Abolish Private Prisons
Founded in 2015
Abolish Private Prisons is a 501c(3) Arizona Non-Profit Corporation that was incorporated on June 10, 2015. The organization was founded by a group of lawyers, professors, and community advocates with a simple purpose – to end for profit private prisons in the United States.
We believe that the only way to truly end for-profit prisons in the United States is to challenge the constitutionality of private for-profit prisons in the courts. Other forms of advocacy are very important but they are not enough.
We need the United States Supreme Court to declare it the law of the land that private prisons are unconstitutional and must be abolished. Our legal team and Executive Director collectively have 50 years of legal expertise and will provide the leadership necessary for this type of legal case.
Our Legal Team
Robert Craig graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2012. He clerked for Judge Andy Hurwitz on the Ninth Circuit for one year followed by a three-year clerkship with Judge James Soto of the District Court of Arizona. He volunteered with Abolish Private Prisons over the fall of 2017 and joined the team full-time in 2018.
Immediately after graduating from the University of Arizona, Robert taught fifth-grade in Phoenix for two years as part of Teach For America. That experience sparked a passion for working with underserved communities that continued through law school, during which he worked for the School District of Philadelphia's General Counsel Office, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Civil Practice Clinic.
Thomas A. Zlaket
Litigation Steering Committee
Thomas A. Zlaket completed his undergraduate work at the University of Notre Dame. He graduated from the University of Arizona College of Law and also holds a Master of Laws degree from the University of Virginia. Thomas is admitted to practice law in Arizona and California.
A former President of the State Bar of Arizona, Thomas was sworn in as a Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court in 1992. He served as the court’s Chief Justice from 1997 through 2002. Among the awards conferred upon him during his time on the bench were the American Judges Association’s 2000 Chief Justice Richard W. Holmes Award of Merit, the State Bar of Arizona’s 2001 James A. Walsh Outstanding Jurist Award, and the National Center for State Court’s 2001 Paul C. Reardon Award.
He is a Founding Fellow of the Arizona Bar Foundation, and a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He was on the faculty of the Arizona College of Trial Advocacy for many years. He has also taught at the Hastings College of Trial Advocacy and the National Institute of Trial Advocacy. He presently serves as an adjunct associate professor at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.
Thomas Zlaket has been a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers for more than 32 years.
John Dacey worked for 12 years at legal aid and public interest firms where he handled class actions and other cases for the poor and people with disabilities in matters concerning poverty and disability programs, particularly Medicaid, and jail conditions. John was in private practice in Phoenix for almost 30 years where he represented provider organizations, particularly nonprofits, in Arizona's Medicaid program. His work includes trials in state, federal, and tribal courts. John served as a state court judge pro tem and a federal court-appointed mediator to mediate inmate lawsuits over medical care and religious freedoms. For the last five years John has been building a litigation challenge to the constitutionality of private for-profit prisons.
John co-founded Abolish Private Prisons with Robert Beckett in 2015. Abolish Private Prisons is a 501(c)(3) Arizona nonprofit corporation.
To abolish private prisons in the United States of America.
The United States has a rational, fair, and neutral system of criminal justice untarnished by bias and profit motives.
The government is responsible for carrying out justice, not private corporations. Government only has power that “We The People” gave it and the people did not give government the power to privatize justice. Our constitution forbids treating people like property. Prison privatization turns inmates into commodities. The constitution requires a fair and unbiased system of justice. Profit motives create bias and unfairness in favor of incarceration.
There should be no profit motive to put people in and keep them in prison. Private prison corporations are big business and have a powerful lobby. This industry generates billions of dollars of revenue each year and spends millions in political contributions and lobbying to convince politicians to prioritize profits, not fairness.
To the private prison industry, inmates are inventory.
The US Constitution recognizes that government has a profound responsibility when ever it takes away a person’s liberty. This responsibility belongs to government alone, and that responsibility and the people effected by that responsibility are not for sale.
Our Board Members
andré douglas pond cummings, President
andré douglas pond cummings joined the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law faculty in 2018, teaching Business Organizations, Contracts I and II, and related courses. Prior to arriving at Bowen, Professor cummings was a Visiting Professor of Law at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois, where he taught Contracts I and II, Hip Hop & the American Constitution and Sports Law. He has served as Interim Dean, Vice Dean and founding Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Indiana Tech Law School. Additionally, cummings was Professor of Law at the West Virginia University College of Law. Before embarking on his academic career, cummings worked as a judicial law clerk for Chief Judge Joseph W. Hatchett of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and for Justice Christine M. Durham of the Utah Supreme Court. In addition, he worked at the Chicago, IL based law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, focusing his practice on complex business transactions including mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and securities offerings of publicly traded corporations. Simultaneously, cummings represented clients in the sports and entertainment industries, including athletes in the National Football League, record labels, motion picture production companies, and a variety of authors, including Hollywood screenwriters.
cummings writes extensively on issues regarding investor protection, racial and social justice, and sports and entertainment law, publishing in the Washington University Law Review, Indiana Law Journal, Utah Law Review, Howard Law Journal, Drexel Law Review, Marquette Sports Law Review, Iowa Journal of Gender, Race and Justice, Thurgood Marshall Law Review and Harvard Journal on Racial and Ethnic Justice, amongst many others. cummings has published three books including “Corporate Justice” (with Todd Clark) in 2016, “Hip Hop and the Law” (with Pamela Bridgewater and Donald Tibbs) in 2015, and “Reversing Field: Examining Commercialization, Labor, Gender, and Race in 21st Century Sports Law” (with Anne Marie Lofaso) in 2010. Noted public intellectual Cornel West has stated that cummings’ scholarly “reputation goes far beyond . . . the nation, and is heard in every corner of the globe, wrestling with legacies of legal thinking on one hand and popular culture on the other.”
cummings has been recognized as Professor of the Year on numerous occasions including the University-wide Distinguished Professor Award by the West Virginia University Foundation. cummings has taught as a Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Iowa College of Law, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, Syracuse University College of Law, Temple University Beasley School of Law (Tokyo Campus) and has taught as a Visiting Lecturer at the North Carolina Central University School of Law, Fundação Getulio Vargas, Direito Rio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Universidade de Vila Velha in Vila Velha, Brazil, and Universidad de Guanajuato in Guanajuato, Mexico. cummings holds a J.D. from Howard University School of Law where he graduated cum laude.
Shawnee currently works at the Arizona Justice Project, a non-profit dedicated to investigating and litigating claims of actual innocence or manifest injustice in Arizona. In her role as Director of Operations, Shawnee oversees case intake, the organization’s financials, strategic project implementation, federal grants, and a competitive student intern program.
Shawnee has also coordinated advocacy and policy efforts to correct sentences for juveniles who were given mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole. Through her work at the Arizona Justice Project, Shawnee has been able to combine her passion for helping the most vulnerable members of our society with her experience in humanitarian and development work.
Prior to joining the Arizona Justice Project, Shawnee spent many years working in the humanitarian relief and development field doing program management, community development, and grant writing, specifically in post disaster settings.
Shawnee is an ASU Alumni and enjoys tailgating before ASU football games. She loves reading, the beach, and doing puzzles.
Angela Addae is an Assistant Professor at the University of Oregon School of Law, where she is teaching in the areas of Civil Rights Law, Social Enterprise Law, and Race & the Law. Her current research examines how municipal redevelopment policies affect neighborhood institutions in urban settings.
Prior to joining the University of Oregon, Prof. Addae practiced as a litigation attorney, advocating for Oregon’s small businesses and large corporations in federal court. She is admitted to practice in Oregon state courts, the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In addition to practicing law, Prof. Addae has worked with the American Bar Foundation, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security, and the U.S. State Department.
Prof. Addae engages in advocacy work through her service on the executive board of the Oregon Chapter of the National Bar Association and the Oregon Commission on Black Affairs.
Prof. Addae earned her J.D. from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law and her doctorate from the University of Arizona School of Sociology. She is also a proud alumna of Fisk University, where she received her B.A. in Sociology.
Sentari M. Minor is a social impact advocate and passionate relationship builder. As Arizona Director of Gen Next, Mr. Minor oversees the development and engagement of accomplished and purposeful local leaders to ultimately drive generational change. Prior to Gen Next, he worked to steward effective philanthropists and strengthen social enterprises at the venture philanthropy firm, Social Venture Partners Arizona.
A Phoenix native, Mr. Minor continued his education in the Midwest and is an alumnus of DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana where he studied English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. He is also a member of Class IV of the American Express Leadership Academy through the Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Nonprofit Innovation.
With an extensive background in high-touch stakeholder engagement, fundraising, public relations, and Strategic Planning, Mr. Minor serves on the board of directors for a diverse set of nonprofits. Passionate about strengthening the social sector, Mr. Minor speaks nationally on governance, leadership, and the concepts of venture philanthropy, nonprofit capacity building, and social entrepreneurship.
When he’s not busy changing the world, he enjoys fitness, reading, and spending time with his loved ones.
The reason I decided to join the AP's Board of Directors is to make an impact on the injustice and inequity of the prison system. As a Black male in America, I believe there needs to be equality in our justice system to help people grow communities and not be put behind bars. I personally have experienced injustice, have family members who been in and out of the jail/prison system, and a brother who is a respected police officer that truly protects and serves. The justice system is a significant societal impact on minority communities that causes harm economically, impact on youth development, and hinders the education in communities. I want to make an impact that helps the black and minority communities uplift families, education, and their economy.
Enough is enough, private prison systems are one of many embarrassing and shameful business practices in America and we no longer can turn our back to ignore them. They must be STOPPED! I'm glad to be a part of an organization's mission to help Abolish Private Prisons.
Ira P. Robbins is the Barnard T. Welsh Scholar and Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Criminal Justice Practice & Policy Institute at American University’s Washington College of Law. He teaches courses on Criminal Law, Post-Conviction Remedies, and Prisoners’ Rights. Professor Robbins has served as Acting Director of the Federal Judicial Center’s Division of Education and Training, and as the Reporter for the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Privatization of Corrections. He has also served as a special consultant to the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules of the Judicial Conference of the United States.
An ardent opponent of private incarceration since its inception in the early 1980s, Professor Robbins has testified on the subject before the U.S. Congress, the President’s Commission on Privatization, and many state legislatures. He has also served as an expert witness on prison privatization. His publications include a book that is considered a classic in the field – The Legal Dimensions of Private Incarceration (American Bar Association, 1988) – as well as many articles, including Privatization of Corrections: Defining the Issues (Vanderbilt Law Review); The Impact of the Delegation Doctrine on Prison Privatization (UCLA Law Review); Privatization of Prisons: An Analysis of the State Action Requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Connecticut Law Review); and Privatization of Corrections: A Violation of U.S. Domestic Law, International Human Rights, and Good Sense (Human Rights Brief). Robbins is also the author/editor of Prisoners and the Law (Thomson Reuters, six volumes, 2016).
In Memoriam to William W. Ryan, Founding Board President
Bill Ryan was a legend in Arizona and beyond, and a friend to all who knew him. A true Southern gentleman, he loved river trips, the night sky, and a good political protest.
Bill was born in Marks, Mississippi on March 31, 1943 and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. He was active in the Civil Rights Movement, marching alongside leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he was on the organizing committee for the famous "I am a Man" strike in Memphis in 1968.
Bill was a Memphis State grad and committed his career to civil rights work at the United States EEOC in Phoenix, and from 1992 to 1995, Bill served as a volunteer member of the St. Francis Xavier School Advisory Board. The school is part of the St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Parish Phoenix, an Arizona nonprofit Corporation.
Bill was a master of trivia who was never stumped by a crossword clue, and he could not resist a good story. He was exceedingly generous, loyal, and steadfast.
Mr. Beckett is a co-founder of Abolish Private Prisons with John Dacey.
He has been with Beckett & Anderson Law Partnership since 1978, where he practices law in Arizona. Mr. Beckett concentrates on estate planning, probate, guardianships and conservatorships and trusts, access to health and social services, particularly for families with handicapped members. He has been a Board Member of AFH (Arizona Corporation for the Handicapped); Arizonan Senior Citizens Law Project; Bethany Ranch Home, Inc.; Arc-San Diego; Association for Retarded Citizens – U.S.; Association for Retarded Citizens of Arizona, Inc.; Phoenix Association for Retarded Citizens.
Mr. Beckett is also a member of the Arizona State Bar Committee on Legal Services for the Elderly; Chairperson 1981. Member of Arizona Governor’s Council for Children, Youth and Families; Chairperson, 1979-1981. He also has been a Vista Volunteer, Blackhawk County Legal Aid Society, Iowa.
Leanna Taylor is responsible for the vision, strategy, marketing, and fundraising efforts for The Arizona Pet Project, a nonprofit that works at the intersection of people, pets, and poverty.
Prior to entering her work in nonprofit, Leanna held a long career in sports operations with the AAA Vancouver Canadians and the Oakland A's.
She says of her appointment to the board of directors of Abolish Private Prisons, "When I was introduced to the work of Abolish Private Prisons several years ago, I knew this was an organization with which I needed to be involved. After years of researching the inequity in our criminal justice system, it became clear that imprisonment and detainment for profit are not only unconstitutional but one of the greatest offenders of racist policy. There is certain knowledge in this world that once you learn, you can never look away. This is an example of such knowledge, and it requires action now.
I'm honored to work with such an esteemed group in this fight against modern-day slavery, and look forward to the day private prisons are a shameful part of this country's history."
Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Leanna grew up with a love of the outdoors and spends her free time hiking, kayaking, camping, and spending time with her son and menagerie of pets.
Paul Bender teaches courses on U.S. and Arizona constitutional law at the Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. He has written extensively about constitutional law, intellectual property and Indian law, and is coauthor of the two-volume casebook/treatise, Political and Civil Rights in the United States. Bender has argued more than 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and actively participates in constitutional litigation in federal and state courts. Professor Bender served as Dean of the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law from 1984-1989, during which time he was instrumental in starting its Indian Legal Program.
Prior to joining the College faculty, he was law clerk to 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Learned Hand and to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, and spent 24 years as a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Bender served as Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States from 1993-1997, with responsibility for Supreme Court and federal appellate litigation in the areas of civil rights, race and sex discrimination, freedom of speech and religion, and tort claims against the federal government. Professor Bender has served as a member of the Hopi Tribe’s Court of Appeals, and is currently Chief Justice of the Fort McDowell Nation Supreme Court, and the San Carlos Apache Court of Appeals.
International Civil Rights Attorney
Gilad Barnea is Israel’s most active and influential attorney in social welfare. After 15 years in the profession, he’s known as a serial winner, who prevails even in cases that seem lost.
Barnea has advised a number of nonprofits: Yedid, the Association for Community Empowerment; Community Advocacy; and the Histadrut labor federation’s Hevrat Ovdim. He was involved in the formulation of the law to protect the rights of residents of public housing, as well as the Public Housing Law, which enabled residents to purchase their public housing apartments at low prices. He has also worked on free speech issues and the Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem.
Barnea succeeded in persuading the High Court of Justice to prevent the privatization of prisons and emerged with a historic judgment supporting his principles. He also represented students who petitioned the High Court to equalize the state support provided to university students with that given to yeshiva students – and won the case.
At the moment, he is representing a coalition of organizations who have petitioned the court against the privatization of state land that was initiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At the same time, he is representing hundreds of needy persons in their daily struggle for survival against government bureaucracy.