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Old 12-24-2017, 06:30 AM
cb85203 cb85203 is offline
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Default Middle Ground Prison Reform December 2017 Newsletter

Middle Grounders:

Happy holidays to all and best wishes for a bright, hopeful new year. This can be a tough season for prisoners and families, and we hope everyone can keep spirits up and hope alive. Perhaps 2018 will be the year when lawmakers realize the failure of our current criminal justice approach and decide to reduce prison sentences in Arizona. Also, hopefully, the federal court will impose such serious sanctions against the DOC that they will make the necessary changes in delivery of medical/mental health care that are needed. We recevie 30 or so emails / day (as well as written letters from inmates) just on the subject of medical care. Some of the cases are heartbreaking and entail life or death issues.

One of our goals is to keep you informed. Here is useful information:

1. For all inmates being released from prison after 12/18/17, they will be given a JPAY moneypass for access to their funds upon release. With the exception of a fee imposed if they don't use the card for 90 days, no fees will be imposed to access their own money as long as they use a bank or money machine (the list is one the card) contracted with JPAY to obtain money. This change comes as a result of a lawsuit called BRILL v. Bank of America. Now, released prisoners will get to keep more of their meager funds upon release and won't be paying special fees (penalties) by a bank that took advantage of prisoners.

2. For inmates who are incarcerated at the time they turn 65 years of age, they no longer will have to pay additional monies when they eventually do sign up for Medicare because they missed the 65-enrollment-period-with-no-penalty. What that means is if a person doesn't sign up for Medicare within a certain amount of time after turning age 65, then they will pay a higher premium when they finally do sign up. Now, no matter how old a prisoner is when released past the age of 65, and within 2 months prior to their anticipated actual release date, they can apply to the Medicare authorities for "EQUITABLE RELIEF" and will be allowed to obtain the same monthly rate as they would have gotten had they signed up at age 65.

3. The DOC has set up an Ex-offender Fire Crew in the far East Valley (no name was given to me for it), which consists of up to 20 former inmates who served on the fire crews while in prison. Even though these men and women may still be on community supervision when released, they will be given to travel to fires that may need personnel in other states, such as California. Current, the crew comprises 13 ex-offenders. While this does not affect a large group of prisoners or ex-offenders, it does provide positive benefit for those who worked hard in prison so they could train and join fire crews and gives them a good future upon release.

4. About 87 death row inmates have been moved from the very restrictive maximum custody unit at Browning to a special section designated for them at Central Unit -- in close custody. They now have contact visits, much more out-of-cell time, more job opportunties, recreation in groups, and improved social interaction with others. The prisoners who remain at SMU/Browning Unit are either ones who have poor disciplinary records, serious mental problems, or who are currently ADA inmates. DOC is supposedly working to provide ADA accommodations in the Central Unit, which includes widening cell doors to allow ingress/egress with a wheelchair. From all reports, the new policy is working well for death row inmates.

5. DOC has a "secret" Graduated Sanctions Policy which they supposedly apply to all released offenders on supervision. However, since they won't allow it to be reviewed by the public or by the inmates to whom it is allegedly applied, no one can say if it is sometimes applied to some persons, but not to others. DOC claims that they don't want to show it to persons under supervision because, for example, they don't want a released offender to "know" how many times he might be able to get away with using drugs before he is violated and processed for a revocation hearing. That makes sense, but it leaves WIDE OPEN the abuse of the policy because they can arbitrarily apply the policy to one person, but not to another, and no one knows why or is the wiser. We already have one clear example of this scenario happening, and we know it can happen at will because DOC won't publish the policy. If you have a loved one who is currently under supervision, you need to know that someone in the locked desk drawer of his/her supervising officer is a secret policy that only the officer knows about or gets to read! This sounds much like a STAR CHAMBER to us!!!

6. There has been a proposal to re-locate the current Maricopa Re-entry Center at Black Canyon to a more central location, near the county jail facilities on Buckeye Road and 35th Avenue. Neighbors are protesting this move, but no decision has been finalized. Neighbors don't want to allow "more" criminals in their neighborhoods, but for years they have not objected to the Lower Buckeye Jail, Estrella Jail, etc. Moving the Re-entry Center to a central Phoenix location certainly makes more sense in terms of bus transportation, access to jobs and other services, etc.

7. The current healthcare contract for DOC inmates expires (with Corizon) on June 30, 2018. Only two companies (Corizon and Centurion) responded to the RFP (Request for Proposals), and a decision will be made by March 2018. Even if a new contractor comes aboard, it will not affect the current federal court settlement in the PARSONS case, except it will provide yet a new opportunity for a private contractor to make excuses, as Corizon has done, for the delivery of nearly-abominable healthcare to inmates in the state-operated system (private prisons are not included in the Parsons case). In January, federal judge David Duncan will decide if DOC is to be sanctioned $1,000 per incident each time during the previous month (December) that they failed to comply with one of the 100 Performance Measures they agreed to in the Parsons settlement. Had the fine been imposed in previous months, for example, it would have been over $500,000. In February, Judge Duncan is holding a contempt hearing to determine if DOC/Corizon have been mis-representing their statistical reporting of their claims of compliance with performance measures. Apparently, there may be Corizona ex-employees who are going to testify that Corizon works to "get around" the monitoring by the federal court. If it turns out to be true and verified, I suspect that Judge Duncan will appoint an outside monitor to collect the monthly statistics (Note: We think this should have been done all along). Stay tuned.

8. The Legislative session opens up on the second week of January 2018. At that time, we'll be able to research what bills have been introduced which may be of interest to those supporting criminal justice reforms. We already know that a bill will be introduced to allow expungement of records or record sealing (although its impact in real time in the digital age of reord-keeping is dubious), and that a study committee is going to be proposed to study reducing sentences for non-violent offenders (we think yet another study committee is a waste of time and has no binding decision-making authority). Other bills regarding restoration of civil rights will be introduced, and there will be some we don't know about yet. All will be made public and we will have an opportunity to review them. Some we will support and some we will oppose. We'll keep you informed.

This wraps up our digital "newsletter" for 2017. We hope you have some time for family and good cheer during the holiday season. We encourage each one of you to send this newsletter to one or more prisoners currently incarcerated.

Warm regards,

Donna and James Hamm
Middle Ground Prison Reform

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