California Ships Prisoners Out of State to "Reduce" Its Prison Population
Danielle Rigney's son was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison when he was 19. He spent two years imprisoned in California. Each weekend, family members or friends drove four hours to visit him. "He got to see his sisters growing up; he got to keep up with their lives," she told Truthout. "We constantly talked about the future." In addition to weekly visits, Rigney's son also had a job in the prison and was on the waiting list for college classes and a technical training course.
In July, however, Rigney arrived at the prison only to be told that her son had been transferred to La Palma Correctional Facility, one of two Arizona private prisons owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Now each visit requires round-trip plane tickets and costs Rigney's family nearly $1,000. Neither his father nor his elderly grandfather, who were able to visit him regularly in California, can make the 15-hour trip. His friends, who also visited him regularly, also cannot afford to visit him.
Rigney is not the only Californian with an incarcerated loved one out of state, but she is one of the handful of family members able to afford to visit. "I've visited three times so far," she said. "There have been, at most, ten other visitors when I've been there." In comparison, she noted that the visiting rooms at the California prisons were full.
As of November 20, 2013, California housed 8,302 of its state prisoners in private prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma. It sends more prisoners out of state than Hawaii, Idaho and Vermont combined.
Clements, who was director of the Colorado Department of Corrections until he was shot to death in March, championed ways to decrease recidivism and give inmates every opportunity for successful re-entry to society.
He also helped bring the group's 15th annual conference to Colorado Springs.
"He would've been so proud to see everyone here. Tom would've been our host," said ICPA President Peter van der Sande said. "We lost an extremely inspirational person in corrections."
DOC Director Rick Raemisch introduced Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was in El Paso County Monday to attend the opening day of the summit and tour flood-damaged areas and recovery efforts. Hickenlooper praised Clements' legacy of reducing the number of inmates in solitary confinement by almost 50 percent in two years.
"Tom believed that everything that happened in the prison cell was supposed to prepare the inmate to return to society successfully," Hickenlooper said. "He wanted Colorado to be considered a terrible place to commit a crime, but a great place for a second chance."
More than 500 delegates representing 72 countries filled the conference halls of the Antlers Hilton in downtown for the weeklong summit. Chief among a the workshop subjects and discussion sessions, the issue of mental health in corrections was at the top of nearly every attendants' list of interests. A delegate from Canada led a workshop on alternative corrections approaches and programs for mentally disordered inmates, while a representative from Nigeria spoke about correctional services in Africa.
"Every nation and jurisdiction delivers justice differently, but the ICPA gives all of us the opportunity to network, build partnerships and learn from each other," said Canada Correctional Service Commissioner Don Head. "Mental health is at the top of our priorities, as the prisons system has become the default depository for mentally ill offenders on a global scale."
Head recounted speaking with Clements just a month before former prisoner Evan Ebel gunned him down at his Monument home. Headsaid the corrections director was excited about Colorado Springs hosting the international summit and going fly fishing with his Canadian counterpart.
More than 100 delegates will lead sessions through Friday.touching on astoundingly diverse subjects, such as "In the Mind of a Gang Leader," and "The Use of Segregation."
A tribute to Clements will take place Wednesday, with Raemisch, the governor's chief of staff Roxanne White and van der Sande making special presentations.