As Arizona Legislators hurtle themselves – and by proxy all of us Arizonans – toward the terrifying carceral future just as Governor Brewer imagined, by approving a $50 million contract to build 500 new maximum-security prison beds at the Lewis prison complex, AFSC took some time to break down the ethnicity distribution statistics that the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) posts every month on their website. It turns out that not only are prisons bastions of inequality and racial bias, but the most severe form of incarceration – supermax prisons, solitary confinement, and every other iteration of isolation – is an even greater distillation of incarcerated people of color. That’s right folks, not only are people of color more likely to end up in prison, but once in an Arizona prison the chances of ending up in long-term isolation are also higher!
AFSC recently completed their analysis here (Racial and Ethnic Disparity in ADC Maximum Security Prisons), complete with colorful charts and shocking statistics. Here is one juicy tidbit from the report:
”The focus on people held in the maximum-security units is important, and the comparison is particularly instructive for the following reason: the decision to place people in these units is an administrative one, and therefore one that is discretionary. What does it mean that nearly three-quarters of the men subjected to long-term isolation in Arizona prisons are people of color?“
But some of the charts speak for themselves. Here is the breakdown for male supermax prisoners, compared with Arizona census data, and ADC general population statistics:
Those numbers for the Caucasian population fall so fast you could ride a rollercoaster down them. It’s even worse when you look at specific Units like Browning Unit, but you’ll have to check out AFSC’s analysis for that one. Here is the same, but for female prisoners:
Be sure to notice the obscene difference between Arizona’s African American population and the number held in the women’s maximum-security unit, Lumley SMA.
What these two charts and the rest of AFSC’s analysis demonstrates is a pretty damning indictment of ADC classification policies resulting in gross over-representation by incarcerated people of color in their maximum-security prisons. And this is hot on the heels of AFSC’s blistering critique of the classification inflation as reported earlier this week. The arsenal of obvious reasons why Arizona’s maximum security prisons are a big fat fail for the state is getting bigger by the day it seems.