Rumors sometimes run rampant within the inmate population for many reasons too numerous to review here. You can rely upon what you read below:
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 in 2013-14. 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. Posted June 2014.
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.
Middle Ground recently dealt with a few cases of ex-offenders who expressed desire or intent to possess guns. One felon wanted to own a gun because of his living situation in a remote location and a desire to protect himself and his pets from wild animals. However, this is an ex-offender convicted of first degree murder who also has mental health problems. Even if he waited ten years to apply, no responsible judge would ever grant this person the right to own a possess a gun. He insisted that he wanted to do so and it required us to warn him of the legal difficulties he would be creating for himself if he ignores our good advice. His reaction? To accuse us of "harassment!" (This falls under the category of "no good deed goes unpunished. . .") Indeed, it is not too difficult to find people currently in prison who are serving time for "Misconduct Involving Weapons," which is the official charge that a felon violates when he/she possesses a weapon. A felon who possesses a weapon is commonly referred to by police as a "prohibited possessor." Our advise: 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. We don't know when this ruling will go into effect and we are aware that 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: Many media outlets have given much coverage of the recent comments and policy decisions made by United States Attorney General Eric Holder. He recently stated that he is directing his attorneys to develop local policies which will govern who will be charged with FEDERAL drug crimes and who will not. The aim is to attempt to have federal charges filed against those who sell, manufacture or transport drugs, and not against those who possess them, especially for personal use. He also hopes to use compassionate releases more frequently for elderly and medically impaired federal prisoners. The remainder of his comments are directed at the Obama administration's views that too many low-level drug offenders are spending too much time in (federal) prisons. Remember, the U.S. Governorment (federal) has no authority to regulate STATE criminal sentencing codes or prison policies. So, it is necessary to say that while we don't disagree with anything that Mr. Holder said in his speech, we recognize that all he said were words, and they really don't affect anything until or unless they become law. It will take the U.S. Congress to pass laws governing any changes to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Some U.S. Congressmen and Senators are in favor of giving federal judges more ability to deviate from the federal sentencing guidelines to fashion a sentence that is more focused on the individual, but -- historically -- we have seen what happens to things like fervent calls for gun control, immigration reform, and so on. We simply don't believe that the U.S. Congress has the guts and will to make significant changes in the status quo. So, despite all the media attention which was given to Eric Holder's remarks, we suspect not much will change, and nothing is proposed to change for currently sentenced federal prisoners. Also, please understand that none of what he said applies to the individual STATE criminal codes, including Arizona's.
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 will perform due diligence to determine if there is case law which would support a challenge to this policy, but our guess is that a court would 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 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 over haul. 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.
News: We recently discovered that the Dept. of Corrections was circulating a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney %2