Three months ago, the Arizona Senior Academy hosted a talk which described why a coalition of 314 religious organizations, including every major religion in the world, has focused public attention on Arizona and other states for being in non-compliance with national and international laws governing prisoner treatment.

The featured speaker at that talk, Fred Neidhardt, will update his lecture next Thursday afternoon (Dec. 20) with additional information on the privatization of prisons.

In April of this year Amnesty International issued a scathing indictment of the Arizona prison system, stating that some inmates are being housed under conditions constituting “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of international law.”

Placing minors 14 to 17 years of age, as well as adults who have yet to be convicted, in conditions of solitary confinement in the Special Management Units came under particular scrutiny.

A month earlier, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the Prison Law Office, a prisoner rights group based out of Berkeley, California, filed a class action suit against the Arizona Department of Corrections.  The lawsuit alleges that due to neglect by prison officials, inmates “are in grave danger of suffering serious and preventable injury, amputation, disfigurement and even death.”

In Tucson, the American Friends Service Committee has suspended work on other major projects in order to commit itself to an all-out effort to ban solitary confinement and other practices it considers inhumane in Arizona prisons and jails.

Next Thursday’s talk will again review the history of the American penal system and add more information on the current nature of Arizona’s prisons, focusing on the effects of privatization.

Neidhardt has been a member of the NRCAT for over six years, for the last three years representing the Pima Monthly Meeting, Society of Friends (Quakers) here in Tucson. He is currently working alongside the American Friends Service Committee-Arizona to highlight the traumatizing conditions of isolation in the Arizona Department of Corrections.

He has received many honors during 50 years of research and teaching in molecular biology at Harvard University, Purdue University, and the University of Michigan. He is now a resident at Academy Village and a member of the Arizona Senior Academy.

The lecture will be in the Great Room of the Arizona Senior Academy at Academy Village, an active-adult community at 13715 E. Langtry Lane, off Old Spanish Trail six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East. The Academy’s concert and lecture programs are free and open to the public.

Submitted by Betty Feinberg and Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteers

Examination of Arizona Prisons: Dec. 2012