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The Dead Zone: How Privatization, Isolation and Cruelty Are Killing Prisoners in Arizona

By the time Jan Brewer replaced Janet Napolitano as Arizona's governor in 2009, it had been 22 years since the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) built the first prison in the United States designed exclusively for permanent lockdown, a prison that–with cruel irony–became the prototype for Supermax prisons across the country.

Even before Brewer assumed the governorship and brought Charles Ryan out of retirement to run ADC, Arizona's prisons and jails were known to be ruthless and inhumane. Local demagogues like Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and state Sen. Russell Pearce had long been exploiting the degradation, neglect and abuse of prisoners, accepting campaign contributions from private prison corporations, and conspiring with special interests to profit off mass-incarceration.

And yet, by tapping Tea Party extremism and kowtowing to prison profiteers, Brewer and Ryan have taken a prison system already infamous for its draconian practices and unfettered incompetence made it deadlier and even more vindictive and profit-driven than reform advocates feared possible.

Today, as Brewer approaches the end of her term, the number of Arizona prisoners incarcerated in private facilities continues to increase, even while the overall prison population has declined in recent years.

ADC, which operated under a $1.1 billion-budget in 2012, will soon open another prison built exclusively for solitary confinement, ignoring the pleas of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International and other human-rights groups warning ADC officials about the lasting, negative effects of long-term isolation, and costing taxpayers at least $50 million more.

"These conditions are gratuitously cruel," says David Fathi of the ACLU's National Prison Project about Arizona's solitary cells, known as Secure Management Units (SMU). "There (is) no penological nor security justification for those kinds of conditions."

Since Brewer took office, suicide rates in Arizona's prisons are among the highest in the country, and drug overdoses and untreated medical conditions are killing others. Even after being sued by the ACLU and prisoner advocates for not providing adequate medical care to more than 40,000 state prisoners, ADC has since privatized a prison healthcare system blamed for widespread neglect and incompetence.

And to punctuate Arizona's merciless criminal justice system under Brewer, she is the first governor in at least 35 years to not issue a single pardon during her tenure, a dismal record unlikely to change.

"It's clear to me now that (Brewer et al) are trying in any way they can to manipulate the outcome of clemency hearings," says Duane Belcher, who presided as the state clemency board's chairman for 20 years before Brewer dismissed him in early 2012. "If the cases don't go before the governor, she doesn't have to say yes or no."

With Brewer as its governor and Ryan as its prisons chief, profits thrive in Arizona's prisons, leaving the most vulnerable prisoners–and their last hopes for a second chance–to die.


Calls to Illegally Privatize

To replace Dora Schriro–Napolitano's prisons director before both left for President Obama's Department of Homeland Security—Brewer chose Ryan, who had retired as ADC director in 2003. Since his return, Ryan has parroted Brewer's calls for prison privatization.

At the time of his reappointment, five of the state's 15 prison complexes were already operated by private companies: two by Utah-based Management & Training Corporation (MTC), including a medium-security yard in Kingman; and three by Florida-based GEO Group. Collectively, those complexes house about 6,100 prisoners, or 15% of the state's prison population.

Brewer also surrounded herself with advisers, including her then-deputy chief of staff, Paul Senseman, connected to Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest for-profit prison operator in the country.

At the same time, CCA and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were collaborating with then-state Sen. Russell Pearce to write the xenophobic, anti-immigration bill SB1070, which was formally introduced as legislation in December 2009. CCA, one of many corporations operating about half of all the immigrant detention facilities nationwide, had zeroed in on the incarceration of immigrants to boost its revenues years before, and once co-chaired ALEC's Criminal Justice Task Force.

Within Brewer's first year in office, she and Ryan called for a private takeover of the entire ADC system. But CCA, GEO, MTC and others shied away from wholesale privatization. So in January 2010, a month after Pearce introduced SB1070, Ryan proposed a more modest addition of 5,000 new private prison beds to be opened within three years. To justify the estimated $585-million cost, ADC used a combination of deceptive data and the would-be effects of SB1070 to project a need for an additional 8,500 beds by 2017.

But not only were ADC's projections wrong, the department also never bothered to analyze and compare privately-run prison complexes with those run by ADC, in violation of state law. According to an Arizona Republic analysis:

"Arizona statutes require (ADC) to carry out a biannual performance study for every contract. The study analyzes costs, the security and safety of each prison, how (prisoners) are managed and controlled, (prisoner) discipline, programs, health and food services, staff training, administration and other factors, and then compares these factors to other facilities."

By June 2012, however, when the Republic published "The Price of Prisons," an investigative series on Arizona's prisons, ADC hadn't released any such performance study to the public. By failing to show how private and state-run prisons compare in security, safety and quality of service, ADC had been breaking the law in every instance that it awarded a private contract.

Deadly Escape Cleanup

Brewer's and Ryan's moves to illegally privatize more prisons had gone mostly unnoticed until July 30, 2010, when John McCluskey, Daniel Renwick and Tracy Province—with the help of McCluskey's cousin and girlfriend, Casslyn Welch—escaped from the medium-security prison yard in Kingman, run by MTC. Over the following three weeks, the escapees kidnapped a pair of truck drivers, had a shootout with police and evaded authorities on a multi­state manhunt throughout the western U.S.

McCluskey exacerbated the fateful escape when he executed two retirees, Gary and Linda Haas, in the back of their camper off an old ranch road in New Mexico. He and Welch then doused the bodies with liquor and torched the camper.

Five days after the escape, a team of investigators fanned out across the Kingman prison complex to find out how it happened. They discovered that prison staff had ignored a malfunctioning alarm–which had been going off 200 times a day for 2 years–that sounded when the prisoners cut through a fence.

ADC also discovered eight burned-out perimeter lights, more broken security equipment, and according to the Republic, " a lax, high-turnover culture in which MTC's green, undertrained staff and rookie supervisors ignored alarms, left long gaps between patrols of the perimeter, left doors leading out of some buildings open and unwatched, didn't alert the state or local police until hours after the escape, and failed in all manner of basic security practices."

McCluskey, Province and Welch were ultimately captured and charged with the Haas' murders. (Renwick was arrested separately; he had split from the group immediately after the escape.) And over the following year, Ryan and ADC did damage control and made cosmetic changes to prison security statewide at MTC's expense. Ryan suspended all prisoner transfers to Kingman, transferred 238 supposedly high-risk prisoners out of Kingman, and the complex's population dropped to 80% of capacity. The company later received around $3 million in compensation from the state, because under its contract the ADC had to pay for a minimum percentage of bedspace at the facility even if the beds were empty.

But in 2011, once the escape faded from the headlines, Brewer and Ryan reintroduced their plan to privatize 5,000 prison beds beginning in 2013, even though ADC's daily prisoner count had fallen a full percent in the previous year due to fewer felony arrests in Maricopa County (the state's population center), fewer probation violations statewide, and fewer undocumented workers across Arizona.

ADC officials downplayed their blatantly exaggerated, earlier estimates and instead projected 3,800 more prisoners by June 2015, though they never provided real data to support those projections. The plan to privatize more beds was met with bipartisan, if not broad, criticism.

"The fact we're moving forward with this outdated plan is mind-boggling to me," Democratic state Rep. Chad Campbell, Arizona's House minority leader, said at the time.

"I don't think there's a need for it," said state Rep. Cecil Ash, a Republican who had unsuccessfully pushed for sentencing reforms in the previous legislative session.

Undeterred, Brewer and Ryan narrowed their sights on the biggest for-profit prison companies in the U.S., including GEO–who had given campaign donations in 2010 to the chair of Arizona's House Appropriations Committee, a supporter of private prisons–as well as MTC and CCA.

Besides the Kingman escape, MTC had allowed escapes at its prisons in Texas and Utah. CCA had about two-dozen escapes at various prisons in the previous decade. And GEO had allowed at least 27 escapes nationwide between 2004 and 2011.

In the summer of 2011, ADC took representatives of those companies on a PR tour throughout the state, holding town hall-style meetings in communities from Winslow to Eloy to Coolidge. In each community, the companies deflected criticism about costs and escapes, and focused instead on the promise of jobs, trotting out business leaders and toady employees.

"I work with wonderful people," said Linda Gibson, an antique-shop owner who also works for CCA, at a public meeting in Eloy, where CCA already incarcerates out-of-state prisoners from Hawaii and California. "We have a lot of single mothers who work at CCA, making good money, who have homes they wouldn't have if it wasn't for CCA."

Only Brewer's most cynical critics could have predicted how the awarding of the private contract would play out in the following months.


Driven to Suicide

An April 2012 report from Amnesty International (AI) exposed Arizona's heinous SMU facilities, the "prototype" permanent lockdown prison, according to the Arizona Republic, built in 1987 in the rural town of Florence. Citing prisoner advocates, current and former ADC staff, and ADC's written policies, the report declared that ADC, housing 1,800 prisoners in SMU, was "in violation of international law."

AI concluded that "the cumulative effects of the conditions (in SMU), particularly when imposed for a prolonged or indefinite period, constitutes cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment." Even those considered especially dangerous, AI argued, are to be treated "with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person," per international standards for the treatment of prisoners.

But according to AI's report, SMU's windowless cells–intended for the prisoners ADC says pose the greatest physical threat to prison guards and the public–are too often filled with mentally-ill, nonviolent and vulnerable prisoners.

SMU prisoners have little to no human interaction. With just an hour out of their cells each day, they must choose to either bathe themselves or spend it in a small cage with 20-foot high walls and a sliver of sky, which ADC contends is sufficient "outdoor recreation." If they protest their conditions, sadistic guards deliberately deny them food or ignore them altogether.

It is no surprise then, but no less tragic, that the state's prison suicide rate, according to federal Bureau of Justice statistics released in 2012, was 60% higher than the national average over the previous two years. Meanwhile, AI found that at least 14 of 43 statewide suicides recorded in Arizona's prisons between October 2005 and April 2011 occurred in SMU, whose head count represents less than 9% of the state's total prison population.

And according to ADC's critics, prison suicides are likely underreported.

A major deficiency in SMU is the lack of attention and treatment ADC provides its seriously mentally-ill (SMI) prisoners. In its investigation, AI found that "one prisoner diagnosed with SMI spent two years in SMU without once seeing a psychiatrist despite his repeated requests and referrals by staff." Another prisoner had reportedly completed a seven-day mental health treatment program, according to the report, "after which he was returned to isolation in SMU where he hanged himself the following day."

The neglect and utter indifference by ADC staff is systemic. As part of its investigative series, the Arizona Republic found that there were 470 attempts of self-harm or suicide by ADC prisoners statewide–not just in SMU ­in the 11 months prior to June 2012.

Though his death preceded that span, Tony Lester, a mentally-ill prisoner, bled to death in his two-man cell at a Tucson prison complex in July 2010, after slashing his wrists with a razor blade. Guards stood outside his cell for more than 23 minutes, watching him die. One of them, Orlando Pope, says he never approached Lester because, as he contends, he had never been trained on how to apply a pressure wound.

Lester's family, just before ADC finally provided suicide prevention training to its 8,806 staff members in March 2012, sued ADC over his death and is seeking $3 million.


Indifference and 'Gratuitous Cruelty'

Suicides alone, in SMU or other facilities, aren't the only cause of unnecessary deaths in Arizona's prisons. Others overdose on drugs smuggled in, are killed by other prisoners, or die because they are untreated.

"Arizona's prison system has two death rows," the Republic proclaimed in its investigative series. "One is made up of the 126 inmates officially sentenced to death... (and) the other death row, the unofficial one, reaches into every prison in Arizona's sprawling correctional system.

"No judge or jury condemned anyone in this group to death. They die as victims of prison violence, neglect and mistreatment."

Between 2010 and 2012, 37 prisoners died on Arizona's "other" death row, "more than five times the number (seven) executed from the official death row" during the same time, the Republic reported. But, in 28 of those deaths, ADC-listed no cause of death and stated only that they were under investigation.

According to Carl ToersBijns, a retired former ADC deputy warden at the Eyman prison complex in Florence, the lack of full disclosure is intentional.

"The cleanup starts the moment the incident is reported: eliminating flag words, eliminating individuals who may be relevant to the situation, cut back the witness list," ToersBijns says. "By the time it's finalized, the incident report is so clean and sterile you won't know what happened because it's already been filtered. The direction is given... was it deliberate, accidental, suicide, homicide? They try to fix and create a summary for that report that they can defend.

"A lot of drug overdoses are (reported as) suicides," ToersBijns continues. "A lot of 'natural deaths' are people who have been suffering medical conditions but finally just expired. It's not reflected on those reports and never will be reflected in the news reports. Only the ones who were there know what happened."

But the Republic did identify some of the causes of those 37 deaths. At least seven prisoners died after overdosing on heroin, which-along with needles and syringes-easily get through Arizona's porous prison security system at both state- and privately-run complexes.

Substance-abuse treatment programs are just as lacking. While 75% of ADC prisoners report having significant drug and/or alcohol problems, only 1 in 13 of those prisoners got treatment in fiscal year 2011.

"Nobody ever told me he could die in prison of illegal drugs," says Cynthia Krakoff, whose son, Carlo, died from a heroin overdose at a Tucson prison on July 31, 2011. "If they can't clean up the prisons, they need to find a different way to treat the drug addicts."

ADC might also consider who they're providing access to prisoner records. Prison gang members often get information from prison staff or fellow prisoners who work as clerks to identify alleged snitches and sex offenders, who are then beaten or stabbed, often fatally.

On November 26, 2011, Tyson White, a 37-year-old prisoner who had just arrived at the ADC complex in Buckeye, just west of Phoenix, was spared his life but was beaten and left brain-damaged by three prisoners who were alleged to be members of the Aryan Brotherhood. White had originally identified himself to fellow prisoners as a member of the gang, but Doreen Neu, an ADC staff member working as a "counselor" or "case manager," allegedly informed the gang, through her clerk, that White had no gang affiliation.

White, who was serving a two-year sentence for DUI, was subsequently kicked and stomped on his head and neck, just one of 62 "inmate-on-inmate" assaults reported by ADC that month. White is permanently unable to walk or use the bathroom, and his family is suing ADC for $12 million.

The most costly lawsuit ADC faces, however, could be one that isn't seeking pecuniary damages. On March 6, 2012, the ACLU, joined by the Berkeley, Calif.-based Prison Law Office, the Arizona Center for Disability Law and a pair of local law firms sued ADC of "unconstitutionally denying adequate medical and mental-health care," according to the Republic, to state prisoners.

The suit, which calls for the state to improve prison healthcare, alleges that prisoners have suffered "serious, preventable injuries, disfigurements and death."

The-lawsuit cited a prisoner who was ignored--for-two-years-until liver cancer killed him. A pregnant prisoner mentioned in the suit was told the problems she complained of to medical staff were "all in your head," and then left alone in her cell as she miscarried. Another prisoner was punished for administering CPR to a fellow prisoner suffering a heart attack while guards stood by idly and refused to call for medical assistance.

The disfigurements claimed in the suit include a prisoner who was denied medical treatment for a cancerous growth on his penis for two years. His penis was eventually amputated, but not before the cancer had spread to his stomach. Another had most of his lip and mouth removed after waiting seven months for treatment.

"In two decades of prison litigation, this is one of the most broken systems I've seen," the ACLU National Prison Project's David Fathi said the day the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court. "The indifference to the needs of desperately ill people is shocking. And the gratuitous cruelty we see in Arizona's SMUs is unlike anything we've ever seen in other states' Supermax prisons."


Exacerbating the Healthcare Problem

After all of its deficiencies in providing proper medical and psychological care to its prisoners-and having been slammed by human rights groups, local_media and in a class-action lawsuit-one would expect ADC to at least modestly improve its broken system.

Instead, on July 1, 2012, ADC awarded Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Sources-"a for-profit prison corporation that critics say has a history of incompetence, waste and corruption," according to the Republic-with a three-year, $349-million contract to take over healthcare for more than 40,000 prisoners.

Of course, less than two months into its contract Wexford made quite a first impression with the prison population and prisoner advocates. On Aug. 27, 2012, a vocational nurse employed by Wexford and already under investigation for unsafe practices, exposed more than 100 prisoners at the Buckeye prison complex to hepatitis-C by contaminating the prison's insulin supply.

Nwadiuto Jane Nwaohia, under investigation by Arizona's Board of Nursing since June 2012 for allegations the board would not elaborate, administered a routine dose of insulin to a diabetic prisoner who also has hepatitis-C, and then inserted the same needle into another vial to draw more insulin for the same prisoner. The vial, according to ADC Director Ryan, was then placed among other vials in a medication refrigerator and got mixed up with other vials of insulin used that day on 103 diabetic prisoners.

Medical staff discovered the contamination the same day and destroyed all the vials of insulin, and Nwaohia, according to a Wexford statement, was suspended after it was learned she "had violated basic infection-control protocols while administering medication that day."

However, Wexford didn't notify the state or Maricopa County officials until eight days later.

"It's extremely disturbing that something like this could happen. It calls for a thorough investigation to determine all of the surrounding causes of the mistake or the negligence," says the Prison Law Office's Don Specter.

Wexford attempted to deflect some responsibility for the contamination by blaming a local sta=ting agency for-assigning Nwaohia to the prison complex. But Ken Kopczynski, the executive director of the Private Corrections Working Group in Tallahassee, Fla., criticized state officials who contracted prisoner healthcare to a for-profit company, and then failed to maintain proper oversight of Wexford.

"This is a problem with privatization," Kopczynski says. "(ADC is) just accepting who Wexford will hire."

ADC ultimately fined Wexford a paltry $10,000 after the contamination, which followed other disturbing incidents.

A prisoner at the Florence complex hanged himself on Aug. 23, 2012, after not receiving his psychotropic medication for an entire month. According to ADC, Wexford's failure to deliver the medication to the prisoner, who was found hanging from a sheet in his cell, was a "significant, non-compliance issue." State records don't indicate whether or not the prisoner survived.

Also in August, a Wexford nurse at the women's Perryville prison complex in suburban Phoenix administered medication to a prisoner by having her "lick the powdered medication from her own hand," rather than putting the meds in a small cup of water. And a number of prisoners there, the state learned, "may not have been receiving their medications as prescribed due to expired prescription(s) and inappropriate renewals or refills."

ADC ordered Wexford to fix staffing problems, properly distribute and document medication for prisoners. show some urgency and communicate better when problems arise. Ryan later said in a written statement chat Wexford was being afforded a chance to "improve communications and ensure (that) the healthcare needs of the inmates incarcerated by the State of Arizona are being met."

Wexford, meanwhile, shifted blame back to the state. In a letter to Ryan, the company said that ADC "must recognize that the system that was in place" before Wexford's contract began was "extremely weak." The company also said that people who were hired by ADC to monitor Wexford are the same people who took the prisoner healthcare system into decline.

By even considering the contract with Wexford-much less agreeing to pay them hundreds of millions of dollars-ADC clearly indicated that it's "not interested in improving the care offered to people in its custody or increasing the inadequate number of medical staffers in prisons," Doris Marie Provine, a justice studies professor at Arizona State University, wrote in the Republic last year.

"When the state locks someone up," she argued, "it assumes responsibility to provide safe and humane conditions of confinement. No amount of outsourcing will change that."

Closing the Safety Valve of Justice Jan Brewer doesn't like making public decisions on the commutation of prison sentences. Or maybe she simply doesn't like justifying them.

In April 2012, Brewer replaced three of five members of Arizona's Board of Executive Clemency: board chairman Duane Belcher; Marilyn Wilkens, who Brewer appointed in 2010; and Ellen Stenson, who was appointed by former Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano in 2007.

According to Belcher, Brewer was displeased by the board's 2009 majority decision to grant clemency to convicted murderer William Macumber. And Wilkens said Brewer was dissatisfied that "I had not voted the way (the governor) wished that I would have voted," most likely in the board's unanimous decision in January 2012 to reduce Robert Flibotte's 90-year sentence to five years for possession of child pornography.

Both recommendations were overruled by the governor.

The new board members: Brian Livingston, a retired police officer and executive director of the Arizona Police Association, who was still registered as a police-association lobbyist two weeks after his appointment; Melvin Thomas, a former Arizona warden who worked for prison profiteer GEO Group after working for Arizona's Department of Corrections for 21 years; and new clemency board chairman Jesse Hernandez.

Hernandez has worked on some of Arizona's most recent high-profile conservative political campaigns, including leading a Republican Latino group's public support for SB1070, which was declared mostly unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer. Hernandez also was chairman of a group that failed to help SB1070 grand wizard Russell Pearce win his state senate recall election in November 2011.

All are expected to help Brewer keep prisoners deserving of commutation locked up. Since January 2009, Brewer has granted just six commutations–including 69-year-old Betty Smithey's, who had served 49 years in prison before her release in August 2012–that weren't due to a prisoner's "imminent danger of death." And she's the first governor in at least 35 years to not issue a single pardon, denying all of the board's 13 recommendations during her tenure.

In a state where the prison population has increased eight-fold in 30 years; where budget cuts have created a two-year, 900-case backlog for the clemency board; and where almost 96% of 76,000 felony criminal cases filed each year are settled by plea bargains that are driven by harsh mandatory minimums, the clemency process is considered the Arizona criminal justice system's safety valve.

Yet, Brewer continues to arbitrarily deny worthy clemency applications.

On death sentences, Brewer equally lacks compassion, though she isn't Arizona's only governor to deny mercy to prisoners on death row. Neither Brewer nor the four governors before her–Napolitano, Jane Hull, Fife Symington and Rose Mofford–ever commuted a death sentence, allowing 31 executions to be carried out in Arizona between 1992 and 2012.

Fighting for one's life in Arizona has become so futile that Thomas Kemp, a 63-year-old prisoner on death row since being convicted of murder 20 years ago, didn't even ask for a hearing in front of the clemency board before he was executed in April 2012. He wrote in a letter a week before his execution that a hearing would only bring "public humiliation of the prisoner without any chance" of his death penalty being reduced to life imprisonment.


The Contract Goes To...

That long-awaited, biannual performance analysis, required by Arizona statutes, was finally released just weeks before ADC announced which corporation had been awarded a new contract to incarcerate potentially thousands of Arizona's prisoners.

Never mind that the analysis showed that it cost Arizonans less to have the state run its prisons, rather than private contractors. Never mind a decline in ADC's prison population the previous two years, or that ADC projections–which have proved to be, at best, unreliable–have said the prison population will remain flat through 2014 and increase only slightly thereafter.

And never mind that, according to ADC records the day the contract was awarded, there were 2,002 empty beds in Arizona's prisons.

The only numbers that mattered to Jan Brewer were the millions of dollars that could be funneled to her friends and campaign donors in the private-prison industry.

So, on Aug. 31, 2012, ADC announced that a contract worth $21.5 million annually had been awarded to Corrections Corporation of America, which employed a cadre of lobbyists to win it. One of them, Chuck Coughlin, a friend of Brewer's, had been employed by CCA until just six weeks prior to the contract's announcement. Then he became one of Brewer's paid advisers. And Paul Senseman, Brewer's one-time spokesman before leaving her administration in 2011, was working for a lobbying firm employed by CCA, Policy Development Group, when the contract was awarded.

"If you place two of your lobbyists at the right and left hand of the governor of the state and she has final say and oversight of the Department of Corrections, I would say that's a pretty smart business strategy," says Caroline Isaacs of Arizona's chapter of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group that's long been opposed to private prisons and Arizona's use of solitary confinement.

To stifle an all-out protest of the CCA contract, Brewer and Ryan agreed to substantially reduce the number of new, privatized bedspaces from 5,000 to 1,000–at least initially.

CCA will open the first 500 beds, at the prison complex in Eloy, by January 2014. The next 500 beds–considering the contract is incentivized to keep the prison at 90% capacity–should be occupied a year later. All of the beds are for medium-security prisoners, which is significant because ADC's average daily rate per prisoner at a state-run medium-security facility was $48.42 as recently as 2010. But ADC agreed to pay CCA $65.43 per bed.

This is how CCA, the country's largest private prison operator, made almost $163 million in profits in 2011.

The contract also gives CCA an option to run another 1,000 state prison beds beyond 2015, provided there's an increase in the medium-security population, which–in ADC's classification system–can be easily manipulated by arbitrarily bumping up scores on prisoners' security-risk assessments.

State Rep. Chad Campbell joined a group of Democrats, clergy members and civil-rights groups asking Brewer to rescind the contract. Of course, she declined.

"The bottom line is we need to protect safety while protecting taxpayer dollars," says Campbell, "and expansion of private prisons does neither."



What Jan Brewer and Charles Ryan have exacerbated in Arizona's prisons will persist long after her departure from office unless prisoner advocates, human-rights groups and Arizona voters reverse those trends. There have been recent glimmers of hope, beginning with the recall of Russell Pearce and the nearly comprehensive repeal of SB1070 through the courts.

The courts since have also corrected Brewer's most egregious rejection of commutation: the case of William Macumber, who was convicted in 1975 and sentenced to life for a double homicide in 1962.

A former state judge told the clemency board in 2009 that another man confessed the killings to him in 1967, but because of attorney-client privilege, he couldn't disclose the man's confession until after his client died. So after 34 years in prison, the board unanimously recommended that Macumber's sentence should be commuted.

The board, then led by Duane Belcher, declared not only that Macumber had served excessive time in prison and that he was not a threat to society, but that his conviction was a miscarriage of justice, saying that "the evidence that now exists certainly casts serious doubt on Mr. Macumber's conviction."

Brewer denied the board's recommendation.

"Sometimes the law has a disproportionate impact and may be too rigid. That's what the pardon power is for," says P.S. Ruckman, an Illinois political science professor who runs a blog on clemency, "Brewer has the power and discretion to have a larger sense of justice and to do something about it. That's her duty."

With Brewer derelict, Arizona's appellate courts assumed the responsibility. On (date?), Macumber's conviction was finally overturned and he was released from prison over Brewer's public objection.

Last November, Sheriff Joe Arpaio narrowly won a sixth term, using a 13-to-1 advantage in campaign funds against his Democratic challenger to win by just 5%, with Latinos, the fastest-growing demographic in the state, turning out in droves against him.

In February 2013, a recall effort was launched against Arpaio by the same group that successfully removed Pearce from office. At last count, the group had garnered a third of the necessary signatures—more than 500,000—to get a recall on the ballot.

That same month, ADC released video of cruelly indifferent guards at the Tucson prison complex where Tony Lester committed suicide in 2010 doing nothing to revive him or call for medical assistance. After seeing the video, state Rep. Chad Campbell called for Ryan's resignation as ADC director. Predictably, that hasn't happened. And in retaliation against Democrats seeking Arpaio's recall, a group of Republicans is now seeking to recall Campbell.

Neither Ryan nor Brewer are expected to be out of a job until at least Jan. 5, 2015, when Arizona's next governor is inaugurated. However, Brewer's departure isn't yet certain. After finishing Janet Napolitano's second and final term, Brewer won her seat in office outright in 2010. According to most interpretations of Arizona's constitution, Brewer is prohibited from running for what would technically be a third term in 2014. But she's been coy about her intentions to wage a court battle over the issue.

Until then, at least, Arizona's prison system will likely continue to fail under Brewer and Ryan. More prisoners will needlessly suffer and die. Private prison companies and healthcare providers will continue to profit at the expense of those they are supposed to care for.

All of this should matter to Arizonans.

"This matters," according to an Arizona Republic editorial, "because tax dollars should buy secure prisons.

"It matters because inmates who survive a brutal system are unlikely to become good neighbors when they return to our communities.

"It matters," the Republic concludes, "because assuring the basic needs and safety of prisoners says a great deal more about us than it does about them."

Sources: The Arizona Republic,; "Cruel Isolation: Amnesty International's Concerns About Conditions in Arizona Maximum Security Prison," April 2012,; Center for Media_and Democracy,; Rolling Stone magazine;

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