[Pnews] Arizona Opens New $50M Supermax Prison; New Report Denounces State’s Use of Solitary Confinement

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 11 10:42:10 EST 2014


  Arizona Opens New $50M Supermax Prison; New Report Denounces State’s
  Use of Solitary Confinement

December 11, 2014 by Lisa Dawson 
<http://solitarywatch.com/author/lisadawson/>
*http://solitarywatch.com/2014/12/11/arizona-opens-new-50m-supermax-prison-new-report-denounces-states-use-of-solitary-confinement/#more-14598*

The Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has opened a new facility 
with 500 maximum-security prison beds in the Rast Unit at the Arizona 
State Prison Complex (ASPC Lewis) in Buckeye, Arizona. (Maximum-security 
prisons in the state of Arizona are what is usually thought of as 
supermax prisons.)

The opening of the new facility comes on the heels of the 
ADC’s agreement to a settlement 
<http://solitarywatch.com/2014/10/29/arizona-agrees-to-settlement-to-improve-health-care-limit-use-of-solitary-confinement/> in 
a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union 
(ACLU) to improve prison health care and limit the use of solitary 
confinement in Arizona prisons.

The additional beds at ASPC Lewis are modeled after existing solitary 
confinement facilities AMU I and Browning Units, which, according to the 
new report, are “exclusively designed for single cell long-term prisoner 
isolation.”

/The Arizona Republic 
<http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/investigations/2014/11/07/new-max-security-prison-open-critics-question-need/18690727/>/ reports 
on the new prison, which is estimated to cost Arizona taxpayers $50 million:

    The 500 beds will be in 416 cells, 84 of which are double bunked. A
    few are accessible to inmates with disabilities. It will be staffed
    round the clock by 115 correctional officers, [ADC Director Charles]
    Ryan said. . .

    An elevated observation deck, with an electronic touch screen to
    open and close cell doors, overlooks rows of cells.

    Each cell is about 12 by 8 feet, with a stainless steel toilet and
    sink. The bed is a concrete slab, which will have a mattress. At the
    head of each bed are electrical and cable outlets, which can be used
    for a television.

*Critics Call the New Maximum-Security Prison Wasteful, Not Necessary*

On December 1, to coincide with the opening of the new facility, the 
Arizona chapter of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) 
released an in-depth report, “Still Buried Alive: Arizona Prisoner 
Testimonies on Isolation in Maximum-Security 
<https://afscarizona.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/still-buried-alive.pdf>,” 
which includes the testimonies of people held in maximum-security, or 
solitary confinement, facilities throughout the state.

Opponents have called the the new prison construction wasteful, urging 
the state take measures to amend Arizona’s current sentencing 
legislation standards 
<http://afscarizona.org/issues/campaigns/sentencing-reform/> as an 
alternative. Critics of the new maximum-security beds also assert that, 
based on corrections documentation, the ADC is not filling the existing 
beds it has for maximum-custody prisoners, making the newly constructed 
prison facility a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

The AFSC of Arizona maintains that the maximum-security beds are not 
necessary, stating that the ADC should instead focus resources on 
rehabilitation programs. In its report, the advocacy group notes that 
the new maximum-security prison will be Arizona’s first new state prison 
in years, a decision which commits the state towards increasing 
incarceration as opposed to pursuing “cost-saving, evidence-based 
alternatives to incarceration as other states have recently begun 
exploring and implementing.”

Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona Alessandra Soler disagrees 
with Director Ryan’s 2013 assertion that Arizona state prisons do not 
use solitary. The NPR affiliate KJZZ Radio 
<http://kjzz.org/content/73332/new-prison-opens-human-rights-group-urges-less-isolation> 
reports that Soler said the state’s maximum-security prisoners spend too 
much time in isolation, which is the reason for which the segregation of 
these people should be considered solitary confinement. Soler elaborates:

    “By policy, they’re supposed to be released for two hours a day but
    many times because of ‘staffing’ issues people will end up in their
    cells for 24 hours a day, without any access to any programmatic
    activities, without access to providers,” [Soler] said.

*State Defends Construction of New Prison, Citing Projected Growth in 
Prisoner **Population*

KJZZ Radio <http://kjzz.org/content/71987/new-prison-opening-buckeye> 
report on the new prison:

    “Part of the reason that we decided that this unit was going to be
    necessary to our operation was because we were looking at population
    statistics that indicated an increase and that hasn’t changed,” ADC
    representative Doug Nick told KJZZ Radio. “We are still looking at
    that there is growth in the system and we need to manage those beds.”

According to Nick 
<http://www.correctionalnews.com/articles/2014/12/3/arizona-addresses-prison-crowding-50-million-facility>, 
the ADC plans to transfer people already held in maximum-security 
prisons throughout the state into the new structure, with the ultimate 
goal of freeing up space in the state’s prison system for “some of the 
more predatory inmates that require special management.”

An estimated 325 of the 500 prisoners to be housed at the prison will 
reportedly come from the Eyman unit at Florence Prison located in 
Florence, Arizona. The remaining beds will be filled with people moved 
from other prisons or new arrivals.

On December 9, Solitary Watch contacted the ADC to comment on the 
opening of the new prison in light bed vacancies in existing facilities. 
When asked why the ADC requires additional beds in spite of the current 
surplus, ADC spokesperson Bill Lamoreaux referenced the “daily count 
sheets,” which specify the number of beds available for each custody level.

According to the corrections records 
<https://corrections.az.gov/sites/default/files/DAILY_COUNT/Dec2014/12082014_daily_count.pdf> 
dated December 8, 2014, of the 2,705 maximum-security beds designated 
for men, 190 were vacant – not counting the additional 500 beds. The 
state also has a 132-bed maximum-security prison facility for women with 
39 vacancies.

When asked if the ADC was expecting growth in the number of maximum 
security prisons, Lamoreaux replied that a look at the count sheets 
reveals where the need for additional maximum security capacity is 
warranted.

He continued, stating, “[As for projected growth,] I don’t know. I’m not 
sure . . . You can compare the current sheet to one from a couple years 
ago.”

According to the December 9, 2014, count sheet 
<https://corrections.az.gov/sites/default/files/DAILY_COUNT/Dec2014/12092014_daily_count.pdf>, 
apparently the first to include the addition of the new 500 beds, there 
were a total of 661 vacancies among males and 38 among females.

Regarding projected growth, Lamoreaux also alluded to a December 2012 
report 
<https://corrections.az.gov/sites/default/files/adc_5yr_plan_fy14_fy18.pdf> by 
the ADC detailing its five-year strategic plan for FY 2014 to FY 2018. 
Despite having a relatively stable population overall, the report states 
that certain population segments are increasing, one of which the ADC 
claims is maximum security.

Finally, when asked if people held in the new maximum security prison 
will be given more out-of-cell-time than people currently held in 
maximum-security Arizona state prisons, Lamoraux stated that maximum 
security prisoners throughout the state will receive additional time out 
of their cells. He then referred to what the ADC refers to as Director’s 
Instructions (DI) #326 
<https://corrections.az.gov/sites/default/files/policies/DI/DI%20326.pdf>, 
which outlines instructions implemented by Director Ryan. Ryan’s stated 
objective is:

    “to facilitate a process that requires inmates in maximum custody to
    work through a program utilizing a step system providing the
    opportunity to participate in jobs, programs and other out of cell
    activities. Based on behavior and programming, inmates may progress
    from controlled based housing to open privilege base housing where
    movement outside a cell is without restraint equipment.”

According to DI #326, the director’s instructions are subject to review 
every 90 days.

*Report: “Still Buried Alive”*

The AFSC Arizona report presents the viewpoints of the true experts on 
solitary confinement in Arizona – the men and women who live it every 
day. With written testimonies from 41 people held in solitary 
confinement in Arizona state prisons, the new report highlights the 
conditions in maximum-security prison facilities, underscoring the 
detrimental impacts of isolation. Also included are 
prisoners’ statements directed to ADC Director Ryan, Governor Brewer and 
Arizona lawmakers.

In preparing the report, the AFSC asked men and women held in prisons 
operated by the ADC for their reactions to the planned opening of 
the 500 maximum-security prison beds. Respondents were also specifically 
asked about Director Ryan’s 2013 statement 
<http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2013/06/12/inmate-advocates-question-claim-that-arizona-prisons-have-no-solitary-confinement/> that 
solitary confinement is not used by Arizona prisons, and to compare this 
statement to their personal experiences of confinement.

According to the report, “On one point every respondent was in agreement 
– solitary confinement exists in Arizona prisons and it is extremely 
damaging to every person who endures it.”

In written testimony, an individual describes the conditions of 
confinement as “horrendous”:

    The day to day conditions of confinement are horrendous. For
    starters, Charles Ryan claims that we’re only locked in our cells
    for 22 hours a day. Either this is another lie on his behalf or he
    just has no idea what’s going on in his own facilities. By policy,
    we’re given two hours of “recreation” in a small concrete box and a
    shower and every time we leave our cells we’re strip searched and
    hand cuffed. These days are routinely canceled due to a “staff
    shortage” to conduct them. The other days of the week are 24-hour
    lockdown…

Another person rejected the claim that double-celling prisoners does not 
qualify as solitary confinement:

    It doesn’t matter if a convict is locked in a cell with another
    convict as long as such convict is confined to a cell 24 hours a
    day. That is considered solitary confinement – in my opinion it’s
    worse when there are two in a cell confined 24 hours a day because
    it’s more frustrating seeing a stranger every day and dealing with
    his habits and attitudes.

Others comment on the long-term effects of solitary confinement, both on 
the individual subjected to the practice and later, society as a whole:

    I have been locked up for 9.5 years – 7 years have been spent in
    lockdown. I have forgotten how to be around and deal with people. I
    am getting out in a year and a half and am a wreck. I’ve been kept
    in a cage on meds with no human contact, no programs, and am
    expected to get out and be normal. . . [M]ost of us will be getting
    out. Why would you want to treat people like this, then set them
    free with no skills, not knowing how to deal with people, offering
    no programs, and wonder why so many return to prison for violent
    crimes. [If] you treat humans like animals, they become animals. . .

    Solitary confinement does not change us for the better. It makes us
    hate everyone and creates monsters within us. . . I am speaking for
    the inmates that should not be in solitary when our classification
    points do not warrant our stay. We become aggressive and hostile
    towards people I don’t know.

The issues of self-harming and suicide in solitary were addressed by 
multiple respondents:

    I almost committed suicide like other females are doing while locked
    down. I tried hanging myself and took a bunch of pills the second
    and third time.

    It irritates your mind. That’s why my seizures have increased these
    past two years, especially this last year here in SMU I. That’s why
    inmates are most likely to commit suicide in solitary than medium or
    minimum custody, and statistics prove that.

The following are some final statements offered by four maximum-security 
prisoners about their time in solitary confinement:

    On Wednesday June 12, 2013 ADC Director Charles Ryan claimed that
    solitary confinement does not exist in Arizona prisons. If a man is
    locked in a airtight naked cage alone for 23 hours each day, every
    day and they only take him out for a shower 3 times a week in a
    airtight cell or one hour recreation alone in a empty pin. It is
    solitary no matter their double speak. . .

    I would implore anyone who has the power and authority to end the
    use of long-term, indefinite solitary confinement in any capacity to
    look beyond any myopic political motives in order to discern whether
    placing people under such torturous conditions serves the greater
    good of society or just some misguided agenda based on fear. I’d try
    to convince them to heed the findings of various scientific studies
    on the actual effects of solitary confinement.

    I would emphasize that they personally need to ask themselves: So
    what certain life expectations or productivity can an individual
    who’s been placed decades in solitary confinement, segregation,
    etc…? What can they look forward towards accomplishing if, or when
    they are released back into society? And even more so if their
    mental illness has also gone untreated all those years without
    physical interaction with other people or with any structural
    rehabilitation.

    I would ask why they’re continuing the practice of solitary
    confinement when it’s statistically done nothing to lessen the
    amount of overall violence in prison which was its intended
    objective. I would ask why they’re so intent on pursuing this failed
    objective. I would ask why they’re so intent on pursuing this failed
    policy when all they have to do is look at such states as
    Mississippi to see how they’ve closed down their isolation units and
    added programs – excessively lowering their violence levels. . . I
    would ask why they’re treating us like animals and in a lot of cases
    turning us into animals when most of us will be re-entering these
    communities and neighborhoods. A healthier alternative for everybody
    would seem to be to keep us socially connected…give us jobs,
    programs, and opportunities. . .

The report 
<https://afscarizona.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/still-buried-alive.pdf>, which 
should be read in full, concludes with recommendations for the ADC. It 
urges the Corrections Department to “limit use of isolation for ALL 
maximum-security prisoners regardless of their mental health score”; 
“move towards full compliance with the Parsons v. Ryan Settlement 
Agreement as quickly as possible”; “improve access to out-of-cell 
medical and mental health care”; and “increase the number of and access 
to educational programming, jobs, and group activities throughout the ADC.”

*ADC Continues to Dismiss Claims That It Uses Solitary*

Following the release of the AFSC Arizona’s new report, ADC 
representative Nick dismissed claims that Arizona state prisons use 
solitary confinement. KJZZ Radio 
<http://kjzz.org/content/73332/new-prison-opens-human-rights-group-urges-less-isolation> 
reports that Doug Nick of the ADC referred to the definition of solitary 
as archaic:

    “The state has single cells, of course,” Nick said. “If you have a
    predatory inmate, a violent inmate, an inmate who is a threat to
    somebody else, clearly there’s a reason to have a single-cell
    environment for their safety, of the institution, and the safety of
    the other inmates.*“*

The AFSC Arizona responds to Nick’s statements in a recent blog post 
<http://afscarizona.org/2014/12/02/dear-dept-of-corrections-its-not-about-being-in-a-single-cell-its-about-never-getting-out-of-it/#more-861>:

    Further confirming that the Arizona Department of Corrections has no
    understanding of the critiques leveled against it by AFSC or any
    other prisoner rights advocates, Nick seems to suggest that being in
    a single cell is the problem, and not the fact that over 2,000
    prisoners – and soon 500 more in ASPC Lewis – barely leave their
    cells for years at a time. Single, double, or tripled bunked, when
    prisoners aren’t allowed out of their cells and are confined to a
    space the size of a bathroom for years at time it causes mental,
    physical, and psychological damage that often cannot be undone. It
    drives people crazy, makes them suicidal, and results in physical
    deterioration.

-- 
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