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
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.