We know Amnesty International as an organization known for spotlighting human rights abuses in Third World places. You know, places such as Sudan, Syria and Arizona. A new report criticizes the state's prison system for conditions that "fall below international standards for humane treatment." Among the findings:
More than 2,900 prisoners are held in Arizona’s highest security maximum custody facilities, the majority in the SMUs at ASPC-Eyman. Most are confined alone in windowless cells for 22 to 24 hours a day in conditions of reduced sensory stimulation, with little access to natural light and no work, educational or rehabilitation programs. Prisoners exercise alone in small, enclosed yards and, apart from a minority who have a cell-mate, have no association with other prisoners. Many prisoners spend years in such conditions; some serve out their sentences in solitary confinement before being released directly into the community.
Among those held in these conditions are the mentally ill and children as young as 14. State officials refused to meet with Amnesty International representatives. Although the Arizona Republic carried a story, it will soon be forgotten. Newspapers don't crusade any more, which would require day after day of stories that dig into the conditions, the human pain and who is responsible. Anyway, who really cares about these people? As my character Sheriff Peralta says to the bleeding heart Mapstone, "The thing about the criminal justice system is that it's full of criminals." Out at the mega-churches and the stakes of Arizona, one is taught that Baby Jesus is there for the prosperous and the members of your tribe. Not, say, thieves hanging on crosses.
Other firms such as Corrections Corp. of America and Management and Training Corp. are also involved in the state penal "industry." How deep the tentacles go in Arizona will have to wait for some serious investigative reporting. According to the Tucson Citizen, Gov. Jan Brewer accepted $60,000 from people associated with CCA, among other instances of "pay to play." CCA is a target-rich environment for a journalist. To take one small example, its Web site claims it runs the Central Arizona Correctional Facility (while the DOC site lists Geo). Indeed, CCA lists six prisons it operates in the state. Are these different from "prison complexes"? Does it matter when so much money is to be made?
Private prisons are big business in Arizona. The "industry" played a major role in crafting SB 1070, the anti-immigrant Jim Crow voter suppression law. That has since been turned into a national model by ALEC, the infamous right-wing group that hands out extremist legislation to be passed, word for word, into law in statehouses nationwide. Are they good for inmates or even taxpayers? Not so much, according to an article in The Nation that further gives Arizona publicity that money can't buy.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit has been filed saying that inmates are denied adequate medical care and mental-health care. No doubt. The mentally ill without means are now warehoused in America's prisons or on its streets. As for the just-plain-ill behind bars, they will be dealt with by a private company (what else?) with an odor trailing it.
But who cares, especially among the Elect? They are, after all, the Elect — their power and affluence show that God smiles upon them. Or so they think.
Arizona has the tenth highest adult incarceration rate in the country. That rate has no correlation with population and little connection with crime rates. With one exception, the top 10 are Southern states, plus Arizona which remains red-and-Southern in much of its outlook. No matter how many people are locked up — or face the inhuman treatment before prison from the Badged Ego — the white-right still cowers inside its gated properties and segregated "master planned communities."
America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Higher than Red China. Minorities are put in prison at a far higher rate than whites, and the poor much more often then the wealthy. The "war on drugs" has been a war on the poor. Most convicts are there because of non-violent, drug possession charges. But once out, with a felony conviction, their lives are pretty much toast. So this isn't just an Arizona problem. But Arizona seems to excel at the dysfunctional, immoral and shameful, as if Louisiana and Mississippi are models to chase.