MARGARET J PLEWS
PO BOX 20494
PHOENIX, AZ 85036

arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com

480-580-6807

Established: July 18, 2009
Editor: Peggy Plews


This site is to offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex in Arizona from a prison abolitionist's perspective. Abolitionism is an anti-colonialist articulation of a vision of racial and economic justice, one in which we don't submit to or depend on the prison industrial complex to brutalize the "duly convicted" (and their loved ones) as a response to harm, as a preventative measure out of fear, or as a means of assuring social order. It's an optimistic vision which presumes that our society collectively evolves, both morally and socially, such that the root causes of criminalization and incarceration are addressed before we produce more generations of people being allowed to hurt eachother. The current system doesn't prevent people from being victimized - it just prescribes rules for who does and doesn't get to hurt or be hurt in America. That's not a good enough foundation for a system truly based on achieving justice.

Prison abolitionism argues that we don't simply need to shut down the prisons: we need to rewrite the way the rules around perpetrating harm against people and property are made in the first place, so that humanity, not profit (or state "savings", as the case may be) comes first. From re-prioritizing our world, our ideas around what is crime and how to punish it would look much differently...Critical Resistance is a good source for more info on that.

I'm just a freelance writer and artist, by the way, but if you are the loved one of a prisoner and need help, feel free to contact me. Emailing me works best: arizonaprisonwatch@gmail.com but 480-580-6807 is ok too.

AZ PRISON WATCH ACTION ITEMS:

ISSUES WITH PROJECT ROSE

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Juvenile justice: kids for cash judge Ciavarella convicted.

This "kids for cash" scandal is what happens when communities turn a blind eye to the tragedy and deaf ear to the protests of those caught up in the criminal justice system. I don't know why people think this kind of thing doesn't happen in America to adults and kids alike, and that no one is in prison here who doesn't really "belong" there. The extraordinary thing is that this guy was finally busted. Look at all the lives he trashed in the people's name in the meantime, though - with taxpayer dollars, confidence and blessings. When will we finally get it that donning robes alone don't make men just, and the discretion of judges can't always be trusted?

So, what is it about prison privatization that economic developers think is so good for us again?

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Juvenile Law Center (Philadelphia)

Ciavarella found guilty on 12 of 39 charges: Juvenile Law Center responds to guilty verdict

In 2007, a frantic call from an alarmed parent prompted Juvenile Law Center to investigate irregularities in the Luzerne County Pennsylvania juvenile court. Juvenile Law Center discovered that hundreds of children were appearing without attorneys before juvenile court judge Mark Ciavarella, and were then quickly adjudicated delinquent (found guilty) and sent to out-of-home placements for very minor offenses. In 2008, after further investigation, Juvenile Law Center petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to identify those children and vacate and expunge their records. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court initially denied that request.

The U.S. Attorney later filed federal criminal charges against Ciavarella and another Luzerne County judge for accepting nearly $2.9 million in alleged kickbacks from the developer and former owner of two private for-profit juvenile facilities in exchange for placing children in these facilities through the Luzerne County juvenile court process.

The conspiracy lasted from 2003 to 2008, involving as many as 6,500 juvenile cases and as many as 4,000 individual children. Over 50% of the children who appeared before Ciavarella did not have an attorney and 50 to 60% of these unrepresented children were placed outside their homes. Many of these children were sent to one or both of the two facilities involved in the alleged kickback scheme. The vast majority of children were charged with low-level misdemeanor offenses.

This clip, taken from a 2009 episode of ABC's "20/20," features the stories of some of these children and their families:

Read more >>

In 2009, after learning of the illegal kickback scandal, Juvenile Law Center returned to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and asked the Court to vacate and clear the records of all of the youth who appeared in tainted juvenile proceedings before Ciavarella. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted Juvenile Law Center's request and issued an order to vacate and expunge the juvenile adjudications and records of all of the thousands of youth who appeared before Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008. [Visit our State Supreme Court Litigation page for more information.]

Recognizing that the children and families experienced significant emotional and financial harm as a result of their unlawful adjudications and placements, Juvenile Law Center, along with pro bono co-counsel Hangley Aronchick Segal and Pudlin, filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of children who were adjudicated or placed by Ciavarella, as well as on behalf of their parents. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages from the former judges, private facilities, and the developer under federal civil rights laws and the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. [Visit our Federal Civil Class Action Lawsuit page for more information].

Juvenile Law Center is also working to reform Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system to ensure that tragedies like those that occurred in Luzerne County’s juvenile courts are never repeated. [Visit our State Legislation and Reform page for more information.]

As a result of their involvement in the corrupt “kids-for-cash” conspiracy, Michael Conahan, Robert Powell (the owner of the facilities), and Robert Mericle (the developer) pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges; former judge Mark Ciavarella is scheduled to go to trial in February 2011. [Visit our Federal Criminal Charges page for more information.]

Deaths in Custody: ADC January 2011.

Arizona State Capitol/Wes Bolin Memorial Plaza, Phoenix. February 22, 2011.

It is inevitable that some people will die in prison, even given the best of care. Not every death behind bars is due to negligence - some prisoners receive extremely compassionate and capable end-of-life care from the Arizona Department of Corrections, regardless of their crime. The past two years have seen skyrocketing homicide and suicide rates in the state prisons, however, as program resources have been cut, violence has escalated, and the quality of medical services has deteriorated. Look at how young these folks are.


Therefore, we're compiling as much documentation as possible to strengthen our call for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the ADC, and are developing a list of attorneys to refer survivors of prisoners seeking to file claims against the state for their loss.
Please contact me if you have evidence that any of these prisoner deaths were preventable (including the "natural causes") and/or serve to illustrate systemic problems with access to appropriate health care, psychiatric treatment, and emergency services in Arizona's state prisons.


Peggy Plews
Arizona Prison Watch
PO Box 20494
Phoenix, AZ 85036
480-580-6807

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According to the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) website, the following prisoners died in custody in January, 2011:



Delbert Carr, 61
David Bandstra, 64

John Zimmerman, 44

David Moreno, 40

Fred Myers, 59

Brenda Todd, 44
Andre Hutchins, 59

Jose Lopez-Hernandez, 46

Timothy Lewis, 54

Jeffrey Ortiz, 55



Our condolences to their loved ones.

Wall Tappings: Voices from Perryville Prison.

("Who was Brenda Todd?" Arizona State Capitol/Wes Bolin Memorial Plaza, Phoenix. February 17, 2011)

I haven't received word from any of the AZ state prisons for a week now - which hasn't happened in months. I seem to be persona non grata at the ADC these days. I think they've stopped my mail from prisoners because I was encouraging people to fight for their rights and offering to help them gather evidence they aren't aware is out here for their 8th Amendment lawsuits. Either that or they think that I might be scheming a Georgia-style action or something (wouldn't think of it - prisoners aren't allowed to strike, anyway). In any case, I suspect they are not pleased with me.


Anyway, as some people know, state prisoner
Leona Nieves, who told Stephen Lemons all about Brenda Todd's death, was violated on her probation with the state the morning the article came off the presses, so to speak - before it was even on-line. She'd only been free for a few days. She's back at Perryville for another 3.5 years now for violating probation. Since I'm not getting my mail out of there, though, I don't know how she is.


I naturally wondered if the ADC tracked Leona down and had her PO dig garbage up on her as soon as we started making inquiries for records about Brenda's death that week - and made that allegation pretty directly, asking a couple of legislators to investigate. The ADC was no help in clearing that up for us (they're ignoring my emails, now, too - it's creepy), but the court records are all on-line now and I spent some time with them, as did Stephen. Here's the scoop, to the best of my understanding:


Leona had just done her time in prison on a DUI from LaPaz, but that offense was a violation of a 2009 probation she was on in Maricopa County from 2009...my math tells me she should have seen this coming, but I really don't think she did (or she would have probably tried to stay under their radar before going back in there). I doubt she expected the consequences to be so severe, in any case, since the probation was originally only for two years. She plead guilty and was on her way back to prison within four minutes of appearing in court...nice to know that judges put so much time and thought into sentencing before they chew up a piece of someone's life; she was probably just following the ADC PO's recommendations, though. Can't imagine why they came down so hard on Leona like that.


Anyway, since my communication with prisoners has apparently been cut off (I'll retract that one, too, if I'm wrong), let's try this: Renee, a courageous blogger at Jon's Jail Journal (awesome prisoner journal hosted by an ex-Tent City resident from Great Britain) happens to be a prisoner at Perryville in Goodyear, where Marcia Powell was killed, and where Brenda Todd just died. I'm posting the link to one of her latest pieces here, in which she comes out and talks about the loneliness of prison. Leave an encouraging comment for her; the Journal will get the word to her somehow, and she can let the other women inside know that folks are listening to them out here. It makes a huge difference.


I think this would be important because even if the ADC didn't target Leona for speaking out, all the women must know she was the one by now, and saw her come back in just days wearing orange and chains. For all I know they stopped writing about the conditions in there on their own, fearful of the possible consequences. Bottom line is that no matter our intentions, there's little we can do to protect them from the state if it really wants to hurt them, short of trying to bring their struggle to public light and asserting our expectations that their rights are to be respected. Knowing someone is bearing witness also makes resistance to one's oppressors stronger.


It would be especially cool if folks would write to Leona to thank her for going out on that limb that just got cut out from under her, since I don't know if my mail is getting in to prison, either. She wasn't picking fights with power, like I do, and probably doesn't want to be a "political" prisoner (which would kind of suggest she was a threat to the institution, which could restrict her movement and activities) - Leona was just trying to do the right thing by the women she thought she left behind. Just give her some credit for putting her name out there to give Brenda's death a real witness. Her address is:


Leona Nieves 259842
ASPC-Perryville

PO Box 3000

Goodyear, AZ 85395

Prisoner's Post: Tenacious and Free.

This piece was originally published by Vikki Law in the Tenacious zine for women in prison, then by the Utne Reader, and most recently by my friend Mariame at the awesome blog Prison Culture. The author is writing a farewell note to solitary confinement.

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Dear Lowell CM Unit,

Over the past two years of being trapped within this “hellhole,” your behavior modification (human mortification) chamber, I have written many formal letters against you to your conceivers—the DOC administration, and I’ve penned several articles to inform prisoners and “free world” citizens of your insidious plans to destroy my mind and any chance for a productive life once I am freed from your chokehold. But today is the first time I’ve ever written to you personally and I have many things to say, so bear with me as I’ve had to bear with you every minute of these past two years while locked in your solitary confinement….

First, despite your lies, the stories you would tell me that I will never leave you, I could never leave you and within you is truly where I belong and you were just “trying to help me” become a proper woman, I AM leaving you. I’ve completed my penance and within a couple of days, I will walk out and not look back. I know you find this hard to believe and I can hear you saying, “You’ll be back. You’ll come home to me ‘cuz I’ve taught you to bring yourself back into my walls.” Don’t be so confident and sure of yourself or your ability to twist my mind. I think you already know I am different from the others you’ve courted and caged before me.

I admit the first time we met and you took me in 6 ½ years ago, I was quite naïve and rather weak in my physical, mental and emotional states. Yes, you definitely had control and I was at your mercy, which I never received any, regardless of how I begged and pleaded with you to stop beating me, to stop hurting me, to stop breaking my heart and PLEASE just let me hold onto ONE LITTLE HOPE. You never ceased in your cruelty and I responded the way you wished, like a feral animal lashing out at any and all human contact. I’ve never felt so ashamed, so helpless, but I found the answer to your abuse…it would end, everything would cease to exist, even me. I would escape you by hanging myself, my spirit would fly free, this I would gladly pay for with this shell of flesh and bone.

It would come to pass: I hang, I die, I’m free.

Fate has a way of placing its hands on the steering wheel of life though and I was revived and brought back to you. It was that anger that helped me live until EOS.

You know, I can’t believe I’m being so civil to you and not ranting.

Yes I can believe it. I’ve changed in this second time I’ve spent so unwillingly with you. I swore that this time, I wouldn’t allow you to destroy me, to steal my life no matter what you did to me. Somewhere along the way, I found that I wasn’t a victim. I would be a survivor, a fighter. I would see my son again. I would enjoy a summer day, a cool winter night or the spring rain. I would bask in the sunshine with my lover. I would defeat you, beat you at your own game, and teach others how to survive and fight you.

There were days, many days in which my strength and hope waned, days when I would fight the guards just to FEEL, to KNOW I am ALIVE, I am REAL. The pain was real, the suffering was real and through all the mental and emotional anguish I held onto that burning rage I had inside and I became a “soulja,” a trained reconnaissance soulja, an urban guerilla who was ready for your warfare on whatever level you chose to fight.

When there was no attack on me, but on my captive sisters, I fought for them. I had to guard and protect those who didn’t understand your tactics. After all, that is “how you roll”—to besiege and then sequester the innocent, the unsuspecting. Isolated, they are then abused and returned to the free world shell-shocked. These are my sisters. I couldn’t just turn a blind eye or a deaf ear, even if it meant that I put myself in the line of fire, targeted.

I admit you are quite the formidable adversary. That is why your reach has grown and now no one is safe from you, not even your conceivers and your capitalist grantors. I’m quite sure you’ve deceived them into believing that you will not bite the hand that feeds. Won’t they be surprised and horrified when even they become trapped within you…

But, as your reach continues to expand, so does my network—my allies, the grassroots guerillas who support my resistance.

Funny, you fail to realize that, even while locked within you, deep in your bowels, my army of one is multiplying. Many armies of one are joining to become an army of many, who will foster and implicate the prisoner resistance movement and who will bring this hidden revolution to light.

I am leaving you and I know you are angry at this, but you see, I am ANGRIER and I MUST take this fight where your scary ass doesn’t want me to—to the streets. For it is outside of your walls that this revolution is about to explode. I will take it to the everyday common hardworking folk, the masses of overworked and underpaid who are your targets, so they no longer remain blind. I will take it to the uncertain and educate them, give them weapons to fight you. I will take it to the elitists on their pedestals and knock them down.

This is a war all right, a war for human rights and I will not allow you to take any more children from their families so that you can train them to become statistics of recidivism. You will not destroy my people. You will not destroy my family. For as much as you hate those you harm, I love them 100 times more.

My visionaries are beside me, inside me, speaking their truths.

My revolutionary sisters and brothers are everywhere, learning their truths.

Abolition has begun and it will not stop now.

I will not stop until all are free.

And this, Lowell Correctional Institution, is such a Savage Reality.

Until there are no more death chambers, I will fight.

Your Ex-Hostage,

(Lisa) Lee Savage

Lee was released on August 1st, and continues the struggle from the outside. To contact her, write to her at:

PO. Box 5453
Gainesville, FL 32627-5453

All eyes on Eyman: Human Rights and the SMU.

Following are two posts about Supermax prisons / Special Management Units (like ASPC-Eyman), and solitary's harmful effects from David Fathi in the ACLU Blog of Rights. If you have a loved one in AZ prisons with a mental illness being managed by moving them into more restrictive/non-therapeutic settings (like detention or SMU) instead of providing them with adequate psychiatric treatment services, please contact me. We need to work together on this.

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Turning the Corner on Solitary Confinement?

February 24, 2011

This week, Colorado state Sen. Morgan Carroll and Rep. Claire Levy introduced a bill that would substantially limit the use of solitary confinement in the state's prisons. S.B. 176 would restrict solitary confinement of prisoners with mental illness or developmental disabilities, who currently make up more than one-third of the state's solitary confinement population. It would require regular mental health evaluations for prisoners in solitary, and prompt removal of those who develop mental illness. And it would significantly restrict the practice of releasing prisoners directly from solitary confinement into the community, where they are more likely to re-offend than prisoners who transition from solitary to the general prison population before release.

The shattering psychological effects of solitary confinement, even for relatively short periods, are well known. "It's an awful thing, solitary," John McCain wrote of his time in isolation as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. "It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment." The American journalist Roxana Saberi, imprisoned by the Iranian government, said that she was "going crazy" after two weeks in solitary. Imagine, then, that 54 prisoners in Illinois have been in continuous solitary confinement for more than 10 years.

These reforms are long overdue for Colorado and for the nation as a whole. Solitary confinement is an expensive boondoggle – in Colorado, it costs an additional $21,485 per year for each prisoner. And all we get for that investment is an undermining of our public safety. The vast majority of prisoners who are forced to endure long-term isolation are eventually released back into the community, where the devastating impact of solitary confinement leaves them more damaged and less capable of living a law-abiding life.

The United States uses long-term solitary confinement to a degree unparalleled in other democracies, with an estimated 20,000 prisoners in solitary at any one time, and it's attracting increasing criticism from international human rights bodies. The U.N. Human Rights Committee and Committee Against Torture have both expressed concern about the use of prolonged isolation in U.S. prisons and recommended scrutinizing this practice with a view to bringing prison conditions and treatment of prisoners in line with international human rights norms. And the European Court of Human Rights has temporarily blocked the extradition of four terrorism suspects to the United States on the ground that their possible incarceration in a Supermax prison, where solitary confinement is the norm, could violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

Last week the ACLU urged the U.N. Human Rights Council to address the widespread violations of the human rights of prisoners in the United States associated with solitary confinement. Many of the measures we call for, such as prohibiting solitary confinement of the mentally ill and careful monitoring of prisoners in solitary for mental illness, are also part of Colorado's S.B. 176. Colorado may be only one state, but the bill's introduction is a hopeful sign that the United States may, at last, be turning the corner on solitary confinement.

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Supermax Prisons: Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading

Jul 9th, 2010

This week the European Court of Human Rights temporarily halted the extradition of four terrorism suspects from the United Kingdom to the United States. The court concluded that the applicants had raised a serious question whether their possible long-term incarceration in a U.S. “supermax” prison would violate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits “torture or … inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The court noted that “complete sensory isolation, coupled with total social isolation, can destroy the personality and constitutes a form of inhuman treatment which cannot be justified by the requirements of security or any other reason,” and called for additional submissions from the parties before finally deciding the applicants’ claim.

The court’s decision was not a surprise. International human rights bodies have repeatedly expressed the view that supermax prisons — in which prisoners are held in near-total social isolation, sometimes for years on end — may violate international human rights law. In 2006, the U.N. Committee Against Torture expressed concern about “the extremely harsh regime” in US supermax prisons, which it said could violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a human rights treaty ratified by the United States in 1994.

Despite these warnings, supermax prisons are common in the United States. In the 1990s they were a raging fad, yet another round in the perpetual “tough on crime” political bidding war. Suddenly every state had to build one — Virginia was so tough it built two. By the end of the decade, more than 30 states, as well as the federal government, were operating a supermax facility or unit.

The devastating effects of isolated confinement on the human psyche have long been well known. In 1890, the Supreme Court described the results of solitary confinement as it had been practiced in the early days of the United States:

A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.

Conditions in modern supermax prisons are, if anything, even more damaging, as technological advances like video surveillance have made possible a greater degree of social isolation than in earlier times.

The ACLU has been bringing challenges to supermax prisons for over a decade, and what we’ve found is troubling. The official line is that these prisons are reserved for the “worst of the worst” — the most dangerous and incorrigibly violent — but most states have only a few such prisoners. In overcrowded prison systems, the typical response has been to fill the remaining supermax cells with "nuisance prisoners" — those who file lawsuits, violate minor prison rules, or otherwise annoy staff, but by no stretch of the imagination require the extremely high security of a supermax facility. Thus in Wisconsin's supermax, one of the "worst of the worst" was a 16-year-old car thief. Twenty-year-old David Tracy hanged himself in a Virginia supermax; he had been sent there at age 19, with a 2 ½ year sentence for selling drugs.

The mentally ill are vastly overrepresented in supermax prisons, and once subjected to the stress of isolated confinement, many of them deteriorate dramatically. Some engage in bizarre and extreme acts of self-injury and even suicide. In an Indiana supermax, a 21-year-old mentally ill prisoner set himself on fire in his cell and died from his burns; another man in the same unit choked himself to death with a washcloth. It’s not unusual to find supermax prisoners who swallow razors and other objects, smash their heads into the wall, compulsively cut their flesh, try to hang themselves, and otherwise attempt to harm or kill themselves.

Lawsuits by the ACLU and others have mitigated some of the worst features of supermax confinement, but thousands of prisoners remain entombed in these facilities throughout the United States. Fortunately, with states facing record budget deficits, supermax facilities, which are far more expensive to build and operate than conventional prisons, have lost much of their appeal. Bills have been introduced in the Illinois and Maine legislatures to substantially restrict supermax confinement in those states. There’s a long way to go, but these are important first steps toward bringing U.S. prison conditions into line with human rights norms, and with basic human decency.

(Originally posted on Huffington Post.)


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Criminalization of Consciousness: Georgia Prison Strikers Beaten & Missing.

(Sorry, prison-watchers. I put this up at Prison Abolitionist last week but failed to post it here...)

No meaningful prison reform has ever been achieved without a critical consciousness and the organized efforts of prisoners themselves, but to succeed this kind of resistance needs immediate and sustained support beyond prison walls. The GA Department of Corrections is making an example of the strikers for embarrassing them in front of national law enforcement - they will be as brutal and repressive as they can get away with being, and other states will follow suit if we let it stand.

The following intervention involves no risk to the free among us, and it's very little hassle compared to what these brothers have endured in order to be heard out here. For putting their own lives and liberty on the line defending the rights, dignity, and human potential of prisoners everywhere, please help amplify these voices. Don't let power hide them away.

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Protest Retaliation Against Georgia Prisoners

From: SF Bay View

by Mary Ratcliff, Feb 20, 2011

Georgia State Prison, Reidsville

If the military now running Egypt is as repressive as Mubarak, you know the Egyptians will be outraged. They won’t stand for it. Whenever we in the U.S. make a brave step forward … and are pushed back a couple of steps, we should be outraged too. And we should make some noise.

On Dec. 9, thousands of prisoners in Georgia – prisoners from different prisons, of different races, ages and religions – made a very brave step forward. They all sat down at once, demanding a living wage for work, education opportunities, decent health care, an end to cruel and unusual punishment, decent living conditions, nutritional meals, vocational and self-improvement opportunities, access to families and just parole decisions. (The full list of demands, in the prisoners’ words, is reprinted below.) It was the biggest prison strike in U.S. history.

Eight days later, the newly formed Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners’ Rights met in Atlanta with Georgia prison officials, who, Bruce Dixon reported, told them they had “identified dozens of inmates whom they believed were leaders of the strike. They admitted confining these inmates to isolation and in some cases transferring them to other institutions.”

Now, over two months later, 37 of those confined are still missing – no news of where they are or how they are doing – and several cases of hideous retaliation have come to light, including that of Miguel Jackson, who was pepper sprayed, handcuffed and beaten with hammers, resulting in a fractured nose and 50 stitches to his face. Guards then tried to throw him over the railing from the second floor, his wife said.

On Jan. 11, a Georgia prisoner sent a text message to Zak Solomon of the Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners’ Rights, saying: “Since the beatings of inmates with hammers by corrections staff, another approach by staff is taking place. Instead of the staff themselves beating inmates, they are allowing the so called gang bangers and so called thugs to do it and then they compensate them in some fashion, as well as protect them from disciplinary action.”

Yesterday, legendary prisoner advocate Kiilu Nyasha received text messages from a Georgia prisoner whose close friend is Eugene Thomas, known to Bay View readers for a number of stories, most recently “Still no news of 37 missing Georgia prison strikers,” in which he wrote, “Reidsville, where we are, is hiding some of those brothers. This place has a history of hiding people, as they did Imam Jamil A. Al-Amin [the former H. Rap Brown] before transferring him to federal prison in Florence, Colorado.”

Brother Eugene, his friend wrote to Kiilu, is the latest victim of retaliation.

“Dear sistah,” he wrote, ”This is Mabu from the Georgia prison movement. I am a close comrade of Bro. Eugene Thomas of Georgia State Prison [also known as Reidsville], who is a known activist for prisoners’ rights and a devout Muslim. This morning I received word that he and a 56-year-old inmate by the name of Willie Mosley had been locked down and placed in the hole for alleged exposure charges.

“Anyone who has been to Reidsville knows that there are steel doors that enclose one into the showers there. Brothers usually crack the large steel doors for two reasons: one, to place your clothes and towel on the outer corner of the door so they don’t get wet. And secondly, to be able to breathe amongst so much steam and heat in the shower.

“Now a white female officer by the name of Shannon Campbell has tried to slander the brothers’ character with such filthy accusations. These brothers have never had any history of such behavior and have a number of witnesses to prove them innocent. However, most prison infractions are judged at kangaroo courts within the system not by a group of the subjects’ peers but by the staff’s coworkers. All charges will be based on officer’s ‘factual statement.’

“It is no coincidence that Bro. Eugene is being framed up at such a time. He just recently wrote an inspiring piece for the SF Bay View and submitted images of prisoners in Reidsville enjoying the paper in a study group. This is merely Georgia prison authorities’ traditional form of retaliation by criminalizing consciousness.

“Please call Georgia State Prison to see that the brothers get a fair trial and all their witnesses are allowed to file statements on their behalf and show up on the assigned court date for testimony. Otherwise they could face a long isolation sentence, store and phone restriction. Please call (912) 557-7301. In the words of Che Guavara, ‘No one is free where others are oppressed!’”

Time to express our outrage

The time has come for us to express our outrage. The phone number provided by Mabu, (912) 557-7301, takes you to the office of Warden Bruce Chatman, whose appointment to that position took effect very recently, on Dec. 16, 2010. Tell him – or leave a message – that you are concerned about Eugene Thomas and Willie Mosley, that you suspect they are being falsely charged and that you want an immediate investigation.

Even more importantly, tell Warden Chatman that Eugene Thomas and all prisoners are entitled to the fundamental human right of free speech. Tell him that retaliation against a prisoner for speaking out is intolerable.

The Reidsville 3

In “Still no news of 37 missing Georgia prison strikers,” Eugene Thomas also wrote: “(W)e have a situation here where three young brothers, including my old cellmate, are being held for murder and robbery of an older white prisoner … These folks have been just holding these young brothers. They haven’t indicted neither one of them, haven’t fingerprinted either of them, aren’t giving them their proper segregation hearing — just holding them in lockup. It’s an interesting story, especially in light of everything taking place in Georgia now and with this place being a massive lockdown facility. They’ve been in the ‘hole’ now five months. I call them the ‘Reidsville 3.’”

Today, I got a call from the grandmother of one of those young men. Her grandson, Maurice C. Orr, is only 18 years old. After being placed in segregation – “the hole” – he was entitled by Georgia law to an informal hearing within 96 hours, a formal hearing with legal representation within 90 days and the opportunity to appeal the decision. Yet after six months, he has received none of that – no due process whatsoever.

Like the 37 missing men identified as leaders of the historic Dec. 9 prison strike and like Imam Jamil, the Reidsville 3 have been “hidden” by Georgia prison authorities. This is one of the practices that led to the prison strike.

“The hole” is a terrible place for anyone, especially an 18-year-old youngster like Maurice Orr, diagnosed as bipolar, who suffers from anxiety, claustrophobia and asthma – the asthma intensified by stifling heat and a lack of ventilation in the bowels of the old prison. He’s rarely allowed outdoors and is getting no medical or mental health care. Ironically, according to Wikipedia, Georgia State Prison’s Mental Health Program is a model for the federal prison system.

Maurice’s grandmother, who raised him and his brother since they were toddlers, says he is constantly being humiliated by the guards, who subject him to frequent strip searches. She believes they are trying to provoke him to violence, giving them an excuse to brutalize him.

“He’s got a good heart,” she says. “He’s a very good child. He’s smart. He can do ‘most everything. Whenever he’d get sick, I’d get sick. That’s how close we are.”

What we can and must do

Prison conditions are abominable all over the country, judging from the fistful of letters the Bay View receives every day from prisoners in every state. To a great extent, the current scourge of mass incarceration – the U.S., with 4.5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, is the world’s first prison state – is retaliation for the civil rights and Black power movements.

Too long have we tolerated this backsliding from the great advances of the ‘60s. When we are presented with a clear case of retaliation, we must protest.

Let’s begin by taking Zak Solomon’s advice: “After discussion with members and affiliates of the Concerned Coalition, it seems that the best response we can take at the moment is to call Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, at (404) 656-1776.

“Deal is an anti-immigrant former prosecutor and has little concern for the prisoners’ rights or their safety. Short of going out to Georgia, shutting down his phone lines appears to be the most effective way to let him know the world is watching.”

The governor is responsible for the wellbeing of all Georgia residents, including those who reside in its prisons, whether he likes them or not. We who do care about our brothers and sisters locked up in Georgia dungeons must convince him to stop hiding and brutalizing prisoners and instead to sit down with them to negotiate their righteous demands.

The prisoners accused of organizing the Dec. 9 prison strike “got shipped out of their home institutions and were dispersed across the state,” Ajamu Baraka, director of the U.S. Human Rights Network and a member of the Concerned Coalition to Protect Prisoners’ Rights, told the Final Call. Gov. Deal must be made to account for the whereabouts and the condition of each of them.

“Mr. Baraka said he feels one reason prison authorities moved to shut down the strike quickly was because it could serve as a possible model for prisoners across the country,” the Final Call reported. “But the outcome of the action in Georgia will determine whether there will be more and similar uprisings across the U.S., he predicted.”

Call Warden Chatman and Gov. Deal

Readers are urged to call

• Warden Bruce Chatman of Georgia State Prison at (912) 557-7301 concerning
o The apparently retaliatory segregation (transfer to “the hole”) of Eugene Thomas and Willie Mosley and
o The segregation and denial of due process to 18-year-old Maurice Orr and the others accused with him.

• Gov. Nathan Deal at (404) 656-1776 concerning
o The Dec. 9 prison strike demands and
o Hiding and retaliating against those accused of involvement in the Dec. 9 prison strike.

Readers are also encouraged to write words of encouragement to

• Eugene Thomas, 671488, Georgia State Prison, 2164 Georgia Highway 147, Reidsville, GA 30499, and

• Maurice Orr, 11199555, Georgia State Prison, 2164 Georgia Highway 147, Reidsville, GA 30499

The Dec. 9 prison strikers’ demands

A living wage for work: In violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, the DOC [Georgia Department of Corrections] demands prisoners work for free.

Educational opportunities: For the great majority of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED, despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.

Decent health care: In violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, the DOC denies adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering.

An end to cruel and unusual punishment: In further violation of the Eighth Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.

Decent living conditions: Georgia prisoners are confined in overcrowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and oppressive heat in summer.

Nutritional meals: Vegetables and fruit are in short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are plentiful.

Vocational and self-improvement opportunities: The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training, self-improvement and proper exercise.

Access to families: The DOC has disconnected thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.

Just parole decisions: The Parole Board capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite evidence of eligibility.

Bay View editor Mary Ratcliff can be reached at editor@sfbayview.com or (415) 671-0789. Other writings by Eugene Thomas published by the Bay View are “Georgia prisoners: Standing up by sitting down” and “Rallying, rioting, rebelling: Revolution.”

Block Report Radio on the Georgia Prison Strike

Minister of Information JR interviews long time Georgia prisoner Eugene Thomas about prison conditions that led up to the biggest prisoner strike in U.S. history, begun Dec. 9, 2010.
Click here to hear it!
(scroll down please)

Georgia Solidarity: Seven Guards Arrested for Assaulting GA Prisoner.

Firehouse Gallery
1015 N. 1st. St.
Phoenix, AZ.
December 31, 2010



This is astonishing: they're actually prosecuting those corrections officers for battery! Keep in mind that we still have prisoners from the biggest prisoner strike in US history missing and in harms' way, though. That story follows this one.


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

Seven prison guards arrested on charges of beating inmate

By Rhonda Cook
February 21, 2011

Seven Georgia prison guards were arrested Monday on charges of beating an inmate, inflicting injuries so severe that the prisoner was in the hospital for "an extended period of time," according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

GBI spokesman John Bankhead said the seven -- Christopher Hall, Ronald Lach, Derrick, Wimbush, Willie Redden, Darren Douglass Griffin, Kerry Bolden and Delton Rushin -- were arrested Monday morning when they reported to work at Macon State Prison. The facility is located in Oglethorpe, about 50 miles southwest of Macon.

All are charged with aggravated battery and violating their oaths of office.

At the request of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was asked to investigate allegations of incidents at Macon State Prison and Smith State Prisons on January 5, 2011.

"I appreciate the GBI’s swift response in investigating these allegations and assisting with the Department’s non-negotiable mission of protecting the public," Owens said. "We have an obligation to protect the public and that includes staff and inmates."

The GBI investigation began amid reports that guards attacked inmates at two state institutions – Macon State Prison and Smith State Prison near Savannah. The alleged assaults came at the end of a six-day protest and work stoppage at nearly a dozen facilities.

According to a newly formed advocacy group -- the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners' Rights -- inmates Terrance Dean and Miguel Jackson were "brutally beaten by guards" because they joined the protest. It was not clear which inmate was hospitalized but Dean is at the Augusta State Medical Prison, according to the Department of Corrections website.

Both men are serving 20-year sentences. Dean, born in 1981, was convicted in Bibb County for armed robberies in 2003 and 2004. Jackson, born in 1975, is at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson for several convictions, including armed robbery and aggravated assault.

Bankhead said the investigation was continuing.

“It’s not closed. We’re still investigating,” Bankhead said.

He did not know if more arrests were expected.

Inmates at 11 prisons began refusing to report to work details in early December. Four prisons responded with lock downs, which meant inmates could not make calls from the phones in the cell blocks, nor could they receive mail.

Please read the rest here.

--Staff writer Christian Boone contributed to this report.

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



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

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

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


You can reach them at:

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

520.623.9141

afscaz@afsc.org

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


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

KPHO.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, February 25, 2011

Prosecuting innocence: Free Courtney Bisbee.

I've heard this mother fight for her relationship with her daughter in family court myself, and I've seen much of the evidence that could exonerate her. Not only is there reasonable doubt as to her guilt, I'm absolutely convinced of Courtney's innocence. She's a remarkable woman, driven by her love for her little girl to fight all the forces the state can amass against a person - and then some.

Andrew Thomas' tenure did damage to many ordinary people's lives here; we'll see where Bill Montgomery goes. The county attorney has a duty to victims first and foremost, and that includes victims of the state, but it takes courage for politicians - especially here - to take that kind of responsibility. Once they convict you, everyone seems more concerned with avoiding liability by admitting harm than upholding justice.

A good prosecutor is driven to find the truth, not simply seek convictions, though - and a good prosecutor's eyes on this case is what's needed.
Six years is already too long to have your mom or child taken from you - that can never be recovered. Never. There's a whole family being punished with Courtney, in fact, victims themselves of a multitude of horrible crimes - including the violence of incarceration. They all deserve to be free.

So, those who still think this system really delivers justice - and that only the "guilty" get brutalized by it anyway - need to read this woman's story. Then go sign the petition.


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



There was no physical evidence linking Courtney Bisbee to a crime, just the incomplete and inconsistent testimony of child witnesses who claimed they saw her engage in inappropriate touching with a 13 year old boy. And it was based on that testimony alone that she was convicted in 2006 of child molestation and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Bisbee, a 35-year-old mother and former school nurse, was prosecuted by the office of disgraced District Attorney Andrew Thomas, the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation who has been accused by the Arizona State Bar of having engaged in at least 33 ethical violations while in office, from abuse of power to prosecutorial misconduct. Thomas is also perhaps best known for prosecuting a 16-year-old boy as a child sex offender for allegedly showing a Playboy to two of his friends.

In January 2007, the case against Bisbee – already thin – began to unravel, as journalist Stephen Lemons reported in a comprehensive piece for The Phoenix New Times. Indeed, one of the prosecution's “star” witnesses, Nik Valles, signed an affidavit stating that he was forced to lie on the stand – forced to say his brother, Jon, was groped by Bisbee at a friend's house – by his mother, who he says put him up to it in order to cash-in from a lawsuit against the school where Bisbee worked.

In the affidavit, Nik states that his mother, Janette Sloan, “wanted my brother, Jonathan Valles, to make false accusations against Courtney Bisbee for financial gain.” And he says he witnessed her tell his brother “to lie and to stick to the story and, 'You'll be a rich kid.”

Nik said that, as a 15 year old, he had no choice but to heed his mother's wishes – to lie on the stand and help convict an innocent woman. He now lives with his father.

"I love her; she's my mom,” Nik told the New Times. "But I don't agree with any of the decisions that she makes, and I wouldn't trust her with my life.”

Such a stunning revelation should have immediately earned Bisbee a new trial – if not her freedom outright. But Thomas ignored it – why let something like exculpatory evidence get in the way of a conviction? – as has his successor, Bill Montgomery. And so Courtney Bisbee remains in prison.

But she has her supporters.

Dawn Kirkpatrick attended the same church as Bisbee in Scottsdale, Arizona. And while she didn't know her personally, she says they had friends in common.

“One of these friends put a letter about Courtney's case on each table of a woman's Bible study that I was attending,” Kirkpatrick tells Change.org. “I picked up the letter that day and was interested in finding out more information.” And that she did, spending hours going through the evidence on a website Bisbee's parents set up about her case, www.Justice4Courtney.com.

“I started to read the evidence and ended up staying up almost the whole night digging into it all,” says Kirkpatrick. “To me it was quite obvious that she was completely innocent of this alleged crime and I couldn't understand why she was still in prison. From there I had to learn how difficult it is to get someone out of prison once they are convicted.”

And from there she decided to do something about it, working to help raise awareness about Bisbee's case and starting a petition that aims to get her a new trial.

“I have become friends with Courtney and visit her in prison,” says Kirkpatrick. “As a person who was assaulted myself at the age of 16, I would never support someone accused of a crime like this unless I believed 100 percent in their innocence.”

Executing "Justice": Arizona still kills.

Right wing Arizona militia-woman Shawna Forde was sentenced to die this week for murdering 9-year old Brisenia Flores and her father in a botched Tucson robbery whose proceeds were intended to finance weapons and other resources for anti-immigrant activities. I can't think of many things more criminal than what she did to that family and our community, but still can't condone the death penalty. Besides, she isn't the only one culpable in all this - there's a whole public and politic here which cultivated her hate. We know who to assign guilt to for the Flores family tragedy, but who is responsible, and how will killing Shawna Forde reinforce our ability to honor all life here?

I resist not so much for the sake of Shawna Forde's "right to life" as for the sake of our collective humanity, though - I have no sympathy for Forde. We are punishing her for devaluing human life by extinguishing human life, and it does nothing to stem the tide of violence and hate crimes against Latinos in this state...if anything, it lulls too many citizens into thinking that by executing a perpetrator, we've done what we need to do about it until we execute the next one, and the next. How, then, does the victimization and crime end in the first place, if all we do is react with pure vengeance after the fact?

It's not difficult to see that this little corner of the nation is a hotbed of hypocrisy, simple-mindedness, vindictiveness and greed (no wonder the Tea Partiers are having their summit in Phoenix). Plenty of the same people who will readily condemn Forde to death for her sins are blind or indifferent to the real harm they themselves perpetrate on immigrants by supporting our current government; many will continue to actively seek to do maximum damage to people's lives. I won't lend my voice to any of it, nor will I consent with my silence.

The rest of the nation is evolving around us, while Arizona mires itself deeper and deeper into repressive government policies and the people - with
a few notable exceptions here - do little more than bleat an objection when their own interests are threatened, then fall back in line with the other sheep to get comfortable again.

Below is the way the state finds witnesses to its executions. Here is our Death Row. At least one woman sits there who has a strong case for exoneration, Debra Milke. Hopefully she will get a fair hearing in court before we decide to proceed to execute her. A Texas judge ruled the death penalty there unconstitutional last year because of evidence that an innocent man was executed, among other things.

What's taking us so long to catch up? I think all these rich white men holding the reins of power have something to do with our inability to make any social progress in this state. They're trying to figure out how to make us the least progressive state in the nation, in fact, even looking at cancelling Medicaid for citizens and forming some crazy committee to declare whether or not federal laws are constitutional and obligate Arizona to follow them (seriously...). They're also using all our tax dollars here suing - well, suing US, the People.

Tuesday, March 1, is International Day to Abolish the Death Penalty, by the way. Here are a few useful resources towards that end:

Coalition of Arizonans to Abolish the Death Penalty

Facebook group
Website

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Causes.com
Website

Amnesty International


Equal Justice USA


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

ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
JANICE K. BREWER GOVERNOR
1601 W. JEFFERSON PHOENIX, ARIZONA 85007 (602) 542-3133
www.azcorrections.gov
CHARLES L. RYAN DIRECTOR

Media advisory

For more information contact:
Barrett Marson
bmarson@azcorrections.gov
Bill Lamoreaux
blamorea@azcorrections.gov

Feb. 23, 2011


Execution witness requests

Phoenix, Az – The Arizona Supreme Court issued a March 29, 2011, warrant of execution for inmate Eric J. King, #46518.

Members of the media may submit a written (email) request to witness the execution to the Media Relations office. Each request must include the name, social security number and birth date of the journalist requesting access. Five members of the media will be selected to represent the media pool. The media pool consists of representatives from the AP, television, radio, print and the local media where the crime occurred. Witnesses will be selected 15 days prior to the execution.

The execution is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday March 29 at the Central Unit of ASPC-Florence. Selected witnesses must be in the media staging area by 8 a.m.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eloy Council blesses CCA prison proposal.


Arizona State Capitol / Wes Bolin Memorial Plaza
February 15, 2011

Here's the local coverage of last week's Eloy City Council meeting - there really is such a thing as a free press in Arizona. The people of Eloy should be proud of that, despite the performance of their public officials. Kudos to Lindsey Gemme, editor of the Eloy Enterprise at Tri-Valley Central for giving the private prison issue the fair hearing this month that the Eloy City Council wouldn't. I had no expectation of such a comprehensive report on the meeting - I drove Frank to it; this is a good account of how it went down. The mayor, as noted, is on Corrections Corporation of America's payroll (is it any wonder?), and the rest of them showed more concern for roads and traffic lights than for the lawsuits and human rights claims filed against the CCA prisons in their town.

I was actually astonished that there was no council discussion of the abuse - no sign of disapproval, even. People have been brutalized and raped in the City of Eloy's care - Hawai'i is even talking about pulling their prisoners out. If CCA and Eloy can't be responsible for those already committed to their custody - at quite a cost to the public, in more ways than one - why should Arizona pay them to warehouse and dehumanize our people, too? What kind of critical public service is that really providing - torturing drunks, drug addicts and burglars already bound in chains? It not only diminishes our collective humanity, it puts us all at risk to let prisoners be abused in the end.


Gemme - you may or may not agree with my own editorial above, but I think identifying the allegations of CCA's prisoner abuse in the meeting took integrity and courage - I think most editors in a similar situation might have considered that ice to be too thin. Good luck with the fallout. There are a lot of Hawai'ian families who will be watching your back now, at least - they need news they can trust more than anyone these days. We'll be watching, too.



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

The private life of prisons

Researchers address Council on dangers, costs of private prisons

By LINDSEY GEMME
Editor - Eloy Enterprise Tri-Valley Central.com
Published: Thursday, February 24, 2011

What seemed to be a housekeeping issue before Council during its regular meeting last Monday, Feb. 14, opened up a can of worms when three agreements with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) came on deck.

Mayor Byron Jackson abstained from the discussion and approval of the CCA items, as his being a contract employee for CCA for landscaping presented a conflict of interest. Vice-Mayor Frank Acuna oversaw the discussion in his place.

The first of the three items were merely to formalize in writing a verbal agreement with an existing contract between CCA and the Dept. of Public Safety in Hawaii. Though the city had been involved, it had never officially designated in writing or policy the lawful roles of each member in the agreement.

“It creates a separate agreement defining the city’s and CCA’s previous agreement to house the State of Hawaii and Dept. of Public Safety inmates in Eloy,” City Manager Ruth Osuna explained.

The second was a request of Council’s support in a proposal CCA was sending out for a contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections for 5,000 prison beds. Pending the results of that bid, CCA could be building a new facility to accommodate those state inmates, or expanding on an existing one. Eloy is one of several locations CCA would considering siting a new facility, if needed.

The proposal will be submitted today, Feb. 24. The 5,000 beds could be split up into several facilities, and it is uncertain exactly what CCA will opt to do.

“Both out of the respect for the RFP process and for competitive reasons, it’s too early in the process and it’s premature for CCA to discuss what that proposal would entail,” CCA Public Affairs Director Steve Owen later explained.

Before approval of the items last week, two members of the audience addressed Council during the Call to the Public about the agreements with the for-profit correctional company.

Local resident Frank Smith explained that he has been researching private prisons for 15 years. Besides helping to build criminal cases in the past, he’s also become quite knowledgeable about the drain private prisons put on a municipality. For example, he said, prisoners use 150 gallons of water a day, each. Multiply that times 5,000 prisoners, that’s 273 million gallons of water a year in Eloy.

“You’re talking about a tremendous amount of water,” Smith pointed out. “You’ve got problems with water in Arizona, you’ve got the Salt River Project. It’s a consideration you should investigate before you approve this agreement.”

CCA tends to depend on the towns where their prisons are located to supply infrastructure like sewer lines and paving, he went on to say. “Not always, but most of the time. There is a liability here, you can get into trouble.”

Another liability, he added, were escapes from these facilities, such as the one in Kingman last year. According to Smith, the state is being sued $40 million for the Kingman escape.

“An escape that was inevitable given the level of training and turnover of the guards that were there,” he said. “It took them hours to notify the Mojave County Sheriff. After three hours, they didn’t even know who was gone…and it took another hour and an half or so before the EDC was notified who they were.

“You’ve got serious problems here. I think the city should investigate its exposure to liability.”

He cited the pre-Christmas riot in December last year where seven inmates were sent to the hospital as another instance of liability for the city to consider. Especially, he said, in light of the lawsuit being waged against CCA by 18 Hawaiian prisoners who reported serious abuse at the hands of CCA staff at the Saguaro prison.

Costs are another thing he warned the city to be wary about. “You don’t see the numbers that CCA should be giving you. And you don’t get the jobs here. There’s a very high turnover.”

For example in Texas, he said, the state discovered that seven of their private prisons had 90 percent turnover a year. “That’s not correctional officers, you’re talking about fast food workers with badges. That’s tremendous turnover.”

Vice-Mayor Acuna had to cut Smith off at the three-minute mark, and Caroline Isaacs came to the podium. Isaacs is director of the American Friends Service Committee Office in Tucson, which is a national organization associated with the Quaker religion and concentrates its efforts on criminal justice reform. She has been working with AFSCO for 15 years.

She began by announcing to Council about the public hearing on for-profit incarceration that they helped host in Tuscon on Oct. 27, 2010, during which several area community leaders presented their exhaustive research on private prisons.

According to the AFSC’s Web site, many Tucson area government officials were in attendance at last October’s public hearing regarding prison privatization. Correctional representatives from the Arizona Dept. of Corrections, CCA, and the Management and Training Corporation, although invited, were not in attendance,.

Those in attendance were: Phil Lopez (Ariz. State Representative, District 27), Assistance Tucson City Manager Richard Miranda, Richard Elias (Pima County Supervisor, District 5), Steve Kozachik (Tucson City Council, Ward 6), Nancy Young-Wright (Ariz. State Representative, District 26), and former associate editor for the Tucson Citizen, Mark Kimble, moderated by Mari Herraras from Tucson Weekly.

Presenters were Stephen Nathan with the Prison Privatization report International, Susan Maurer with the New Jersey Dept. of Corrections, Victoria Lopez with ACLU Arizona, Joe Glen with the Juvenile Corrections Association, and Jim Sanders with the Real Estate Appraiser in Tucson.

Some of the findings revealed at the meeting were that overall, it costs more to utilize private prisons than state-run institutions, are understaffed and Isaacs gave several examples from over the last year illustrating the safety concerns there are for prisoners.

This past summer, a Hawaiian inmate at Saguaro was strangled by his cellmate while the prison was in lock down in June 2010. That same month, another inmate was stabbed to death at Saguaro by two other inmates who could face the death penalty, and an employee suffered a broken nose and cheekbones and eye socket damage during a 30-inmate brawl over an Xbox game in July.

That’s not to mention the recent lawsuit pending against CCA by 18 of its inmates in December for abuse that went unchecked by the state’s on-site contract monitor.

Isaacs also explained to Council the uncertainty of the prison company’s cost nunbers, according to an audit done by a Hawaiian company for Saguaro.

“CCA chooses to report artificial cost figures derived from a calculation based on a flawed methodology,” she read directly from the audit. “Without clarified guidance by policy makers, the department has no incentive to perform better, and will continue to evade accountability by providing unreliable and inaccurate reporting of operating costs…”

At the end of her three minutes, Isaacs left information for Council to review at their leisure.

Council then turned to the task at hand, which were the three agreements with CCA.

The third agreement was to formalize a verbal contract between the city and CCA about the company’s role in building certain infrastructure to service its three newest prisons.

Councilman Joel Belloc questioned whether the roads around the newest prison, LaPalma, were completed and who was responsible for the upkeep of those roads. CCA representative John Gluch was present, and told Council that the roads were complete and were now in the hands of the city.

“[This agreement] is just to put into writing the timing of the improvements,” Rick Miller said about the final agreement. “It is good to know that they’re going to be anticipating those costs, which, in time, will need to be paid. We’ll need traffic signals and that infrastructure will go in and they will be a participant in their share of that.”

All three agreements were unanimously approved.

“We certainly are very appreciative of the level of support that the city of Eloy has shown us and by extension, the broader Pinal County area, as well as the recognition they’ve given the services that we provide,” Owen later commented, “and the economic impact we have with our facilities. We look forward to our long term relationship withe community continuing.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

ToersBijns: Burying us alive - Mentally Ill in Supermax

Another excellent post from former ASPC-Eyman (SMU) Deputy Warden Carl ToersBijns painfully detailing the experience of prisoners in solitary confinement and supermax settings, too many of whom are there because of the symptoms of their mental illnesses, not their criminality. His analysis of the dysfunctional management techniques used by corrections officers and administrators validates my own suspicions and observations; Carl knows of what he speaks.

Here is also the troubling 2007 report on solitary confinement in Arizona done by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), "Buried Alive". We have yet to make any headway in ending the practice here.


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


The Truth About Solitaire, Isolation, Deprivation, (SID) Prisoners
Mentally Ill Inside Max Custody

By Carl ToersBijns


Prisons designed for maximum security are instant isolation units merely by their design. The fact that maximum custody is designated to hold the "Worst of the Worst" is most misleading if anyone who worked in such an environment will testify to under oath. Following the road to this endless road to nowhere, you must first understand the dynamics involved to create this horde of thousands of human beings that are confined inside these cracker boxes designed for no human being to escape from.

Excluding those on death row, and crimes that are hideous and forever unforgivable, there are many locked up for the sake of being locked up. For the matter of providing the ultimate safety for its citizens or staff, such places as the special management units are designed, staffed and operated in such a manner every tiny little element of the environment is controlled. Much more restricted than any other place inside a prison, one would tremble with pure fear is ever left alone inside one of these boxes of concrete and steel designed to drive someone crazy through the use of the SID methods readily available to anyone who chooses to use them.

None of the pods are soundproof thus every whimper, every cry and every shout can be heard by all those that live inside. Every sound triggers a response from someone down the tier and whether friend or foe, the result is a mixture of shouts and chants that compete to be heard by its intended receiver. The officers, charged with the duty to maintain order, ignore these chants as they conduct their walks and exit the pods as quickly as they entered thus unable to distinguish a cry for help from a cry of disgust. None, even the best of the best, choose to remain inside one of these boxes any longer than they have to because of the steady pandemonium that exists within cell to cell and inmate to inmate.

The heat in the summer is unbearable as the swamp coolers are insufficient and barely is the air flow is noticable or felt. The lack of direct sunlight creates a shadow on every wall and with no hope to see the sun unless fortunate enough to be allowed to exit the cell for the designated recreation time outside the cell but to another concrete box. Many have electricity but often, if the inmate is problematic in sorts, the breaker is turned off for a designated amount of time undocumented anywhere. The water is controlled and can be turned off anytime staff chose to do so as well as adjusting the timers on the showers to shorten their use of water. The grey walls are scratched with graffiti and the front of the cell where the food port is situated is filthy with residue of spoiled food or in some cases, fecal material smeared by someone to get the attention needed to have someone talk to them.

The staff, all wearing protective gloves and in some cases, shields to protect them from foreign objects hurled at them from both the top and the bottom of the tiers work hard just to keep up with the most elementary chores to keep it going. Day in and day out, working short handed and against time to complete their required duties, the attitude that prevails is "us versus them" as many inmates choose to duel or engage in combat with the officers just to prove to others he is not a "bitch" for someone.

The presence of SID is abundant and it impacts the quality of life for the inmates to the extent of creating a deep abyss of hopelessness and an alien form of prison reality. Filthy, brutal, ignored and often perceived to be a form of "torture" for many, these inmates are kept away from the eyes of the public and anyone requesting to visit these dungeons. Whenever a legislator, the attorney general, a lawyer or foreign consulate comes to visit the place sufficient warning is given to "clean the place up" and design the approved route for the tour or visit.

Never seen in its real condition, not even by the agency director, it is repugnant that such a place exists in the first place. Toilets that are back up are left that way for weeks forcing some to crap on the floor. Lights stay on day and night and are eventually covered with paper to give them darkness to sleep in. Difficulties in sleeping at night as the screaming never ends, many choose to sleep during the day. The problem with covering up the lights during the night is it makes it impossible for the officer to see inside the cell without a flashlight and when maximum custody inmates are double bunked, there are dangers that an assault might have taken place but the officer's view is obstructed by the darkness and the willingness to have the inmate remove the cover is reluctantly and rarely done as it interrupts their hasty exit out of the box.

Mentally ill inmates are especially susceptible to the SID treatment. In fact, it is fair to say that because of their individual disorders, many suffer needlessly from sanctions imposed by those who may be unaware of their disabilities or dysfunctional capacities. This is the main reason mentally ill inmates should not be housed with behavioral problematic inmates. This influences administrative decisions when it should rather be a mental health decision to make with those parameters that are clinically sound and treatment effective. These inmates, often responding without malice, are given disciplinary for such conduct as covering their lights as they copy what others do or say while not understanding what they did wrong to get the punishment.

Many support staff, contract, medical and maintenance personnel refuse to enter cell areas because of the potential dangers in dealing with the mentally ill. This is largely due to misunderstandings of managing a mentally ill inmate and lack of training of such behaviors and because the cellie next door may be a sociopath and destructive or assaultive in nature. As a result, the response time to a work order or a medical need is sufficiently delayed. Sometimes it is due to fear but other times it is impose a behavioral modification that if you are going to bother them, they will come and see you on their time and not theirs.

The same applies to delayed letter deliveries, torn books, food thrown on the floor as a message that the inmate "needs to clean up his act" and other SID methods of satisfying the boundaries of control and who is actually in control of the box. There are cases where those inmates who have thrown their food tray back at the officer were provided sack meals for years to avoid the clean up of such waste on the cement floors. Never getting a hot meal or balanced diet, they live like that forever until someone questions why this inmate is not getting a regular meal.

Often called administrative segregation or lockup by many, the road to such a place is well designed and intentionally vague. Any inmate, whether serving life or serving two years of time can be directed to follow the course to solitary confinement through careful design of a set of management tools that can effectively erase someone's existence off the face of this earth for years. This toolbox of lockup tools consists of instruments that have for decades facilitated the route to lockup in a most legitimate manner but with the wrong spirit or design for use of such places. Let us examine these tools up close and decide whether or not they are legitimately or appropriately used to serve the purpose of administrative segregation for those who need such management controls.

Designated SID inmates are the focus of management efforts to remove them from the open yards or general population and cast them out of sight and out of mind through various means.

Tools designed to accommodate such a purpose are:

1. misconduct reports
2. Alleged threats to security or security staff
3. Alleged threat of harming themselves
4. Suicide ideations or expression of such
5. Attempted suicide
5. Assaultive behaviors
6. Gang activity or validation
7. Possession of weapons
8. Predatory conduct or behaviors.

Paying attention to these tools in the hands of a sound and ethical practicing corrections administrator creates no harm in the process. However, this would be the exception to the rule as each and every one of these tools provided, allows an administrator to remove an inmate to the most restrictive custody level without absolute proof of such conduct or behavior as it may only be inferred, speculated, documented as a possibility or with thin evidence that these tools can and do provide the catalyst to clear the administrator of any legal burdens for moving a inmate to a higher custody level without just cause. Even an inmate who repetitively writes grievances can end up in max custody.

Sometimes, when a high ranking administrator wants to issue retribution or retaliation to a SID designated inmate for doing something negative on their "domain" they will enter a comment into the computerized management system that will override any custody score or any other trigger than would have allowed that person to be reduced when eligible to do so upon review.

Thus an abuse of such a administrative '˜flag" could result in an extended stay in the higher custody level until such time the inmate is considered "taught a lesson" and reviewed for consideration to be lowered. Herein lays the biggest problem as mentally ill inmates are included in these behavioral difficult inmates as no distinction is being made at the time of placement. Nobody speaks up and nobody challenges the move and when the inmate grieves the process, the system has already been updated to show just cause for the placement or that the person is a systems abuser. The tricks of the trade allows that to be done since anyone can enter into the computerized management file and insert whatever critical comment needs to be made to justify the need. This is regardless whether disciplinary was upheld or not. It has no bearing.

Once the inmate is housed inside a maximum custody unit he or she is subject to a review and medical / mental health assessment. These screens are pencil whipped by many [not all] and reveal only two things for sure. Cooperative or uncooperative attitudes towards those who interviewed them which rarely results in any productive dialogue. There is no value in these screening processes as the inmate rarely talks about anything in fear of being targeted for more retribution or retaliation by staff through the administration. The routine inside is both mundane and often out of compliance with mandated living conditions.

The frequency and the amount of time allotted for each inmate to have recreation and showers are often curtailed or in many cases skipped due to lack of staffing to facilitate such a task. This builds animosity between staff and inmates and often results in frequent force being used during those periods where the inmate is escorted out of his or her cell to go to the recreation pen.

Visitation is only as good as the inmate's ability to recognize what day of the week it is and the ability to schedule such an activity with the case manager or visitation officer. Mentally ill inmates do not participate as they are either drugged through chemical restraints or unaware of their visitation privileges or they show no interest in seeing family as solitary confinement breeds hopelessness and depression. Calls are good for those functional but not a means to talk to family by the mentally ill. Competing with behavioral inmates for the telephone means somebody has to lose his or her turn and therefore gives up the opportunity to call home. Personal property is limited especially if designed a suicide problem or behavioral troublemaker. Kick starters are those who ramp up others into creating chaos inside the concrete boxes and as a result, the entire day is spent on lockdown status with no showers and recreation.

Mentally ill inmates are often intimidated, manipulated or otherwise convinced to hand over their personal property e.g. television, walkman, or anything else that can serve someone else in an entertainment mode or item for barter with others as officers rarely search the cells for contraband and items switched, traded or stolen. One can only imagine that mentally ill inmates are often stripped of anything worth value by those who do it because they can.

A review of suicides, self mutilations and other bizarre conduct within these isolated grey walls are horrendously revealing of a bigger problem. Being forced to live in isolation for years at a time creates intense feelings that can break a person's will to live or maintain a level of remaining rational under so much distress. It is not unusual for behavioral inmates to cut themselves just to get the attention from staff so they can socialize for just a few minutes with the nurse or staff member. Unfortunately, for the mentally ill, this could result in death as they have no idea where the boundaries are when they self harm themselves and may incur a more severe or serious wound that could be fatal due to emotional and mental deterioration inside this box.

SID can be used by staff, employees or even other inmates. This method of controlling behaviors inside a maximum custody unit have been effective for years and is often not questioned and rather, approved through tacit approval of those who choose to look the other way or not make changes in the routine of the unit affected. SID is destructive and responsible for homicides, suicides, serious assaults on both staff and inmates and is rarely identified as the cause or catalyst for such disruptive conduct. The inmate has to tow the line and accept responsibility for all he or she does without any reprieve or relief through grievances that are totally ignored or processed unless the right person gets a hold of such a document. Staff is rarely punished for excessive force or unprofessional conduct unless such conduct was viewed on a surveillance camera, a taped recording of the incident or word of mouth by other participants who are willing to speak out loud and tell the truth. Such conduct is considered to be a blatant violation of the code of silence and offers repercussions that could result in future disciplinary by designation (ironically the same method used to elevate the inmate's existence into max custody through paperwork) , banished or removed from the work setting, passed over for promotions. It can be accurately said that for both staff and inmate, only the strong survive.

The early warning signs for SID inmates are normally well structured and very transparent if someone is looking for them. The reason they are so transparent is because nobody has ever bothered to conduct an audit of these placements in maximum custody thus giving the administration free will and room to maneuver. If assigned to a human rights fact finding team it would be most expeditious for any member to pull out their records on all maximum custody inmates and glean their housing record, their mental health, medical scores, their disciplinary for frequency, severity and locations and most of all their use of force records, activity pod sheets showing participation in those mandated living conditions considered constitutional issues and comments by staff.

The disciplinary report, frequent and stacked by offenses indicates the severity of consideration provided. The signature of a lieutenant and above indicates ownership in the problem and the review by the deputy warden or designees shows the will to get rid of this SID inmate. A finding for a positive drug test when there are no other indicators of previous drug use may be a clue but not for certain. The finding of a shank or prison made knife can be planted and accomplish the goal to get rid of the SID inmate. Then when the inmate gets to the destination you must see if the person picks up more reports and gleans whether they were written by one person all the time or multiple persons including medical staff and administrative staff. This is important as it may indicate a targeted effort to keep this inmate at this most restrictive level. Statements supporting bizarre or unusual behavior can often support the placement into a temporary security watch or suicide watch depending on the space availability inside the max custody unit.

Follow up indicators should reveal the existence of a long term threat as the short term threat has now been assessed as needing more time in max custody. Max custody overrides are common tools to keep a SID inmate in max custody. Scoring lower levels but being overridden to remain in isolation and in a high secure setting is a powerful tool to break the spirit. One should read their classification forms and see what rationale was given to keep them in max custody. The filing of grievances is a poor indicator of staff abuse or harassment as it is taught in "max custody 101" to file a grievance whenever you arrive. The key to such instruments are the topics of concerns e.g. medical care, food, property and staff harassment and then follow the trail to names, frequency and history of prior institutional placements to see if the problem was pre-existing.

The most obvious means for family to be concerned with is the sudden interruption of regular phone calls or letter since both are controlled by the staff or administrations. Any inquiries by family members may prompt further SID treatment and create additional stress between the administration and the inmate. This elevation to a "high profile" inmate is not a popular event inside the box as it draws more heat on the living area with more cops being present to interrupt the inmate's games and schemes. This SID inmate will soon have to be moved due to threats made on his safety by other inmates. Attempted suicides when there is no history of previous suicides is a cry for a "come look at me please' for I have problems. It could also be an indicator they have reached the end of their ability to manage their behaviors where they are assigned and asking for a "room change" not otherwise considered. Excessive uses of forces are indicators of agitation and confrontation by staff who like to abuse their authority on others. SID inmates are often exposed to such an individual and are regularly abused by being played one against the other being blamed for things that happen inside the box when in fact, the officer created the problem.

Thankfully, there are only a few staff members that engage in such abusive practices of "kick starting" a SID inmate but as others may look the other way, the abuse continues. This blind eye is driving those who are mentally ill beyond the parameters of coping with their lives. It is with deep regret that I feel so compelled to write such a document when in fact, there are many great and dedicated staff that work inside these units who perform with diligence and energy unmatched by many who chose to be a correctional officer or administrator.

The truth, revealed only shows our weaknesses in management prisons designed for solitary confinement, isolation from the world and other human beings and deprivation of those basic rights to live under the most reasonable correctional practices allowed by law and policies. Human rights are valuable possessions no matter where they are located and should be respected as the rules are clear and compliance is an expectation. Unless the culture inside these prisons change, there will always be abused inmates and abusive staff.

Mental health inmates have no business being housed in isolation or solitary confinement as it only adds harm to the condition(s). The personality disorders, the psychopathic killers, the death row maniacs and the incorrigible gangsters who have no regard for human life or decency should be locked down per correctional best practices. The rules for mentally ill inmates must be different. Their disabilities and disorders, legitimately covered under the American Disabilities Act must be preserved and paid attention to by all who are responsible for the operation of such units. The rules are vague and it's easier "to do as I say rather than what is written." The oversight is nonexistent and the care or interest in such a place is apathetic and lackadaisical to say the least.


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