I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Governing Arizona's Prison Industrial Complex

This comes from the Governing Arizona website, which I found upon investigating just what makes a bunch of economists able to see things from the "non-partisan" perspective promised by the Arizona Daily Star. Capitalism is the common lens they all see through, of course - the Dems and the GOP alike. Governing Arizona doesn't appear to have made space for alternative voices - they have all the "experts" they need. That means most of us are screwed. 

This was an interesting article, though - sorry I can't seem to fix the end of it - the columns are a bit whacky. I don't usually interject because it can be confusing - I put my own comments in red below (though I've reserved a few for lack of time - they're coming, though...). The yellow just indicates something I found interesting, not really something I agree with or think is even valid. 

So, draw your own conclusions - there are plenty of links, and the Pew Center has done some good work. I have problems with the Governors' Association's best practices, as you'll see. If that's the best they have to offer, then we shouldn't be so surprised to find ourselves in this jam now as the world's leading incarcerator. God Bless America.


Seeking a Lockdown on Prison Costs

A bill to cut California’s prison population by 20,000 to 25,000 over two years still leaves the state $200 million in debt, reports the Los Angeles Times. Another state in the West – Arizona – also faces rising prison costs.

“Law and Order” Tough on State Budgets

One American in every 100 is in prison and one in every 31 Americans is either behind bars, on probation, or on parole, according to the Pew Center on the States.

Policies that move offenders of all types more quickly from infraction to incarceration include:

-mandatory minimum sentence laws (here and here)

-“three strikes, you’re out” laws and

-truth in sentencing laws

But putting more people behind bars has its costs.

“Corrections have gobbled up more and more of state budgets, at a faster pace than any other government service, except Medicaid. In 2008, spending on corrections was 303 percent greater than two decades earlier,” noted The Economist on May 21, 2009.

According to state profiles updated by the Pew Center on the States in March 2009, the United States spends in excess of $50 billion each year for corrections. The burden this represents for financially strapped states varies widely. Corrections costs consume just 2.5 percent of Alabama’s General Fund, but 22 percent of Michigan’s General Fund.

States at – or approaching – one of every ten General Fund dollars going to corrections costs include:

Oregon (10.6 percent)
Florida (10 percent)
Arizona (9.5 percent)
Vermont (9.4 percent)
California (9.3 percent)

Some states have initiative efforts to find other ways besides putting violators under “corrections control” (prison, jail, probation, parole). States with the lowest rates in this regard are Iowa, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.

States with the highest rates of putting offenders under corrections control include Georgia, Idaho, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, and Massachusetts. But, states with a relatively higher rate of putting people under corrections control can differ substantially in how aggressively they put people in prison. Among states that appear to use prison sentences selectively (that is, those states with a low rate if incarceration relative to rate of corrections control) include Massachusetts, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Washington State, according to the statistics from the Pew Center on the States.

Incarceration and Crime

Putting offenders in prison satisfies society’s desire for retribution and getting criminals off the streets, but does it reduce crime? Sometimes, but not always, according to two national experts who participated in a Pew Center Public Safety Performance Project event.

Dr. Alfred Blumenstein of Carnegie Mellon University and Dr. James Q. Wilson of Pepperdine University have noted that research has found a significant correlation between prison sentences and reductions in certain kinds of crime. One study concluded that the deterrence effect of prison and incapacitation (taking the criminal off the streets, thus averting this individual from engaging in more criminal activity) were responsible for about 25 percent of the reduction in crime.(not bad sources, but this is where I begin to have questions...)

But, where prison sentences don’t appear to have an effect is with regard to broader, market-based activities like drug dealing and theft rings, they say. These illicit operations quickly find new, and frequently younger, cohorts to replace those that are arrested and incarcerated.

According to them and to the latest statistics from the Bureau of Justice, about one-fifth of the prison population is there because of drug-related offenses – the fastest-growing single crime, they say. (About half of offenders are in prison for “violent crime,” a broader classification that includes more than one type of crime.) (here too...)

Striking a Balance

Clearly, as states confront escalating healthcare costs, burgeoning K-12 populations of school children, and rising unemployment and need for jobless benefits, they must find some way to arrest skyrocketing corrections costs – particularly in those cases where costs are being paid without any demonstrable reduction in criminal activity or any improvement in public safety.

In November 2008, in light of the budget crises hitting almost every state, the Association of State Correctional Administrators profiled states’ attempts to control these costs. These initiatives have been categorized and published by the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices and are summarized below.

Creative measures, such as speeding deportation of illegal immigrants
Energy savings, such as installation of solar panels and windmills
Facility and staff reductions
Food savings, such as reducing specialized menus (bad idea- specialized diets are medical interventions - and at least at perryville the special diet folks are fed last, and there often isn't enough of the right food left for them. Have an impromptu lunch there sometime, Director Ryan - if you can slip in incognito...)
Fund shifting, such as moving General Fund dollars to bond funds
Legislation, such as doubling good-time credits for non-violent offenders
Medical savings, such as implementing electronic recordkeeping and using medical students to provide inmate care (these aren't necessarily bad ideas, it's just that they already do health care on the cheap here, when they do it all.)
Operational savings, including innovative work arrangements for staff, electronic personnel records, and increased use of electronic monitoring of non-violent, non-sex offender inmates.


The chart below summarizes the Pew Center data noted above. “Adult population” refers to the rate at which the adult population in a state is under corrections control (in prison or jail, on probation or on parole). The last column refers to the percentage of people under corrections control who are actually behind bars.

Alabama $420 million 2.5 1 in 32 43
Alaska $240 million 4.7 1 in 36 41
Arizona $951 million 9.5 1 in 33 40
Arkansas $348 million 8.0 1 in 29 29
California $9.66 billion 9.3 1 in 36 35
Colorado $625 million 8.6 1 in 29 30
Connecticut $699 million 4.3 1 in 33 27
Delaware $200 million 6.1 1 in 26 30
Florida $2.8 billion 10.0 1 in 31 38
Georgia $1.1 billion 5.9 1 in 13 18
Hawaii $228 million 4.3 1 in 32 29
Idaho $207 million 7.3 1 in 18 17
Illinois $1.36 billion 6.1 1 in 38 29
Indiana $669 million 5.3 1 in 26 24
Iowa $353 million 6.0 1 in 54 35
Kansas $341 million 5.6 1 in 53 44
Kentucky $521 million 5.5 1 in 35 38
Louisiana $625 million 6.4 1 in 26 47
Maine $153 million 4.9 1 in 81 36
Maryland $1.19 billion 8.2 1 in 27 27
Massachusetts $1.25 billion 4.6 1 in 24 13
Michigan $2.18 billion 22.0 1 in 27 26
Minnesota $460 million 2.6 1 in 26 12
Mississippi $226 million 6.4 1 in 38 55
Missouri $575 million 6.8 1 in 36 37
Montana $169 million 8.6 1 in 44 37
Nebraska $179 million 5.1 1 in 44 31
Nevada $253 million 7.9 1 in 48 54
New Hampshire $101 million 6.8 1 in 88 43
New Jersey $1.58 billion 4.8 1 in 35 25
New Mexico $277 million 4.6 1 in 35 39
New York $2.87 billion 5.4 1 in 53 36
N. Carolina $1.25 billion 6.2 1 in 38 35
North Dakota $65 million 5.4 1 in 63 35
Ohio $1.79 billion 7.3 1 in 25 22
Oklahoma $491 million 7.0 1 in 42 55
Oregon $763 million 10.6 1 in 33 25
Pennsylvania $1.84 billion 6.7 1 in 28 25
Rhode Island $185 million 5.5 1 in 26 14
S. Carolina $487 million 6.6 1 in 38 46
South Dakota $81 million 7.1 1 in 40 38
Tennessee $675 million 5.5 1 in 40 41
Texas $2.96 billion 6.8 1 in 22 31
Utah $330 million 5.7 1 in 64 47
Vermont $116 million 9.4 1 in 46 23
Virginia $1.25 billion 7.6 1 in 46 52
Washington $917 million 6.3 1 in 30 19
West Virginia $181 million 4.7 1 in 68 48
Wisconsin $1.08 billion 8.0 1 in 39 36
Wyoming $103 million 5.7 1 in 38 40

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