Arizona’s Private Prisons: A Bad Bargain
Since 1987, Arizona’s Department of Corrections has been legislatively mandated to produce cost and quality reviews for its private prisons, in part to judge how they compare with state-run facilities. The data on costs were collected, but in recent years, it took a lawsuit by the AFSC for the Department of Corrections to release quality comparison data. Finally, in December it complied. The results were damning.
“The main purpose of a prison is to reduce crime,” said the AFSC’s report. “The only measurement available of how well a prison performs this function is its recidivism rates.” Yet, “none of the corporations operating in Arizona measure recidivism.” The report noted that at the private facilities there were higher staff turnover and lower staff qualifications, as well as more cases of violence than in state prisons.
One might think that, faced with evidence that the state isn’t getting enough bang for its buck, Arizona legislators would rethink their commitment to putting ever more prisoners into private facilities. Instead, in a move Orwellian even by the gutter standards of Arizona politics, they’ve simply tried to bar the state from collecting the evidence. On February 27 the legislature proposed a budget bill eliminating the requirement for a cost and quality review of private prison contracts. According to the AFSC, “The move would ensure that the public would have no way of knowing whether the state’s private prisons are saving money, rehabilitating prisoners, or ensuring public safety.”
Why have Arizona’s politicians taken this route? Part of the explanation may be that many of them have received large campaign contributions from private prison companies like GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America. Although Democrats and Republicans have benefited, most of these influential dollars have gone to Republicans. These corporations have literally helped write legislation that is good for business (like SB 1070, the state’s notorious immigration bill, passed in 2010).
Since 1997 Arizona’s prison spending has increased from $409 million per year to more than $1 billion today. Yet the state is still playing catch-up: it never has enough money to pay for its incarceration obligations. That’s because Arizona’s prison population continues to soar; it’s currently at nearly 40,000—and rising fast. In an attempt to manage this growing population, the Department of Corrections has moved since 1986 to privatize services. Its current five-year plan notes that “with over 600 current contracts the Department uses private contractors for many functions, including private prisons that house inmates in-state; correctional health services” and much more.
Private prisons profit only when they can cherry-pick the inmates—setting the conditions for those they’ll accept and rejecting violent or seriously ill inmates—and can make the state cover the hidden costs of running a prison, such as training drug-sniffing dogs and processing release paperwork.
To Read Complete Source: http://www.thenation.com/article/167216/arizonas-private-prisons-bad-bargain
Arizona Governor Brewer received campaign funds from CCA. CCA and GEO contribute to campaign funds. Our own Governor and Attorney General have received funds according to reports. This whole concept is bizarre. But then again it is taking money from us so someone else profits from it…not us, not the community and definitely not the inmates. They cherry-pick the inmates? Montana, does this sound familiar? Inmates in Montana that have either been set up or those that have committed legitimate crimes receive lengthy sentences and never see parole? The cherry pickers are soaking up the gravy train. Montana, it is time to stop that train!