Prison Primer

In this blog I will explain about how we got to where we are, analyze readily available information that will allow us to draw some reasonable conclusions and then predict what is going to happen next.
At Georgia’s Monday meeting Fischbach gave a less than complete Perryville “history” lesson to council and attendees.  However, he only described Perryville from 1980 through 1989 when it became a 2200 inmate prison. He said it was opened in 1980 with 1400 beds and was increased in size in 1989 by 800 beds.  Well, that is partly correct, but today it is over 4000 beds, so how did we get there?  It always makes me suspicious when I hear politicians and government officials give less than complete information and Goodyear still has not responded to my FOIA request as of this writing, so I decided to do my own research.

In order to get a full understanding of any situation, I have always found it useful to go back to the beginning and learn the basics.  That is what I will try to communicate to readers beginning with this post.

Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC)

ADC was established under Laws 1968 Chapter 198 (A.R. S.) para 41-1601.  This link (and others I include below) will take you to the start of that statute and you can click through each paragraph  The ADC director as broad and wide powers under this statute to maintain and operate the incarceration of prisoners in the state.  I do not see where he has the power to create new prisons, however, I think the legislature has to do that just by giving him the funding.  More on that later.

Statute 41-1609.02 allows the director to contract out certain types of prisons to private firms.  The final determination of where such a prison will be located is by the Joint Select Committee on Corrections under 41-1610.04.  However, this statute appears to have been repealed in 2008. That would appear to give the ADC Director the authority to privatize and locate private prisons at his discretion.

All the director had to do to get the prison expansion and privatization under way was to notify all the local elected officials, which he did.  Here is the letter he sent to the state legislature with a copy of all 29 local officials’ addresses that he told the state he was notifying including all 7 of your council members on July 14.  5000bedPrivPrisonNotifLetters  Here is a copy from ADC of the actual letter sent to Georgia on July 26.  letters to local officials  ADC claims that letters were sent to all 7 council members.

For some reason all 7 of your council members chose to do nothing about that letter for over  2 weeks except someone posted the August 10 public meeting on the Goodyear website calendar on August 3 or 4.  Nothing else.  Just the calendar.

Compare that to the fact that Georgia had a letter published in the West Valley View within 6 days of the uproar from the citizens.

But enough for now about Goodyear’s incompetence.  I’ll get to more of that in a later blog.  For now, we can learn a lot and actually understand things better by doing some homework rather than running around like “council-chickens” with their heads cut off.

Prisoner Classification and Prisons

Arizona has a prison population of about 46,000.  6,000 in 5 private prisons, 34,000 in 10 state run prisons, and 6,000 in “community supervision”.  Perryville is listed as the only all female prison and has a listed capacity of 4,274 and a current population of  3,424.  Perryville has the 6th largest capacity of the 10 AZ state run facilities.

Prisoners are classified by security level as minimum, medium, close, and maximum.  All but maximum can work outside the facility so long as they are under armed guard.  Only maximum are required to be restrained and under armed guard when they are outside the facility.  There are various qualifiers that put prisoners in each category, you can read more in the director’s communication link that is included below.

Prisons are classified not only by the prisoner security level but also by the prison’s “mission”. There are 6 mission classifications. DUI, General Population (GP), Medical (M), Mental Health (MH), Protective Segregation (PS), and Reception (R).

Perryville is currently classified, and incarcerates all security levels and all missions.  It is also the only AZ prison, public or private that maintains all of these classifications. This may be because it is also the only female only prison in the state.

Perryville Details prison details of units

Perryville has about 300 MAX beds, 300 CLOSE beds, 1000 MED beds, and 2,700 MIN beds.  It also has 60 “special use” beds but I don’t know yet what that means.

Perryville has 13 different defined “units” with some units appearing to be in the same building. One unit is called reception which I assume is transitional even though it has 168 beds listed. It also has a MAX rating. You can go to the ADC-Perryville web site and see the population count for each day of the year back to 2008 if you want.  It changes every day.  The current units and how they are defined as well as their current capacity are listed below (as of writing this).

  • MAX  There is one other MAX rated unit named Lumley SMA.  It has a capacity of 132 inmates and currently houses 98.  Lumley houses Arizona’s female death row.
  • CLOSE There are 4 CLOSE units which have a capacity of about 300 and currently house 256.
  • MED There are 2 MED units with 1,000 capacity and currently house about 900.
  • MIN There are 5 MIN units with about 2,700 capacity and a current population of just over 2,000.

Perryville units, more definition.

Perryville has the following unit names with their ratings and capacities of each shown and I have shown the date that they were built.  These dates are important, I believe, as I note below.

  1. Santa Cruz 1981 (MED,768)
  2. Lumley 1981 (renamed from San Juan?, 5 sections, MED, MAX, CLOSE,560)
  3. Minors (CLOSE, 22)
  4. San Pedro 1981 (MIN,432)
  5. Santa-Maria 1982 (MIN, 384)
  6. Piestewa 2005 (MIN,260)
  7. Santa Rosa 2004 (MIN, 390)
  8. San Carlos 2010 (MIN, 1250)

The 800 bed expansion that Fischbach mentioned in 1989 does not appear to be building construction as his comments suggested. Instead, they just made some adjustments to existing buildings in order to double up beds in many of the cells.  In summary, Perryville is a 1400 bed prison built in the early 80s and increased in size in the late 80s by double bunking to 2200.  Most of Perryville’s construction expansion has taken place after 2000 when it was converted to an all female prison, and I believe that is significant.

In 2004 & 05 an additional 650 beds were added and in 2010, 1250 more beds were added. So in essence, construction and expansion at Perryville is a recent occurrence.

In the ADC Director’s 2013 – 2015 “Bed Plan” communication (starts on page 76 of this ADC slide show) regarding expansion, in addition to the 5,000 male bed increase statewide, there is a proposed 500 female bed expansion of state beds.


Don’t shoot the messenger, but let’s reasonably look at the facts that I have developed thus far.

  1. Perryville prison is the only female only prison in the state.
  2. It is the only prison that houses all security levels as well as all mission levels of any AZ prison.
  3. Perryville appears to be the jewel of the female prison system in Arizona.
  4.  The ADC Director can choose to convert state prisons to private prisons as he sees fit.
  5. Most of Perryville’s expansion has taken place recently without any evidence of city or resident opposition, adding 1250 of capacity as recently as last year.
  6. ADC director needs an additional 500 female beds by 2013 in addition to the 5,000 privatized male beds in the recent RFQ.

Prediction by howardsgoodyearblog.

Perryville will be expanded by 500 female beds and will remain a state operated facility for now.  Any time in the future the ADC director can choose to privatize it, expand it, move it, close it, modify it as he sees fit and as the state legislature provides him funds.  Perryville is not going away anytime soon no matter what Goodyear wants or city council beats their chest about. It is the leading female prison in Arizona and already houses the Arizona female death row.  The right thing for Goodyear city management and elected officials to do is to work with the state to manage Perryville’s future growth and try to obtain as much economic benefit from while minimizing its impact on the city.

What is next?  Well, as soon as Goodyear fulfills my request for information, I’ll start in trying to figure out why Goodyear let this thing go on without telling anyone, who knew what, when and how much, and why we never heard anything about the 2010, 1250 bed expansion.  I also want to understand who is gaining what in the city, county and elsewhere from Perryville’s current site and expansion plans.  Once we understand better where the money goes it will help us better manage its growth and impact on the city in the future.

I have sent this post to contacts that I have developed at ADC, Perryville Prison and GEO Group to insure that I have everything correct.* I will post any corrections and comments that I receive from them if and when they come in.  If Goodyear decides to send me any comments (which will be a first for them) I’ll include them also but based upon what we have seen so far in this fiasco I won’t be relying much on them.  In fact, I’d rather they spend their time completing my FOIA request.

* I received the following feedback from ADC.

1.Lumley is only one building.  There are several “units” within Lumley.

2. Even though Close and Medium can work outside the gate, ADC says that normally is not allowed.

3. Community Corrections means paroled who live in the community. (I did not mention this but it is in one of the links and I included it in my totals).


6 Responses

  1. Howard, We applaud your efforts in trying to get accurate and factual information that has NOT be available to the public for years. They have operated in a cloak of secrecy with no oversight, no transparency and NO accountability. This will be much worse with private prisons since they are accountable to no one. People have been uninformed about the mass incarceration of Arizona’s people, visitors and the alarming rate of growth of incarcerating women. The women are housed in deplorable conditions, men would never would never tolerate — they would riot and have. We look forward to reading your FOIA’s.

  2. Expansion depends on how you look at it. We are hearing there are 4,500 inmates at Perryville. Perryville has expanded from within over time by putting 2-3 female inmates in a cell built for one. They also turned “kitchens” into dorm style bedding with 50 women using a couple of outdoor port-a-jons. The buildings were condemned building with asbestos and mold, using inmates to paint over it.

    Also, there are juveniles housed at Perryville in a unit that no one is supposed to know about; fencing wrapped in blue tarp so they never see a horizon and can only look up at the sky. For children (14 years old) this seems harsh.

    Since there is clearly a pattern where the ADC executive management has little use for human life there are real concerns.

  3. Excellent research my friend… makes Mr. Fischbach look like a fool as well as the others (Mayor and Council) ~ sad.

  4. Editorial from The Tucson Citizen/ Cell Out Arizona:
    Prison, Privatization and Politics

    Thu, 08/25/2011 – 10:42 By Dianne Post

    The Arizona Department of Corrections conducted five public hearings regarding contracts for 5,000 beds in private, for-profit prisons. The last hearing was in Coolidge on 18 August at the City Council Chambers. I drove down from Phoenix through a sandstorm and got a good car wash as it poured rain during the hearing. Close to 200 people packed the auditorium in a sea of blue tee shirts saying “Coolidge: The right choice.” People of color were noticeably absent.

    As with the hearing I attended in Goodyear on the 10th, the director of DOC, Chuck Ryan, began promptly on time and outlined the legislative action authorizing the 5,000 new beds and the process for DOC. It became apparent during the testimony that talks have been ongoing in Coolidge since early 2010.

    The representative from MTC was given an hour for his presentation. He talked about “A Partnership for the Future” and the BIONIC (believe it or not I care) culture of MTC. The presentation focused on the job corp and international charity work rather than the reality of the prison facilities they already mismanage. This approach was clearly designed to mislead the audience into thinking they were some kind of charitable organization rather than the bottom-feeders they are.

    They bragged about their record in Arizona in spite of the disaster in Kingman and the result that they never learned their lesson as they sued the State when the state tried to make them correct the security errors and got nearly $3 million of taxpayer dollars from that. For trying to be held accountable for letting killers escape and to clean up their act. Clearly no lesson was learned.
    Rather than take their entire hour, they paraded an array of officials to the podium to sing their praises. The mayors of Coolidge and Marana, the sheriff and the chief of police, members of the board of supervisors, members of the school board, members of the city council, the Chamber of Commerce all marching in lock step.

    Thirty-seven speakers followed the presentations. The first two speakers took the wind out of their sails. Vivian Haas and her son-in-law Frank Rook (not sure of spellings) are the family of the couple that was murdered by the inmates who escaped from Kingman. They told the tale of MTC’s mismanagement, incompetence and inhumanity in the wake of the murders. While they had no position on profit v. state prisons, they focused on safety and strongly urged not to reward MTC with any contracts.

    Of course other speakers talked about how wonderful MTC was including some employees shipped in from Kingman. As with other hearings, the need for jobs eclipsed every other thought about the real impact of the prison. The college spoke of having an educated work force and being able to educate the staff. Students in the law enforcement program told how eager they were for jobs.

    I spoke for NAACP opposing the prison for four main reasons: cost, safety, mismanagement and the inhumanity of for-profit prisons. Several speakers illustrated the debasement of our society by referring to the prisoners as good revenue sources because their presence counts for federal revenue sharing so the area would get more money. That’s like the Constitution that counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of representation. Ryan referred to “loading in the facility” when he meant sending inmates – now reduced to items of commerce – to Kingman. People are not cost centers. They are human beings with human rights.

    Peggy Plews spoke about the surfeit of human rights in prisons and asked the group to form a citizens oversight committee and to be committed to human rights. I didn’t notice anyone writing down her website. Emily Verdugo a local resident and education coordinator for the Democratic Party in Pinal County spoke about the lack of vision of local leaders to seek a prison as the only industry for the town. She feared that with a prison in the city limits, education would never be funded. She pointed out that prisons are put in towns with a poorly educated populace and what was the message for Coolidge?

    Susan Hower from Tubac spoke as the former head of New Jersey DOC and pointed out that MTC had made lots of promises but the reality and the research proves that such promises do not come true. Other businesses do not follow a prison and economic development does not occur. Good jobs do not materialize as often other prisons are closed and those jobs are just moved. In Bullhead City, inmates from Kingman are replacing city workers and good jobs being lost. The work is tough and the turnover very high for the low pay and high stress. She pointed out that DOC had withheld $44,000 from Kingman MTC and $54,000 from Marana MTC for failure to fill the jobs they had. Of course vacant positions mean more profit for the corporation. Lastly she pointed out the debacle in Texas where MTC left a town high and dry with an $837,000 loss after they fled the town.

    The next speaker Rachael Wilson asked pointed questions about how the financing would work. After some tough cross examination, in which the MTC representative said – trust me, we have been doing this for 17 years – she established that Wall Street investors would buy the bonds and then the State of Arizona – with your tax dollars – would pay them back. Do you trust Wall Street? Do you trust MTC? The contract is only on a five-year option so MTC can bail in five years with the money and leave us stuck with the debt. Terry Stewart, former DOC head and now a shill for MTC, also tried the “trust me” route but got no better reception as the speaker pointed out it would be to the advantage of DOC to decrease prison population but to the advantage of MTC and other for-profit prisons to increase prison population. She asked the recidivism rate and DOC’s only answer was that it was 24.8% for all prisons combined – private and state – and they could not break out the numbers separately. Don’t believe it.

    DOC came in for its share of criticism from Lucy Shep from Tucson for not monitoring its contracts with the private prisons. She forced DOC to admit that the law requires that every two years a comparison be done between state and private prisons and though we have had private prisons in Arizona for 17 years, one has NEVER been done. Ryan claimed one would be done by June 2012 – too late for this decision making process.

    Frank Smith from the Private corrections Institute spoke and outlined the history of lies about private prisons – the failure of jobs, the low pay, the lack of benefits, the lack of economic development, the turn over, the lack of safety, and the excessive cost. He encouraged the audience, as had earlier speakers, to do their own research and not believe the fantasies told by DOC and MTC.

    Roberto Reveles, president of the Board of ACLU, opposed privatization because of the mismanagement of the prisons, especially by MTC. He reiterated that they don’t save money, are not safe, focus on profit and are not accountable. No cost benefit analysis exists so there is no rationale to do this and the state is fiscally irresponsible to spend this money at this time.

    You still have time to speak up. Comments are due by the end of August to: Procurement, ADOC, 1645 W. Jefferson, Phoenix, 85007. Specify in the document that you are writing about the 5,000 private prison bid RFP. Send copies of your letters to both your state representatives and your state senator and the governor.

    As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

  5. Gaming the System: How the Political Strategies of Private Prison Companies Promote Ineffective Incarceration Policies

    AZ Prison Watch: “Is it any wonder? The more these private prison companies take hold in Arizona, the more we’ll be seeing crime perpetuated (what incentive do they have to help bring it down?), and the more laws we’ll pass sending vulnerable people (homeless, mentally ill, developmentally disabled, addicts) to prison who could be rehabilitated in the community, by their communities.

    Anyway, this is a report well worth checking out and forwarding to legislators – especially those from districts where prisons are being proposed.”

    ——–from the Justice Policy Institute———

    Gaming the System: How the Political Strategies of Private Prison Companies Promote Ineffective Incarceration Policies

    Paul Ashton, Justice Policy Institute
    Published: June 22, 2011

    At a time when many policymakers are looking at criminal and juvenile justice reforms that would safely shrink the size of our prison population, the existence of private prison companies creates a countervailing interest in preserving the current approach to criminal justice and increasing the use of incarceration.

    While private prison companies may try to present themselves as just meeting existing demand for prison beds and responding to current market conditions, in fact they have worked hard over the past decade to create markets for their product. As revenues of private prison companies have grown over the past decade, the companies have had more resources with which to build political power, and they have used this power to promote policies that lead to higher rates of incarceration.

    For-profit private prison companies primarily use three strategies to influence policy: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and building relationships, networks, and associations.

    As policymakers and the public are increasingly coming to understand that incarceration is not only breaking the bank, but it’s also not making us safer, will this shrink the influence of private prison companies? Or will they use their growing financial muscle to consolidate and expand into even more areas of the justice system? Much will depend on the extent that people understand the role for-profit private prison companies have already played in raising incarceration rates and harming people and communities, and take steps to ensure that in the future, community safety and well-being, and not profits, drive our justice policies. One thing is certain: in this political game, the private prison industry will look out for their own interests.

    Other Resources

    Lobbying and campaign contribution figures: Center for Responsive Politics
    Money in state politics: National Institute for Money in State Politics

  6. Private Prison Corruption: “U.S. judges tragic kickback greed exposes prison system profiteering” – YouTube

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