Weight Lifting in Corrections: Luxury or Necessity?

On the Line an ACA publication
November 1997 Vol. 20 No. 5
Pages 1 and 3
by Susan Clayton

Note: this article was posted on 4 Feb. 1998 and then removed from this site within 24 hours of the 20 Feb. 1998 request of Gabriel Degoot of the ACA (American Correctional Association).

Time table of events leading up to the "removal"

29 Sept. 1997
I returned a call to Susan Clayton at the ACA. She explained she was doing an article on weightlifting privileges. She had been sent to me by another source. I identified the states I was aware of that had current activity on the issue of lifting in prisons.

Nov. 1997
The November issue of "On the Line" featured the article as the cover story. I immediately recognized the federal lifting statement to be in error. I also noted the Arizona injury expenses number seemed very high.

Late Dec 1997
We heard from a Federal Prison Recreation Supervisor who was concerned about the high number quoted for the Arizona expenses. They wondered how over $600,000 could be spent in six months on weight lifting injuries. They also noted, the statement about no more free weights in federal prisons was in error. I made a note to check into the Arizona expenses issue before the NCRA conference.

4 Feb 1998
We posted the ACA On the Line Article, "Weight Lifting in Corrections: Luxury or Necessity?" by Susan Clayton on this web page.

12 Feb 1998
I spoke with Mr. Mike Arra, Arizona Dept. of Corrections Public Affairs Administrator. His name was mentioned in the article with the Arizona statistics. He found a "Fact Sheet #15-96" printed by the Arizona DOC which had been used to supply the numbers. He explained the sheet over the phone and he also faxed me a copy. I was slightly confused about the exact years for the data (uses Fiscal years) and exactly when lifting was halted in the data. I called back and he explained exactly what period each line was for and that the weights were removed during two week period in late 1994. The weights were totally gone by 27 December 1994 (a statement was issued that the removal was complete). During both discussions he verified the expense numbers are for all injured inmates, not just those injured by weightlifting. They did not collect cost data on "weightlifting only" injuries.

13 Feb. 1998
I visited with Susan Clayton (author of the ACA article) and asked her about the two statements: no free weights in federal prisons and the $600,000 injury expense in Arizona. She said that she was told that federal prisons removed all their free weights. I explained that federal prisons did still use free weights and encouraged her to check back with her sources. I also encouraged her to check back with Mr. Arra at Arizona DOC on the $600,000 injury expense. It is actually for all inmate injuries not just those related to weightlifting.

She mentioned the article had received several requests for reprints.

I told her we had posted her article on our website. She was very polite and said she would "check out" our web site.

20 Feb 1998
Gabriel Degoot at ACA called requesting me to take their "copyrighted" article off our website. I explained, I would certainly pull their article, no problem. She did acknowledge we had issued full credit to them, listed the full bibliographical reference including the author. I tried to get her to see the full picture. We are trying to bring all the information on this topic to one site for those wishing to learn more about the topic. If we just list the reference, people will not be able to find the actual text, especially not of a newsletter such as theirs. I told her if it was posted anywhere by the ACA, we would like to establish a link to it. We had been unable to find it, so we posted it. She said it is not available on-line from them.

She was especially aroused by our two comments inside the article (you can see them below) where we point out two errors in the article. She said we could apply for permission to post the article, but even if they did grant permission, they would never grant it with those two statements inserted by us.

I told her federal prisons do lift free weights and the Arizona $ number was for all injuries, not just those related to weightlifting. She stands by their article and says I am wrong. She says they have sent out thousands of copies of that issue and no one has called either error to their attention. If something was wrong someone would have pointed it out before now. Additionally, if by some rare event even one of my statements turns out to be true (and it won't) that does not make them (the ACA) wrong. It makes their sources wrong. I said I don't care about anybody being wrong, I would just like to get the article corrected.

She said, "I don't know why you are making such a big deal our of this." I said my livelihood is strongly tied to lifting in prisons and this article is misleading many who may be making future judgements on the issue. If some state leaders read it and think the federal prisons have already removed free weights they may be more likely to do the same. Also if they read the $600,000 expense number for Arizona, they may want to drop weightlifting due to the injury expense, when in reality the actual cost due to weightlifting injuries is only a fraction of that number. I just want you to print the facts.

I told her I could fax her the Arizona Fact Sheet that will show the numbers are for all injuries not just weightlifting. She told me I am not a source and she will not accept materials from me (that's kind of odd, the writer of the article called me a month before it was published and asked me questions when she was gathering information for the article).

I told her we would bring it up at the NCRA conference in Oklahoma City in less than two weeks and get somebody "within the system" to officially respond.

20 Feb 1998
I called a Federal Prison Rec Supervisor at a facility using free weights and asked him to call Gabriel Degoot and explain they were still lifting free weights.

20 Feb. 1998
I called Mr. Arra at Arizona DOC and left a message about needing his help in convincing the ACA about the $600,000 being for all injuries not just weightlifting injuries. Mr. Arra is a busy man, like most of us, and he has been very helpful. I fear I have about worn out my welcome there and we may need some more help in trying to convey the Arizona fact sheet to the ACA. I am posting copies of the Fact Sheet below. Perhaps the ACA will see it posted here? They will not accept a fax copy from me as I am not a "source."

The two facts and our corrections as posted here earlier

Below are the two sections of the article and our inserted comments exactly as we had them posted. This is what seemed to get the ACA in a furor.

States first began to examine their weigh lifting policies in the early 90's, when media reports suggested that inmates were coming out of prison were stronger and more dangerous than when they went in. "The public said they saw inmates going in bad and coming out bigger and badder." says Mike Arra, public affairs administrator of the Arizona Department of Correction.

Arizona was the first state to completely overhaul its weight-lifting policy. In 1994, the Arizona Department of Correction removed all weight-lifting equipment form its prisons after determining that it had spent $613,845 in the first six months of 1994 alone on orthopedic treatment of inmate injuries related to weight lifting (Strength Tech note - the $613,845 was actually for all inmates in the Arizona system receiving orthopedic treatment, not just for those injured lifting weights).

The Federal Bureau of Prisons also has removed all free weights from its institutions (Strength Tech note - the feds still lift, this statement is in error).

Scan of the article as it appeared in On the Line

We scanned the ACA On The Line November issue heading and the two statements we are trying to get corrected. This is an actual copy of the heading and the two portions of text under discussion. We did relocate the text blocks to a higher position on the page than they actually occurred.

Scan of Arizona Fact Sheet 15-96

We scanned in the actual Arizona Fact sheet 15-96 which shows the injury dollars are for all orthopedic inmate injuries, not just those related to weightlifting. This is large document (about 90k) and may take a few minutes to download. We encourage every one involved to view this document and assist us in convincing the ACA of the error in the document they printed. Once we can finally convince them of that, the next goal is to get them to print the real facts.

We had a little confusion with the Fiscal years dates and time periods. Mr. Arra explained the data for the top 3 columns are for:

Currently Gabriel Degoot of the ACA refuses to accept this document (Arizona Fact Sheet 15-96) from me, because I am not a source. She continue to refuse to contact their original sources to verify the information.


We are still trying to prove our two facts to Gabriel Degoot at the ACA. If someone could get her to look at the Arizona Fact Sheet 15-16 (link to scan of the document is above) it should take care of Fact #1. If someone can get her to call or visit any major federal prison except Leavenworth or one built in the last 3 years and look at the free weights it should take care of fact #2. If she would like to save some time and a phone call, she could just visit with the ACA legislative liaison in her same office. He is aware of the federal prison weightlifting laws.

We have several friends at the ACA and wish them well. We just seem to be caught in the "system." When organizations get very large like the ACA, sometimes customers fall through the cracks. We're falling, please help us!

One minor note - the state of Tennessee does continue to use free weights. The table in the article said they had been removed.

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