Jul 20, 2015
KJZZ 91.5

Activists Urge Arizona Governor To Cancel Private Prison Expansion

“What works is getting to the root causes of crime," Isaacs said "You can’t punish your way out of addiction. You can’t punish your way out mental illness. You can’t punish your way out of poverty.”

Other states such as Texas have began to reduce their prison population. Bob Libal, director of the justice advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, points to Texas closing two privately operated prisons in 2013.

Grassroots Leadership stands with Arizonans calling for an end to for-profit imprisonment

Earlier this month, prisoners incarcerated by the Arizona Department of Corrections at a for-profit private prison in Kingman, Arizona rioted and destroyed much of the facility. The recent unrest and violence at the Kingman prison should come as no surprise to any of us.  In fact, we should have anticipated it.  Under the management of MTC, a private for-profit prison corporation based in Utah, Kingman has been the site of other unconscionable and high-level disturbances, including the escape of three people who were later tied to the murder of a couple in New Mexico.  

The following are remarks by Grassroots Leadership's Executive Director Bob Libal at a July 20th press conference at the Arizona House of Representatives:

I'm very happy to be here this morning with advocates, legislators, and members of the faith community calling for Arizona to implement policies that reduce reliance on mass for-profit incarceration. 

Arizona's struggles with for-profit prisons are not unique.  Private prisons are well-documented for cutting corners in staffing levels, staff training and staff benefits, all which lead to notably higher staff turnover rates in private prisons than in publicly run prisons.  Of course, violence, disruptions, and staff incompetency is found in publicly run prisons, too.  The difference is that, as publicly run entities, they can and should be held to account by the public.  But when taxpayer dollars are used to outsource the management of prisons, we actually relinquish the right to holding these companies accountable.  That, too, is unconscionable. States across the country have seen the kind of incidents that Arizona has saw at the Kingman facility over the past several years.  In Texas, conditions at the Willacy County Correctional Center - also operated by Management and Training Corporation, the same private prison company - deteriorated and poorly trained prison leadership reacted so badly that immigrant prisoners rioted and destroyed the facility.  [node:read-more:link]

Felony prosecutions of migrants at the border are on the rise and Arizona is behind it

According to researchers at Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), the first six months of FY 2014 have seen substantial changes in the criminal enforcement of immigration laws among those districts along the border with Mexico.

There has been a drop in the number of criminal prosecutions for "illegal entry" under 8 USC 1325, but a continued rise in prosecutions for "illegal re-entry" (8 USC 1326). 

Crossing the border was once a matter for civil immigration courts but is now handled in federal criminal courts along the border. Under this program, known as Operation Streamline, people caught crossing the border are criminally charged with either unauthorized entry (a misdemeanor) or unauthorized re-entry (a felony). 


Humpday Hall of Shame: GEO Doesn't Make Enough Money?!

Congratulations, it's a tie! Today's Humpday Hall of Shame award goes to the GEO Group and Rep. John Kavanagh.  

Last Friday, Arizona House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Kavanagh allegedly wrote an additional $900,000 into the Arizona budget the for-profit prison corporation. Kavanagh maintains that GEO Group lobbyists requested the money, but Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman Doug Nick, however, claims that no additional funding was requested for GEO. 

Such a deal perhaps should not come a surprise, since Kavanagh apparently received six campaign contributions from GEO during the last election cycle. In fact, GEO CEO George Zoley, senior vice presidents Thomas Wierdsma, John Bulfin, Jorge Dominicis, and Stephen Fuller, and employee James Black all donated the maximum individual donation amount, $424, between June 29 and and July 9, 2012. Kristin Boilini and and Nicholas Simonetta, two lobbyists for GEO's lobbying firm Pivotal Policy Consulting, also donated to Kavanagh during that time. 


Hump Day Hall of Shame: Corizon exposes people in Arizona prison to hepatitis

Last week, Corizon, a for-profit correctional healthcare company receiving $372 million from Arizona taxpayers, infected 24 incarcerated people with Hepatitis B and C. The life threatening exposures occurred when a nurse disregarded proper injection protocol, said Clarisse Tsang, the Department of Health Services hepatitis-prevention coordinator. Despite public concern for the lives of those incarcerated in the Arizona jail, Corizon did not make a statement about exposing patients to natural born pathogens until three days later, and still refuses to answer more specific questions.

Arizona's Death Yards | Prisoner Deaths Under Privatized Medical Care

Increasingly, when Grassroots Leadership talks about for-profit prison privatization, we are talking about not only the private ownership or operation of prisons, jails, and detention centers, but we are talking about a monstrous field of prison-related privatization.  This field includes re-entry programs, halfway houses, “alternatives” to incarceration, as well as food services, transportation, and healthcare delivered to those incarcerated in both privately and publicly operated facilities.  As it becomes more and more difficult for for-profit private prison companies to procure new contracts due to decreasing rates of incarceration and other factors, other arms of the industry have adapted so that profits continue to be reaped on the backs of those behind bars.   


Similar to our findings on the pitfalls of management and operation of prisons by for-profit private companies, anecdotally we have found that the privatization of services also compromises the health, safety and well-being of prisoners.


Action in Arizona: CCA, GO AWAY!

On May 1st, we announced a series of protests and informational events that are taking place around the country in opposition of for-profit incarceration and Corrections Corporation of America’s celebrations of their 30th anniversary this year.  Collectively, organizers across the nation are sending a message to CCA  that thirty years of profiting from pain is nothing to celebrate! 


The first event took place on Tuesday in Washington, DC where civil rights leaders, people of faith, criminal justice reform groups, and immigrant rights organizations protested outside CCA’s Correctional Treatment Facility. In preparation for the event, Seema Sadanandan, ACLU organizer in DC, gave three reasons why everyone should join the Public Safety and Justice Campaign, citing the deaths of Juan Villanueva and Catlin Carithers in CCA’s Adams County Correctional Center in Mississippi.  


Humpday Hall of Shame: Terry Stewart Strikes Back

A year and a half after his induction, Terry Stewart is making a return appearance on the Humpday Hall of Shame.  Stewart has a checkered past in corrections, dating back to his time as the Arizona Department of Corrections director from 1995 to 2002 and, most recently, in a questionable deal between Arizona and private prison health care provider Corizon.

Since he left his post as ADOC director, Stewart has made a healthy career in the prison industrial complex.  In 2003, he started his own prison privatization consulting firm, Advanced Correctional Management, and began hawking for-profit private prisons to his own former co-workers as a consultant for companies like MTC (Management and Training Corporation) and Corizon Correctional Healthcare.


Operation Streamline Days of Action get underway in Texas and Arizona

This week, groups around the country will be holding press conferences, letter deliveries, and other actions to call on Congress to end Operation Streamline and the criminalization of immigration.

Operation Streamline, a little-known border enforcement program, is part of broader trend funneling immigrants into the criminal justice system and charging them with felony or misdemeanor crimes for crossing the border.   Senate and House negotiators are reportedly considering expanding funding of Operation Streamline and criminal prosecutions of immigrants as part of the comprehensive immigration reform bill being negotiated in Congress.

“These prosecutions channel billions of dollars to private prison corporations and are fueling the explosive growth in numbers of Latinos in federal prison,” said Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership.  “It’s time that Congress moved to end Operation Streamline once and for all.” 



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