assaults - how can aggravated assault be "non-dangerous"???? That's real BS. It's so he can get out without a felony in the end - just probation and a misdemeanor, if he behaves (see the law below)

That favor by the prosecutor may well be what helps him avoid prison for all this.
It sure minimizes his responsibility for hurting people repeatedly - the only reason he can't keep doing so is because he got caught, not because he found God or something. That's one sign of a sociopath - that and the sheer absence of a conscience.

This is all so disappointing - I really thought Prichard and her boss Bill Montgomery had what it took to really get justice in this case. That guy's going to walk with probation and community service, no doubt - despite violating all of our trust, as well as the welfare of his prisoners. God only knows how traumatized his victims still are - they'd have every reason to be afraid of the uniform of the state, now, too - as do the rest of us.

Here's Gerster's sentencing date; be there if you can:

10/21/2011 at 10:30 a.m.,
Judge William Brotherton Jr.
201 W. Jefferson St, PHX
Maricopa County Superior Court

Look for this provision to be pulled out at sentencing, so he has a chance of getting out of there without any felony charges at all (and could therefore become a rent-a-cop at your local high school or mall) .

Shame on the MCAO for not prosecuting him for abusing vulnerable adults... and this plea they gave him is hardly justice for those of us who were victimized by the breaking of our trust - on our dime - much less for the guy whose jaw he broke.


Arizona Revised Statutes
Title 13: Criminal Code

13-604. Class 6 felony; designation

A. Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, if a person is convicted of any class 6 felony not involving a dangerous offense and if the court, having regard to the nature and circumstances of the crime and to the history and character of the defendant, is of the opinion that it would be unduly harsh to sentence the defendant for a felony, the court may enter judgment of conviction for a class 1 misdemeanor and make disposition accordingly or may place the defendant on probation in accordance with chapter 9 of this title and refrain from designating the offense as a felony or misdemeanor until the probation is terminated. The offense shall be treated as a felony for all purposes until such time as the court may actually enter an order designating the offense a misdemeanor. This subsection does not apply to any person who stands convicted of a class 6 felony and who has previously been convicted of two or more felonies.

B. If a crime or public offense is punishable in the discretion of the court by a sentence as a class 6 felony or a class 1 misdemeanor, the offense shall be deemed a misdemeanor if the prosecuting attorney files any of the following:

1. An information in superior court designating the offense as a misdemeanor.

2. A complaint in justice court or municipal court designating the offense as a misdemeanor within the jurisdiction of the respective court.

3. A complaint, with the consent of the defendant, before or during the preliminary hearing amending the complaint to charge a misdemeanor.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Prison abolitionist charged with criminal damage.

State violence is criminal damage, too...

Look what finally arrived - all that stuff from June's Artwalk night got kicked down to misdemeanors. There's more to come, though, I think. I've been trying to get the attention of the Superior Court justices, not these folks handling the misdemeanors. It hasn't been easy. Hopefully I won't have to commit more felonious acts of resistance to do so...

So, I guess my arraignment for this round of graffiti ("criminal damage") is September 13 at 8:45am. Come early if you want to help me chalk the walk - I'm working on a memorial to Arpaio's victims for the Municipal Court judges...

Arizona Department of Corrections' Deaths in Custody:
Victims of prison violence/neglect
January 2009-June 2011
(suicide & homicide rates doubled under Director Ryan)


Pete Calleros, Mando Lugo, Dana Seawright, Shannon Palmer, James Jennings, Alex Usurelu, William Gray, Ulises Rodriguez, Albert Tsosie, Sean Pierce, Jeremy Pompeneo


Susan Lopez, Tony Lester, Duron Cunningham, Lasasha Cherry, Geshell Fernandez, Patricia Velez, Angela Soto, Hernan Cuevas, Jerry Kulp, Robert Medina, Eric Bybee, Erick Cervantes, Rosario Bojorquez-Rodriguez, Douglas Nunn, Monte McCarty, James Adams, Patrick Lee Ross, Caesar Bojorquez, Angel Torres, Harvey Rymer, Dung Ung, Ronald Richie, Michael Tovar, Carey Wheatley, Michael Pellicer, Jessie Cota, Luis Moscoso Hernandez

Institutional INDIFFERENCE:

Brenda Todd, Marcia Powell, Tom Reed, Edgar Vega, Huberta Parlee


Pete Childs, William Engelbert, Santana Aqualais, Carl Cresong, Christopher Francis


David Moreno, Gilberto Lopez

Friday, August 26, 2011

Build Communities not Prisons: Public Hearing feedback.

John McCain Town Hall Meeting
Goodyear Justice Center
August 23, 2011

----Editorial from The Tucson Citizen/ Cell Out Arizona-------

Prison, Privatization and Politics

By Dianne Post

The Arizona Department of Corrections conducted five public hearings regarding contracts for 5,000 beds in private, for-profit prisons. The last hearing was in Coolidge on 18 August at the City Council Chambers. I drove down from Phoenix through a sandstorm and got a good car wash as it poured rain during the hearing. Close to 200 people packed the auditorium in a sea of blue tee shirts saying “Coolidge: The right choice.” People of color were noticeably absent.

As with the hearing I attended in Goodyear on the 10th, the director of DOC, Chuck Ryan, began promptly on time and outlined the legislative action authorizing the 5,000 new beds and the process for DOC. It became apparent during the testimony that talks have been ongoing in Coolidge since early 2010.

The representative from MTC was given an hour for his presentation. He talked about “A Partnership for the Future” and the BIONIC (believe it or not I care) culture of MTC. The presentation focused on the job corp and international charity work rather than the reality of the prison facilities they already mismanage. This approach was clearly designed to mislead the audience into thinking they were some kind of charitable organization rather than the bottom-feeders they are.

They bragged about their record in Arizona in spite of the disaster in Kingman and the result that they never learned their lesson as they sued the State when the state tried to make them correct the security errors and got nearly $3 million of taxpayer dollars from that. For trying to be held accountable for letting killers escape and to clean up their act. Clearly no lesson was learned.

Rather than take their entire hour, they paraded an array of officials to the podium to sing their praises. The mayors of Coolidge and Marana, the sheriff and the chief of police, members of the board of supervisors, members of the school board, members of the city council, the Chamber of Commerce all marching in lock step.

Thirty-seven speakers followed the presentations. The first two speakers took the wind out of their sails. Vivian Haas and her son-in-law Frank Rook (not sure of spellings) are the family of the couple that was murdered by the inmates who escaped from Kingman. They told the tale of MTC’s mismanagement, incompetence and inhumanity in the wake of the murders. While they had no position on profit v. state prisons, they focused on safety and strongly urged not to reward MTC with any contracts.

Of course other speakers talked about how wonderful MTC was including some employees shipped in from Kingman. As with other hearings, the need for jobs eclipsed every other thought about the real impact of the prison. The college spoke of having an educated work force and being able to educate the staff. Students in the law enforcement program told how eager they were for jobs.

I spoke for NAACP opposing the prison for four main reasons: cost, safety, mismanagement and the inhumanity of for-profit prisons. Several speakers illustrated the debasement of our society by referring to the prisoners as good revenue sources because their presence counts for federal revenue sharing so the area would get more money. That’s like the Constitution that counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of representation. Ryan referred to “loading in the facility” when he meant sending inmates – now reduced to items of commerce – to Kingman. People are not cost centers. They are human beings with human rights.

Peggy Plews spoke about the surfeit of human rights in prisons and asked the group to form a citizens oversight committee and to be committed to human rights. I didn’t notice anyone writing down her website. Emily Verdugo a local resident and education coordinator for the Democratic Party in Pinal County spoke about the lack of vision of local leaders to seek a prison as the only industry for the town. She feared that with a prison in the city limits, education would never be funded. She pointed out that prisons are put in towns with a poorly educated populace and what was the message for Coolidge?

Susan Hower from Tubac spoke as the former head of New Jersey DOC and pointed out that MTC had made lots of promises but the reality and the research proves that such promises do not come true. Other businesses do not follow a prison and economic development does not occur. Good jobs do not materialize as often other prisons are closed and those jobs are just moved. In Bullhead City, inmates from Kingman are replacing city workers and good jobs being lost. The work is tough and the turnover very high for the low pay and high stress. She pointed out that DOC had withheld $44,000 from Kingman MTC and $54,000 from Marana MTC for failure to fill the jobs they had. Of course vacant positions mean more profit for the corporation. Lastly she pointed out the debacle in Texas where MTC left a town high and dry with an $837,000 loss after they fled the town.

The next speaker Rachael Wilson asked pointed questions about how the financing would work. After some tough cross examination, in which the MTC representative said – trust me, we have been doing this for 17 years - she established that Wall Street investors would buy the bonds and then the State of Arizona – with your tax dollars – would pay them back. Do you trust Wall Street? Do you trust MTC? The contract is only on a five-year option so MTC can bail in five years with the money and leave us stuck with the debt. Terry Stewart, former DOC head and now a shill for MTC, also tried the “trust me” route but got no better reception as the speaker pointed out it would be to the advantage of DOC to decrease prison population but to the advantage of MTC and other for-profit prisons to increase prison population. She asked the recidivism rate and DOC’s only answer was that it was 24.8% for all prisons combined – private and state – and they could not break out the numbers separately. Don’t believe it.

DOC came in for its share of criticism from Lucy Shep from Tucson for not monitoring its contracts with the private prisons. She forced DOC to admit that the law requires that every two years a comparison be done between state and private prisons and though we have had private prisons in Arizona for 17 years, one has NEVER been done. Ryan claimed one would be done by June 2012 – too late for this decision making process.

Frank Smith from the Private corrections Institute spoke and outlined the history of lies about private prisons – the failure of jobs, the low pay, the lack of benefits, the lack of economic development, the turn over, the lack of safety, and the excessive cost. He encouraged the audience, as had earlier speakers, to do their own research and not believe the fantasies told by DOC and MTC.

Roberto Reveles, president of the Board of ACLU, opposed privatization because of the mismanagement of the prisons, especially by MTC. He reiterated that they don’t save money, are not safe, focus on profit and are not accountable. No cost benefit analysis exists so there is no rationale to do this and the state is fiscally irresponsible to spend this money at this time.

You still have time to speak up. Comments are due by the end of August to: Procurement, ADOC, 1645 W. Jefferson, Phoenix, 85007. Specify in the document that you are writing about the 5,000 private prison bid RFP. Send copies of your letters to both your state representatives and your state senator and the governor.

As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Peace, Mom.

My mother, Jean Boatman, passed away yesterday afternoon in Fountain Hills. Her memorial service is to be held Saturday, August 27, at 10am at Fountains United Methodist Church, 15300 North Fountain Hills Boulevard, in Fountain Hills.

Thank you all for your prayers and kind wishes.
Tell someone you love them today in lieu of sending flowers.

And thanks for joining me so wholeheartedly on this journey Mom; you are such a beautiful soul, and have been a dear friend. Thank you for believing in us all.

Have a safe trip home...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Terry Stewart: Grassrooots Leadership Hall of Shame.

from the Grassroots Leadership Blog, some insights on former AZ Department of Corrections Director Terry Stewart...


Welcome to The Humpday Hall of Shame – every Wednesday we’ll highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

This week’s Hall of Shame inductee is Terry Stewart, former Arizona Department of Corrections (ADOC) director and current Management and Training Corporation consultant. Over the past several weeks, Stewart has reportedly been at all five community hearings debating bids on the State of Arizona’s RFP for a 5,000-bed for-profit prison expansion. MTC is one of four private prison corporations attempting to secure a contract under the bid for the new private prisons.

Terry Stewart has quite the resume. He served as ADOC director from 1995 until 2002. His second-in-command was none other than current ADOC director Charles Ryan, the man who is now in charge of awarding the contracts for the new private prison beds. In those days, dissatisfied correctional officers referred to Stewart as “The Emperor” and Deputy Director Charles Ryan as “Darth Vader,” according to an article in the Phoenix New Times (“The Vampire Strikes Back,” August 8, 2002).

As ADOC Director, Stewart was a proponent of prison privatization claiming that private facilities would be cheaper to build (though a later New York Times article found they are in fact more expensive than public facilities to operate). Under Stewart’s leadership, the department was sued by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division over a pattern of sexual assault against female prisoners by male prison guards. The suit was settled after the Arizona Department of Corrections agreed to make major changes to prison practices (“Arizona DOC Settlement Agreement Addresses Abuse of Female Inmates,” Corrections Professional, April 23, 1999).

After his stint at the DOC, Stewart went to work as a prison privatization consultant, starting his own firm, Advanced Correctional Management (ACM). ACM pushed prison privatization as early as 2003, only a year after Stewart’s departure from ADOC (The Associated Press, “Former Dept. of Corrections chief involved with firm bidding to build new prison,” August 9, 2003). Stewart was also supported a proposal to build a for-profit prison in Mexico for Arizona inmates of Mexican nationality that was eventually defeated, in part because of Mexican government opposition.

However, Stewart’s international prison work was not over. Stewart was a part of a team, including former MTC chief Lane McCotter, that set up the Iraqi prison system, including the Abu Ghraib facility that would later become synonymous with prisoner abuse. Senator Chuck Schumer called for an investigation into how Stewart won the job in Iraq given his “shocking record of tolerating prisoner abuse” while in Arizona. The charges were investigated by the Department of Justice, though officials failed to fault Stewart for directly abusing detainees in Iraqi prisons.

Despite the bad press, Stewart continues pushing prison projects. In addition to his current work for MTC, Stewart has also contributed at least $1,950 to a host of right-wing Arizona candidates and causes over the years, including pro-privatization and SB 1070 supporters like State Representative Andy Biggs, who we profiled last week, as well as State Senator Al Melvin and State Senator Sylvia Allen, who was quoted in the Arizona Republic (Bob Ortega, “Winslow mostly open to prison plan,” August 12, 2011) as saying, “”I personally will cry if my district doesn’t get part of these 5,000 beds.”

Justice Policy, Data and Veterans

"Remember our buddies in prison"
Veterans' Day, 2010
Phoenix, AZ

----------from the Justice Policy Institute--------

Is Data Doing Justice to our Veterans?

Following my own military service, I experienced homelessness and plenty of justice contact. In addition, I watched far too many other veterans live shattered lives, in many cases dying at far too young of an age. I had hoped to not see this happen again, but I am afraid, unless things change rapidly, it will be so. And while there are many fronts that need to be worked on, until we have accurate data on the scope of the problems our vets are currently facing, we cannot begin to come up with solutions.

In spring 2008, I was part of a group of veterans’ advocates, criminal justice professionals, federal employees and researchers gathered to brainstorm around what had become, by then, an issue of note: the large numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were experiencing some level of contact with our criminal justice systems. The product that resulted from this meeting was a policy brief entitled, “Responding to the Needs of Justice-Involved Combat Veterans with Service-Related Trauma and Mental Health Conditions.” The brief noted that on any given day, nine out of 100 men in jail or prison is a veteran; this figure, it stated, was in line with the percentage of the general population that are veterans – that is, veterans were not over-represented in the justice system.

Coming up with an accurate statistical picture of what is really taking place should be one of the first tasks undertaken by any stakeholder confronting an issue. As an advocate for the many veterans who have ended up in prison or jail, it was difficult to believe that “by the numbers,” there was no reason to be concerned. This led me to ask, what do we really know about veterans’ justice system involvement? Rather than my being mistaken about what seemed to me to be a significant problem of veterans behind bars, could it be that the “facts” were wrong?

As I came to find out through my own digging, in this country we had very little in terms of a reliable national body of statistics in this area prior to 1981. It was in that year that the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics published a report on veterans in prison in the form of a six-page bulletin. The bulletin noted no difference between incarceration rates for veterans versus members of the general population. The observation was later echoed in the press release issued prior to the release of the second DOJ report in 2000.

I began looking to see if this data contained methodological flaws and/or possible oversights. The first consideration would be whether the Veterans population could be considered equivalent to the general population. One salient difference that struck me was that people in the military were “pre-screened” prior to military service at point of enlistment or draft. For instance, someone with a diagnosed serious mental illness – which we know to be correlated with more justice involvement in the general population – would have most likely not been eligible to serve. And someone with serious prior justice involvement – another characteristic that makes a person statistically higher risk for future arrest or incarceration – also wouldn’t be accepted into the military. Given these significant differences in the two populations, incarceration rates between veterans and the general population should be expected to be different: veterans should be expected to have lower rates of incarceration. That they reportedly have similar rates should have been of note.

Regarding the data itself, people are not required to declare whether they are veterans when they are arrested or become incarcerated. We therefore have to date relied on surveys. The DOJ-BJS 2000 and 2004 (released in 2007) surveys, done in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, were based upon contact with one percent of all state and federal prison inmates. Of our more than 12,000 state and federal prison facilities, the surveys were conducted in a mere 254 facilities, the identify of which has not been released. This is a problem when one considers that in many states there may be facilities which take higher numbers of inmates who are veterans – for example, around military bases. It is critically important to know in which prisons the surveys were conducted if we are to state with any degree of certainty a difference or similitude in incarceration rates between veterans and general population members.

A further set of concerns arises when we stop to consider what we mean by justice contact for veterans. Are we referring to federal and state prison inmates alone, or do we also include those locally incarcerated and those on probation and parole? What about arrests? The next DOJ-BJS survey is not slated to be conducted until the year 2013 and, based on the prior surveys, will probably not be publicly released until the year 2015. Needless to say, obtaining even a marginal understanding of the emerging picture for veterans in justice will come too late for far too many. Aside from the DOJ and BJS, the Veterans Administration is another possible source of information. However, to date there has been a level of resistance toward the release of any data-sets at all.

Finally, another array of concerns and questions arises around the issue of ethnic and racial statistics. During the Vietnam era, the percentage of “minority” service members within the totality of our Armed Forces was at 15%. In today’s Armed Forces, however, over 40% are soldiers of color. Despite a number of longitudinal studies conducted in the wake of Vietnam, which noted distinctive characteristics for minority population veterans – particularly with regard to such germane topical areas as a culturally-specific resistance to mental health care treatment and diagnosis – very little action has been undertaken to address the concerns raised. In terms of the statistical picture necessary to fully understand possible disparate justice involvement by veterans of color, in the DOJ-BJS Bulletin from 1981 it was noted that nine States did not distinguish between Hispanic-Latino and Caucasian veterans. In the latter surveys, it was noted that Latino veterans were incarcerated at a higher rate than Latino non-veterans, but failed to clarify whether the previously omitted data-sets from the aforementioned nine states were then included.

In addition, given the abiding racial disparities in our justice system, it is surprising that statistics indicate that Black veterans are incarcerated at lower rates than non-veterans. Yet no one is looking to see whether, for example, there is under-reporting of veteran status by African Americans (or whether, as noted earlier, those prisons surveyed may not have been representative).

In order to obtain answers to questions such as why better statistics aren’t available and who will look into what appear to be jarringly unexpected numbers, federal agencies need to be held accountable; and we can start with the Department of Justice.

Those within the upper echelons of DOD or the VA tend to downplay the numbers and the problem in general, often implying it’s just a few “bad apples.” More than 200,000 homeless veterans is not a minor difficulty. Nearly a quarter million veterans in our prisons is not a small problem. As is so often the case in contemporary America, those who are impacted by problems within a given focal area are very often in the least advantageous position to advocate on their own behalf; and not having the facts needed to push for better change is unconscionable. For the hundreds of veterans’ families that have tried to help when their sons or daughters come home only to end up in a jail cell, these are not esoteric concerns or a far-removed research topic. These men and women live the realities of lives that were put on the line at the nation’s behest and were subsequently forgotten. Of the perhaps 75 people calling the shots on addressing veterans in justice across a variety of organizations, two served in the military. None of them, to my knowledge, was ever justice-involved.

The incarceration rates for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will exceed those of the Vietnam era easily. By 2015, without swift action, we can expect to see an influx of young veterans behind bars. Right now, a complex bureaucratic research and policy system is failing to deliver even the basic information needed to address these problems. We can do better.

Guy Gambill, a veteran of the armed services, will spend his 18-month fellowship advocating for alternatives to arrest and incarceration for veterans. Gambill most recently held positions as the Research and Policy Director at the Veterans Initiatives Center & Research Institute and as the Advocacy Coordinator for the Council on Crime and Justice, both in Minneapolis, Minnesota. An Army vet, Gambill did a tour of duty in Germany and received an Honorable Discharge in 1988. For his service, he received the Army Achievement Medal, Primary Leadership Development Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, and Presidential Unit Citation.

Criminalizing America to profit the few...

is it any wonder? The more these private prison companies take hold in Arizona, the more we'll be seeing crime perpetuated (what incentive do they have to help bring it down?), and the more laws we'll pass sending vulnerable people (homeless, mentally ill, developmentally disabled, addicts) to prison who could be rehabilitated in the community, by their communities.

Anyway, this is a report well worth checking out and forwarding to legislators - especially those from districts where prisons are being proposed.

--------from the Justice Policy Institute---------

Gaming the System: How the Political Strategies of Private Prison Companies Promote Ineffective Incarceration Policies

At a time when many policymakers are looking at criminal and juvenile justice reforms that would safely shrink the size of our prison population, the existence of private prison companies creates a countervailing interest in preserving the current approach to criminal justice and increasing the use of incarceration.

While private prison companies may try to present themselves as just meeting existing demand for prison beds and responding to current market conditions, in fact they have worked hard over the past decade to create markets for their product. As revenues of private prison companies have grown over the past decade, the companies have had more resources with which to build political power, and they have used this power to promote policies that lead to higher rates of incarceration.

For-profit private prison companies primarily use three strategies to influence policy: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and building relationships, networks, and associations.

As policymakers and the public are increasingly coming to understand that incarceration is not only breaking the bank, but it’s also not making us safer, will this shrink the influence of private prison companies? Or will they use their growing financial muscle to consolidate and expand into even more areas of the justice system? Much will depend on the extent that people understand the role for-profit private prison companies have already played in raising incarceration rates and harming people and communities, and take steps to ensure that in the future, community safety and well-being, and not profits, drive our justice policies. One thing is certain: in this political game, the private prison industry will look out for their own interests.


(PDF)Full Report
Press Release

Other Resources

Lobbying and campaign contribution figures: Center for Responsive Politics
Money in state politics: National Institute for Money in State Politics

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Flanagan: The closing of Catalina.

An editorial to the AZ Daily Star from the Director of the Department of Juvenile Corrections...


Catalina facility's closure, move ultimately will serve troubled youths better

Charles Flanagan

"The deepest definition of youth is life as yet untouched by tragedy."

- Alfred North Whitehead

While the vast majority of Arizona's youths never have problems with criminal conduct, some do. There are many factors that can often derail these young people on the path to adulthood, leading them toward self-destructive behavior. The Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections believes that rehabilitation, treatment, education and positive enforcement are the most effective avenues for getting our young people back on the right track to live happy, safe and productive lives. I firmly believe in the agency's vision: "Safer Communities Through Successful Youth."

As the new director for the department, one of my goals is to provide troubled youths with the best resources possible in order to turn their lives around. As part of this charge, I am making some changes to more effectively serve the entire state and provide the widest possible range of services to each of the youths in our custody so that we can successfully reintegrate them into our shared communities. Most prominent among these changes is the planned closure of Catalina Mountain School in Pima County.

By the end of September, the 70-74 youths currently at Catalina Mountain will be transferred to the Department's Adobe Mountain/Black Canyon complex in Maricopa County. This relocation will accomplish several goals. It allows the department to close its most outdated unit (Catalina Mountain was built in 1967); takes advantage of efficiencies by consolidating youths and services at a single complex; and makes available the state's full range of programs and treatment options to every child in the state's custody and care.

The goal of this plan is to provide a concentration of all resources and services on a single campus, making available specialized treatment for substance abuse, mental health concerns and sex offenders. Currently, specialized treatment for mental health issues and sex offenders is not available at Catalina Mountain School, which also houses only male youths. Consolidation also will allow the department to add a Skills-4-Work program to the Adobe Mountain School, enabling youths to learn trades associated with culinary arts, cosmetology, building trades, sewing, fire science, working with wildlife and other technical careers.

The consolidation of youths, staff and programs to a single complex will result in estimated cost savings to the state of nearly $1.5 million in fiscal 2012 and $3.8 million in fiscal 2013. In fact, we anticipate a savings of approximately $100 per youth, per day, by combining operations rather than maintaining the Catalina Mountain School.

I understand this closure and relocation will result in disruption for some department staffers and families of youths in custody. The department's goal is to employ or facilitate the employment of the majority of Catalina Mountain School employees. The concentration of staff at one facility will enhance coverage for youths in crisis and provide a larger, more professionally diverse staff with expertise in a range of areas.

Additionally, the department will make available video visitation in Tucson for families of youths from Southeastern Arizona who are relocated to the Adobe Mountain/Black Canyon complex. The department also will maintain the area's parole services, private-sector service providers and community service activities, and is exploring the establishment of halfway houses.

The Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections takes seriously its mission to positively impact the thought process and behavior pattern of youths in its custody. I believe the consolidation of services and programs to our Adobe Mountain/Black Canyon complex will help us perform that mission more effectively and efficiently.

By joining together in this effort, we have the tremendous opportunity to provide a positive outcome for troubled youths.

Charles Flanagan is director of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections.

ADC officer arrested for child sexual abuse.

More on the good character of people in uniform sworn to protect us, working the "hardest beat in the state". If you think the women at Perryville prison in Goodyear aren't also vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by the people with the keys to their chains, think again. As is the case with minors, there is no such thing as consensual sex with a prisoner...

Please: AZ Legislature, DOJ, ACLU, someone get an investigation going out there.


Corrections officer arrested in Mesa, suspected of sex with minor

Mesa police arrested a Department of Corrections officer and his brother on suspicion of having sex with two girls aged 15 and 16 on three separate occasions.

Officers arrested Corrections Officer Leon Scott, 34, at 9:20 p.m. Friday. His 24-year-old, unemployed brother, Anthony Kniffin, was taken into custody at 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

Both men were identified by the victims, and each confessed to having sexual conduct with them, according to a police report. Scott has been employed as a corrections officer at Arizona State Prison in Florence, according to Department of Corrections Spokesman Barrett Marson.

Scott and Kniffin both confessed that three separate sexual encounters with the girls took place in June and July, according to a report.

Both men admitted knowing the girls were underage, but said they did not believe the girls when they initially told them their ages. Police documents indicated both men were present during the discussion of one of the victims' planned sweet 16 party.

All three of the encounters reportedly took place in the men's apartment, police reported. The victims' mother had previously had a brief relationship with Kniffin's brother, police said.

According to Sgt. Ed Wessing, spokesman for Mesa Police, the mother of one of the victims learned of the sexual conduct through a post on her daughter's Facebook profile.

Cell-out-arizona: Private Prison Lies.

Wes Bolin Plaza / AZ State Capitol Complex
February 2011

-------------thanks to the AFSC-Tucson for the following insights--------

Top 10 Lies Told By Private Prison Corporations at the Arizona Hearings

Tucson Citizen
by cell-out-arizona on Aug. 22, 2011

It’s been a hot summer in Arizona, but there were a lot of private prison corporate executives whose pants were on fire over the past two weeks. On the plus side, our crop yields will set records this year due to the amount of b.s. that we just got showered with.

Over the past two weeks, the Arizona Dept. of Corrections (ADC) conducted public hearings on proposed private prisons in 5 Arizona towns: Eloy, Goodyear, Winslow, San Luis/Yuma, and Coolidge. At each hearing, the ADC gave a presentation on the bidding process, the Corporation gave a (sometimes quite lengthy) presentation on how awesome they think they are, and members of the public got 5 minutes apiece to raise concerns, ask questions, or, in many cases, beg them for jobs.

In their efforts to win a multi-million dollar contract, the corporations—CCA, GEO Group, MTC, and LaSalle—told some real whoppers. Here are our favorites, plus the truth that they are trying to hide.

Lie # 10: “No immigrant prisoners have died in CCA’s Eloy Detention Center.”

When asked about an ACLU investigation that revealed the Eloy Detention Center had the most inmate deaths of any detention center in the US, CCA’s talking head said it just never happened.

But records from the US Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement prove that nine immigrants have died while in custody at Eloy since 2003, two more than reported at any other facility. The deaths were only discovered because of an ACLU lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act asking for a comprehensive list of deaths in 2007. In April, the Department of Homeland Security released a list of 90 individuals who died while in custody.

Just because CCA tried to cover the deaths up doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.

Lie # 9: “Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

At all the hearings, the sales pitch was the same: This prison will create umpteen construction jobs and kazillions of guard jobs. The corporations are manipulating the financial distress of rural Arizona towns to get themselves a multi-million dollar contract. So, what will the people of the next Arizona Prison Town get?

Well, they’ll get a few jobs, but not nearly the number they were promised. Here’s why:

  • Private prison corporations are based in other states. They are huge companies and bring in their own architects and construction companies. They usually have relationships with distributors, and because buying in bulk is cheaper, they will go with those companies over local ones. They will tell you that they will “try” to use as many local vendors “as possible,” but then they will determine that those local vendors are not competitive in their pricing or cannot handle the volume and they will go with the ones that they usually use.
  • These towns are tapped out. Every one of them already has at least one prison or a prison nearby. Eloy has several. Pinal County, where Eloy and Coolidge are located, has 6 CCA prisons, two entire state prison complexes (with about 5 units each), a few federal detention centers, and a county jail that also rents out space to CCA.
  • The private prisons can’t keep people in the jobs they have now. The Arizona Republic has reported that, “This year, through the end of June, the state has withheld about $844,000 from Kingman, $54,000 from Marana (also operated by MTC) and about $6,000 from Geo Group’s Phoenix West and Florence West prisons for failing to fill vacant positions quickly enough.”

Obviously, working in a prison isn’t for everyone. These are difficult jobs, with long hours, and stressful conditions. One corrections officer described it as “long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.” Not every unemployed person in this town is going to want to work in the prison. Or they will get a job there and quit shortly after.

Oh, and here’s another interesting twist: The Yuma Sun recently reported that Bullhead City has reached a deal with the Arizona Department of Corrections and Management and Training Corporation for inmates from the Arizona State Prison in Kingman to perform park and street maintenance work in the city. That’s right: Instead of creating jobs, they are tossing Bullhead City residents out of these low wage jobs and replacing them with prison labor. How many jobs will be lost there? How many other towns will follow suit?

Lie #8: “The prison will bring economic development to your town.”

Decades worth of research proves that prisons are not good economic growth for towns.

  • In states with at least one private prison as of 1990, prisons have been shown to reduce the number of jobs overall in a community. You might get prison jobs, but you won’t get other kinds of jobs that pay better.
  • Private prisons pay less, which means that state prisons have to compete, driving wages down for everyone.
  • As mentioned previously, relatively few corrections officers live in the same town as the prison where they work, which means they spend their money somewhere else. One study estimates that up to two-thirds of potential tax revenues and other economic benefits leave the host community in this way.
  • Having a prison nearby is not a draw for other kinds of businesses, and in many cases will scare them away. Who wants to build a housing development or school near a prison? Many Arizona towns are cultivating tourism due to historic landmarks and buildings, natural beauty, or scenery—what happens when you plop a huge prison with hundreds of feet of razor wire down in the middle of a historic area or pristine natural landscape?

One need go no further than Florence, AZ to see the true economic impacts of being a prison town. You can bet they heard the exact same sales pitch when those prisons were proposed. Where is the economic boom they were promised? Where are the stores? The industry? The housing developments? If prisons are so great for local economies, why doesn’t Florence have a thriving downtown?

The bottom line is, once you have prisons, all you will ever have is prisons.

One final note: Several residents noted during the hearings that Arizona is in a very sorry state when the only type of economic development offered to people is from an industry that is so harmful to our communities in so many ways. One retired firefighter at the Goodyear hearing put it this way: “Our fire station budget was cut and many firefighters were laid off. But we don’t go around saying, ‘we need more fires.’”

Lie #7: “We’ve learned from our mistakes.”

You gotta hand it to them—it takes some serious moxie to tell people that, because of your company’s gross negligence resulting in two deaths, your prisons are now the safest in the state. Especially when we know that MTC dragged its feet on fixing the problems at Kingman and only got its act together when the state stopped paying them.

A security audit of Arizona’s private prisons completed after the escapes reveals that the problems at Kingman are endemic to all private prisons in the state. Here’s what it found:

“At the three Geo prisons – Florence West, Phoenix West and the Central Arizona Correctional Facility – Corrections Department inspectors found such issues as inmates having access to a control panel that could open emergency exits; an alarm system that didn’t ring properly when doors were opened or left ajar; and that staff didn’t carry out such basic security practices as searching commissary trucks and drivers, among many other failures.

At MTC’s Marana prison, there were broken monitors, a control-room panel that didn’t work, missing perimeter lights, missing razor wire, missing visitor passes. Marana’s swamp coolers – in August, in Arizona – weren’t working, making it hotter inside the prison buildings than outside.”

You can read the full report, obtained through a public records request by Arizona Republic reporter Bob Ortega, on the Republic website.

Not only did MTC resist making the necessary fixes to Kingman demanded by the Department of Corrections, they threatened to sue us for attempting to hold them accountable. When ADC pulled our prisoners out after the escapes and refused to pay MTC until the security problems were fixed, MTC threatened to sue us for $10 million. Because they have better lawyers and more money than God, we rolled over. We paid this corporation $3 million for empty beds—beds that were empty due to their gross negligence, which resulted in two deaths.

Clearly, this is not a corporation that “learns from its mistakes. It’s a company that is wholly unaccountable for its mistakes.

Lie #6: GEO Group’s contract to run the Cook County juvenile detention center was cancelled because the state wanted to move the facilities from rural to urban areas, NOT because of the rampant abuse of children by GEO’s guards.

Baloney. The New York Times reported that “Juvenile detainees as young as 13 years old slept on filthy mats in dormitories with broken, overflowing toilets and feces smeared on the walls. Denied outside recreation for weeks at a time, they ate bug-infested food, did school work that consisted of little more than crossword puzzles and defecated in bags.”

In response, Texas “has transferred the 197 offenders in Bronte to other institutions, fired seven monitoring officials and canceled an $8 million contract with the GEO Corporation, the prison company in Boca Raton, Fla., that managed the center. The state has also opened a criminal investigation and a review of the adult prisons run by GEO.”

Lie #5: “Our security system is state-of-the-art”

I would bet a large sum of money that this exact same pitch was made to the people of Kingman when that prison was built. They might have fancy technology, but does it work? And if it stops working, will they fix it? See the security audit referenced under Lie #5—broken monitors, control-room panels that don’t work, alarms that don’t ring properly, malfunctioning security cameras. These problems were found in all our private prisons.

Technology is only as good as the people using it. We consistently hear after a riot or escape that a for-profit prison was having “staffing issues.” That pay was low, there was a lack of training, and the guards were inexperienced. Clearly, ADC has gotten wise and is requiring contractors to provide the same training as the state—it’s written into the RFP. But that doesn’t address the turnover problem. Those folks might get trained, but they won’t stick around. That means that a large percentage of the staff is inexperienced and unlikely to know how to handle a dangerous situation. One report stated that 80% of the guards at Kingman were recent hires.

At Kingman, the guards were propping those state-of-the-art security doors open with rocks. They ignored those high-tech alarms when they went off. The ADC monitor was either asleep at the switch or being blown off by Central office. As they say, “you can’t fix stupid.”

Lie #4: “The town is not taking any risks in the financing scheme for the prison”

Prison construction for private facilities is almost always financed through lease revenue bonds. They generally create an “Industrial Development Authority” or “Public Facilities Corporation,” which is essentially a paper tiger created through the city or county. The reason they fund through this mechanism is because they don’t want to take the risk, carry the paper, nor pay the interest.

When industrial revenue bonds are issued, the public is often told that neither the local government nor the taxpayers will be obligated or negatively affected in any way if the project fails. While it’s true that revenue bonds are not a general obligation of the issuer, it is not true that governments and taxpayers will be unaffected by the risks of the project.

The debt is paid off with the money received as per-diem payments for each inmate housed. This looks great on paper, but what happens when there are no inmates?

The savvy businessperson approaches any financing project asking “where is the market?” In this case, the financing for these prisons is dependent on a guaranteed occupancy of state prisoners. Yet the Arizona Auditor General reports that our prison population grew by only 65 prisoners in 2010. And there’s a movement afoot in the state legislature to reduce our prison population as 25+other states have done through sensible reforms to criminal sentencing laws favoring cheaper alternatives like probation, drug treatment, and house arrest.

If there’s no market, then these projects are doomed to fail. And what will happen to the town then? What if the corporation gets a better offer somewhere else and decides to pull out of the contract? What if Arizona’s prison population goes down?

Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what the Director of the Oklahoma DOC said after Arizona pulled its inmates out of a private prison there: He said the private prison industry is a speculative market. “It is not immune to recession and trends in sentencing and crime,” Jones said. “A lot of states have gone back and applied research to their sentencing practices, which results in sentences that are more evidence-based, and that obviously affects a market that relies upon incarceration.”

There are numerous cautionary examples of towns facing default struggling to pay the debt on an empty prison: Hardin, MT is one of the most notable. The town there got so desperate that they actually asked the state to send them sex offenders and lobbied the Obama administration to send Guantanamo detainees. A few weeks ago, the town of Littlefield, TX had to hold a public auction to sell a prison there so that they could pay the debt on the facility after GEO group cancelled its contract and left the town holding the bag.

Even if the town isn’t directly responsible for paying the debt on the prison, a default on the bond can affect the town’s credit rating (kinda like S&P just did to the United States). That can make it difficult for the town to borrow money for other needed projects like new schools or a hospital. Some towns have taken desperate measures to try to pay the debt on a prison in an effort to avoid default, including raising taxes and cutting other critical city budgets. A bond default can also make a city the target of costly litigation, further draining the town’s coffers.

Lie #3: “It’s impossible to measure recidivism from our prisons, because the prisoners may be housed in several different facilities during their incarceration.”—Terry Stewart, former Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections and now consultant for MTC

We asked every one of the companies what their recidivism rate was, and none of them had an answer. Isn’t that convenient? These companies can make claims about how they supposedly are “changing lives” and rehabilitating people, and they don’t even have to prove it.

Probation departments, social service providers and re-entry programs all measure recidivism. They don’t say, “well, this guy is also getting services at the VA and the food bank, so there’s no way to measure the impact of our programs.”

Let’s face it–these corporations know that their recidivism rate won’t be any better than the state’s and probably worse.

What’s more, the Arizona Department of Corrections has all this data, they just won’t go to the trouble to analyze it. They could easily do a comparison between state prisoners who have been housed in private prisons at any point in their incarceration, and those who have only been in state facilities.

Lie #2: “What lawsuits?”

When directly asked whether the company had settled lawsuits over abusive conditions in its juvenile prisons in Michigan and Louisiana, GEO Group representatives hemmed and hawed and refused to answer the question. We consider this the same as lying.

As reported in the Dallas Morning News, GEO not only faced lawsuits over bad conditions, but they actually lost contracts due to their abuses.

The U.S. Justice Department sued the company in 2000, when it was known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., alleging that juveniles at the company’s Louisiana facility were subjected to excessive abuse and neglect. Wackenhut agreed to a settlement that provided for sweeping changes to Louisiana’s juvenile justice system and required the company to move all juveniles from its facility. The former security chief pleaded guilty in 2001 to beating a 17-year-old handcuffed inmate with a mop handle. In October 2005, Michigan closed the state’s private youth prison run by GEO after an advocacy group sued the prison over inadequate inmate care.

And, rather than accepting responsibility for its actions, the company turned around and sued the state of Michigan for wrongful termination of contract. How’s that for being a “good corporate citizen”?

And the #1 Lie told at the Arizona Hearings: “I’m accountable to you”—George Zoley, CEO of GEO Group

Waaah! Ha! Ha! Good one, George! About 30 seconds after uttering this whopper, Zoley proceeded to tell the crowd that GEO does not even bother to measure recidivism and then refused to disclose how much money he makes. Accountability, indeed.

Fortunately, Frank Smith of Private Corrections Working Group was in attendance and informed the crowd that Zoley made $16 million last year. Zoley’s pay, he pointed out, is a matter of public record. As a follow up, Frank provided us with the exact figures. Zoley’s salary, per, was $3,825,433. He made $23 million in stock trades in the last 18 months.

Just a note to the boys at GEO corporate—don’t send Zoley to these things. He creeps people out.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

At the Mercy of the Court: Deaths in Custody.

This is an SOS to the justices of the Maricopa County Superior Court, which is filling the prisons with vulnerable people. Please contact the Department of Justice about a CRIPA investigation, or initiate an independent judicial inquiry into the doubling of the suicide and homicide rates over the past 2 1/2 years among prisoners of the Arizona Department of Corrections, and the neglect and abuse in particular of women prisoners. These folks should get you started; the list of the dead still grows...

Prisoner Names Project: Appeal to Justice
Maricopa County Superior Court /Cesar Chavez Plaza

Phoenix, AZ (August 21, 2011)


Arizona Department of Corrections' Deaths in Custody
January 2009-June 2011
(suicide & homicide rates have doubled)


Pete Calleros, Mando Lugo, Dana Seawright, Shannon Palmer, James Jennings, Alex Usurelu, William Gray, Ulises Rodriguez, Albert Tsosie, Sean Pierce, Jeremy Pompeneo


Susan Lopez, Tony Lester, Duron Cunningham, Lasasha Cherry, Geshell Fernandez, Patricia Velez, Angela Soto, Hernan Cuevas, Jerry Kulp, Robert Medina, Eric Bybee, Erick Cervantes, Rosario Bojorquez-Rodriguez, Douglas Nunn, Monte McCarty, James Adams, Patrick Lee Ross, Caesar Bojorquez, Angel Torres, Harvey Rymer, Dung Ung, Ronald Richie, Michael Tovar, Carey Wheatley, Michael Pellicer, Jessie Cota, Luis Moscoso-Hernandez

Institutional INDIFFERENCE:

Brenda Todd, Marcia Powell, Tom Reed, Edgar Vega, Huberta Parlee


Pete Childs, William Engelbert, Santana Aqualais, Carl Cresong, Christopher Francis

To contact the DOJ:

Jonathan M. Smith, Chief
U.S. DOJ Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Patrick Henry Building / 950 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

(202) 514-6255
toll-free at (877) 218-5228

AZ Republic: Coolidge the "Right Choice" for MTC Prison.

As you can see from the article, I was there. It was a very sad night; I didn't even try to sway public opinion against the prison - just in favor of institutional transparency and community responsibility for human rights' protections. MTC's proposal is seen by the whole town as a fix-all for everything: one woman even said she thinks it will help bring God back into the schools, to great applause. These folks are already surrounded by Pinal County's prisons but their economy is profoundly depressed and the unemployment rate is still nearly 20% - why do they really think more prisons will make things better?

Anyway, this is just the mainstream media coverage; I'll comment on all the private prison public hearings separately. If anyone gets a private prison built in their town soon, though, I'd bet it will probably be Coolidge.

---------from the Arizona Republic--------

Coolidge voices desire to land new prison

Bob Ortega
Arizona Republic
August 19, 2011

COOLIDGE - Coolidge leaders pushed hard Thursday for a private prison to be built in their city.

Beneath a huge banner reading "New Prison Facility (Jobs)," dozens of city boosters in blue "Coolidge - The Right Choice" T-shirts supplied by the city packed the City Council chambers for the last of five public hearings around the state about a proposed private-prison expansion.

"Our unemployment rate has risen to 20.4 percent," said Mayor Thomas Shope, "and 400 to 800 new jobs would put a substantial dent in that."

He added that the city could use the tax boost, which he estimated at $2 million a year

Management and Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah, is proposing to build a 3,000- or 5,000-bed facility in Coolidge under contract with Arizona's Department of Corrections. The company is one of four bidders.

Shope said city leaders and most of the community solidly support MTC's proposal and are confident the company could provide good security.

But MTC's security lapses in last year's escape of three convicts from its Kingman prison did not go unnoted, again drawing fire from the family of slain couple Gary and Linda Haas. Federal prosecutors accuse two of the escapees of kidnapping, killing and then burning the Oklahoma couple.

"They were murdered because MTC could not do its job," said Vivian Haas, Gary's mother, echoing comments she made Tuesday at a hearing in San Luis.

Haas, who traveled three days by car from Missouri to testify, asked the Corrections Department not to reward MTC for its failures.

A parade of subsequent speakers from Coolidge, both official and unofficial, though, largely supported MTC, expressing more interest in gaining jobs and economic benefits than about any risks involved.

As in several earlier hearings, those speakers opposing the proposal or raising questions about the need for a private-prison expansion were mostly from elsewhere.

"When's the last time you took a shopping trip to Florence or Eloy?" asked Susan Maurer, a retired director of corrections for New Jersey who now lives in Tubac, warning that other economic development wouldn't necessarily follow.

Peggy Plews, a human-rights activist, took a different tack.

"If you get a prison here, please take responsibility for the people in the prison," she asked residents, encouraging them to set up community oversight of any prison. "Be the town that cares about human rights."

MTC is a privately held company that operates 20 prisons across seven states, with a capacity for about 25,300 inmates. In Arizona, it operates the Kingman prison, which can hold about 3,500 medium- and minimum-custody inmates, and the Marana facility, which can hold about 500 minimum-custody inmates. Thursday's hearing was the last of five on expansion plans proposed by four companies: MTC, which also has proposed an alternative location in San Luis; Corrections Corp. of America, which proposes to use two facilities near Eloy that currently house inmates from other states; Geo Group Inc., which has proposed to build prisons either in San Luis or Goodyear; and LaSalle Corrections, which is proposing a 1,000-bed facility in Winslow.

Department of Corrections officials say they expect to make their final contract award or awards sometime after Sept. 16.