The Topic

By Sam Topeka
20 Dec 2018

Note: The following was written by Alex Cloutier, an inmate in Eloy, AZ.


ongress recently passed a Federal Prison Reform bill. One aspect of the law seeks give federal judges more flexibility on sentencing and improving rehabilitation programs. One thing the bill does not address is the privatization of federal prisons. Many states have gone in that direction. Having served time state systems run by government employees and contracted private facilities, I have found the private option to be beneficial. Now, my evidence is purely anecdotal and not based upon any statistics, but I believe an “insiders” account can be of value. I am currently serving at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona. The detention center is run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). There are four facilities. The facility I am assigned to is contracted to the State of Hawaii. However, Nevada has assigned prisoners here as well on a short term contract. I would now like to describe some contrasts between CCA and my experience in Nevada High Desert State Prison. Of course, before being assigned to a state facility, I spent 18 months in the Clark County Jail. Jails are designed as relatively “temporary” holding facilities. They are not designed to provide long term medical, educational, or even dietary needs. The conditions are very, very basic. Food consists mainly of sandwiches with insufficient calories for the daily average of a normal sized adult male. Skin problems become an issue right away and medical help was limited to psych meds, skin creams and blood pressure medications. Dental care was limited to extractions and co-pay issues are not addressed until intake. No vision treatment is given at this time as well. I lived "blind" the entire time there. The healthy inmates would decline care with only the homeless and starving seeing physical improvement. Programs in the system did not really exist and were token at best. As with all institutions run by administrators the concern was for on "paper" rehabilitations and a revolving door to keep inmates coming and going.

The Nevada State Prison provided an adequate environment for stability. The food improved drastically from the county jail and the nutritious element of the system kept an inmate stable up to 180 pounds on average. School programs are controlled by the Clark County School District. High School here is regulated and termed education for "Youthful Offenders". This program is for inmates age18 to 26. I already had my GED and at 27 I tried to seek improvement through other programs.

It took me 8 months to get the proper documents and paperwork to get involved in a program where I could actually get a High School diploma while incarcerated. Once I finished the program and completed the work on my own there was no one to turn the work into. In the beginning, vocational work study was a myth. For new inmates seeking to better themselves, the programs were wanting. While at the State Detention level the medical services improved over the county as well. The intake doctors payed attention to visual needs. Dental was a bit slower, and intake requests are placed on a list and an inmate can wait up to nine months for a dental visit. Structurally the State facilities are far more promising for inmates than county jails. They really concentrate on rehabilitation and corrections. Actually correcting behaviors that led to incarceration.

Since being in Arizona and not in Nevada, the system provided me with good dental and vision health care. Each dental or vision appointment requires a co-pay on my part. I am taking a course in carpentry and am hoping to start classes in welding and construction. I have since completed the High School Course that I started the previous year.

Many people who are victims of the crimes I committed may ask why I should be able to go to school? Learn a trade? Should I not just sit in a cell and rot? Who should care if my teeth rot or if I go blind in jail? Well, as an inmate who is seeking to reformed I see this in a positive light. Would you rather have a skilled job seeking and law abiding ex-convict working and contributing to society or an Ex-Con who has learned nothing, experienced nothing, and is just the same way and worse when he leaves and re-enters society? I think the answer is clear. The reformed and working ex-con is the best. The ex-con who has learned a lesson in life and is trying to make amends to the society and people he has wronged. Since my incarceration, I have become clean and sober. I am no longer a drug addict nor do I have any feelings starting those habits again. You as the citizen are safer with someone who is educated and reformed rather than person who was punished like an animal and released and unleashed again on society. With my new vocation, education and a new found sense of belonging and making amends, society will be safer with me in this condition than in a state of non rehabilitation and training.

About the author: Alex Cloutier is serving time for crimes he has committed at the Eloy Correctional Center in Arizona. You can write to him at: Alex Cloutier #1103879 1252 Arica Rd Eloy, AZ 85131

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His book, Reflection, Redemption, and Reform: Prison Contemplations, currently available on e-Bay as Prison Contemplations: By Alex Cloutier. Inspirational Autobiography. Item ID: 163356930983