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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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Second look at state prison privatization.

Escape slows prison privatization

But its supporters say idea won't be derailed altogether

Tim Steller

Arizona Daily Star

Posted: Sunday, August 29, 2010 12:00 am

The recent escape at a for-profit prison in Kingman has slowed Arizona's rush toward privatizing corrections.

Even one of the Legislature's top supporters of private prisons, Rep. John Kavanagh, says the existing state-run complexes should remain public, not be turned private, as the state has tried to do.

But the fallout from the escape, during which two prisoners are accused of killing an Oklahoma couple, is so far limited enough that supporters imagine continued expansion by prison companies in Arizona.

"This doesn't seem to be a public vs. private issue, which some people want to turn it into," said Kavanagh, a Fountain Hills Republican. "It's a false dichotomy that distracts government from getting the best bang for the buck."

That's good news to fans of private prisons. But critics of the system, including gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Terry Goddard, say the escapes reveal the flaws with the system of for-profit prisons that now house 20 percent of Arizona's 40,000 inmates. As the debate heats up, they're airing critiques such as:

• Private prisons don't save taxpayers as much money as they say they do because they cherry-pick the cheapest inmates.

• Private prisons use political influence to affect state policies in ways that will benefit them but not necessarily the public.

• Private prisons are more prone to security breaches due to cost-cutting.

• Private prisons have an inherent incentive to boost profits by limiting rehabilitation programs and employee benefits.

Cost comparison

"It's a shame that it took such a dramatic and lethal occurrence to highlight some of the major flaws of privatization, but unfortunately it is a perfect example," said Caroline Isaacs, who directs the local American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that promotes peace and social justice.

The cost savings of private prisons seem apparent on the surface. A study of Arizona's 2007 prison costs by accounting firm Maximus found that, on average, housing an inmate at state-run prisons cost $62.45 per night, compared with $53.71 in private prisons.

But that study showed the cost of housing inmates at a private prison ran as high as $64.28 per night, at the Geo Group's Central Arizona Correctional Facility, which focuses on sex offenders. And the cost at state-run prisons was as low as $51.28 per night, at the state's Winslow Complex, which hosts a mixture of inmates.

The cost measures are biased against state-run prisons, critics said, because most private prisons house minimum-security inmates with few health problems. The contracts the state Corrections Department holds with the prison companies specify what kind of prisoners can enter state facilities.

So, for example, the Marana Community Correctional Treatment Facility, owned by Management & Training Corp., may reject any inmate with even a moderate need for mental-health services. The state must keep those higher-cost prisoners.

In February, when the Corrections Department calculated the cost of public vs. private prisons, it put the rate of housing minimum-custody inmates at $58.80 a night in state-run prisons and $54.78 in for-profit ones. But when the cost of medical care was eliminated, the private prisons cost slightly more: $47.14 vs. $46.87 a night.

Those costs also exclude, of course, the inevitable payment to relatives of the Oklahoma couple officials said were killed by the Arizona escapees and an accomplice.

"Tell me now that the privates are cheaper, now that they've killed two people," said Tixoc Muñoz, president of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association.

But Kavanagh said it's not only the operating costs of the private prisons that count, but also the capital costs - like the cost of building new prisons. Those are very low, said Byron Jackson, the mayor of Eloy and a former officer at a Corrections Corp. of America prison. The company hauls in prefabricated parts and puts them together like a puzzle, he said.

Plus, Kavanagh and Jackson said, private prisons pay property taxes and other local taxes, while state-run prisons don't.

Political landscape

Once established, private prisons work their way into the political bloodstream of the state they're in, said a 2006 study by the Institute on Money in State Politics. Like other industries, private-prison companies hire lobbyists, take influential people out to eat and donate to campaigns.

They also build influential connections in the state's political class, links that are strong in the case of Gov. Jan Brewer. Brewer's campaign manager, Chuck Coughlin, is president of Highground Public Affairs Consultants, a firm that is the registered lobbyist for Corrections Corp. of America, owner of six private prisons in Arizona.

Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman lobbied for CCA as an employee of Policy Development Group in 2007 and 2008, and dined with legislators such as Jim Weiers and the late Jake Flake. Lobbyists for the Geo Group took out Dora Schriro, then state corrections director, three times in 2006 and 2007, records show.

Last session, a lobbyist for Cornell Cos., which has since merged with Geo, argued for a last-minute amendment that would have pushed the state Corrections Department toward a deal with Cornell for more prison beds, records show. Corrections Director Charles Ryan argued that the legislators shouldn't interfere with his management of the prisons.

In the same session, the Legislature approved the possible turnover of all but one state prison complex to any company willing to put up $100 million in cash and assume responsibility for running them. When no suitor emerged, the measure was stripped from the budget bill.

Such influence has been common, the 2006 study found: Between 2000 and 2004, private prison companies, their executives, directors and lobbyists gave $3.3 million in 44 states.

But their power also works in another way - by promising jobs to areas that need them. Former state legislator Pete Rios, a Democrat, found that out when he proposed a law that would have prohibited murderers, rapists and other serious criminals from being brought to private prisons in Arizona from other states. He had trouble with constituents.

"When they say, 'It's better for us than working out in the cotton fields,' you have to listen," said Rios, now chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.

Corrections Corp. of America employs 2,700 people at its six prisons in Pinal County, making it one of the county's top employers. Starting wages for corrections officers range from $16.50 to $21.39 per hour, company spokesman Steve Owen said.

Security is top issue

None of the debates over costs and political influence is likely to have any significance if the private prisons can't ensure the security of their facilities.

Odie Washington, a vice president of Management & Training Corp., which runs the Kingman prison, wasn't reassuring this month when he refused to guarantee his company's prisons would have no further escapes.

"Escapes occur at both public and private" prisons, he said.

But Arizona's private prisons had a pretty good record until the Kingman incident. Until then, in the last 10 years 20 prisoners had escaped from facilities housing Arizona inmates. Only one was from a private facility - the Geo Group's Florence West prison.

Separately, the Corrections Corp. of America prisons here, which don't house Arizona inmates, had three escapes.

Sen. Bob Burns, a longtime private-prison advocate and the outgoing state Senate president, put the responsibility for the Kingman escape on the Arizona Department of Corrections. The state, he noted, had five employees at the Kingman prison to provide oversight, but they didn't report the problems with the perimeter alarm system that likely let the prisoners escape.

Also, the state Corrections Department audited the Kingman prison as recently as March and didn't catch the perimeter-security problems or a host of other issues that a security review found after the escape.

The department is conducting an internal review.

No beds, no profit

Critics of the private-prison system say the companies have perverse incentives to keep beds full and to cut costs.

"If we have an empty bed, it's a savings," said Muñoz, the head of the corrections officers union. But for the private prisons, he said, "An empty building is like an empty hotel. No beds rented, no profit."

For that reason, Muñoz said, private prisons don't have an interest in rehabilitating or training prisoners. In addition, he said, private firms skimp on employee training and suffer from constant turnover. Jackson, the mayor of Eloy, acknowledged that many new private prison recruits find the job isn't to their liking.

But three former Kingman prisoners now living in Tucson raved about the offerings at the prison. It offered ample religious services, job training and educational classes, said Tracy Kovach. And each completed program was celebrated with a graduation ceremony, Kovach said..

Management & Training Corp. "was absolutely a blessing for so many people," Kovach said. "They actually made the guys feel like they're doing something with their lives."

Isaacs, of the American Friends Service Committee, wasn't impressed.

"They may have had a great GED program," she said, "but their alarms don't work."

Contact reporter Tim Steller at or 807-8427.

Arizona Department of Corrections: The sound of silence

Kingman Daily Miner
8/29/2010 6:01:00 AM

Column: Her name was Jessica ... and she refused to talk

Mark Borgard


There was a pretty little girl who transferred to my school when I was a kid. Her name was Jessica, and she was gorgeous. She had cute, dangly curls that framed her sweet face, and her eyes sparkled when she smiled.

Equipped with my 5th-grade boy's confidence, I approached Jessica during recess soon after her arrival and asked her where she had moved from. She stared at me for a second, not smiling, turned and walked away. I figured she must be shy because I knew, even at that young age, that everyone completely adored me. I tried again at lunch.

This time, she didn't even wait for me to finish my question before turning and walking away. At afternoon recess, I watched her playing with some of the other kids, some of my friends, so I tried again. I thought maybe if I showed her how fun I could be that she'd want to know me.

Turned out, my friends weren't in the mood to get chummy right then, and I ended up punching one of them in the arm. She shook her head, turned and walked away. As I watched her leave, my friend recovered enough to smack me in the back of the head.

What got me to thinking about Jessica this week was Director Charles Ryan and PR Guy/Ryan Blocker Barrett Marson with the Arizona Department of Corrections, whose motto is, "Every Killer Deserves a Break." You see, Mr. Ryan refuses to talk to the Miner. Oh, we've tried and tried, but he shelters himself behind Mr. Marson while refusing to answer any questions relating to the June escape at the prison in Golden Valley.

Turns out, we're not the only ones he doesn't want to talk to. He doesn't want to talk to you, either. He cancelled a public forum scheduled for Tuesday because he said he needs more time to prepare, which means, of course, he needs more time to work on his spin.

Although, he might be a bit spooked to stand before the people he and his department have put at great risk for at least the last five years. I call it the Ron Walker Syndrome. It's when you hide in your office and refuse to answer questions ... because you're a pinhead.

However, I could be wrong. Not about the pinhead part, about Mr. Ryan's intentions. Maybe Mr. Ryan respects our community enough to want to do his homework before he stands in front of us and explains why killers were housed in a medium-security prison, which, as far as we can tell, was actually a minimum-security prison. To give Mr. Ryan the benefit of the doubt, I've prepared some questions he might want to be able to answer when he finally decides to Cowboy Up.

1. Why were murderers housed at a medium-security prison?

2. Please explain your classification system that allows murderers and other violent offenders to be housed in a medium-security prison?

3. Please explain how it is not criminal to place high-security inmates in a medium-security prison (that actually was a minimum-security prison).

4. How much do you hate the people of Kingman and Golden Valley that you would allow our safety, not to mention the safety of the guards and other inmates, to be in jeopardy for at least the last five years?

5. In your mind, can the Arizona Department of Corrections be faulted for anything relating to the escape of two killers and a soon-to-be-convicted killer from the prison in Golden Valley?

6. Would you have allowed a woman who was caught delivering drugs to the prison leave with no charges leveled against her?

7. Do you think an internal audit is ever beneficial?

8. Has the recent escape proven to you that private prisons do not work?

9. Have all the convicted murderers been shipped out of the prison in Golden Valley, and when will you sneak them back in?

10. Did Gov. Jan Brewer, knowing her party had turned against her on the sales tax hike, sign SB 1070 to get herself back in the Republican fold in a final effort to get elected in November?

All right, you can skip the last one. But you better study and have answers to the other ones whenever you decide to grace us with your presence. You see, I've dealt with your type before. Her name was Jessica.

For weeks, I tried everything I could think of to get Jessica to talk to me, but she never did. I lost interest eventually, as young boys do, and moved out of state the next summer.

To this day, though, I still wonder why she never said a word to me. Maybe it fueled my passion for journalism, to get people to talk to me.

The only difference I can see between Jessica and Mr. Ryan is that Jessica was 11.

Oh, and she didn't run a severely flawed prison system.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Conditions of confinement: Sheriff Joe's jail is our responsibility, too.

The following is a revised and somewhat more radical version of my post earlier today. Sorry for any redundancy to those who get this in their email or by feed. - Peg

Amnesty International poster: Write a letter, save a life.

For those who missed Stephen Lemons' review of Shaun Attwood's new book, "Hard Time: A Brit in America's Toughest Jail", it's worth the read. I'd post it here but I've already packed in too much for the night. It is, of course, about the Maricopa County Hell they call a jail. Hit Shaun's blog, "Jon's Jail Journal" too, if you haven't already. He posts letters from prisoners there, and is a good friend to many who would otherwise have no audible voice.

As for the conditions of confinement in our jails and prisons: I don't understand why the Department of Justice hasn't held Arpaio criminally responsible for his abuse of so many people over the years - from medical negligence to conspiracies to deprive us of our civil rights. Their failure to do so thus far is akin to the feds' consent for every harm he's done under his tenure, and complicity with every additional prisoner he neglects or kills. I'm really starting to worry that they plan to make some kind of closed door deal with him, then pack their bags and walk away.

The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act covers prisoners precisely because the People so often end up needing protection from the sadistic cruelty of those wielding power in our name, and few in America are more disenfranchised and vulnerable than those disposed of in jails and prisons - citizens and "aliens" alike. They include our elderly, our poor, our sick, troubled youth, our mentally ill, our developmentally disabled - all those people we once institutionalized elsewhere (and have thrown out into the streets) are thrown into the stew.

Of course, the more vocal idiots in our community argue after every article about prisoner abuse or suicide that because they are in a jail or prison they deserve whatever they get, whatever that may be. Just because those readers like to stone prostitutes, though, doesn't mean they are themselves without sin. Nor do they represent all of us. Those people are twisted bullies hiding behind fake identities looking for someone to kick who's already down. They've probably commented on this blog of Stephen's, in fact.

That's a tangent I can't stop from exploring in this context. The media shouldn't give such people the platform on which to celebrate brutalization, suicide, and murder, including among prisoners, in the first place. That's not supporting freedom of speech - it's just intimidating the voices of reason and humanity into silence. Giving hateful people our shared public space empowers them to use shame to perpetrate cruelty, and it perpetuates the stigma felt by prisoners' families who read "good riddance" from the community after their loved ones die. They screen such things out of printed "letters to the editor"; why not moderate their public forums? Only abusive and rich people seem to get amplified when they speak - the rest of us get censored, even if we head the nightly news.

Frankly, most of "free" Arizona should be locked up, looking at the multitude of laws that require jail or prison for those who break them - and at how unbelievably easy it is to put someone away, especially in this state. We are just privileged or very lucky if we've escaped such a fate so far. Those who think they will never be prosecuted because they really aren't "criminals" need to check out the Arizona Justice Project. There are all sorts of innocent people behind bars.

Once in a while the law reaches out and touches us where we never thought it would - and since it's not a common occurrence in our white, middle class communities, we are sure that there is just a deviant in our midst, or it is a fluke of the justice system that will work itself out. Dad's in an accident while on painkillers following surgery and goes to prison because he had an old DUI. Presumably he will get treatment in prison, but he's already been sober for 5 years - instead he just loses time from his kids' lives and his ability to support his family. The neighbor is arrested for embezzling to save the house from foreclosure and her kids from homelessness - losing everything and everyone in the process. We pay over $20,000 a year to incarcerate her for five years - and God knows how much to put the kids in foster care - while her banker gets a bonus from the taxpayer bailout.  

I hope everyone out there finds those images as disturbing as I do. It happens all the time.

As for the wrongfully-accused: Americans don't really presume innocence, which is why Joe's jail was allowed to get so bad. We recoil from the accused as soon as they hit the news because the possibility that agents of the almighty law might be corrupt or wrong threatens our sense of social order. We sacrifice Innocence like she's the designated virgin just to maintain the illusion that the guilty among us are eventually caught, and that those who are caught are always guilty. 

People who are innocent tend to believe that the truth will prevail, and if it doesn't they end up being punished worse than the real criminals who make a deal. Real-life case in point: Courtney Bisbee, the school nurse accused of touching a 14-year old liar and branded as a child molester, was a feather in the cap of the detective who arrested her and the prosecutor who got the conviction. To assure that the rest of us got our taste of blood, the judge slammed her with 11 years for fighting it out in court instead of taking a plea bargain that would have had her back home with her child by now.

Stephen Lemons even investigated Courtney's case and advocated on her behalf (here and here, too), but no one wants to hear the new evidence that would exonerate her because it implicates incompetence - or worse. For law enforcement's ego and our sense of order, she's been in prison for at least 6 years now. Maybe Romley is the man who will have the courage to help set her free - we'll see. He was the Maricopa County Attorney when she was originally prosecuted, so if he steps up to the plate and looks at it in a new light, I'll be impressed. Andrew Thomas was too much of a political coward.

In these ways the brutality of our courts, Joe's jail, and Ryan's prisons hits home. It's not a freakish thing for families to be ripped apart by "justice" in poor and minority communities - it's all too common. The legal system works exactly as it's designed to there, oppressing resistance to white supremacy and defiance of the rules of capitalism at every turn. Justice is the sheep's clothing that America dons to promote the interests of the few, and the myth that we are a model of democracy is what blinds us - and Her - to the deceit. 

But Justice is not supposed to prey on the rest of us "ordinary Americans"- it is supposed to protect us. It only seems to be when we fall from grace ourselves (or get falsely accused and imprisoned) that we begin to see the system for what it is. We get inside and see people doomed to spend the rest of their lives in prison for charges as petty as fraud, while murderers walk away with money in their pocket after 15 or 20 years. Looking around, we also realize that the majority of the people behind bars are not a public safety threat - most are public nuisances, eyesores, "sinners" and surplus laborers who legislators thought would be better hidden away. Those still claiming their innocence are all too often out-maneuvered by the state in legal proceedings, and seldom have the luxury of an attorney to help them once appeals are exhausted. 

Look closely and you'll see that America's prisons and jails have, by and large, replaced our mental hospitals, poorhouses, and plantations. And they are major money-making machines for those in power, as long as they skimp on human rights and basic needs like food and health care. That's why the prisoners who would expose them are discredited, discounted, and silenced in every way possible.

Never mind that the desperate and vulnerable are being relegated and abandoned
in these hellholes to sociopaths who will rape and torture them for the fun of it, or even kill them just to score a new gang tattoo. To the private and public prison industries alike, each new body is just an addition to their growing empire - they have no interest in anyone's innocence or special circumstances, and no reason to help prevent or reduce the effects of crime in our communities. 

Despite lamenting about the high recidivism rate (usually as an excuse to be better funded and more brutal), jails and prisons are just as well-paid for recycling the people they chewed up once already. Buying the industry's line of BS, a terrorized public decides that parole officers and prosecutors are always professional and responsible and work in a functional system, so it must be the criminal's own fault for getting put back in - he should have learned his lesson the first time. Our perceptions are too often shaped by the expectation that what we pay nearly 10% of our state budget for includes some effort at "rehabilitation" (hence the AZ Department of Corrections' designation as such, not the "Department of Confinement"). The criminal justice system isn't rehabilitating anyone - they're spending our money lobbying the governor and legislature to pass more laws and assure more prison sentences for less serious crimes than ever.

The prison industrial complex as a whole (of which Sheriff Joe is actually just a small part) cultivates the rest of us to feel exploited and victimized, though, so that we seem defenseless and helpless without them. Then they glorify themselves as our protectors (though they usually arrive after the crime, not in time to prevent it), and we willingly pay them some other kid's lunch money to keep it up.
It's a racket. Actually reducing crime and making us all more safe would just cut into their power and profit margins.  

Anyone who believes such a system really upholds justice or promotes the public good is delusional or has been duped. Law enforcement is an integral part of the fascist decimation of our rights, not the power protecting them. We - the People - are the only power that will protect liberty and justice for the future, but only if we have our eyes wide open and are ready to risk jail, prison, defamation, and even execution in the process. If we are not, then we have surrendered that which is most important in life for nothing more than illusion. We are on a leash, instead of in a cage. At least some prisoners, with their integrity intact, mange to remain free.

The DOJ is grossly negligent for failing to act aggressively under CRIPA against the MCSO, and therefore shares the blame for emboldening our greedy, bigoted, fear-mongering lawmakers and enforcers to continue to imprison, injure, and kill those of us whose nationality or skin color or gender or politics or religion they hate.
But we are also responsible for letting this go on so long without holding either the feds or Arpaio accountable ourselves. So, here are the names and contact info for the people at the DOJ who should be investigating the real public enemies - and taking action - under CRIPA, regardless of what else they're doing. Please call or write on behalf of those fighting  a losing battle to defend their lives. Don't wait for your loved one to end up in trouble: he or she may be the next prisoner of the MCSO or Arizona Department of Corrections to die.

So could you or I.


DOJ - Special Litigation Section

Mailing Address

Special Litigation Section

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530
For FEDEX: 601 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

Telephone Number
(202) 514-0195
toll-free at (877) 218-5228

Fax Numbers
(202) 514-0212
(202) 514-6273

Acting Chief
Judy Preston
(202) 514-6258

Principal Deputy Chief
Tammie Gregg
(202) 616-2009

Deputy Chiefs
Julie Abbate (Acting)
(202) 353-4637
Mary Bohan (Acting)
(202) 616-2325
Luis Saucedo (Acting)
(202) 353-0299

Old Code Lifers, Bill Macumber, and Sentencing Reform

Ever since learning about William Macumber, I've been wondering what else I can do to help. The petition seems to be going pretty well. I also made some postcards to send the Governor and the media (and to Bill) for his birthday (AUG 31 he'll be 75). Feel free to download, or get creative and make some of your own - you can still send them out after his birthday; I just thought the timing was good. Here's the photo and text I used:

State of Arizona Capitol, Executive Tower. Phoenix.
“Free William Macumber!”

August 28, 2010

Dear Governor Brewer:

William Macumber will be 75 on August 31. He is an innocent man, whose fate is in your hands. Please free him from prison and send him home to his family. It’s the right thing to do.

Thank you.

Margaret Jean Plews

Arizona Prison Watch

I also found the the Freedom for Bill Macumber website - you folks really need to go there and read more on his case. There are a couple of different petitions there, one being for sentencing reform for Old Code Lifers. Check it out, sign their petitions, and send your "Free Bill Macumber" postcards and letters to the Governor, Rep. Cecil Ash (Chair of the House Study Committee on Sentencing); members of the AZ House and Senate Judiciary Committees, and your own legislators in Bill's support. Changing the Old Code Lifers law seems to be Bill's only shot at getting free, unless the Governor can be convinced to change her mind. The Arizona Justice Project that helped Bill get through the clemency process seems to be behind that.

Actually, I'd like to see some new legislation that requires the state to free people from prison in prison who the Board of Executive Clemency finds to be innocent. We also need to prohibit the courts from refusing to hear new evidence where there remains a claim of innocence, as in Courtney Bisbee's case. It's incomprehensible that either Bill or Courtney are still in prison, and that there isn't a huge public uproar over it. The lives of too many wrongfully convicted people hinge on politics, not justice, when it's up to a governor or the trial judge whether or not to take a second look at a conviction.

Here's a bit on the Old Code Lifers law (from


What Else Can I Do?


As of March, 2010, Bill Macumber is still in prison in Douglas, Arizona. His son Ron and family traveled to Arizona in February to preview the documentary film and visit Bill in the Douglas Prison facility. Bill remains upbeat although he is very disappointed that the petition for clemency was vetoed by the Governor.

Bill’s life sentence is considered to be defined by the “old code” (the 1956 Criminal Code). Because of this, he is not eligible for parole. In 1973, the Arizona State Legislature rewrote Arizona’s death penalty statutes, adding a minimum sentence a period of 25 years. However, in doing so, they left a group of prisoners (now 29) ineligible for parole, with only “natural life” as their guideline for time served. Each of these 29 “old code lifers” has served over 32 years, and all are over the age of 55 (the average age is 65).

Many life-sentenced inmates since that time have served at least the minimum, then applied for and received parole. In one of his case’s many heartbreaking circumstances, Bill Macumber has never been allowed this privilege. He is effectively sentenced to life without parole, even though “life without parole” was not a sentence in Arizona at that time.

A proposition is currently being drafted for the Arizona legislature which would allow these 29 “old code lifers” to be eligible for parole. It does not guarantee parole, yet provides an opportunity for those who are trapped in the situation created by the 1973 amendment.

You can help support this bill by adding your name to the petition below and reading more at You are encouraged to email or write to your legislator and let them know that you strongly support a reform proposition which would allow Bill Macumber to apply for parole.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

White Supremacy, SB 1070, and Private Prisons in AZ

Hate Groups and Prison Profiteers Wrote Arizona's Juan Crow Law

David A. Love

Posted to Huffington Post: August 18, 2010 04:09 PM

Now, I suppose it is conceivable that white supremacists and the private prison industry could join forces in support of a good piece of legislation. After all, anything is possible.

But it sure isn't likely.

This is the situation we are seeing in Arizona with the passage of S.B. 1070, the anti-immigrant law that allows police to stop and arrest suspected undocumented aliens. Essentially, this law makes it a crime under state law to be in the U.S. illegally. The law allows police to stop anyone with a "reasonable suspicion" of being undocumented, and demand proof of citizenship. Those who cannot produce the documentation face arrest, a $2,500 fine, and 6 months in jail.

One must ask, where do they find these laws? Better yet, where do they find the people to write such laws? In searching for an answer, I turn to a colleague, the late Al Lewis. Yes, Grandpa from the Munsters. I knew him as a political activist and a radio show host when I worked at Pacifica Radio station WBAI ten years ago as a producer for Democracy Now! Al defined a law as "that which is bought and paid for." It was one of the most simple, yet profound statements I had heard. And it definitely applies to Arizona's S.B. 1070.

It is now no secret that two top level staffers in Gov. Jan Brewer's administration -- Paul Senseman and Chuck Coughlin -- have financial ties to the private prison industry, and stand to benefit personally from S.B. 1070. After all, private prisons lock up the immigration detainees in that state -- and they would like to run all of the prisons in Arizona, including death row -- so the new law is good for business. Senseman, the governor's deputy chief of staff, is a former lobbyist for Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA. And his wife presently is a lobbyist for the company. Meanwhile, Chuck Coughlin is one of the governor's policy advisers and her campaign chairman. Coughlin's firm, HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, currently lobbies for CCA. CCA and rival prison company Geo Group are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, where they ensured passage of the insidious bill.

But it gets better, or worse depending on your point of view. State Senator Russell Pearce, who introduced S.B. 1070, has extensive financial ties to the private prison industry. He also has friendships with neo-Nazis such as J.T. Ready of the National Alliance, who calls Jews parasites, and hunts and kidnaps people on the border with Mexico. Ready once said "The truth is that negroids screw monkeys and rape babies in afreaka [sic]. Then stupid white man who licks kosher jew rear lets negroids in." And he once told a neo-Nazi rally that "This is a white, European homeland. That's how it should be preserved if we want to keep it clean, safe, and pure."

Senator Pearce has built his career on the backs of the Latino immigrant communities he has so fervently scapegoated. He has supported Nuremberg-style legislation that would prohibit hospitals from issuing birth certificates to children born of undocumented immigrants, and a law that would not allow people to marry without providing proof of U.S. citizenship and social security numbers. That would make it illegal for citizens to marry non-citizens! Pearce wants to eliminate the Fourteenth Amendment. And he supported the bill that has eliminated ethnic studies in Arizona public schools and colleges and universities.

And Senator Pearce has ties to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). S.B. 1070 was written by Kris Kobach, a former Bush administration lawyer who now works for FAIR's legal arm. The organization has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. FAIR was founded by the nativist trailblazer John Tanton, who warned of the dangers of the "Latin onslaught" in America, and declared "for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." And the group received $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, a racist eugenics foundation that funds studies linking race, genetics and intelligence.

For all of you conspiracy theorists out there, this is raw meat to be sure. But there's nothing theoretical about this conspiratorial scenario. Klannish hate groups and prison companies worked together to pass an atrocious, twisted and unconstitutional law. The former hates Latinos and thinks they are inferior, and would love nothing more than to throw them all behind bars for good. Meanwhile, the latter wants to profit from locking up as many immigrant detainees as possible. Just to top it off, both groups collaborated with their tools in the Arizona legislature and that horrid governor's office to make it all happen. This is Juan Crow in action. And sadly, it smells all too much like American history.

In fact, this reminds me of the days of Jim Crow, after slavery, when segregationist state and local governments enacted laws to maintain blacks in a state of virtual bondage. Laws targeted African-Americans specifically by going after offenses for which freedmen were presumed more likely to be charged, such as petty theft, vagrancy, burglary and bigamy. Under the convict lease system, an overwhelmingly black prison population provided free labor to the plantations, railroads and mining companies. "These companies assume charge of the convicts, work them as cheap labor and pay the states a handsome revenue for their labor.... The details of vice, cruelty and death thus fostered by the states whose treasuries are enriched thereby, equals anything from Siberia," said Frederick Douglass. "Every Negro so sentenced not only means able-bodied men to swell the state's number of slaves, but every Negro so convicted is thereby disfranchised." Of course, the ideological justification for the Jim Crow legal regime was that black people were inferior, and posed a racial, sexual, criminal, political and economic threat to whites.

And today, there is profit in prisons, with whole industries that make their bread and butter over the warehousing of warm bodies -including some of the prisons themselves. Roughly 70 percent of America's prisoners are black and brown because laws target communities of color. Yet, America's legal profession is among the nation's least diverse: Over 90 percent of the judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys are white. And law enforcement wages a racially-motivated war on drugs in poor black and Latino neighborhoods, with a financial incentive to maximize the arrests and convictions they win.

When racial scapegoats are conjured up--whether the black "crack babies" and "welfare queens" of the 1980s, or the Mexican "illegal aliens" and "anchor babies" of today--laws are created to legitimize the crimes that the state is about to commit against these groups, ostensibly in the name of the public good, but really for private profit. Sadly, in the land of the jobless and the hopeless, boogeymen are in great demand these days. And in Arizona, a group of greedy, unscrupulous folks got together with professional racists to criminalize the Latino community and make a buck at the same time.

David A. Love is the Executive Editor of, and a contributor to The Progressive Media Project and theGrio. He is based in Philadelphia, and is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. His blog is

Follow David A. Love on Twitter:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Avert another tragedy. Take action against prison privatization.

-------------from the American Friends Service Committee-Tucson-------------


The bids for 5,000 new for-profit prison beds in AZ are on hold, thanks to YOUR action. But we need to make sure that action is taken immediately to prevent another private prison disaster.


The Arizona Silver Belt newspaper reported yesterday:

“The Arizona Department of Corrections has confirmed that any decisions over bids submitted by four companies to build private prisons here in our state have been delayed because of security issues raised about a privately operated prison in Kingman last month where the breakout of three violent convicts occurred on July 30.

Barrett Marson, Director of Communications for the state agency, told the Arizona Silver Belt, efforts to add an additional 5,000 private prison beds has been stalled because of concerns which have developed on how the medium-security private prison was being operated in Kingman. He said representatives of each of the four companies that submitted proposals to build and operate private prison complexes housing ADC inmates will be called in for more questioning about their proposals.” (“One bidder owns Kingman prison where breakout occurred; Globe prison and others on hold,” Arizona Silver Belt, 8/25/10)

Congratulations and thank you to everyone who contacted the Governor and Director Ryan! Your voices made a difference!

But we cannot let up the pressure until all our demands are met. Please contact the Governor again and make sure she and the state legislature take immediate action to protect us from this irresponsible industry.

What YOU can do….

Contact Governor Brewer:

  • Tell her that you are glad that the Department of Corrections has called an immediate halt to all bidding processes involving private prison operators
  • Ask that she go a step further and institute a moratorium on new private prison beds until the issue has been thoroughly studied and legislative action taken
  • Request that the Legislature immediately hold public hearings to address the problems with for-profit prisons in Arizona
  • Suggest that the Legislature also enact other cost-cutting measures that not only save money but enhance public safety, like earned release credits, amending truth in sentencing, and restoring judicial discretion

Governor Jan Brewer

602.542.4331 or 800.253.0883 ph,

602.542.1381 fax.

Make a comment online at:

**If you can blind copy or cc us, we will have a better idea how effective this initiative is. If you receive responses, even boiler-plate ones, please forward those to us, if possible.

Why Arizona should SAY NO to for-profit prisons:

1. For-profit prisons have histories of escapes, disturbances, prisoner abuses, financial mismanagement, and other scandals.

The Kingman escapes come on the heels of a riot at the same facility in June in which eight prisoners were injured. A prison run by Corrections Corporation of America in Eloy was recently on lockdown after prisoners from Hawaii rioted over an Xbox video game. When a staff member attempted to intervene, he was severely beaten, suffering a broken nose, broken cheekbones and damage to his eye sockets. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) found a significantly higher rate of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in private prisons (66% more) than in public prisons. Inmate-on-staff assaults were 49% higher in the for-profits.

For specific information on these major problems, please see the attached “Rap Sheets”or go to:

2. You get what you pay for.

For-profit prison corporations are primarily concerned about the bottom line and making money for their CEO’s and shareholders. The companies cut corners everywhere they can, but primarily on staff pay and training.

The result is a facility with high turnover rates, where the staff is inexperienced and the prisoners have nothing productive to do. Such a prison is unsafe for the inmates, the guards, and the surrounding community.

Finally, there’s no evidence that private prisons can do it cheaper. Maximus, an independent, reputable research firm, compared cost savings in Arizona's public and private prisons in 2006. It determined taxpayers were spending an estimated $1,526,289 MORE annually on two privately run prisons.

3. Less Transparency and Accountability.

For-profit prison companies are corporations doing the job of government without any of the checks and balances that keep government accountable to the people. In the case of the Kingman escapes, which occurred at 9:00 pm, MTC waited until 10:20 pm to notify The Mojave County’s Sheriff’s Office. Another 80 minutes elapsed before MTC notified state officials with the Arizona Department of Corrections. The media wasn’t alerted until mid-morning the next day, and thus the public was not informed about the dangerous escapees until that time.

There is an inherent threat to democracy when an institution with so much power over the lives of so many individuals is immune to any public accountability.

Caroline Isaacs

Program Director,

American Friends Service Committee

Arizona Area Program

103 N. Park Ave., Suite 111

Tucson, AZ 85719

520.623.9141 p/520.623.5901 f

Update: Free William Macumber

I just started a petition to Free William Macumber at Help us out with it. Here's the New York Times article you'll find as part of the letter there to Governor Brewer, if you need a refresher. William will turn 75 on August 31. Lets try to give him and his family some encouragement. He may have been juggled around because of the escapes, but his last known address there was:

William Macumber 033867
PO Box 5002
Douglas, AZ 85608


Governor Rebuffs Clemency Board in Murder Case

New York Times

June 14, 2010

WASHINGTON — Ronald Kempfert was a young boy in 1975 when his father was sent to prison for murder, and they had no contact for 28 years.

Then, in 2003, Mr. Kempfert heard from a lawyer who had been looking into the case. “Your father is innocent,” said the lawyer, Larry A. Hammond. “And we’re pretty sure your mother framed him.”

That would seem a lot to digest, but Mr. Kempfert, 42, said he felt no hesitation. “My reaction was that it didn’t surprise me,” he said. “She’s my mother, and I love her. But I think she’s capable of anything.”

Mr. Kempfert is now certain that his father, William Macumber, is innocent. Arizona’s clemency board, citing Mr. Kempfert’s “very moving testimony” and saying there had been “a miscarriage of justice,” unanimously recommended last year that Mr. Macumber be freed.

But Mr. Macumber remains in prison, and Gov. Jan Brewer has refused to explain why.

The case against Mr. Macumber began in 1974 as his marriage was disintegrating. His wife, Carol, who worked in the local sheriff’s office, went to her superiors with a surprising story. Her husband, she said, had recently confessed to the unsolved murders of a young couple shot to death a dozen years before, in 1962, in the open desert north of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Largely on the strength of his former wife’s testimony, Mr. Macumber was convicted and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

But the jury did not hear a significant piece of evidence.

In 1967, five years after the murders in the desert, a drifter named Ernesto Valenzuela was charged with a similar double homicide. He told his lawyer that he had also killed the couple in the desert.

“He was just making a point about bragging about the people he killed,” the lawyer, Thomas W. O’Toole, said. “He was a cold-blooded killer who relished committing the murders.”

Mr. O’Toole, who went on to serve 24 years as a state judge, said his client was dead serious about claiming responsibility for the 1962 murders. “There is no doubt in my mind that Ernesto Valenzuela committed those crimes,” Mr. O’Toole said.

For years, Mr. O’Toole kept his client’s secret, as he was required to do by the canons of legal ethics. But after Mr. Valenzuela was himself killed in prison in 1973, and with the permission of Mr. Valenzuela’s mother, Mr. O’Toole offered to testify at Mr. Macumber’s trial.

The judge refused to let the jury hear from Mr. O’Toole, saying his account was unreliable hearsay. The judge also excluded testimony from a second lawyer and a psychiatrist who had heard similar confessions from Mr. Valenzuela.

The jury did hear about two kinds of physical evidence — a partial palm print and bullet casings — that prosecutors said connected Mr. Macumber to the killings.

Mr. Kempfert said he believed that his mother had done more than lie.

“I can fully see how my mother could have set him up and framed him,” Mr. Kempfert said. “She had access to the evidence. She was doing fingerprint courses at the time.”

Last year, the five members of the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency unanimously recommended to Ms. Brewer that Mr. Macumber be released after 35 years in prison “to correct a miscarriage of justice.”

But Ms. Brewer rejected the board’s recommendation without explanation in November. It is possible that politics played a role in her decision; Ms. Brewer, a Republican who became governor last year, is running for a full term in November.

“She denied the application right after she announced that she was running for governor,” said Katherine Puzauskas, a lawyer with the Arizona Justice Project at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. The project, which was founded by Mr. Hammond and works to overturn wrongful convictions, has represented Mr. Macumber since 2000.

There is little political upside to granting clemency, but there is a substantial risk, as Mike Huckabee learned when a man whose sentence he commuted as governor of Arkansas in 2000 killed four police officers last year.

P. S. Ruckman Jr., a political science professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Ill., has been fuming about Ms. Brewer’s handling of the Macumber case. “I have been following state clemency for 30 years,” Mr. Ruckman said, “and this is easily, easily, the most disturbing. It’s borderline despicable.”

“Common-sense notions of justice should compel a governor to provide an explanation for imprisoning a man deemed innocent by an official board created to make such judgments,” he added. “You don’t imprison a man for no reason.”

A spokesman for the governor said Ms. Brewer had reviewed the case thoroughly, but he provided only boilerplate concerning her reasoning.

“Every executive clemency case is carefully scrutinized as the governor balances the very real and important concepts of public safety, justice and mercy,” the spokesman, Paul Senseman, said in an e-mail message.

Mr. Macumber is 74 and in failing health, with heart problems and arthritis, and the threat he poses to public safety is not obvious.

But Mr. Macumber’s former wife, now known as Carol Kempfert, said he was a dangerous sociopath who deserved to die in prison. She denied making up his confession and tampering with the evidence used to convict him.

It is her former husband, she said, who is a pathological liar. “I was in law enforcement for almost 20 years, and no one came close to being able to manipulate like Bill,” she said. “This man could sell water to a drowning person.”

Mr. Macumber, she said, would have said anything to save their marriage.

For instance, she said, he once falsely claimed to have a heart condition. “He intimates that if I hang around long enough, he’ll die and I’ll get the insurance money,” she said. “Well, I hung around, and he didn’t die.”

Then he threatened to kill himself. “If you’re going to do it, go outside” she recalled telling her husband. “I don’t want blood on the walls.”

In the course of a half-hour conversation, Ms. Kempfert accused Mr. Macumber of terrible and disturbing crimes beyond the killings in the desert. Asked if he deserved clemency, she said, “Absolutely not.”

“Actually,” she added, “I think he’s lucky. If he had been caught sooner, he would have gotten the death penalty.”

Ms. Kempfert and her son no longer speak. Ronald Kempfert, who took his stepfather’s last name when he was a child, is in the process of changing it back to Macumber.

Dear Director Ryan: Community standards for treating Hep C.

More unanswered correspondence with Director Ryan about Hep C. For all I know he's just sending me to his Spam Box now. The only way I can be relatively sure he sees this is by posting it or hand-delivering it - and I don't want them to trespass me down there if I show up too much.

Besides, this has useful info for everyone. Check out the links to the professional standards. Keep in mind when they were written, too.


Arizona Prison Watch Fri, Aug 20, 2010 at 10:15 AM
For all my criticism of them (which still stands), at least the CDC has easily-accessible information on the basics. Robertson stopped evaluating the extent of Davon's liver disease - and possible co-morbid conditions - when he should have kept going. He still needs the genotyping done to make sure he doesn't have more than one strain of HCV, and to determine the likelihood that he'll even respond to treatment. And in light of the increased risk for disorders like diabetes (and his weight loss and fatigue), his glucose should be monitored more regularly to determine what his ranges are. Davon should also be treated like a human being, not a veterinary specimen - no one seems to really be trying to educate him on his medical condition or lab results, or even ask him about his fatigue, weight loss, headaches, etc. despite hearing concerns from Julie multiple times a week.



Testing and Diagnosis

Who should be tested for HCV infection?

HCV testing is recommended for anyone at increased risk for HCV infection, including:

  • Persons who have ever injected illegal drugs, including those who injected only once many years ago
  • Recipients of clotting factor concentrates made before 1987
  • Recipients of blood transfusions or solid organ transplants before July 1992
  • Patients who have ever received long-term hemodialysis treatment
  • Persons with known exposures to HCV, such as
    • healthcare workers after needlesticks involving HCV-positive blood
    • recipients of blood or organs from a donor who later tested HCV-positive
  • All persons with HIV infection
  • Patients with signs or symptoms of liver disease (e.g., abnormal liver enzyme tests)
  • Children born to HCV-positive mothers (to avoid detecting maternal antibody, these children should not be tested before age 18 months)

What blood tests are used to detect HCV infection?

Several blood tests are performed to test for HCV infection, including:

  • Screening tests for antibody to HCV (anti-HCV)
    • enzyme immunoassay (EIA)
    • enhanced chemiluminescence immunoassay (CIA)
  • Recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA)
  • Qualitative tests to detect presence or absence of virus (HCV RNA polymerase chain reaction [PCR])
  • Quantitative tests to detect amount (titer) of virus (HCV RNA PCR)

How do I interpret the different tests for HCV infection?

A table on the interpretation of HCV test results is available at Adobe PDF file [PDF - 1 page].

Is an algorithm for HCV diagnosis available?

A flow chart on HCV infection testing for diagnosis is available at Adobe PDF file [PDF - 1 page].

What is the next step after a confirmed positive anti-HCV test?

The level of ALT (alanine aminotransferase, a liver enzyme) in the blood should be measured. An elevated ALT indicates inflammation of the liver. The patient should be checked further for chronic liver disease and possible treatment. The evaluation should be performed by a healthcare professional familiar with chronic Hepatitis C.

Can a patient have a normal liver enzyme (e.g., ALT) level and still have chronic Hepatitis C?

Yes. It is common for patients with chronic Hepatitis C to have liver enzyme levels that go up and down, with periodic returns to normal or near normal levels. Liver enzyme levels can remain normal for over a year despite chronic liver disease.

Management and Treatment

What should be done for a patient with confirmed HCV infection?

HCV-positive persons should be evaluated (by referral or consultation, if appropriate) for presence of chronic liver disease, including assessment of liver function tests, evaluation for severity of liver disease and possible treatment, and determination of the need for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccination.

When might a specialist be consulted in the management of HCV-infected persons?

Any physician who manages a person with Hepatitis C should be knowledgeable and current on all aspects of the care of a person with Hepatitis C; this can include some internal medicine and family practice physicians as well as specialists such as infectious disease physicians, gastroenterologists, or hepatologists.

What is the treatment for chronic Hepatitis C?

Combination therapy with pegylated interferon and ribavirin is the treatment of choice, resulting in sustained virologic response (defined as undetectable HCV RNA in the patient's blood 24 weeks after the end of treatment) rates of 40%–80% (up to 50% for patients infected with genotype 1, the most common genotype found in the United States, and up to 80% for patients infected with genotypes 2 or 3). Combination therapy using interferon and ribavirin is FDA-approved for use in children ages 3–17 years. Treatment success rates are now being improved with the addition of polymerase and protease inhibitors to standard pegylated interferon/ribavirin combination therapy.

How many different genotypes of HCV exist?

At least six distinct HCV genotypes (genotypes 1–6) and more than 50 subtypes have been identified. Genotype 1 is the most common HCV genotype in the United States.

Is it necessary to do viral genotyping when managing a person with chronic Hepatitis C?

Yes. Because there are at least six known genotypes and more than 50 subtypes of HCV, genotype information is helpful in defining the epidemiology of Hepatitis C and in making recommendations regarding treatment. Knowing the genotype can help predict the likelihood of treatment response and, in many cases, determine the duration of treatment.

  • Patients with genotypes 2 and 3 are almost three times more likely than patients with genotype 1 to respond to therapy with alpha interferon or the combination of alpha interferon and ribavirin
  • When using combination therapy, the recommended duration of treatment depends on the genotype. For patients with genotypes 2 and 3, a 24-week course of combination treatment is adequate, whereas for patients with genotype 1, a 48-week course is recommended.

Once the genotype is identified, it need not be tested again; genotypes do not change during the course of infection.

Can superinfection with more than one genotype of HCV occur?

Superinfection is possible if risk behaviors (e.g., injection drug use) for HCV infection continue, but it is believed to be very uncommon.

Does chronic Hepatitis C affect only the liver?

A small percentage of persons with chronic HCV infection develop medical conditions due to Hepatitis C that are not limited to the liver. These conditions are thought to be attributable to the body's immune response to HCV infection. Such conditions can include

  • Diabetes mellitus, which occurs three times more frequently in HCV-infected persons
  • Glomerulonephritis, a type of kidney disease caused by inflammation of the kidney
  • Essential mixed cryoglobulinemia, a condition involving the presence of abnormal proteins in the blood
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda, an abnormality in heme production that causes skin fragility and blistering
  • Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which might occur somewhat more frequently in HCV-infected persons

Where can I find more information about management and treatment of patients with chronic Hepatitis C?

Arizona Prison Watch
A community resource for monitoring, navigating, surviving, and dismantling the prison industrial complex in Arizona.
“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

Private Prison Watchdogs and AZ Department of Corrections: Oversight Needed.

Here's my best resource on the private prison industry. Contact these guys if you have any questions about what's really going on here in Arizona. If you want, Ken will put you on alist-serve he runs with news on prison privatization around the world.



August 25, 2010 – Private Corrections Working Group

For Immediate Release

Watchdog Group Calls for Major Overhaul of Private Prison Oversight After Audit Finds “Serious Security Lapses” Led to Escape from Private Prison in Arizona

“A door to a dormitory that was supposed to be locked had been propped open with a rock, helping the inmates escape.”

Phoeniz, AZ – Today, the Private Corrections Working Group (PCWG), a not-for-profit organization that exposes the problems of and educates the public about for-profit private corrections, called for overhaul of the Arizona Department of Corrections’ (ADOC) oversight of the for-profit prison industry, including:

An immediate halt to all bidding processes involving private prison operators and a moratorium on new private prison beds

• Hold public hearings during the special session to address the problems with for-profit prisons in Arizona

• Enact other cost-cutting measures that not only save money but enhance public safety, like earned release credits, amending truth in sentencing, and restoring judicial discretion.

This action came about after the ADOC released a security audit on August 19th concerning the July 30 escape of three dangerous prisoners from a private prison in Kingman operated by Management and Training Corp. (MTC) (Coincidentally, that same day the last escapee and an accomplice, John McCluskey and Casslyn Mae Welch, were captured without incident at a campground in eastern Arizona. The other two escaped prisoners, Tracy Province and Daniel Renwick, had been caught previously in Wyoming and Colorado).\

Ken Kopczynski, executive director of PCWG, condemned MTC for the numerous security failures that led to the July 30 escape.

“If MTC had properly staffed the facility, properly trained their employees and properly maintained security at the Kingman prison, this escape would not have occurred. But because MTC is a private company that needs to generate profit, and therefore cut costs related to staffing, training and security, three dangerous inmates were able to escape and at least two innocent victims are dead as a result,” Kopczynski observed.

“That is part of the cost of prison privatization that MTC and other private prison firms don’t want to talk about.”

The murders of an Oklahoma couple, Gary and Linda Hass, whose burned bodies were found in New Mexico on August 4, were tied to McCluskey, Welch and Province.

While MTC said it took responsibility for the escape, vice-president Odie Washington acknowledged the company could not prevent future escapes. “Escapes occur at both public and private” prisons, he stated, ignoring the fact that most secure facilities do not experience any escapes – particularly escapes as preventable as the one at MTC’s Kingman prison.

According to the ADOC security audit, the prison’s perimeter fence registered 89 alarms over a 16-hour period on the day the escape occurred, most of them false. MTC staff failed to promptly check the alarms – sometimes taking over an hour to respond – and light bulbs on a control panel that showed the status of the perimeter fence were burned out. “The system was not maintained or calibrated,” said ADOC Director Charles Ryan.

Further, a perimeter patrol post was not staffed by MTC, and according to a news report from the Arizona Daily Star, “a door to a dormitory that was supposed to be locked had been propped open with a rock, helping the inmates escape.”

Additionally, MTC officials did not promptly notify state corrections officials following the escape and high staff turnover at the facility had resulted in inexperienced employees who were ill-equipped to detect and prevent the break-out. According to MTC warden Lori Lieder, 80 percent of staff at the Kingman prison were new or newly promoted.

Although the ADOC was supposed to be monitoring its contract with MTC to house state prisoners, the security flaws cited in the audit went undetected for years. Ryan faulted human error and “serious security lapses” at the private prison.

Arizona corrections officials removed 148 state prisoners from the MTC facility after the escape due to security concerns. “I lacked confidence in this company’s ability,” said ADOC Director Ryan.

Although it’s a small corporation, since 1995 over a dozen prisoners have escaped from MTC facilities in Utah, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and Eagle Mountain, California –where two inmates were murdered during a riot in 2003.


The Private Corrections Working Group ( is a non-profit citizen watch-dog organization that educates the public about the significant dangers and pitfalls associated with the privatization of correctional services. PCI maintains an online collection of news reports and other resources related to the private prison industry, and believes that for-profit prisons have no place in a free and democratic society.

For further information, please contact:

Ken Kopczynski, Executive Director Alex Friedmann, President

Private Corrections Working Group Private Corrections Institute

1114 Brandt Drive 5331 Mt. View Road #130

Tallahassee, FL 32308 Antioch, TN 37013

850-980-0887 802-257-1342 / 615-495-6568

Frank Smith, Field Organizer

Private Corrections Working Group

390 SE 110 Avenue

Bluff City, Kansas
620-967-4616 620-441-8882 (cell)