January 22, 2018
Phoenix, AZ. Today, Governor Doug Ducey will call a special session to address the opioid crisis in Arizona. If passed, the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act would provide millions in additional funding for drug treatment services, expand access statewide to life-saving opioid antagonists such as Narcan and Naloxone, and establish a Good Samaritan law, which shields persons calling for help in the event of an overdose from prosecution for drug possession.
“Addressing opioid addiction as a public health crisis ensures that the public policy solutions will be appropriate and effective,” said Caroline Isaacs, Director of the American Friends Service Committee of Arizona. “We know that treatment is the best tool we have to address this problem, but the funding just hasn’t kept up with the need in most communities.”
Last June, the Governor declared a state of emergency upon findings by the Arizona Department of Health Services that opioid overdose deaths rose by 74% between 2013 – 2017. Since then, the Director of the Department of Health Services, health service providers, criminal justice advocates, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have spent long hours formulating a workable response to this crisis.
The urgency of the opioid epidemic demands comprehensive, nonpartisan solutions. The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act is a breath of fresh air for reform advocates who have worked tirelessly to address the systemic causes of drug addiction in our communities. “We have much more work ahead of us before we will be able to bring an end to the pain that thousands of family members and friends suffer daily from losing their loved ones to drug overdose,” said Isaacs. “The Opioid Epidemic Act is a giant first step toward recognizing and addressing the epidemic of addiction in Arizona, but we must be prepared to do more. Until we can find a way to reform the outdated and ineffective laws that criminalize and punish addiction rather than treat it as the health problem that it is, we will fall short of bringing a true end to this crisis.”
The American Friends Service Committee has long been opposed to Arizona’s deep financial involvement in the for-profit private prison industry. Fundamentally, that is because we believe that incarceration for profit is immoral. But we also know that these corporations are profoundly mismanaged, negligent, and do not deliver the cost savings they promise to taxpayers.
That is why we were deeply disturbed to learn that the Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) just increased its shares in CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), the largest for-profit prison company in the US.
During the second quarter, the ASRS “raised its position in shares of Corrections Corp. of America (NYSE:CXW) by 1.8% during the second quarter, according to its most recent filing with the SEC. The fund owned 49,800 shares of the real estate investment trust’s stock after buying an additional 900 shares during the period. Arizona State Retirement System’s holdings in Corrections Corp. of America were worth $1,373,000 at the end of the most recent quarter.”
The ASRS is the government-run retirement system whose membership includes employees of the State of Arizona, the three state universities, community college districts, school districts and charter schools, all 15 counties, most cities and towns, and a variety of special districts. A total of 205,162 members around the State.
In 2017, the State of Arizona spent approximately $168,617,100 of general fund dollars on private prison contracts. As of the latest Department of Corrections report, Arizona currently has 5 contracts that account for roughly 14% of the Department of Corrections’ $1 billion budget.
As the state’s corrections budget has grown, it has siphoned off general fund dollars from other critical agencies and programs. Ironically, some of those who have lost the most in state funding are the very same whose retirement is now invested in this predatory industry. For example, the Grand Canyon Institute reported that Arizona spends 60% more on prisons than on state colleges and universities. Yet, the retirement funds for those professors are now tied up in the corporation that arguably benefitted from the drastic reduction in state funding for higher education.
It is also worth noting that two former members of the Arizona Board of Regents were also serving on the Board of Directors of what was then Corrections Corporation of America (now CoreCivic). Former Arizona Senator Dennis DiConcini came under public pressure to resign from the Board from immigrant rights advocates and others (including AFSC) for his willingness to accept huge stock dividends from a corporation that was detaining thousands of immigrants in Arizona and elsewhere. He later resigned from the Board of CCA.
Another former ABOR member, Anne Mariucci, is currently listed as “Independent Director” at Corrections Corp. of America. She remains on the Board of Directors at Corrections Corp. of America, as well as Southwest Gas Corp., Arizona State University Foundation, Banner Health System, Inc., Fresh Start Women’s Foundation and The University of Arizona Health Network. Notably, she served previously as the Director of the Arizona State Retirement System.
CoreCivic is also the largest employer in Pinal County, where it operates a total of 6 facilities. In addition to contracts for incarceration of Arizona state prisoners and Mesa Jail detainees, the company also imports prisoners from California, Vermont, and Hawaii, as well as thousands of immigrant detainees from ICE and the US Marshals.
The corporation is moving aggressively into other areas of Arizona’s criminal justice system, including the recent privatization of the Mesa jail and the acquisition of New Beginnings Treatment Center, Inc, a residential reentry center in Tucson that holds a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
A closer look at the ASRS’s holdings reveals that it is also invested in the nation’s second largest for-profit prison corporation, GEO Group. In fact, as of August 2, 2017, ASRS had 52,450 shares in the company–more than its recent increased investment in CoreCivic. GEO Group also holds contracts with the Arizona Department of Corrections for Florence West and Phoenix West.
You can read the full list of the Arizona State Retirement System’s investments here.
AFSC has long advocated for divestment from private prisons as a strategy that both individuals and institutions can use to help end for-profit incarceration. The organization even has a website that allows people to scan their investments to find out if any of their holdings are involved in prison profiteering: http://investigate.afsc.org/
AFSC Arizona has released their newest publication, Community Cages: Profitizing Community Corrections and Alternatives to Detention, an in-depth analysis of the community corrections segment of the Treatment Industrial Complex.
As states pursue sentencing reform efforts to reduce prison populations and the federal government continues to grapple with comprehensive immigration reform, the private prison industry faces pressure to adapt to a shifting penal landscape that is moving towards alternatives to incarceration. In response, the private prison industry is re-branding itself as a humanitarian provider of rehabilitation services, and expanding into community corrections and other “alternatives.”
Community corrections refers to “front-end” alternatives to incarceration, such as probation, home arrest, diversion programs, and “back-end” re-entry programs such as parole, halfway houses, and work release centers.
Nearly two-thirds of people involved in the criminal justice system are not held in prison or jail, but are instead monitored via community correction programs. At the end of 2014, more than 4.7 million adults were under probation or parole. This represents a huge untapped market for privatization.
In this report, we examine four different components of community corrections that are being aggressively privatized:
- Electronic Monitoring through the use of GPS ankle monitors and other mobile surveillance technology
- Day Reporting Centers for individuals to “check in” and/or participate in rehabilitative programs and services
- Intermediate Sanctions Facilities as an alternative to revocation to prison for technical violations of the terms of probation or parole
- Residential Reentry Centers, more commonly known as halfway houses.
This development poses a serious threat to the movement to end mass incarceration. Due to their extensive economic and political influence, corporations such as GEO and CCA are able to exploit reform efforts for their own financial gain. They are able to out-compete smaller, community-based nonprofits to get contracts due to their immense political and economic influence.
The pursuit of profit undermines the movement’s goals of shrinking the size and scope of the criminal punishment system. The alternatives to incarceration movement should be resulting in a strong downward push: Reducing the number of people incarcerated, but also moving people more quickly off all forms of supervision. In effect, there should be a substantial number of people, based on risk assessments and other factors, who are completely free of the system and allowed to resume their lives.
However, the opposite appears to be happening. As prisons and detention centers fall out of favor, the number of people being placed on electronic monitoring and in post-release programs appears to be swelling. This trend raises serious concerns about “net-widening”—there is tremendous financial incentive for these companies to ensnare as many individuals as possible and keep them under surveillance or control for as long as possible.
This report offers an in-depth analysis of these issues, making the strong case for a nationwide examination of these trends to ensure that reform efforts are truly meeting their goal of providing alternatives to incarceration, not incarceration by another name.
To read the full report, click here: Community Cages
It’s election season and there are many options on your ballot this year. Somewhere in the middle there is the candidate(s) for County Attorney.
DO YOU KNOW YOUR COUNTY ATTORNEY? Even more importantly, DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE COUNTY ATTORNEY DOES?
If you have no idea what the County Attorney is or does, you’re not alone. In a recent poll, 50% of voters said they had never heard of Bill Montgomery, the County Attorney in Phoenix, the largest city in the state.
The County Attorney (in other states they are called District Attorneys or DA’s) is basically the head prosecutor for a given county. They are the head of the entire County Attorney’s Office, which is an agency consisting of lawyers who prosecute traffic matters and/or misdemeanors, but also, and most importantly, prosecute all felonies occurring within the county. If you are charged with a crime, it’s the County Attorney’s office that prosecutes you.
This is the agency that has the power to incarcerate large segments of the population, and has been the driving force of the surge in mass incarceration. The County Attorney’s Offices also can offer alternatives to detention, diversion programs, and other services. Those programs are completely discretionary, and some counties utilize them more than others.
“In all but four states, prosecutors are elected to office—about 2,400 of them—and many largely run unopposed in counties with strong political-party identification, places where politics are so ingrained that decisions are made well ahead of the voting booth. Party loyalty, tough-on-crime promises, or just electoral indifference—can result in prosecutors who amass and wield enormous amounts of power in the courtroom and beyond.”
Criminal Justice reform has become a very important issue this election. Many voters have expressed interest in reducing mass incarceration, pushing for sentencing reform, and advocating for common sense alternatives to detention.
Do these issues concern you? THIS IS WHY YOUR VOTE FOR COUNTY ATTORNEY IS IMPORTANT.
The first step is for us to educate ourselves about the candidates and their positions on such critical issues as diversion, drug prosecutions, and sentencing reform.
The Arizona Justice Alliance sent out candidate questionnaires to all the Country Attorney candidates in a contested primary elections and compiled their answers for your convenience: 2016 Arizona County Attorney Candidate Comparison.
The following counties have primaries for County Attorney: Coconino, Maricopa, & Pima.
We believe you, the voters, want to know who the candidates are, and where they stand on the issues that are important to you.
While I was incarcerated at Marana State Prison, another inmate gave me a poem she wrote called “What No One Wants to Hear”. *It’s a pretty heavy poem- it captures a lot of the emotion of being incarcerated- anger, sadness, isolation, and inhumanity.
I had been in and out of the system starting at the age of 26, each time as a consequence of my addiction to cocaine and crack. When I first read the poem I felt its truth. It illustrates how we feel as formerly incarcerated people as we try to enter back into society, and describes how others see us.
When I got out this last time, what I found most challenging was that I had no family support. My mom had passed away in 2004, which was my breaking point in life. I say “her death brought me life” because her death helped me to pursue sobriety. For a long time, my life in Arizona was about doing/selling drugs. I say “her death brought me life” because her death helped me to pursue sobriety. For a long time, my life in Arizona was about doing/selling drugs. That was actually a barrier to re-entry for me- I didn’t have a community of support to return to when I got out. Ultimately, what helped me overcome and rebuild my life was the support and resources I gained from the counselors in the Women in Recovery program I attended at Southern Arizona Correctional Release Center, which no longer exists.Continue reading
Think Arizona spends too much on prisons?
Now is your chance to be heard!!
After banning public testimony during departmental budget hearings, the House Appropriations Committee has decided to hold a “Budget Conversation Tour,” to solicit public input on the state budget.
Gov. Ducey has stated that he wants to reduce prison populations, but his budget recommendation proposed:
- $17.6 million for 1,000 new private prison beds.That is more than 10 times the amount he wants to spend on the long-term, sustainable solutions to reducing our prison population.
- Authorization for the Department of Corrections to bid out a new contract for ANOTHER 2,500 beds, with a projected price tag of over $60 million per year.
It is vital to attend these hearings and let Arizona legislators know NO MORE PRISON BEDS IN ARIZONA! REFORM IS THE KEY!
UPCOMING TOWN HALLS:
In his State of the State speech, Governor Doug Ducey said:
“And, if we’re serious about reducing recidivism – and reversing the growth of our prison population, let’s begin by building on the model already working in Pima County: a community corrections center, providing tough love and on-site drug treatment and counseling.”
Gov. Ducey is making positive steps to reduce the Arizona prison population by supporting incarcerated individuals prior to their release by hiring a Reentry Coordinator, and endorsing funding for a Maricopa Community Corrections Center.
Yet his budget recommendation proposed $17.6 million for 2,000 new private prison beds. That is more than 10 times the amount he wants to spend on the long-term, sustainable solutions to reducing our prison population. Gov. Ducey’s support for reentry and community corrections is a step in the right direction, and if done well, can reduce our prison population dramatically.
His recommendations, combined with proposed legislation for increased releases into the Transition Program means we do not need more prison beds.
Contact Gov. Ducey and key legislators on Monday, February 1st! Continue reading