Rumors sometimes run rampant within the inmate population for many reasons too numerous to review here. You can rely upon what you read below:
WILL ARIZONA SOON BAN ALL SMOKING PRODUCTS TO BE SOLD AT INMATE COMMISSARY/STORES? No. Although the Department is required by law to ban smoking inside all state-owned buildings (for employess and inmates alike, according to Director Charles Ryan, there is no current plan to stop selling smoking materials at inmate stores. Inmates will continue to be allowed to smoke in outdoor designated areas. Of course, we know that inmates do, in fact, smoke inside their dorms and in other locations, and this can be a great source of irritation to those who don't smoke and who don't wish to inhale secondhand smoke, but who fear retaliation if they report the smokers to prison staff. In any case, the rumor that all smoking will be banned is not true. December 2014.
WILL ARIZONA SOON BE MOVING PRISONERS WHO WERE FORMERLY CLASSIFIED AS PROTECTIVE SEGREGATION INMATES INTO GENERAL POPULATION ON THE THEORY THAT SOME OF THEM NO LONGER "NEED" PROTECTION? This rumor has been presented to us and seems to have some legs because some current PC prisoners have reported that they have been interviewed by SSU staff about moving them to GP. We certainly hope this is not true. Many years ago, we participated in a lawsuit which ultimately was resolved in the District Court of Arizona, Does 1-5 v. Stewart, which prohibited the Department of Corrections from arbitrarily limiting the number of beds that it could allocate to protective segregation inmates. Instead, the court said that the DOC had to provide "all the protective custody beds that are needed." At the time, then-Director Sam Lewis (who was replaced by Terry Stewart) attempted to arbitrarily limit PC to just 100 beds within the entire prison system. They attempted to move more than a hundred previously classified PC inmates into general population. As most advocates know, once a person has been in PC, and is considered a "snitch" by other inmates for any reason, he can never return to geneeral population, even if he leaves prison and returns on another sentence later on. There will always be someone who will remember him. For this reason, Middle Ground will strongly oppose any current attempt by the Department of Corrections to arbitrarily reduce its PC beds or to move prisoners out of PC into GP, just because they desire to reduce the total number of prisoners classified to PC. In 2014, there are over 9,000 prisoners in PC in Arizona and that is due, in part, to the fact that the Department has no control over gangs, illegal use of cellphones for systemwide communication among prisoners and gangs, and the proliferation of drugs, extortion and other activities which cause prisoners to ultimately require protective custody in the first place.
MIDDLE GROUND'S WORK ON THE BOTCHED ARIZONA EXECUTION: See our letter to the Governor; click link here
SENTENCE REDUCTION RUMORS/QUESTIONS: The Arizona State legislature has not authorized, nor has the governor approved, any sentence reductions. If you are hearing information about sentence reductions for low-level/non-violent drug offenders, that is because the United States Sentencing Commission is considering reducing the sentences of FEDERAL drug offenders who have served at least 10 years of their sentence and who did not use violence or a weapon during the commission of their crime. Also, Eric Holder, U.S.Attorney General, has directed his deputy attorneys general to encourage federal judges to sentence drug offenders to less-than-the-guideline sentences and has indicated that the President will consider commutation of sentence for certain low-level drug offenders. None of these actions have any effect whatsoever on state sentencing issues, including in Arizona.
EX-OFFENDERS AND GUN RIGHTS: Conviction of a felony offense in Arizona (as in most states) automatically means that the person loses/forfeits certain civil rights (to vote, to hold elective office, to serve on a jury, and to own or possess a gun). If convicted of a first-time felony (just one count) in Arizona, no matter how serious the crime -- including murder -- upon absolute discharge from the sentence, the felon's civil rights are automatically restored, with the exception of gun rights. For multiple convictions of multiple counts or repeat offenses, all others must obtain absolute discharge from the sentence and then wait the prescribed amount of time to apply to the court for restoration of civil rights. In order to obtain absolute discharge, the offender must not only complete prison or probation terms, but must also pay all fines, restitution and other court-ordered fees, if applicable. If an offender wishes to apply for restoration of gun rights, it requires a special hearing and/or special inquiry by the court in order for the Judge to determine whether the offender deserves to have his / her gun rights restored. This inquiry would include a determination of the mental health status of the offender, and the reasons why he/she desired to own or possess a gun. Under many circumstances, this right is not restored. Violent offenders must wait ten (10) years after absolute discharge to apply for gun rights. Some will never qualify at all due to mental health and other issues.
Our advice: If you are convicted of a felony offense of any type, willingly and forever give up your right to own or possess a gun (Yes, that means you can't live in a household where anyone in the house has a weapon and, yes, you can't ride in a vehicle with a weapon in the vehicle). Even if a court in Arizona reinstates your gun rights, you still have to deal with federal prohibited possessor laws, and it just isn't worth the effort.
News: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently ruled that private companies who provide telephone services to prisons and jails can no longer charge more than $.25/minute for interstate phone calls. Also, they will not be able to charge "connection" fees, which sometimes are in the range of $3-4/call. The private telephone companies are filing an appeal to this ruling, which will delay implementation. Middle Ground was one of many organizations that signed on to a Petition which was presented to the FCC on this issue, so we are proud of our small role in helping to bring about this change.
News: Middle Ground has learned recently that the Arizona DOC has implemented a policy, which goes into effect in September 2013, which will prohibit anyone from purchasing a Securepak for a prisoner unless you are on that particular prisoner's approved visitation list. There is also a rumor that the DOC will soon implement a policy which allows money orders or deposits to an inmate account to be made only by someone who is on his/her approved visitation list. We strongly suspect that these actions are legal and would be upheld in the courts if challenged. Why? Because the DOC is very likely attempting to curb the extortion that takes place when an inmate's family is forced to send money to be placed on the account of another inmate, or to purchase commissary (Securepaks) for another inmate. The courts would recognize extortion as a serious security issue and that recognition would override any complaints from members of the public who wish to send money or Securepaks to prisoners to whom they are not related or to whom they chose to do so for compassionate reasons. We could not find any case law to support a challenge to this policy and can only conclude that a legal challenge would allow a court to rule in favor of prison administrators on this topic. Posted August 2013.
Rumors: We wish we could settle this issue once and for all, but this is a rumor that persists in circulating around the prison system on a seemingly constant basis. It is a hoax. The rumor is: The day a prisoner is released from prison, he/she can go to a Social Security Office and obtain an "emergency fund" disbursement within hours of applying. Also, there is a rumor which states that an prisoner can qualify for social security benefit payments just because of having been in prison. Again, these are false. Web sites such as "prison talk" locations where unknown persons post such information as though they are citing to authority are all over the internet. Sometimes, an ex-prisoner him/herself claims to be posting the information. We will repeat this information even though we have posted in before: There is NO government program -- either state or federal -- that pays benefits to persons just because they were in prison. If you get out of prison and apply for food stamps and get them, it will be because you are indigent and can't afford to buy food. If you obtain social security benefits after prison it will either be because prior to prison you worked for at least 40 quarters (10 years) and paid a portion of your wages into the system and you are now at retirement age; or because you are elderly, even if you haven't paid enough quarters into the system, and will qualify for benefits of about $650/month; or because you are of working age, but a doctor has certified that you are unable to work due to a physical or mental disability (these benefits amount to about $650/month). You cannot simply walk out of prison, head to a social security office, and be handed an "emergency" check. It is unfortunate that this rumor continues to be passed among prisoners, and sometimes is perpetuated by staff or family members of prisoners.
News: No, there is no bill that has been introduced at the Arizona legislature that will have the result of reducing sentences from 85% to 65%. There is no bill that will provide for retroactive or prospective (future) sentence reforms or reductions. There is no bill that will increase the amount of earned release credits that are afforded to prisoners. There is no widespread dialogue among legislators for a major sentencing overhaul. For the 2015 legislative session, there is talk by certain groups of attempting to get legislation introduced to reduce sentences in the criminal code. In response to such rumors, the APAAC (Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys Advisory Council) has re-released a report that was originally prepared for them by a former DOC employee who is now a consultant which provides 500 pages of charts, graphs and other analysis which claim to show that the right people are in prison (violent and/or repeat offenders) for the right amount of time. Legislators, especially those who make decisions about which bills will be given hearings and which will not, tend to place a great deal of credence on such reports, especially because they are touted by prosecutors who are viewed as champions of the people. Do not listen to rumors or to inexperienced/uninformed advocates who do not understand the realities of the legislative/political process. The criminal sentencing code in Arizona has NOT changed to reduce sentences or to provide for early releases of prisoners. Posted December 2014.