From the News . . .
Arizona Governor Convicted
Fife Symington, Republican Governor of Arizona, was recently found guilty of 7 out of 23 counts of fraud and fiscal skulduggery, among which resulted in the looting of a Phoenix Firemen's pension fund. Symington resigned and although he faces a federal prison term and can probably never again qualify for fire insurance-we're betting he'll get the usual four months home confinement and a $250 fine. Politicians are hell on everyone else, but forgiving of each other.
Symington, a vocal hard liner on illegal drugs, refused to
comply with the state referendum on allowing doctors to prescribe
a controlled substances, including marijuana. He also refused
to release approximately 700 non-violent marijuana violators
under the referendum. He called those men and women "dangerous
criminals" and vowed they would do their time. We submit
that a pack of pissed-off firemen are probably a lot more dangerous
than some purveyors of pot. And come to think of it, home confinement
might be appropriate punishment after all. Better check those
energizers in your smoke detectors, Fife.
Arizona Prison Law Libraries Close
August first was the day of the Arizona Department of Corrections' new Court Access Policy. According to a memo from Corrections Director Terry L. Stewert, August 14 marks the day all Law Libraries will close, except for the maximum security unit in Florence.
In 1995 AZ Attorney General Grant Woods persuaded the justices to overturn a lower court order requiring libraries and legal aide for state prisoners. A 1996 US Supreme Court ruling came to pass restricting federal control over state prisoner programs. In retro to the reversal of the order, the Supreme Court ruled that prisoners can only file claims to attack their sentences or challenge living conditions.
Stewert wrote, "The law libraries are being eliminated because the US Supreme Court has said that they are not required for inmate legal access."
According to the high court, the right in view is access to the court not an "abstract, free standing right to a law library or legal assistance."
Arizona Attorney General spokesperson John MacDonald, does not believe that the decision will interrupt due process, "I think inmate lawsuits that have merit will always find their way into court." There is currently very stron opposition to this.
In place of the law books prisoners and inmates will be given forms to file claims "involving fundamental rights to court." The Department of Corrections must now contract paralegals to aid prisoners in compiling the proper forms of grievance or appeal. No one at the DOC can yet estimate the cost of this process.
Prison Law Libraries are funded by inmates' activities and
recreation funds and is absolutely no burden of cost to the taxpayers.
All time high incarceration rates
Washington, D.C - A new 59-nation study by The Sentencing Project reveals that Russia and the United States have reached record levels of incarceration and are far ahead of other nations in their use of imprisonment.
The study also found that a 92% increase in the U.S. rate
of incarceration had little overall impact on crime rates in
the ten-year period between 1985 and 1995. Despite declines in
crime in the last several years, overall crime rates in 1995
remained virtually the same as in 1985 and violent crime was
up by 23%.
If they build it . . .
Sacramento (8/1/97) One of the country's largest firms that privately builds and runs prisons announced plans yesterday for a new, 2,000-bed facility in the Mojave Desert, with no guarantee that the state will send convicts to the lockup.
But David Myers, president of the Corrections Corporation of America, expressed confidence that the facility will not lack occupants, because California prisons already are bulging with 152,000 convicts -- nearly double their designed capacity.
"They'll avail themselves of it," drawled Myers, a former warden in Texas.
"If we build it, they will come," predicted Polanco,
chairman of the Joint Committee on Prison Construction and Operations,
and a supporter of the private effort.
Inmate Complaints Soar
Houston (8/28/97) - Texas inmates' complaints about prison conditions have skyrocketed, according to a study released Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The complaints range from physical abuse by guards to inadequate or improper medical care, said C.J. Parrish, director of the ACLU`s east region.
A prison system spokesman said inmates are serving longer terms and becoming more violent because they feel they have nothing to lose; the system's large number of employees can mean a few bad apples; and a new law discourages prisoner lawsuits, resulting in increased complaints.
Parrish said it was just a coincidence the report was released
at about the same time revelations surfaced about alleged abuse
of Missouri prisoners at a private prison institution in Brazoria
U.S. experts urge alternative in drug war
Washington (9/2/97) Neither the American war on drugs nor the push for legalization have worked, according to scientists who Tuesday called for a "third way" to deal with the problem of drug and alcohol abuse.
A science-based approach designed to minimize overall damage, including damage caused by drug control measures such as lengthy prison terms, might work better than the current polarized methods, the experts said in explaining the "third way."
They acknowledged that laws and regulations were an important element in fighting drug abuse, but noted that penalties should be tailored to keep harm to a minimum and to use prison space efficiently, rather than to "express social norms."
They favored prevention over treatment, incremental steps over sweeping changes and civil discourse on the drug question instead of heated rhetoric.
The Federation of American Scientists is a civic organization
founded by atomic scientists in 1945 to address issues of science
Money for the Drug War but little for schools
WASHINGTON (9/7/97) - Summer break for children in the nation's
capital stretches into a second extra week Monday amid doubts
about the city's ability to repair more than 40 dilapidated schools
and open them Sept. 22 as promised.
California seeks private prison in Mexico
A plan for California to help build a private prison in Mexico to house illegal immigrant felons - perhaps in cooperation with other border states - is being seriously advanced by top state criminal justice officials.
"By the end of this year, we hope to have achieved a united effort with various states and hope to have initiated preliminary discussions with the government of Mexico,'' James Nielsen, chairman of the Board of Prison Terms and the state's principal promoter of the concept.
Arizona Department of Corrections spokeswoman Camilla Stongin
said her department is also "very serious about" pursuing
the concept, and has been in discussions with the state Attorney
General's Office and Mexican legal experts about the legal issues
Gingrich proposes death penalty for drug smugglers
Addressing 1,500 children and parents attending a young football and cheerleading festival in Canton, Georgia, House Speaker Newt Gingrich proclaimed, "mandatory executions for convicted drug smugglers would kill so many of them that it would curb the flow of illegal drugs into the United States."
The automatic death sentence is part of a bill Gingrich said he will sponsor next month. "Do it one by one, it'll add up." Gingrich said. "If the word gets back that welre serious and we've actually implementing it, then it will have a very chilling effect on people bringing drugs into the U.S."
Such a bill would also serve to escalate this already destructive war beyond all bounds. It would result in a sharp increase in killings of law enforcement personnel and innocent bystanders alike. Newt Gingrich, censured by Congress for his lack of ethics, is running true to form.