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)


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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Occupy ALEC in Scottsdale next week...

Rock on, Occupiers!!!

------------- from

Activists plan to disrupt the American Legislative Exchange Council summit
The Precarious
Tue, 11/22/2011 - 04:00

PHOENIX, AZ- The anti-corporate spirit that has occupied cities across the United States will take a new form in the streets of Phoenix and Scottsdale next week.

Protestors plan to disrupt the States and Nation Policy Summit for the American Legislative Exchange Council to expose the non-profit group’s ties between state legislators and the private sector.

“We intend to demonstrate the connections between colonization, the prison industrial complex, the criminalization of migrants and ALEC,” said Ari Marie, housing and logistics organizer for the protests. “It is the root of the marriage between capital and the state.”

ALEC brings together roughly 2000 conservative legislators from all 50 states and 300 corporate members to, according to their website, “promote free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty,” by drafting model bills for legislative members to sponsor in their home states. Of the nearly 1000 ALEC bills introduced annually, about 20 percent become law.

The organization meets three times a year, and drafts most of the model legislation at their Annual Meeting each summer. The meeting in Scottsdale will focus on educating newly elected legislators on issues that will be at the top of the agenda in the next year.

Despite nearing its fortieth birthday, ALEC remained virtually invisible to the public eye until recently when a number of reports came out about the group. An investigation published by National Public Radio citing ALEC for authoring Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, which created tight restrictions for undocumented immigrants and required police to ask for documents proving immigration status from anyone they suspect might be in the country illegally.

The bill was sponsored by Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce, an ALEC member who was recalled from public office during a special election Nov. 8.

ALEC faced resistance for the first time in its long history this spring in Cincinnati, when hundreds of people gathered outside of the Spring Task Force Meeting. In August, hundreds more protested ALEC’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

And the dissent will continue to grow in Phoenix.

Protestors plan to mobilize Nov. 30, which marks the 12-year anniversary of the protests that effectively disrupted the meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Organizers in Phoenix want to reclaim that spirit and attempt to shut down the meeting and expose ALEC.

“This is an issue that ties us all together. They (ALEC) are the epitome of all the really bad people we are fighting on so many fronts,” Marie said.

The loose coalition of several Phoenix and Tucson based groups, including Occupy Phoenix, are calling for a diversity of tactics in order to further expose ALEC and shut down the meeting.

Although ALEC has nine task forces that draft legislation concerning everything from energy policy to education to health and human services, a big concern for protestors in Arizona are ALEC’s ties to the private prison system. The two biggest private prison firms in the United States, Corrections Corporation of America and the Geo Group, are influential members and ALEC has been key in putting more people in prison and therefore leaving the prison industry with huge profits.

Geo Group President Wayne Calabrese identified immigrant detention as their next big market, according to the 2010 NPR report. Arizona SB 1070 and the 13 states that have since proposed copycat versions of the strict law put a lot more immigrants under lock and key in facilities that are increasingly privately owned.

ALEC also has been traced to the source of “three strikes” laws in California, “truth in sentencing” laws which aim to decrease the possibility for parole of incarcerated individuals and the Prison Industries Act, a 1995 law that opened up prison labor to the private sector in Texas and since has been replicated in 26 other states.

The City of Scottsdale Police Department has no public plans for security at the States and Nation Policy Summit, and said they did not know the event was happening.

“We don’t know anything about that,” said Sargent Mark Clark. If the organizers expected protests, they would request security from the department, but if the police were doing security, it would not be public information, he said.

Several protests are planned around the city during the meeting, which have been scheduled from Nov. 30 until Dec. 2. Although the protest plans have been in the works since before the start of the Occupy movement, the organizers hope to build off the energy around the occupations, which have seen thousands take to streets of cities across the United States and the world, decrying corporate greed and the growing division between rich and poor.

“The Occupy movement is convenient for us because everyone involved in ALEC is in the one percent,” Marie said. “It’s been a really great place for us to connect with a lot of people who feel the same way about corporations, the people who hold all the power and all these oppressive forces that affect all of our lives.”

The media office at ALEC ‘s Washington, D.C. headquarters could not be reached for comment.

--leila peachtree

leila peachtree is a reporter for The Precarious.

Maricopa County Probation: Evidence-based practice works

For all the hassles and gripes I've heard about probation in Maricopa County, I must say that Chief Barbara Broderick is on the ball and has made a world of difference here. The following post is taken from the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy website. I personally believe most drugs should be legalized and users decriminalized, but until then, I think people like Chief Broderick are doing what they can to mitigate harm of criminalization and help addicts recover in the community, instead of return to prison.

If the rest of the criminal justice system could get on board with evidence-based practice and sentencing guidelines, we'd likely see a drastic reduction in our incarceration rates and far more people with substance abuse issues making it successfully in the community.


Maricopa County Works to Break the Cycle of Drugs, Crime, and Incarceration

The 2011 National Drug Control Strategy recognizes that many individuals who use drugs become involved in the criminal justice system. This is also the case in Maricopa County, Arizona. The most recent Arizona Arrestee Reporting Information Network (AARIN) Annual Adult Report, which provides data on arrestees in Maricopa County, indicates that in the 30 days prior to arrest 56% used marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroin.

Many of the principles identified in the Strategy that are intended to break the drugs and crime cycle are being implemented in Maricopa County by the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department. Below are some accomplishments and ongoing projects focused on assisting offenders.

  • Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) - The department is committed to using evidence-based practices (EBP) in its supervision strategies and has translated EBP into practical approaches that probation officers can incorporate into their daily supervision practices, such as using validated risk and needs assessments and reassessments to develop probationer case plans. Individuals with drug abuse disorders are referred to drug court or other relevant treatment programs.

  • Reentry - In January 2010, through a federal stimulus grant, the department implemented a Prison Reentry Unit, changing the way released offenders are supervised. A key priority is ensuring these offenders report to the probation department following their release from the Arizona Department of Corrections. In the first year, over 1200 offenders received services from the unit. The rate of offenders failing to report to probation following release from prison dropped from 23% to 2.3% with the grant. In addition, the rate of petitions to terminate probation and return the offender to the Department of Corrections (called “petitions to revoke”) filed in the first twelve months after release dropped from 10.1% to 4.9% with the program, and the rate of new felony arrests dropped from 13.8% to 10.8% with the program.

  • Earned Time Credit (ETC) - Effective January 1, 2009, the State of Arizona implemented Earned Time Credit (ETC), providing eligible offenders the opportunity to earn 20 days of credit for every 30 days they comply with their court-ordered financial obligations, community restitution hours and are making progress towards their case plan goals. In the short-term, it is anticipated that this legislation will reduce the length of time on probation while increasing the likelihood of successful completion of probation. In the long term, we expect that the likelihood of recidivism will be reduced following termination from probation.

  • Probation Outcomes - While evaluations of the effectiveness of these initiatives are ongoing, we have seen positive results. Crime reduction is a key goal in the department’s strategic plan and is measured through three main results: successful completion of probation, termination of probation and returning to the Department of Corrections, and new felony sentences. From FY2008 to FY2011, the percentage of offenders successfully completing probation increased from 66% to 80.3%; the percentage of offenders returned to the Department of Corrections decreased from 28% to 18.4%, and the percentage of offenders with new felony sentences decreased from 8.0% to 4.9%. How does this affect public safety? In FY2011, an additional 1,340 offenders successfully completed probation, 1,601 fewer offenders were returned to the Department of Corrections, and 885 fewer offenders were sentenced for new felony offenses.

These results are encouraging. It suggests that offenders can be effectively supervised in the community without negatively affecting public safety. And we can break the cycle of drugs, crime and incarceration.

Barbara Broderick is Chief Probation Officer at the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department

Sun sets on Chuck Ryan at ADC Legislative Review.

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Above is the recording of public speakers;

*** Here is the link from the full report and committee meeting ***

I made it to the early part of this meeting yesterday, which was a joint session of the Senate Committee on Public Safety and the House Judiciary Committee. The purpose of the meeting was to receive the Auditor General's Sunset Review of the Arizona Department of Corrections - a process which poses the question as to whether the institution is serving the public and rehabilitating offenders as it is intended to, or whether it is an ineffective waste and should be abolished.

"Established by Laws 1978, Chapter 210, Arizona’s sunset review process requires the Legislature to periodically review the purpose and functions of state agencies to determine whether continuation, revision, consolidation or termination is warranted. Sunset reviews are based on audits conducted by either the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) or a Committee of Reference (COR). Following the audit, a public hearing is held by the COR to discuss the audit and receive testimony from agency officials and the public."

I didn't expect the department to be abolished, of course, but felt it was important to be there anyway. Unfortunately, I learned of this last minute so did a poor job getting folks out for the public hearing section. I was able to log in some of my written comments, for the record, but had to leave before the floor was open to the rest of us to speak. Several folks remained long enough to raise the matter of medical neglect, at least, according to this Cronkite news report below. I don't know if anyone mentioned the high suicide and assault rates, or the fact that the ACLU National Prison Project is about to file a class action lawsuit seeking an injunction to immediately improve the level of medical and mental health care in AZ prisons. It was the matter of security at the private prisons that dominated, though, due to the Kingman escape last summer.

Listening to ADC Director Chuck Ryan give his spiel about how great a job they're doing and how noble his employees are made me more angry with the legislature for failing to do oversight than with him - I expect to hear that kind of propaganda from him. Had I been able to speak, I would have recited the names and stories of the prisoners who died unnecessarily in his custody...perhaps I'll have to save that for another time. I certainly didn't expect that anything I or others might say would result in the abolition of the AZ Department of Corrections.

July 2011 Artwalk: Phoenix, AZ

What was covered by the AG's report, at least, were recommendations for alternatives to adding more prison beds, support for a sentencing commission to review prison alternatives and sentencing reform, and a reassertion of the expectation that a complete cost-analysis is done on the pros and cons of contracting with private prisons before the state proceeds to do more (which the Quakers are having to sue to get compliance on).

But those are just recommendations - I believe it is up to the discretion of the ADC director as to how to proceed, and I haven't seen either of these committees show much leadership in making performance demands of Director Ryan - who not only runs his own ship, but steps in the way of efforts made by our good Rep. Cecil Ash to assemble a sentencing review commission by promoting propaganda designed to frighten ignorant politicians and the public into favoring mass incarceration. If Chuck Ryan and his cronies on the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission threw their support behind Rep. Ash's sentencing commission bill (HB 2664) last session, it would have easily passed the house and senate and been signed into law. Instead the judiciary committee wouldn't even bother to hear it.

As things stand at present, it's entirely up to the ADC Director to study and implement report recommendations for alternatives to incarceration, such as early release for low-risk prisoners, community-based programs for drug and alcohol offenders, build more capacity to have prisoners on home-arrest, and so on. Ryan, unfortunately, has consistently articulated and demonstrated his contempt for prisoners and their families through his policy changes, and that his philosophy for corrections is simply punishment by incarcerating as many people as possible for as long as possible, during which time they have scant opportunities to participate in substance abuse treatment, vocational rehabilitation, mental health, or educational programs (many were abruptly dismantled when he took over).

Anticipating continuing criticisms about deaths in his custody this time, Director Ryan did proudly announce that in the course of two months the department has trained over 8,000 employees in suicide prevention...but that just leaves me wondering how good such mass training in such a short a period of time can possibly be. They train them all in first aid every year, but corrections officers have repeatedly failed to use those skills to prevent the loss of life - as in Tony Lester's and Dana Seawright's cases, when guards just stood passively around watching those young men choke on blood as they were dying. The closest they seem to come to touching a suicide or homicide victim is practicing their CPR on prisoners who are already dead or very near death.

Still grossly lacking from the AZ legislature is a commitment to provide meaningful, ongoing oversight of the Department of Corrections. They seem to be in denial of (or ignorant of) the impending class action suit against them, and of the real shortcomings of leadership that have resulted in arguably thew most horrendous prison conditions in Arizona in the past three decades. They are oblivious or indifferent, it appears, that by failing to keep on top of matters in their own house, they have forced prisoners, their families and advocates to seek help from outside entities - from the ACLU and Amnesty International to the media to the FBI - to investigate their poor conditions and high rates of violence and suicide.

If the state legislature had been conducting oversight all along, lives like Tony Lester's and Dana Seawright's may have been saved despite the incompetence of this administration. Unfortunately, nothing that comes out of this hearing yesterday is likely to stop the prisoner body count from continuing to grow. The rising tide of violence under Chuck Ryan's administration will similarly take a greater toll on ADC employees, who voices are also silenced here. At least two ADC employees have already taken their lives on prison grounds under his administration - one at Perryville, soon after the death of Marcia Powell, and one at Yuma this summer. God knows how many more have died more quietly that way, or have been seriously injured from assaults already as well.

The following are the legislators on the respective committees that heard the auditors' Sunset Review; though not all were present yesterday, all are nevertheless responsible. These are the legislators we should be addressing further concerns about the prisons to, and holding accountable for the consequences of failing to form a sub-committee which would take testimony from prisoners, families and advocates, recommend and empower the department to make reforms, and provide closer legislative oversight of the ADC. Instead of orchestrating meaningful prison reform from within, the state has now set up a situation where changes will have to be ordered by the federal court system - sadly, that is only likely to make a difference after more prisoners and staff lose their lives...

House of Representatives Standing Committee


Cecil P. Ash

Tom Chabin

Eddie Farnsworth

Doris Goodale

Albert Hale
Jack W. Harper
David Burnell Smith
Anna Tovar
Ted Vogt

Public Safety and Human Services

Senate Standing Committee

Nancy Barto
Rich Crandall
Linda Gray
Leah Landrum Taylor
Linda Lopez
Rick Murphy

Monday, November 21, 2011

ACLU Moves to Intervene In AZ Voting Rights Act Challenge

-----from ACLU-AZ today----

ACLU Moves to Intervene In Voting Rights Act Challenge


Monday, November 21, 2011


Phoenix: Alessandra Soler Meetze, ACLU of Arizona, (602) 773-6006 (office) or 602-301-3705 (cell)

New York: Vesna Jaksic, ACLU National, (212) 549-2666 or

PHOENIX – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona filed a motion in a Washington, D.C. federal court today to intervene in the state of Arizona’s challenge to the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). The ACLU argues that Section 5 of the Act, which since 1965 has protected racial and language minorities’ access to voting, must remain in place.

“Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is critical for ensuring that states do not pass election laws that negatively affect minority voters,” said Katie O'Connor, staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “We are intervening in this case to make sure that this critical piece of legislation is upheld, so that everyone's fundamental right to vote is protected.”

On Aug. 25, Arizona became the first state to challenge this section of the VRA since it was reauthorized in 2006. In Arizona v. Holder, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne claims that during the 2006 reauthorization of the law, Congress did not provide evidence of continuing discrimination in Arizona and that Section 5 imposes a severe burden on the state.

“This latest move by Tom Horne to bail out of the VRA is part of a nationwide effort to rob people of color of their voice at the ballot box,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “Considering he is leading efforts to defend SB1070 and the Mexican-American studies ban – two laws that scapegoat U.S. citizens of Latino descent – it’s shameful and disingenuous for him to say that discrimination in Arizona doesn’t exist.”

Because of Arizona’s long history of implementing procedures that have had a discriminatory impact on voters, especially Latino voters and those with limited English proficiency, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires the state to get approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before implementing any new voting practices or procedures that could negatively impact or dilute their future votes.

“The ongoing attempts to politicize the re-districting process by the Arizona legislative and executive branches in total disregard of voters’ choice of an independent commission demonstrate the fragile state of the fundamental right to an effective vote for all Arizonans,” added Daniel Pochoda, Legal Director of the ACLU Foundation of Arizona.

The ACLU filed the motion to intervene on behalf of seven voters who live in Arizona. They are: Latino voter and immigrant rights activist Luis Avila, who currently serves as President of the Somos America Coalition, Napoleon Pisaño, a Latino activist from Mesa who worked for the Maricopa County Juvenile Court Center, and Eric Mante, a Filipino American voter who attends Arizona State University; African American voters Dionne Thomas, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at Progressive Baptist Church in Mesa, Calvin Goode, who served over a period of 22 years on the Phoenix City Council, and Melvin Hannah, former Director of Community Outreach and Job Development of the Greater Phoenix Urban League; and Japanese American voter Kathryn Nakagawa, a board member of the Japanese American Citizens League.

“Civic engagement in Arizona, especially among Latinos, is now more important than ever,” said Luis Avila, 29, who became a citizen in 2009. “We can’t just sit on the sidelines and ignore discriminatory attempts to make it harder for Americans to cast votes. We need to do everything we can to ensure that everyone has access to the polls and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act plays an important role in making that happen.”

The ACLU is arguing the state has a long and persistent history of implementing measures that have a discriminatory impact on voters. For example, despite the absence of significant fraud, Prop 200 dramatically altered Arizona election law by requiring citizens to present documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, and by imposing a restrictive identification requirement as a condition of casting a ballot at the polls. The law, passed in 2004, made it increasingly difficult for voting-age citizens, particularly elderly Native American voters, to register or vote because of lack of requisite documentation, including birth certificates and other federal or state forms of identification. More than 30,000 voter-registration applications in Arizona have been rejected as a result of the law’s onerous identification requirements. A portion of the law relating to registration requirements was struck down in 2010.

More recently, the Arizona Senate passed SB1409, a measure that requires all documents issued by any Arizona agency or political subdivision to be written in English. Although the bill created an exemption for official ballots, there are lingering questions about its potential impact on minority voters because all non-ballot voting materials must be printed in English. This could include important voting guidance and instructions, and summaries of ballot initiatives and referenda. The bill was held in the House of Representatives.

There are currently two other cases filed by sub-jurisdictions in the DC District Court challenging the constitutionality of Section 5: LaRoque v. Holder, filed by residents of Kinston, North Carolina, and Shelby County v. Holder, filed on behalf of Shelby County, Alabama. On September 21, a district court judge issued a 151-page opinion in the Shelby County case upholding Section 5’s constitutionality. That decision has been appealed. A lower court decision is still pending in the North Carolina case on the constitutionality of Section 5. The ACLU represents voter minorities in these challenges.

Attorneys on the case include O'Connor and Laughlin McDonald of the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Pochoda of the ACLU Foundation of Arizona, and Art Spitzer of the ACLU National Capitol Area.

Click here to read the ACLU’s response to the lawsuit filed by the state of Arizona.

Click here to read the state’s complaint in the case, State of Arizona v. Holder, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

For more information about the individuals who are serving as interveners, click here.

More information on the work of the ACLU Voting Rights Project is available at:


Alessandra Soler Meetze

Executive Director

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona

P.O. Box 17148

Phoenix, AZ 85011-0148

Phone: 602-773-6006 (direct) or 602-650-1854 (general)

Fax: 602-650-1376

Visit us on-line at:

En Español:

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AZ county jails seek to reduce liability, not suicides.

While county governments are rightly concerned about the cost of the impending shift of state prisoners to county jails, my greater concern is their effort to avoid civil liability for any suicides occurring in their facilities - see the item in red print below. There's no indication that they want to implement anything special to reduce the risk of jail suicides - just the responsibility they have for them.

I urge all families of prisoners and of free persons with serious mental illness to contact your local papers and county supervisors and complain about that proposal before it's implemented, lest jails begin to slack off on their suicide prevention programs to save money next. The Arizona Association of Counties has a good link to elected officials from each county - use it to express your disgust for that proposal. Their "advocacy toolbox" is also useful and provides links to contact your state legislators: please ask that they not allow counties to opt out on their responsibility to seriously mentally ill and suicidal prisoners.

You may also contact the AACo Executive Director, Nicole Stickler, at Her phone is 252-6563 ext 225.

The AACo's snail mail address is:

Arizona Association of Counties
1910 West Jefferson Street
Phoenix, AZ 85009

There is no good reason why loved ones should not be able to hold county jails accountable if their child or parent or spouse takes their life in their custody. Knowing they may pay for negligence is often the only real incentive county sheriffs have to invest in assuring that their facilities are managing high-risk prisoners safely.


County officials agree inmate-shift next big hit to budgets

Today's News-Herald

Monday, November 21, 2011

Arizona county officials locked down their collective opposition last week during the Arizona Association of Counties Conference in regard to the state’s looming inmate shift set for 2012.

The measure has Mohave County readying to swallow $2 million in additional costs when Arizona Department of Corrections shifts state prisoners back into county jails, or charges counties a service fee to retain prisoners in state facilities.

During a four-day AACo conference in Scottsdale, about 200 county government officials from Arizona’s 15 counties, and business leaders, gathered to identify and organize a game plan to present to Arizona state legislators. Repealing the inmate cost-shift was the big issue at hand, said one local county government official.

“That has the biggest effect on us,” said Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson, R-Dist. 3, on Sunday. “Because of the cost shifting it will affect all departments. In Mohave County, it is $2 million (anticipated costs). We now have to adjust our budget. We’ll have to do more cuts or find $2 million in revenue.”

According to a press release from Johnson’s office, Johnson was elected second-vice chairman to AACo during the conference. And Mohave County Treasurer Melissa Havatone was elected president of Arizona Treasurers Association, which is an AACo affiliate.

Other issues identified for the platform by Arizona county officials include 2012 election measures centering on all-mail ballots and in-full reimbursement of election costs to counties in the collective amount of $5 million to $7 million.

Pressure to implement a declaration to release counties of liability pertaining to inmate suicide, which Johnson said is showing an increasing trend in county jails across the state, also was an issued identified by AACo.

The group also plans to pressure Arizona legislators to address state’s “substantial” cutbacks on mental health services for inmates, Johnson said. The cuts affect availability of medications, therapy and counseling and increase the number of mentally ill inmates within county jails.

Required Board of Health valuation review classes also were nixed by AACo this year with a request to lift the requirement and create training that is at the county level and specific to each county.

Also along the lines of property valuations are AACo proposals pertaining to county assessors to correct errors in county tax rolls and better define regulations to do so, such as a designated time frame.

AACo members also are pushing to better clarify the definition of secondary and primary residence classification linked to new laws that eliminate specific property tax breaks to secondary home property owners in Arizona. The notification process involved with the new law and procedures to remedy incorrect property classifications.

You may contact the reporter at


"The most responsible way to reduce liability costs for jail suicides is the implement evidence-based programs and procedures for working with high-risk prisoners...not to try to be excused from responsibility for them altogether. Especially in Arizona, where we push our seriously mentally ill citizens behind bars at 9x the rate we hospitalize them, our county jails have a high burden of responsibility to keep them safe. If you don't want to pay for incarcerating them dying in your care, then support diversion programs and sentencing reforms for the mentally ill."

AZ Department of Corrections' Auditor General Sunset Review

Some of the women prisoners who have died from suicide and/or gross neglect
under the current administration, since January 2009.

Memorial at appx. 1017 N. 1st Street, Phoenix AZ
(November 18, 2011)

On Tuesday, November 22, in Senate Hearing Room 1 there will be a hearing on the Sunset Review conducted by the
Arizona Auditor General on the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC). This is the third in a three part series of reports on the ADC. The links to the reports are below:

Department of Corrections—Sunset Factors (September 2011, Report No. 11-08)

Department of Corrections—Oversight of Security Operations (September 2011, Report No. 11-07)

Department of Corrections—Prison Population Growth (September 2010, Report No. 10-08)

The most recent report covering sunset factors addresses whether or not the ADC is meeting the needs of the public or should be dissolved. Of course, the department is not about to be dissolved. The report contains some fascinating information about how different departments are staffed and what mandates the ADC is expected to follow on everything from assuring fair pricing schedules for prisoners purchasing from prison stores/concessions to the recommendation that the ADC assures that the privatization of services yields a cost-benefit to the state without compromising on public safety, as noted here on page 21:

"Going forward, potential privatization areas should be carefully evaluated to ensure the benefits of contracting outweigh the costs. Information from the other states auditors interviewed point to the importance of evaluating the costeffectiveness of privatizing a service or function versus performing the service or function in house. For example, a North Carolina official indicated that the state no longer contracts for prison maintenance or private prison beds largely because it cost more to contract for these services than for its corrections department to perform them. Security issues were also a factor in eliminating North Carolina’s contract for private prison beds. Similarly, the September 2010 Office of the Auditor General report on prison population growth recommended that the Legislature consider directing the Department to further study and analyze the costs for the State to build and operate prisons compared to contracting with private prisons to determine which option would be more cost-effective while still ensuring public safety (see Report No 10-08)."

Presently, the ADC is being sued (see statement from the ASPC-Tucson on this matter) to assure it completes an investigation and report demonstrating that the proposals to privatize 5,000 new prison beds would in fact save the state money before awarding those contracts - though they have delayed the decision to award private prison contracts until at least December 22, 2011.

Prior ADC studies comparing the cost of state-run vs privately run prisons show that private prisons actually cost more to operate - and that's not even considering the cost of the security lapses that allowed three prisoners to escape from ASP-Kingman in August 2010. The cost of that private prison failure included an extensive, nationwide manhunt and the lives of an elderly couple. Unbelievably, despite the escape, Arizona was expected to pay MTC, the prison operator, for it's empty beds in the aftermath.

Also of interest in the report is the re-assertion of the mission of the AZ Department of Corrections:

"The Department’s statutory purpose is to serve as the correctional program for the State and to provide staff and administration relating to the institutionalization, rehabilitation, and community supervision functions of all adult offenders. Consistent with its statutory purpose, the Department’s mission is “to serve and protect the people of Arizona by securely incarcerating convicted felons, by providing structured programming designed to support inmate accountability and successful community reintegration, and by providing effective supervision for those offenders conditionally released from prison.”"

The Department has five goals in carrying out this mission:

•" To maintain effective custody and control over inmates in an environment that is safe, secure, and humane.
• To require inmate participation in self-improvement programming opportunities and services, including work, education, substance abuse treatment, sex offender treatment, and spiritual access designed to prepare inmates to be responsible citizens upon release.
• To provide cost-effective constitutionally mandated correctional healthcare.
• To maintain effective community supervision of offenders, facilitate their successful transition from prison to the community, and return offenders when necessary to prison to protect the public.
• To provide leadership direction, resource management, and support for department employees to enable the Department to serve and protect the people of the State of Arizona and to provide comprehensive victim services and victim–focused restorative justice programs that hold offenders accountable."

I do not see that the Auditor General has evaluated how "safe" or "humane" the environment is in which prisoners are kept, or how well the department's medical care meets constitutional guidelines. In fact, the suicide rate under the current administration has doubled, and assaults and homicides have skyrocketed - suggesting that the most fortified and well-funded law enforcement agency in this state can't keep their own prisoners safe. The ACLU National Prison Project and the Prison Law Office have been investigating the ADC and are also poised to sue the state over serious deficiencies in the ADC's medical and mental health care, which fails to meet constitutional standards of care.

Furthermore, when Ryan took over, many of the prisoner's rehabilitative programs were eliminated - including one that trained prisoners to be suicide prevention aides. A number of those that were eliminated were prisoner-run and low-cost. Nothing suggests that the ADC's remaining programs and policies are currently modeled to be consistent with evidence-based practice in the field of corrections - which would yield far better outcomes in re: both staff and prisoner safety, the culture of the prisons, and actual rehabilitation and recidivism rates.

Rather, major decisions appear to be made based on the director's personal biases (which are hostile to prisoners, their families, and prisoner-run programs as evidenced by new fees for medical care and visitation approval, gouging of families for phone calls, resistance to early-release programs or sentencing reform, and elimination of effective and empowering rehabilitative programming). Director Ryan justifies his actions by perpetuating propaganda and public myths such as
privatization saves money, that early release would compromise public safety because the vast majority of AZ prisoners are repeat and violent offenders (even though over 15,000 prisoners are so "safe" that they're rated as minimum security), that the ADC provides meaningful rehabilitation programs, and that lower crime rates depend on maintaining high incarceration rates (which they do not).

The AZ Auditor General's office appears to give the ADC a passing grade, nonetheless, and - not surprisingly - doesn't call for the department's dissolution. In light of the horrendous lack of medical and psychiatric care for prisoners, and in the wake of highly preventable suicides, grisly homicides, and escalating overall violence under his watch, however, there remains a huge call in the community for Director Chuck Ryan to be removed from his post or step down... and those particular calls are coming from people who have worked for him.

Anyone wishing to echo a demand for Ryan's resignation or to submit complaints about the way our billion dollars are being spent by the AZ Department of Corrections should contact Governor Brewer's office here or by snail mail here:

The Honorable Janice K. Brewer, Arizona Governor / Executive Tower / 1700 West Washington Street / Phoenix, AZ 85007

Please cc all copies of correspondence on the matter to myself , Peggy Plews (, or to AZ Republic reporter Bob Ortega by email at: He can also be reached via snail mail at:

The Arizona Republic Newsroom/ 200 E. Van Buren St. / Mail Code NM19/ Phoenix, AZ 85004.


Citizens may order full printed copies of the 2011 Auditor General's Reports on the Department of Corrections from:

Report Orders
Arizona Auditor General
2910 N. 44th Street, Ste. 410
Phoenix, AZ 85018

Please include your complete return address as well as the report name and number you are requesting.

You may also fax this information to 602-553-0051.

All reports are also available from the Arizona Department of Library, Archives and Public Records.

If you need help, please call 602-553-0333 or e-mail the Webmaster.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Who is ALEC, and why do we care?

from the People for the American Way, a brief tutorial on why these are people who must no longer be allowed to write our legislation....


ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests In State Legislatures

Table of Contents


When state legislators across the nation introduce similar or identical bills designed to boost corporate power and profits, reduce workers rights, limit corporate accountability for pollution, or restrict voting by minorities, odds are good that the legislation was not written by a state lawmaker but by corporate lobbyists working through the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced. It’s win-win for corporations, their lobbyists, and right-wing legislators. But the big losers are citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder.

Who Founded and Funds ALEC?

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, who helped build a nationwide right-wing political infrastructure following the reelection of Richard Nixon. In the same year, he helped establish the Heritage Foundation, now one of the most prominent right-wing policy institutes in the country. One year later, Weyrich founded the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, the predecessor of the Free Congress Foundation. In 1979, he co-founded and coined the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, and in 1981 he helped establish the ultraconservative Council on National Policy.

ALEC’s major funders include Exxon Mobil, the Scaife family (Allegheny Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation), the Coors family (Castle Rock Foundation), Charles Koch (Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation), the Bradley family (The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation) and the Olin family (John M. Olin Foundation). These organizations consistently finance right-wing think tanks and political groups.

Members of ALEC’s board represent major corporations such as Altria, AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Koch Industries, Kraft, PhRMA, Wal-Mart, Peabody Energy, and State Farm. Such corporations represent just a fraction of ALEC’s approximately three hundred corporate partners. According to the American Association for Justice, over eighty percent of ALEC’s finances come from corporate contributions.

Who’s Behind ALEC?

ALEC’s activities reflect its founding, funding, and control by corporate interests. According to the American Association for Justice, “the nuts and bolts of lobbying and crafting legislation is done by large corporate defense firm Shook Hardy & Bacon.” This firm plays a significant role in managing ALEC’s legislative and governmental advocacy programs.

The American Bar Association Journal describes Shook Hardy & Bacon as the “darling of corporate America. ” Their tenacious defense of the tobacco industry “made Shook Hardy the firm many of the world’s biggest companies turn to at the first hint of trouble with one of their products.” A New York Times report on Shook Hardy said “tobacco is their middle name,” and the firm’s lawyers have been viewed as “industry propagandists, apologists and co-conspirators.” Shook Hardy represents clients from the pharmaceutical, energy, food, banking and tobacco industries, like Pfizer, Bayer, Eli Lilly, Cargill, Kraft, Bank of America, Philip Morris, Lorillard Tobacco, and British American Tobacco. ALEC’s monthly periodical Inside ALEC demonstrates the significant role of Shook Hardy, as members of the law firm contributed essays criticizing environmental protection efforts1, endorsing corporate immunity from lawsuits2, and defending abusive insurance company practices3.

The clout of corporations and corporate-backed groups comprising ALEC is unmistakable: Victor E. Schwartz, a Shook Hardy partner and head of its Public Policy Group, chairs ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force; Tom Moskitis, the American Gas Association’s Director of External Affairs, chairs the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force; Bob Williams, founder and senior fellow of the corporate-funded Evergreen Freedom Foundation, chairs the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force; Bartlett Cleland, director of the corporate-financed Institute for Policy Innovation, chairs the Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force, and Emory Wilkerson, associate general counsel for State Farm Insurance, chairs the Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force.

Simply put, “corporations can implement their agendas very effectively using ALEC,” as stated by Edwin Bender of the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

How Does ALEC Work?

ALEC serves as a means for corporations to advise, lobby and sway legislators. By paying hefty dues and sponsorship fees, corporations are able to participate in ALEC ventures, forums and legislative advocacy work and also underwrite conferences, task forces and meetings with politicians. Corporations use ALEC to formulate, present and promote model legislation to elected officials who are ALEC members and sometimes hold leadership roles in the organization.

“Our members join for the purpose of having a seat at the table. That’s just what we do, that’s the service we offer,” explains Dennis Bartlett, an ALEC task force head who is also the executive director of the American Bail Coalition. “The organization is supported by money from the corporate sector, and, by paying to be members, corporations are allowed the opportunity to sit down at the table and discuss the issues that they have an interest in.”

ALEC propagates a wide range of “model legislation” that seeks to make it more difficult for people to hold corporations accountable in court; gut the rights and protections of workers and consumers; encumber health care reform; privatize and weaken the public education system; provide business tax cuts and corporate welfare; privatize and cut public services; erode regulations and environmental laws; create unnecessary voter ID requirements; endorse Citizens United; diminish campaign finance reform and permit greater corporate influence in elections.

In order to draft and promote their “model legislation,” ALEC operates task forces that bring representatives from corporations together with lawmakers. Each ALEC task force is chaired by both elected officials and “private sector” members. According to Jesse Zwick of the Washington Independent, “ALEC’s task forces are better known for crafting legislation that coincides, rather than conflicts, with the interests of its private-sector members. Famous for hosting lavish conferences for state legislators who possess no staff of their own, the group pampers lawmakers while providing them the opportunity to collaborate on legislation often previously researched and introduced by the policy shops of its corporate members.”

According to ALEC, in 2009, of the 826 “model bills” that were introduced in state legislatures, 115 of those bills were enacted into law. That number is sure to grow following the major Republican gains in the 2010 elections.

ALEC was influential in crafting and passing a Texas law, dubbed the “Successor Asbestos-Related Liability Fairness Act, that shielded Crown Cork and Seal, a business that in 1966 acquired a company that used asbestos in its products, from lawsuits from the company’s workers. Even though Crown agreed to pay the company’s liabilities, it wanted immunity from paying damages to workers facing asbestos-related diseases. Crown Cork and Seal turned to ALEC to help shape the Texas law, which put an extremely low cap on liability for companies like Crown who acquired companies which committed wrongdoing, known as a “successor immunity” law.” Mark Behrens, an attorney for Shook Hardy, worked as a lobbyist for both ALEC and Crown to encourage allied lawmakers to introduce and pass the bill. The American Association for Justice writes that “this so-called ‘successor immunity’ has all the hallmarks of an ALEC special interest bill. It is plainly designed not with public policy in mind, but rather a specific industry (or in this case, a specific company).” The Texas Supreme Court ultimately found the cap to be an unconstitutional retroactive protection for Crown that inhibited the rights of people to rightfully sue corporations for damages, but similar ALEC-derived laws are still on the books in other states.

In Arizona, an investigative report by NPRfound that ALEC significantly helped one of its clients, the Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), influence the state’s new immigration law. The CCA is a for-profit prison company whose “executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market,” and thought that a law which “could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants” to prison would “mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.” As a dues-paying member of ALEC, the CCA was able to write, present and lobby Arizona policymakers for a draconian immigration bill at an ALEC-hosted conference. “Four months later, that model legislation became, almost word for word, Arizona’s immigration law,” and many of the bill’s cosponsors later received significant campaign contributions from the CCA. ALEC also helped the CCA by pushing “truth in sentencing” laws that restrict parole eligibility for felons, and consequently increase the number of prisoners.

What Does ALEC Lobby For?

Since the organization claims to only “exchange” legislation, ALEC is not technically a lobbying firm, and does not need to register. However, ALEC’s tactics and operations are strikingly similar to those of registered lobbyists with corporate benefactors.

Undercutting Health Care Reform

After the passage of health care reform, ALEC’s top priority has been to challenge the law by encouraging members to introduce bills that would prohibit the law’s insurance mandate. ALEC’s Health and Human Services task force is led by representatives of PhRMA and Johnson & Johnson, and representatives of Bayer and GlaxoSmithKlein sit on ALEC’s board. The group’s model bill, the “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act,” has been introduced in forty-four states, and ALEC even released a “State Legislators Guide to Repealing ObamaCare” discussing a variety of model legislation including bills to partially privatize Medicaid and SCHIP. The legislative guide utilizes ideas and information from pro-corporate groups like the Heritage Foundation, the Goldwater Institute, the James Madison Institute, the Cato Institute, the National Center for Policy Analysis and the National Federation of Independent Business.

Corporate Power and Workers’ Rights

ALEC works fervently to promote laws that would shield corporations from legal action and allow them to limit the rights of workers. The group’s model legislation would roll back laws regarding corporate accountability, workers compensation and on the job protections, collective bargaining and organizing rights, prevailing wage and the minimum wage. ALEC is a main proponent of bills that undermine organized labor by stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights and “right to work” laws.They also push “regulatory flexibility” laws that lead to massive deregulation. It is no surprise that the director of ALEC’s Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force previously worked as a Koch Associate at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

Tax Policy

As states face challenging budget deficits, ALEC wants to make it more difficult to generate revenue in order to close shortfalls. Bills include the “Super Majority Act,” which makes it so complicated for legislatures to change tax policy that California voters overturned the law; the “Taxpayer Bill Of Rights,” which brought fiscal disaster to Colorado; and measures to eliminate capital gains and progressive income taxes. The main beneficiaries of ALEC’s irresponsible fiscal policies are corporations and the wealthiest taxpayers.

Private School Vouchers

Despite constitutional problems, negative impacts on public schools, bias against disadvantaged students, and comprehensive studies in cities like Washington DC, New York, Milwaukee, and Cleveland which demonstrate that private school voucher programs failed to make any improvements to the education system, ALEC sees vouchers as a way to radically privatize the public education system. Under the guise of “school choice,” ALEC pushes bills with titles like “Parental Choice Scholarship Act” and the “Education Enterprise Act” that establish private school voucher programs.

Voter ID and Election Laws

ALEC is directly tied to the emerging trend among state legislatures to consider voter ID laws. Using false allegations of “voter fraud,” right-wing politicians are pursuing policies that disenfranchise students and other at-risk voters,--including the elderly and the poor--who are unlikely to have drivers’ licenses or other forms of photo ID. By suppressing the vote of such groups, ALEC’s model “Voter ID Act” grants an electoral advantage to Republicans while undermining the right to vote. In addition, ALEC wants to make it easier for corporations to participate in the political process. Their Public Safety and Elections taskforce is co-chaired by Sean Parnell of the Center for Competitive Politics, one of the most vociferous pro-corporate election groups, and promotes model legislation that would devastate campaign finance reform and allow for greater corporate influence in elections.

Obstructing Environmental Protection

At the bidding of its major donors like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries, ALEC is behind state-level legislation that would hinder the ability of government to regulate and curb polluters. ALEC has previously said that carbon dioxide “is beneficial to plant and human life alike,” and promotes climate change denialism. The group’s model legislation assails EPA emissions guidelines and greenhouse gas regulations, destabilizes regional climate initiatives, permits free-reign for energy corporations, and pushes for massive deregulation. Unsurprisingly, ALEC’s “Energy, Environment and Agriculture” task force is led by Tom Moskitis of the American Gas Association and Martin Shultz of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a major lobbyist firm for oil and gas companies like ConocoPhillips. The group receives funding from ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Texaco, Amoco, the American Petroleum Institute, and the American Electric Power Association.


Americans are increasingly recognizing and speaking out against the disproportionate power of corporations in shaping public policy and steering politicians, and ALEC is a prime example of how Corporate America is able to buy even more power and clout in government. Rather than serve the public interest, ALEC champions the agenda of corporations which are willing to pay for access to legislators and the opportunity to write their very own legislation. It helps surrogates and lobbyists for corporations draft and promote bills which gut environmental laws, create a regressive tax system, eliminate workers’ rights, undermine universal and affordable health care, privatize public education, and chip away at voting rights. It's no wonder that so many big corporations view ALEC as a wise investment. ALEC represents an alarming risk to the credibility of the political process and threatens to greatly diminish the confidence and influence ordinary people have in government.


  1. Phil Goldberg, “State-Sponsored Global Warming Litigation is Weighing Down on American Business.” Inside ALEC. March 2011.
  2. Victor Schwartz and Cary Silverman. “Rage Against Federal Pre-Emption.” Inside ALEC. June 2009.
  3. Victor E. Schwartz. “How “Bad Faith” Becomes Bad Law.” Inside ALEC. November/December 2009.

No justification for AZ to privatize prisons.

Our legislators and governor made such a big deal about how privatizing the prisons would save the state money, when in truth the studies were never done to substantiate their claims. In fact, the only studies done by the ADC on the cost of private prisons v state prisons shows that private prisons cost us more. So what possible motives would our lawmakers have to privatize the prisons - and build 5,000 new beds - when the prison population is declining and private prisons cost more? Whatever they are, it does not appear as if they are in the public's interest - especially since those 5,000 new beds means the state is planning an increase in criminalization (and thus victimization) and incarceration. Sounds like Arizona has given up on crime prevention altogether...

------------from the AZ Republic--------

Arizona private-prison contract targeted by watchdog

The Arizona Department of Correction's long-delayed plans to contract for 5,000 additional private-prison beds are again under fire.

A Quaker prison-watchdog group, whose lawsuit seeking to block any contract was dismissed in Maricopa County Superior Court last month, Friday filed an appeal and a fresh request for an injunction. That injunction would block any contract until Corrections completes required studies comparing the performance of its existing private-prison contracts to state prisons.

Judge Arthur Anderson dismissed the initial suit on the ground that the Tucson office of the American Friends Service Committee lacked standing to sue the state. The committee noted the dismissal didn't address substantive issues raised by the suit, which alleges that the state is in violation of its own laws, which require that any private-prison contracts save the state money and that the state conduct biannual studies comparing the operations of private and state prisons.

The department has never conducted these studies, which are supposed to analyze costs, the security and safety of each prison, how inmates are managed, inmate discipline, programs, staff training, administration, and other factors. The suit and the appeal charge that without these studies, the state can't say whether private prisons are more cost-effective than state facilities. The department didn't immediately reply to requests for comment.

Bids on contracts were halted last year to beef up security requirements after three inmates escaped from a private prison in Kingman. The department had expected to award contracts as early as Sept. 12, but that process has been repeatedly delayed. This week, the department asked the four bidders to extend their bids to Dec. 22.

Some astute AZ Republic readers comments:

"Maybe we can drive out the private prisons with a citizens initiative in the same way we put an end to the slimy payday lenders."


"The fact that ex-ADC Director Terry "Abu Ghraib" Stewart, the mentor of Chuck Ryan is working for MTC, and only that fact explains why they are considered for buiiding two more of the prisons they have been found incompetent to manage. They tried to collect $10 million from
Arizona for their empty beds at Kingman. LaSalle is supposedly being considered for building a prison in Winslow as well. That's part of the farce to fool the public into thinking this will be a competitive bidding process. LaSalle has experienced terrible escapes, much like the homocidal one from Kingman for which the state is being sued for $40 million. There is no available workforce to run even the state prison which has to import correctional officers mostly from Flagstaff and Holbrook.

CCA and GEO Group have a unique qualification as well: Their low-paid, poorly screened and marginally trained staff around the country have actually assisted the escapes of many prisoners. In Florida and New Mexico, they overbilled those states for millions of taxpayer dollars. Until we get a law that forces all corrupt corporations into bankruptcy, since we can't put them in jail, this situation will continue to prevail. (Some for-profit prison operators
have actually been forced out of business by lawsuits that have held them accountable for their negligence.) That's the record of the "qualified" bidders. Although we've put an end to the sordid career of Russ Pearce, there will be others to take his place at the head of the CCA-GEO feeding line. "

Friday, November 18, 2011

More CCA exploitation of prisoners and families.

It's the families this really takes the toll on, not the prisoners - except that it means many prisoners will be even more cut off from those who could help them stay out of prison than before. There's an upside to that, though - recidivism (i.e. more crime and victimization) increases profits for CCA, too...

Maricopa County Jail: Tent City
Phoenix, AZ (April 2011)
Margaret Jean Plews


The Huffington Post First Posted: 11/18/11 12:25 PM ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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