Who Benefits from Arizona’s SB 1070?

NPR reports:

The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce says the bill was his idea. He says it’s not about prisons. It’s about what’s best for the country.

“Enough is enough,” Pearce said in his office, sitting under a banner reading “Let Freedom Reign.” “People need to focus on the cost of not enforcing our laws and securing our border. It is the Trojan horse destroying our country and a republic cannot survive as a lawless nation.”

But instead of taking his idea to the Arizona statehouse floor, Pearce first took it to a hotel conference room.

This is quite a shocking story. It turns out that private prison corporations are among the main financiers of Arizona’s anti-immigration bill. This puts a shocking, cynical slant on what would be deemed a disgraceful bill even if it were sincere, and not profit driven.

Upcoming Film Event: Presunto Culpable (Presumed Guilty)

This Tuesday, the World Affairs Council, the Berkeley Center for Human Rights and the ACLU of Northern California will be hosting a special screening of the terrific film Presunto Culpable (Presumed Guilty). Filmmakers Roberto Hernández and Layda Negrete, currently graduate students at UC Berkeley and also lawyers in Mexico, have documented the horrors of a criminal trial in Mexico, in which justice is derailed and denied by a perverse justice system that, by law and by fact, presumes defendants are guilty and prevents them from confronting their witnesses. The film follows a particularly horrific example of such travesty of justice: the trial of this José Antonio (“Toño”) Zúñiga for a murder he did not commit. The filmmakers, whose film was crucial in exonerating Zúñiga, will speak at the event (yours truly will moderate the discussion). It’s a wonderful, thought-provoking film, and you are all encouraged to attend.

When? This Tue, 10/26, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM (check-in starts at 5:30, please arrive early for registration)

Where? World Affairs Council Auditorium, 312 Sutter Street , Second Floor, San Francisco

To RSVP, please click here.

Black Alcatraz Screening Today

This evening we will be screening Black Alcatraz, a documentary about the African American experience at Alcatraz in the era of segregation. Director Kevin Epps (“Straight Outta Hunters Point”) will join us for Q&A and dinner will be served.

Where: UC Hastings, 198 McAllister Street, 2nd Floor, Room F
When: 7pm

Leno on Recidivism

I’m at the Students for Sensible Drug Policy West Coast Regional Conference (at SF State — see http://ssdp.org/conference/westcoast) where Senator Mark Leno is currently answering a question about Proposition 19. This initiative would reduce California’s prison population by allowing adult possession and cultivation of 25 square feet of cannabis.

Senator Leno reminds us that California has the USA’s highest recidivism rate, 70%, compared to the national average of 35%. California’s prisons confine 170,000 inmates, 180% of their capacity of 90,000. Wow!

Slate/Daedalus new stats on Prison/Poverty cycle

WOW! Great statistics and charts and graphs in this new publication about the school-to-prison pipeline keeping people in poverty. Check out the summary at http://www.slate.com/id/2270328/?from=rss of the report by Western & Pettit at http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/DAED_a_00019. Here are some stand-out quotes:

“[I]f current incarceration trends hold, fully 68 percent of African-American male high school dropouts born from 1975 to 1979 (at the start of the upward trend in incarceration rates) will spend time living in prison at some point in their lives, as the chart below shows.”

“After being out of prison for 20 years, less than one-quarter of ex-cons who haven’t finished high school were able to rise above the bottom 20 percent of income earners, a far lower percentage than for high-school dropouts who don’t go to prison.”

“University of California at Berkeley professor of law Jonathan Simon writes that these men and women in many ways become the human equivalent of underwater homes bought with subprime mortgages—they are “toxic persons” in the way those homes have been defined as “toxic assets,” condemned to failure.”

Prop 19 Constitutionality: Fri @ noon

This Friday 10/15 at noon in room A,
Hastings Law Students for Sensible Drug Policy
and American Constitution Society present
Allen Hopper from ACLU
on the constitutionality of Prop 19 to legalize marijuana WITH FREE FOOD

Allen Hopper, Legal Director of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project, will address constitutional and other legal concerns raised by the text and context of Proposition 19, the November 2010 CA ballot question on taxing and regulating marijuana. Mr. Hopper will discuss the potential legal and practical interactions of Proposition 19 with federal law, including the Controlled Substances Act. Mr. Hopper will also discuss how Proposition 19 may affect the CA state medical marijuana regime, as well as its effects on CA employment law and employer policies.

Impact of New CA Budget on Corrections

The California budget passed by legislature this week includes “$1.1 billion from public safety, largely in lower medical costs for inmates”.

The full budget report can be found here, and highlights the fact that the proposal to “realign” state inmates into local jails, which was strongly resisted by local authorities, has been abandoned.

How will medical costs be lowered? We’ll follow up on these issues in the weeks to come.

What’s He Building In There?

CDCR has rebuilt the Chino Institute for Men, destroyed in a riot a few months ago. Some information about the rebuilding process and its outcome, from the CDCR website:

Cost to rebuild the dormitories was reduced significantly by using inmate labor from the Inmate Ward Labor program. The program teaches inmates vocational skills that can be used to gain employment once they are released from prison. Inmates learned how to operate heavy equipment and were taught trades such as masonry, concrete mixing, drywall installation, wall texturing, carpentry, welding and general construction techniques.

The rebuilding effort also incorporated improved safety features.

“The materials used during the rebuilding and some of the systems built into the facility will provide a safer and more secure environment for inmates, staff and the public,” said Deborah Hysen, CDCR’s Chief Deputy Secretary for Facilities, Planning and Construction Management. “For example, porcelain sinks and fixtures, which can be broken into sharp pieces, were replaced with durable stainless steel.”

After the repairs were completed, CDCR changed the mission of CIM West from a reception center to a Level II facility, and the inmate population was reduced from 1,298 before the riot to an estimated 960 in October 2010.

“The mutual aid and cooperation by the city of Chino, law enforcement and surrounding fire departments were invaluable during this emergency,” said Fakhoury. “We appreciate the long-standing partnership we share with our surrounding community,”

CIM is one of 33 prisons operated by CDCR. It opened in 1941. The peak population at CIM was 6,665 inmates in October 2003. It currently houses 4,751 minimum- and medium-security inmates and employs 2,327 people.

I’m trying to understand the discrepancy in inmate numbers. Does this mean that the institution as a 960-inmate capacity and it currently houses 4,751 inmates? Or that 960 people remained on the premises after the riot and now there are 4,751? If any of our readers know what the new capacity and population are like, please enlighten us in the comments. The other interesting feature here is the opportunity to make the rebuilding into a vocational program, which might be a successful idea depending on whether it is, indeed, a program shaped to help inmates develop skills such as getting to work on time and collaborating with supervisors, rather than merely cheap labor.

But more rebuilding is going on. The state is looking for a suitable site for a new reentry facility. Building in Fairfield is proving problematic, and CDCR is examining the possibility of building in Vacaville. More details on the Reporter:

As about 1,000 inmates are paroled to Solano each year, local leaders have embraced the need for a re-entry facility, which would house prisoners serving the final 12 to 18 months of their sentence. Through educational, career, life skills and other training, the inmates would be re-acclimated to the community and prepared for life on the “outside.”

Choosing a site for the facility has been a challenge. Originally, expansion near Fairfield’s Sentenced Detention Facility on Claybank Road was hotly pursued, but dropped when Fairfield officials withdrew their support.

The pitch to Vacaville, which already houses two institutions, has to do with job creation, as is often the case when introducing a correctional institution to a community. The advantage of building in a place that already has a prison is that persuasion might be easier, and the infrastructure, in terms of a cooperative community, is already in place. For more on this, I recommend the excellent documentary about Susanville, titled Prison Town, USA.

The “Un-Othering” of Crime: A New and Impressive Anti-Rape Campaign

Election season always brings with it an intensified focus on the quintessential modern American citizen according to Jonathan Simon: The victim. The Attorney General race, and the candidates’ websites, are full of references to contacts with the “community”, defining “community” as one of potential victims. This approach, supposedly, is the antithesis to a “soft on crime” approach focusing on coddling the offender and absolving him or her of all responsibility for the crime. This approach is often accused of “blaming the victim”.

Reality is a bit more complicated than that.

There is something that brings together the stereotypical “blame the victim” and “tough on crime” approaches, even though they appear to be antithetical, and that is a sense that crime, as well as victimization, is a phenomenon that only occurs to “others”. Victims of rape, for example, are either complicit in their own victimization through scandalous sexual behavior, or angelic creatures whose tragic fate calls for dramatic displays of legislative punitiveness. Rapists, on the other hand, are either predetermined biological beasts, or evil, conniving men. None of these people–assailants and victims–are real, and none of these scenarios go to the heart of what happens in most rape scenarios, in which the victim and the perpetrator know each other.

Which is why I absolutely love the new anti-rape campaign under the slogan “my strength is not for hurting”. Propagated by Men Can Stop Rape, the campaign addresses common scenarios and offering directives for sensible, considerate behavior. Here are some examples:

Here is some of what I like about this campaign:

1. These posters are full of realistic scenarios in which any man, not just some pathological monster, could be raping a woman. Since we think of rape as a heinous crime, some may find it difficult to identify sleeping with an intoxicated woman, or choosing to ignore lack of full consent, as rape. These posters bring it home.
2. For once, full responsibility is placed on the shoulders of the potential assailants, as those in the best position to stop the bad situation from happening.
3. This campaign is a reminder that rape does not happen in some far away parallel universe, but in dates, and parties, and various other everyday circumstances.
4. Note how the posters endorse an image of masculinity which fosters responsibility, communication, and regard for the other person’s feelings, instead of glorifying violence and humiliation.

In some ways, this is the natural complement to self defense programs such as Impact Bay Area, which empower people with the knowledge they need to get out of bad situations without placing blame or responsibility upon them. Impact, and MyStrength, are a successful pitch because they speak to real people about real phenomena and avoid the trap of stereotypes and cliches.