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Rehabilitation or Corporate Profit

Peaceful efforts, by Alaskan prisoners, on August 30, 1998, to address grievances and concerns repeatedly ignored at the Central Arizona Detention Center, in Florence, Arizona, were mercilessly squashed following a sit down demonstration in the prison exercise yard.

What was initially a peaceful, sit-down demonstration turned ugly when prison officials at this private prison (a for profit business owned by Corrections Corporation of America) assaulted prisoners with rubber bullets, smoke tear gas, and percussion grenades. Further assault was inflicted by club wielding CCA personnel in protective riot gear, armed with hi-tech shock/stun shields. CCA officials over-reacted using unauthorized force to inflict punitive retribution rather than listen to prisoner concerns.

Initially, 50 prisoners refused to leave the exercise yard until the warden heard their complaints. However, Assistant Warden Luna met with prisoners and issued an ultimatum to disperse. When two dozen prisoners opted to remain, they were sealed off and assaulted with potentially lethal force. No violence was initiated by prisoners in their efforts to draw attention to conditions at this private facility.

Alaska has been warehousing prisoners with CCA in Arizona since February 1995 to ease overcrowding in Alaska's prison. Prisoner issues were related to food quality, health care, yard privilege restrictions, as well as educational and rehabilitation activities. Prisoners are seeking an Inmate Counsel, or representative process, to meet with prison officials on a regular basis and address ongoing problems within the facility.

Within days following the incident, Associated Press carried a related article wherein Alaska State Corrections Commissioner Margaret Pugh was quoted as saying "It does look like an isolated, spontaneous incident" (See Anchorage Daily News 9/2/98). Despite efforts by vested interest to downplay the incident, these issues still persist. CCA's unwillingness to address prisoner concerns, or allow Inmate Counsel for that purpose, continues to aggravate the festering situation. Underlying this is the question and public concern of whether or not private enterprise should even be involved in the prison business. When profit is the bottom line, are human concerns sacrificed and problems swept under the rug?

-- AK Prisoner

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