Having been a guest of the Arizona State and Maricopa County, I have some input here.
Consider the following:
- I was locked up on non-aggressive felony charges, so I was classified to do my time in the Graham unit @ Safford which is classed as a level 2 yard.
- There are level 1 yards which are even less intimidating than the one I was locked up at
- I was classified at Alhambra which is considered a 1-5 (Due to the fact all convicts get sorted through that facility, non- & aggressive inmates are all housed together, with the exception of chomo's and rapists who get private handling for obvious reasons)
- I am a thin, tall and relatively quiet individual with a good intellect and gentle demeanor
The Graham yard was a breeze. It's laid out like a military base, with barracks for inmate bunks, a gym, a music room, a library, two soccer fields and a baseball diamond. The bathrooms/showers are private and not open to the world, you had a modicum of privacy while you were washing your ass, and no, inmates don't follow you in expecting you to drop the soap.
When I first arrived, just like county, you're introduced to your race "Head" and "Second Head" which are the political heads who you handle grievances if ever there's a problem between you and another inmate. Individual races' are held accountable for their own group if the beef is internal or inter-racial. For instance, if a wood (caucasian) stole from another wood, the heads would deal out the punishment. If a wood stole from a paisa (Mexican national), the two race heads would convene and each race would deal out the punishment to their own based on what was agreed upon. This 'political' system exists in all jails, even if the race separation is different among regions of the US, but exists to handle the cases I mentioned above. During my intake and introduction to my race, it was obvious this system helps defend a new inmate from another inmate from taking advantage of them at first glance. However over time, the shitty individual who wants to steal and lie to their own heads, cause trouble and in general be a dick, will be blackballed and at that point you're on your own.
Alhambra was a different story while I was being classified. I stayed there for 12 days, and it was a 23h/1h lock down with 11 other inmates in the cell. The racial system exists, but as there are no inmates that stay permanently at that facility (unless you're a rehabilitated 20+ year sentence inmate, then you call Alhambra home), there are no heads or groups. Everyone is rogue and keeps to themselves unless you're being an asshole.
So for those out there that think all prisons are equal, or that by going to prison, you by default are the target of rape just because you showed up, could not be more incorrect. The things I talked about above hold true for most non-violent classified yards, levels 1-2, and even into 3 yards where some first time violent inmates end up. I know people that have done time in a higher security system, and all the same politics and protections from your race still exist. I guess the point that I'm trying to make is that if you're truly a shitty person, you don't learn from your mistakes, and you want to continue trying to play criminal in a criminal population, you get what you deserve.
Now back to the article. I do think there are too many people being locked up for things that people should no longer be locked up for. For example, weed and paraphernalia charges shouldn't put a person in the system. Dangerous drugs, yes, absolutely for repeat offenders. Hacktivists, and non-violent offenders, it's a stickier subject. There has to be recourse, and people have to be deterred from doing it, but if restitution is ruled against me for a million dollars, and I don't receive any prison time what good does that do? I'm never going to be able to pay off a restitution order like that in any reasonable amount of time, so I'll say f*ck it and just keep on doing what I did to get there in the first place. What... are they going to add some more restitution I need to pay? Something needs to deter... this does not.
...at the end of the day, saying we need to butcher the system because the innocent little keyboard criminal is getting raped is pure bullshit. If they're a shitty person and they end up inside, they'll be dealt with as such. If they do their time in peace and keep their nose clean, they'll be just fine and then some.
I agree we need to amend the system, but lets do it because the system is overcrowded with non-violent criminals and not because the internet pitchfork gang who have never set foot inside a prison, thinks one way or the other about how that system works when you're the offender.