ARIZONA DOESN’T NEED, CAN’T AFFORD MORE PRIVATE PRISONSby cell-out-arizona on Jul. 12, 2011, under AFSC, Arizona, Arizona Department of Corrections, Arizona State Legislature, Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, Management and Training Corporation, private prison, Privatization
The Arizona Department of Corrections has given a green light to four private, for-profit correctional management corporations for the construction and management of an additional 5,000 state prison beds.
The American Friends Service Committee condemns this action as unnecessary and deeply irresponsible given the state’s economic crisis and the dismal safety records of all four of the corporations involved.
Arizona’s Auditor General estimates this expansion will cost us over $640 million by 2017. Yet our prison population only grew by only 65 inmates in 2010.
This year, our corrections budget is over $1 billion, consuming 11% of the state general fund. The Department of Corrections was the only state agency whose budget saw an increase this year.
The New York Times reported recently that data from Arizona and elsewhere show that private prisons do not save money, even though they often selectively house only the cheapest prisoners.
Even after the horrific escapes from a private prison in Kingman last summer, the state Department of Corrections has yet to complete a full comparison of the safety, effectiveness, and security of all its private prisons, despite the fact that such a review is required by Arizona Revised Statute 41-1609.01.
But even a cursory review reveals that each of the competing corporations have histories of mismanagement, prisoner abuse and neglect, escapes, riots, staff misconduct, and other scandals. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) found a significantly higher rate of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in private prisons (66% more) than in public prisons. Inmate-on-staff assaults were 49% higher in the for-profits. Consider the following:
- GEO Group has had at least 27 escapes in the last 7 years
- In addition to the infamous Kingman escapes, Management and Training Corporation in two separate instances has been ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor to repay a total of more than $650,000 in back wages to officers from whom it withheld overtime pay in Texas and four other states
- CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Center here in Arizona has been plagued by violence, including an incident in which a prisoner strangled his cellmate while the prison was in lockdown in June 2010. That same year, a prison employee suffered a broken nose and cheekbones as well as eye socket damage during a 30-inmate riot over an Xbox. Saguaro was also the site of the stabbing death by two inmates who now face the death penalty.
- La Salle has had eight escapes in the past six years
These and other problems were revealed by Robert Ortega in a recent series of articles in the Arizona Republic. Ortega submitted public records requests to the Department of Corrections for the results of security reviews of Arizona’s public and private prisons after the Kingman escapes. The results are deeply disturbing–major security flaws were found in all the state’s prisons.
In these difficult economic times, when the Governor and Legislature are making devastating cuts to health care, education, and social services, it is absolutely outrageous that we would waste scarce tax dollars on private prisons that generate no savings and are not keeping the public safe.