Monday, December 31, 2012

Repost: Private Prisons in a Wider Context: Video

I watched this video again and felt that it might be worth re-posting. There are some really important points in here, especially those made by Michelle Alexander. Many people watched the first video but not the second. Are you one of those people? Check it out.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Private Prisons in a Wider Context: Video

It has been encouraging to see the awareness about the role of private prison companies in influencing criminalization of people grow and grow in the last year.  SB 1070 and the relationship between various legislators like Russell Pearce and private prison companies like CCA and Geo Group within the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and between governor Jan Brewer and CCA, has been exposed recently.  People had already started to address the connection between Wells Fargo and private prison-run detention centers that hold thousands of migrants in other parts of the country and a tiny bit here in AZ.  Now there are country-wide campaigns popping off against private prisons companies and against ALEC.

However, as horrible as the conditions in private prisons are (and they do tend to be several times worse than state-run facilities), and as obvious as it is that SB 1070 passed with great influence on the part of those who stand to make millions off of putting people in cages, I would hate to see the focus be solely on this most recent phenomenon.  An anti-private prison campaign can easily fall into the same traps as the "go after the real criminals" message, as though there's nothing wrong with the "criminal" "justice" system.  As though the criminalization of people who cross a man-made line is not similar to the criminalization of so many of the people in prisons today and historically.  We should also consider the limitations of previous nation-wide anti-private prison campaigns like the one that targeted Sodexho in the early 2000's. A focus only on the privatization of prisons can only divert energy from addressing the prison system in general; the various reasons people end up in jail or prison, and the ways in which the system will never and is not meant to address the real ills of our society.

I put together the following video to provide a complex yet still simplistic (limited by time and resources) history of criminalization of people for the benefit of the few.  Please share it with anyone you think would be interested.  This video is a follow up from several of my blog entries including No Borders or Prison Walls and What came first: the Racism or the Profit Motive? On Private Prisons' push for SB1070

Please also view the 2nd part.  It all ties together, and there's some good commentary towards the end.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

DeConcini Not the Only CCA Board Member of Concern

The current prison divestment campaign in Arizona seems to be concentrating on Arizona Board of Regents member Dennis DeConcini's involvement on the board of CCA (Corrections Corporation of America).  What I find interesting is that many groups associated with the prison divestment campaign are funded by a group who has a board member who is also a CCA board member.  The following are emails I've sent to inform groups of this (which I never got responses to).  (I have more to say about a concentration on privatization of prisons, but the last post I was working on this summer got lost, but I'll likely pick it up again some day.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 2:02 PM
Hi there,
I recently came across your website and learned about your campaign regarding Deconcini on the CCA board.  I'm wondering if you know about Thurgood Marshall Jr.  He is also on the CCA board, but he's also on the Ford Foundation board.  A number of groups involved in the campaign(s) against private prisons or CCA in particular get funding from Ford Foundation.  I personally feel that a group that gets money from Ford Foundation must not be doing anything too threatening to the system in the first place, but it should be alarming to those groups that there is this relationship... (the rest is the same as the latter part of the following email)
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 2:37 PM

Hi there,
I am contacting you because of your prison divestment campaign, and some info you might not be aware of.
I'm wondering if you know about Thurgood Marshall Jr.  He is on the CCA board, but he's also on the Ford Foundation board.  A number of groups involved in the campaign(s) against private prisons or CCA in particular get funding from Ford Foundation. It should be alarming to the groups that there is this relationship.  Some groups that get Ford funding: Enlace though perhaps indirectly, Detention Watch Network via Tides Center, The Sentencing Project, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, etc. (see more below).
I'm wondering what you think of this issue.  The Fuerza Tucson campaign is seeking to get DeConcini to resign from the CCA board.  I wouldn't guess that groups who get funded by Ford would have any influence on the foundation but instead are concerned with maintaining that funding.  It is possible that Marshall Jr. is just on these boards on paper and Ford or CCA may not ever realize the seeming conflict that arises.
I have my own ideas, which are part of this essay that i wrote last year:
I'd be interested in hearing what you all think about this.

You can search the grants database here:
more groups:
(Alto Arizona via NDLON)
Brave New Foundation
Border Network for Human Rights
Center for New Community
(Cuentame via Brave New Foundation)
Enlace Institute/Communities United for People
Grassroots Leadership
Interfaith Worker Justice
Institute for Transnational Social Change
National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)
National Immigration Law Center
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
(Puente Movement, via NDLON/Alto Arizona, Tonatierra)
Resource Generation
Seventh Generation Fund
(Tonatierra via Seventh Generation Fund and NDLON)


Thursday, August 2, 2012 6:53 PM
Hi there,
Not sure if you've seen my last email yet, but i was looking at your website again today and noticed the most recent article posted about Wells Fargo, at least the first few paragraphs (see below) could apply to Ford Foundation in only a slightly different way.  I am genuinely interested in how you feel about this issue.  We don't know what Ford Foundation invests in.  For all we know they have stock in CCA or Geo or Wells Fargo, but having a board member on CCA is adequate for me to be a bit alarmed.
anyway, here's an article from today that you might like:

Janus-Faced Banking: How Wells Fargo Profits on Communities of Color

By Christopher Petrella
Social geographer, David Harvey, is famous for having noted that economic crises often “reveal the rationality of fundamentally irrational systems.” For Harvey, a crisis discloses the “irrational rationalizers” of our contradictory capitalist arrangement. Philanthro-capitalism, or the popular practice of applying business strategies to social challenges, represents the very core of this contradiction. Firms participating in philanthro-capitalist (ad)ventures privately support the very oppressive systems—white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, to name a few —that they publicly denounce.
Enter Wells Fargo, the nation’s fourth largest bank and the principal mortgage originator in the United States.
Earlier this summer Wells Fargo announced its historic $3.395 million grant in support of theHispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF).  The grant represents the single largest corporate contribution to HSF, “the nation’s premier not-for-profit organization supporting Hispanic higher education.” Founded in 1975, “HSF provides American families with the financial and educational resources they need to achieve a college education.”  To date, HSF has awarded over $360 million in scholarships and has supported a broad range of outreach and education programs to assist students and their families navigate collegiate life, from gaining admission and securing financial aid to finding employment after graduation.
HSF’s strategic vision includes “build[ing] a coalition of corporate and philanthropic partners committed to increasing Hispanic degree attainment.”
But Wells Fargo’s largess is as generous as it is ironic. Generous because $3.395 million is a large chunk of change, but ironic because of Wells Fargo’s simultaneously antagonistic relationship with the “Latin community.”
According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)—the federal agency responsible for protecting investors and maintaining fair markets—Wells Fargo currently holds somewhere between 4,400,000-4,700,000  shares in the GEO Group, the nation’s largest private detention  owner and operator. With over 4 million shares of the GEO Group valued at close to $90 million, Wells Fargo owns nearly 8 percent of the company.


The following is the portion of my essay which discusses my thoughts on this situation.

Opposition to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)—which runs private detention centers and has influenced legislation like SB1070 (through the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC) so they may continue to profit—is at odds with the interests of Thurgood Marshall Jr, a board member of both Ford Foundation and CCA. Whether or not there is some awareness of this seeming contradiction on the part of CCA or Marshall Jr., it may be more useful for Ford to fund legal, non-militant opposition in contrast to the much more militant targeting of businesses that invest in private prison companies (like Wells Fargo who invests in GEO Group, another large private prison company) such as the actions by anarchists that have been happening in various cities across the US. In addition, it seems as though focusing on private prisons as an aberration of the criminal “justice” system, deflecting attention away from the state and towards private entities, would be more in the interest of the Ford Foundation since they seem to be more generally allied with the state than any one corporation. To them it would be more important to have activists worrying solely about the privatization of prisons while leaving mass incarceration intact.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Border-control bill an affront to American Indians

From the Seattle Times:
Would the Congress pass laws that tell other countries what to do, or dictate how their natural and cultural resources will be used and abused in whatever way Congress sees fit? Tribes are nations, and within this nation there is a protocol for this type of action.

Special to The Times

THERE are dozens of tribal nations with lands along the U.S. borders.
Our families, sacred sites and cultural treasures and traditions are based here, and protecting this heritage is critical to our identity and our sense of community. That's why a bill recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives was so disconcerting to American Indians. It proposed to waive protections for public lands and those who live or hunt or graze cattle within 100 miles of the northern or southern borders — under the guise of national security.
The border-control bill was buried in a massive public-lands bill, passed by the House, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah. H.R. 2578, as amended and approved by the House, allows U.S. Border Patrol to build roads and airstrips and forward-operating bases, erect vehicle barriers, and close off national parks, forests, and grazing lands to the public at a moment's notice within that 100 mile radius.
The 100-mile zone includes iconic locations in Washington state — North Cascades and Olympic National Parks; the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie, Okanogan-Wenatchee, Kaniksu and Colville national forests; and the San Juan Islands, Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge.
As passed, the bill also authorizes Border Patrol to ignore 16 key laws protecting our heritage, including the National Historic Preservation Act, National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the Wilderness Act.
The bill removes public participation in land-management decisions and amounts to what some have dubbed a land and power grab by the U.S. government.
Thing is, Border Patrol didn't ask for the bill and testified before Congress that it doesn't need it. The agency is already working hand-in-hand — and increasingly effectively — with tribal governments, private landowners, and national park and forest land managers.
Tribal nations weren't consulted when the bill was drafted, either, and the National Congress of American Indians has registered its concern by approving a resolution in opposition to the bill.
Individual tribes have also weighed in with Congress. The original version of Rep. Bishop's bill even overrode tribal sovereignty, but that was redacted in the final version passed by the House.
Tribes have a nation-to-nation relationship with the United States. The U.S. government has a responsibility to consult with tribes when an action such as this will affect their homelands. President Obama has upheld the rights of our people.
But these types of bills and actions by the House and Senate upset this relationship and responsibility. Would Congress pass laws that tell other countries what to do, or dictate how their natural and cultural resources will be used and abused in whatever way Congress sees fit? Tribes are nations, and within this nation there is a protocol for this type of action.
Despite efforts by some members of Congress to strip the border bill from the broader package of lands bills, the overall act passed the House in a 232-188 vote.
In Washington, only Reps. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton; Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens; Adam Smith, D-Tacoma; and Jim McDermott, D-Seattle; supported the effort to throw out the border bill. In addition to those members, Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, voted against the overall bill.
A Senate version of the border bill is sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
We'll be looking to see that our Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray don't allow the same railroading of our rights and responsibilities to protect our heritage for the next generation.
Kesner C. Flores Jr., is of Wintun and Paiute descent and is a member of the Cortina Indian Rancheria Band of California. He works for the National Tribal Environmental Council, a nonprofit that works with tribes to preserve the environment. 

 Bill Summary & Status - 112th Congress (2011 - 2012) - H.R.2578 - All Information - THOMAS (Library of Congress)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa: Beyond the BS1070 Supreme Court Ruling

Beyond the BS1070 Supreme Court Ruling:
“Not even the highest court can turn back a determined people!”

By Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa / 25 June 2012

This can’t be said any other way. Our migrant/Latino community is getting crushed. In fact, we are getting stomped on and beaten like a colorful piñata. The piñata is electoral and the more they hit, the more political points are scored—at our expense.

On the surface, the political class wants to make us think they are at war with each other over immigration. When in reality we have a US Supreme Court ruling over BS1070 that is in complete alignment with Republican and Democrat immigration policies of exclusion, exploitation, and police and ICE collaborations.

In the wake of the US Supreme Court ruling, injustice and oppression are upheld once again. The “papers please” section of BS1070 has been upheld. In effect standing in the tradition of white supremacist historical Supreme Court decisions such as Dred Scott v. Sanford of 1857 in which the court ruled that slaves and their descendants were not protected by the Constitution and were not US citizens...


Friday, June 1, 2012


JT READY IS DEAD: FASCISM AND THE ANARCHIST RESPONSE IN ARIZONA, 2005-2012 ~ Fires never extinguished: A blog of the Phoenix Class War Council

JT Ready is dead.  And by his own hand.  It took a while, but in the end JT took the free advice of his many anarchist adversaries and followed his leader into oblivion.  Though in the end he opted for the Goebbels style over that of his boy Hitler.  That's the thing with JT: despite being a consistent white supremacist, he could sometimes surprise you.  Not with something entirely new.  No.  But with variations on a theme.  Most of us figured he would blow up somewhere, at some point, and given the history of white supremacists with regard to child and spousal abuse, we are not surprised that his end mimicked his political practice perfectly: violence mostly aimed down the social hierarchy. Consider the death of National Socialist Movement leader Jeff Hall as another case in point.

According to the cops, on Wednesday, May 2, JT, a former president of the Mesa Community College Republican Club and Maricopa County Republican precinct committeeman, stormed the house of his much-abused and terrified girlfriend in Gilbert wearing full combat gear and then proceeded to open fire on everyone in the place.  The dead included Lisa Mederos, her daughter Amber (JT's former treasurer for his run for Pinal County Sheriff), as well as her fiance, Jim Hiott, who was a fellow militia member.  In a truly cowardly act, JT also killed Amber's 15 month-old baby.  Only Lisa's younger daughter survived, hiding under the bed in her upstairs room.

We in PCWC first began running into JT during the early parts of the immigration movement, around 2005, before there was a formal PCWC, really.  As many probably know, JT had a rather chaotic political career, but in those days he was allied with State Senator Russell Pearce and local car dealer Rusty Childress.  Even then political violence had already begun to rear its ugly head in the anti-immigrant scene.  It might be valuable to review some of what had happened in Arizona in the several years preceding JT's final bloody rampage, and it certainly would be worthwhile to consider the ways that anarchists in Phoenix and Arizona organized against him, his politics and his political allies (and enemies) over the last half decade or more.  While liberals advocated for his free speech, anarchists opposed him every step of the way.

Read more:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Feds to Sue Arpaio, but Carry Out Largest National Round-up Yet

It may seem like great news that the federal Justice Department will finally be suing sheriff joe.  According to "Government plans to sue Arizona sheriff for targeting Latinos",
The administration's Justice Department and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office have been in settlement talks for months over allegations that officers regularly made unlawful stops and arrests of Latinos, used excessive force against them and failed to adequately protect the Hispanic community.
Those negotiations have broken down because of a fight over the Justice Department's demand that an independent monitor be appointed by a federal court to oversee compliance with the settlement...
But can the federal government really take the moral high ground when you contrast the latest round-up, which happens to be the largest yet, with sheriff joe's sweeps?  In Colorlines' "ICE Arrest 3k Immigrants in 6 Days, Largest Roundup Ever", the raids are described:
On Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced 3,168 undocumented immigrants were detained over the course of six-days in a national operation the agency dubbed “Cross Check.” According to ICE, the six-day operation was the largest such effort in the agency’s history.
I find it interesting that I hardly saw any mention in my social media networks about this largest round-up ever.  Arizonans in particular seem to think that the federal government could and would save us from horrible politicians like Arpaio.  The Federal government prefers to think of their work as colorblind, that what sets them apart from Arpaio is that he is actively discriminating which "erodes the public trust," according to Napolitano.  I snarkily commented in last December's post, "Federal Goverment Prefers Their Way Better Than Arpaio's", "because blatant maliciousness and hypocrisy erode the public trust, the status quo doesn't."

The following points really contextualize the federal government's approach:
“The raids are in line with the administration’s record on immigration to date: while claiming to target serious offenders the majority of those detained were in fact people with misdemeanor convictions and people who’ve returned to the United States after having been deported previously. In the case of the later group, many have returned to the United States to be with their families,” [’s investigative reporter Seth Freed] Wessler went on to point out.

In it’s press release, ICE again claims that the agency “is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities.” And the Washington Post reported the news with an inevitable highlights reel, naming a Cameroonian drug distributer with a gun charge and Mexican murderer among the group. “But of course, the vast majority of those in the serious criminal list are not kin-pins and murderers. ICE officials continue to draw on racialized hysteria to naturalize what’s clearly a bald policy of mass deportation,” Wessler said.

Wessler also notes operation Cross Check is the third such national scale enforcement operation in the last year, which together have detained nearly 8,500 people. “These numbers amount to only a fraction of all deportations. Last year nearly 400,000 people were deported.”
Read that last paragraph again.  As I have pointed out in the past, the federal government does not create elaborate press circuses to feed their ego, accompanied by veiled racist rhetoric, quite the way Arpaio does.  But let's be honest here.  The federal government is doing the majority of the detaining and they're doing all of the deporting.  It has been over three years since I wrote, Federal Government will not be Maricopa County's Savior in response to the announcement that the House Judiciary Committee was pushing Eric Holder and Napolitano to investigate Arpaio.  I pointed out that "Much of the activism is focused around getting people from the federal government to pay attention, although others also call on the federal government to stop the raids. The primary voice of immigrants’ rights advocacy in anglo media is Stephen Lemons who recently said, 'The political reality of Cactus Country is this: Without intervention from the Obama administration, we are royally screwed.'"

In further commentary, I wrote,
We cannot expect a government that has been built on racism and continues to practice it in various ways (much higher rates of incarceration of people of color than whites, lack of indigenous rights, wars, just to name some examples) to be a force against white supremacy. The operator of immigration detention centers (or the ones who outsource private detention facilities), the performer of raids, is not the one whose going to save us from the similar actions of the Sheriff. He is doing their work for them. He's just doing it in an extra "look how demeaning i can be to these people" way. If the federal government does anything about it, it will only be to legitimize and continue its own actions and those of other jurisdictions.
The federal government is the reason why stepping across a man-made line or overstaying a visa are illegal in the first place.  They are they ones who have forced programs like Secure Communities onto city and state governments.  Arpaio just pushes the limits to see how far and blatant it can go.

It seems in some ways that Arizonans are still waiting and hoping for some federal intervention.   Considering the actions of the federal government, however, does this not seem rather ridiculous?  Not to mention that treating the lawsuit against Arpaio as a victory distracts from the major problems that continue to occur.

Edit:  See also: Operation Cross Check » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.