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Prison Politics in Arizona…

The first time I crossed into Arizona in 1972 I was shocked.  I guess I expected the Old West.  Cowboys and ghost towns.  Cactus and sagebrush growing along the Gadsden Purchase territory.  Even Apache and Navaho, and a mix of Anglo-Mex families and culture.


What I didn’t expect was to relive part of my experiences in Alabama and Mississippi in the summer of ’63.

This weblog is devoted to the prison experience connection.   It would be disingenuous to fail to address Arizona and its relationship to jails and prisons, along with the criminalization of its Hispanic citizens and culture (documented and otherwise), one of the prime causes for mass imprisonment today.

The current alien population in the federal Bureau of Prisons is at 27% (mostly Hispanic).  Look for that number to rise.   

Today, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) and the state inaugurates its new anti-Hispanic, round-up law, SB-1070 (and, other than its racist political pandering, that is precisely it’s intent).

These are laws reminiscent of Pass laws in extreme dictatorial societies (and a few others, including Israel).  SB-1070 calls for all (Hispanic, in effect) immigrants–legal or otherwise–to carry their papers at all times.

It’s been done before…

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Arizona’s answer to Bull Connor, already relishes his label as “the toughest sheriff in America” (having primed that role with 25 years as an anti-drug storm-trooper).  His extreme treatment of the prisoners in his jail, which he considers “less than dogs,” is already notorious.  A mass, outdoor detention compound has already been built to start receiving detainees in the proposed round-up starting at midnight.

The fact is, Arpaio hardly needs another law against undocumented aliens.  The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office alone has forcibly deported 26,146 aliens since 2007 (that’s 25% of the national total).

(In part, this site has addressed this question in previous articles concerning a former cellmate, Peter MacDonald, former chief of the Navajo Nation, and in “El Paso Redux.” )

Addressing the irony of the situation, is that illegal border crossings have actually gone down 49% since 2004.  That murders are down 50% since 2003.  And violent crimes in all categories continue to trend down since 2004.  So, “What’s up, Wabbitt?”

The raging drug war across the border in Mexico itself is a direct product of America’s drug prohibition (thus propping up phenomenal profits and the mass criminalization of otherwise law-abiding citizens).

Rational lawmakers might consider that further “wars,” criminalizations, and the destruction of Hispanic culture is only going to lead to further troubles.  But perhaps that’s part of the intent.  Racism and nativism never does well in times of peace and prosperity.

The irony of Ferdinand & Isabella’s 1492 edicts against Jews and Moslems (even as they financed an expedition to the New World)—decimating the economy and culture of Spain in the process—is not lost on this writer.  Those who have the greatest stake in the peaceful resolution of this political insanity are the Arizonans themselves…Anglo and Hispanic.

In previous investigations concerning gov’tal dirty tricks, the casus belli of “follow the money” was found and applied.  At least two of Governor Brewer’s senior staff, including her deputy chief of staff, Paul Senseman, stand to profit considerably by his relationship with the private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).  The chair to her re-election campaign and another top advisor, is Chuck Coughlin, president of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, which lobbies for CCA.

Since the CCA holds the federal contract for Arizona detainees, it can be presumed that its profits will soar from the current $11 million a month that it currently bills.

So, take your pick: Pandering for political profit, financial profit, or just old down-home racism.  When Mississippi was facing much the same problem at the conclusion of the Civil War and the freeing of the slaves, they lost no time using the exception clause of the 13th Amendment and the Black Codes to criminalize much of the black population.  A significant aspect of that strategy included terrorizing the ex-slave population, leasing the virtual slave labor of prisoners back to private farmers and entrepreneurs, and disenfranchising their vote in order to maintain political—and thus social—power.

(NOTE:  As this article is being posted, the NY Times reports that a federal judge has blocked several provisions from going into effect today.  One can only hope that reason prevails.)

   Dr. Publico

Category: ArpaioJoe, Immigration
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