Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Sarah Palin, Joe Schmidt, prisoners...

A few weeks ago I wrote about Joe Schmidt, Sarah Palin's ex-boyfriend and present Corrections Commissioner. Schmidt is also third in line to replace the governor, should Sean Parnell or Sarah Palin become unable to fulfill their duties.

If the rumours that are circulating prove to be correct, Schmidt would soon become lieutenant governor. Apparently, Sarah Palin may be thinking of putting Parnell's name forward for the position of Attorney General since her other choice, WAR, proved to be utterly unsuitable for the job.

Another consequence of the above would be the Corrections Commissioner post being up for grabs and yet another appointment being made by Sarah Palin.

Are there any other ex-boyfriends from Wasilla High School ready to step into Joe Schmidt's boots? Would he fare better than Joe, who managed to get a vote of no confidence by the Alaska Correctional Officers Association with an overwhelming majority six months into the job?

There are further issues facing the Corrections Commissioner at the moment, regardless of who will have to deal with them. The budget appears to have been screwed somewhat.

There is a private facility in Arizona, Red Rock Correctional Center (total bed capacity: 1596), that houses 850 Alaska prisoners. I mentioned the facility in the Prisongate post, regarding the death of an Alaska Native prisoner from tuberculosis.

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and the Arizona Senate passed a bill in February 2008 changing some rules regarding private prisons:

• Have to comply with capacity and construction standards.

• Immediately notify the state Department of Corrections about any major incident at a prison and allow state officials to investigate the incident and inspect the facility.

• Not be allowed to house inmates who are classified as maximum custody, were convicted of a sexual offense or any offense that would be a Class 1 or 2 felony in Arizona (such as murder), have a history of escape or rioting or are infected with HIV, hepatitis or tuberculosis.

• Not be allowed to release another state's inmates in Arizona.

• Have to provide the Department of Corrections with more information on each inmate, such as convictions.

• Face penalties for not complying with the law.

125 of the 850 Alaska prisoners in Arizona didn't meet the new criteria and had to be returned to Alaska and replaced by more suitable prisoners. The cost involved in the switch would have run into at least $250,000, as the cost of transporting an Alaska prisoner to or from Arizona is $1,000 one way.

Considering the existing problems in Alaska prisons, such as staff shortages, health and safety issues and a finite budget, the extra expenditure would almost certainly mean that less money would be available for rehabilitation projects and prisoner welfare.

Where did Joe Schmidt find money to fund his much trumpeted rehabilitation programs if he had to spend money repatriating inmates from Arizona and replacing them? Is he exaggerating his success in the area of rehabilitation a little bit?

Sarah Palin considers funding for education as being superfluous and one would expect that she rates children above criminals, so there isn't much hope of money being spent on prison services, unless it's for making prisons bigger and more secure...

The Arizona portion of this post came from links generously provided by PP in a private e-mail. Thanks, you know who you are!

Rumours: Mudflats, Shannyn Moore
Jean Napoletano: Alaska Pride
Red Rock: CCA


basheert said...

Regina: Am trying to find out more info re: Red Rock. I know it's private. What do you need or would you like to have info about?
Your info is a little old - Napolitano is now Homeland Security. We are stuck with Jan Brewer, Rabid Republic and a bit of a tool altho she is trying to fight her party a little.

regina said...


The links were to Alaska Pride and two news sources that just mention the bill passed in 2008.

My bad... I assumed the bill had been passed Feb this year, not 2008. I have edited the post to reflect that. The budgeting problems would still give the Commissioner a headache, regardless of when the bill was passed.

I can't find much info on Red Rock at all. It's in the middle of the desert and the people who own it also have another 2 facilities in the area. They are the biggest employers locally. All articles seem to be quite old.

Here's one from 2006:


If you find out a bit more, give us a shout, please.


basheert said...

It's really hard to get info on this place, probably because it is a privately owned prison.
Will keep checking and let you know.
Eloy is on the main I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson (just an FYI).

Their claim to fame is a GAS STATION (no really ...)

Aspiecelia said...

The rehabilitation programs in the Alaskan prison system are pitiful. I do not understand why Schmidt would be proud of them. Alaska's prisons are just as bad as Arizona's, maybe worse. The women at Hiland Mountain have to be incarcerated for at least a year to qualify for chemical dependency treatment. The corrections officers are very abusive and put prisoners in dangerous situations. A huge portion of them act like they are emotionally about junior high school age. The medical care is pretty much non-existent. The mental health unit at Hiland Mountain is like some kind of ancient torture chamber. They often withhold soap from inmates and then wonder why they have problems with infections. No one cares about the inmates of which at least 1 in 7 are innocent.

Chaim said...

Regina and Basheert,

I used to be a federal court staff attorney, assisting the judges with respect to unrepresented prisoners' lawsuits complaining about their conditions of confinement. These fall within a category called "section 1983 suits," after 42 USC 1983 which allows a person to sue anyone who has deprived him or her of a constitutional or federal right while acting "under color of" state law. Because incarcerating criminals is a traditional state function, employees of private prisons can be sued under section 1983 as well as state-employed wardens, guards, etc.

Searching federal lawsuits might be a useful source of information. Most prisoners' suits are thrown out, for a lot of reasons, but the complaints remain as public records, although, of course, they are only the prisoners' allegations. Those that go forward may generate judges' opinions, some of which are available via Google, and those that go to summary judgment (or to trial) will have a substantial case file. Court files are open to the public, but unfortunately it costs 8 cents per page to download documents on the internet.

For the heck of it, I Googled "red rock"with "section 1983" and found this, among other things, relating to a proposed audit of out-of-state institutions holding Hawaiian prisoners: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2009/Testimony/SB83_TESTIMONY_PSM_02-03-09.pdf. It should be obvious that shipping prisoners thousands of miles from home and charging an extortionate amount for phone calls does not further rehabilitation, and making prisons into private, for-profit concerns is not a great idea, either. Good luck in bringing a little public attention to what the public doesn't want to see.