Thanks to blogger Cell-out Arizona for pointing out that not only do private prisons cost more than public ones, officials apparently knew, didn’t care, and changed the law to allow it : Documents Show Arizona Officials Knew Private Prisons Weren’t Saving Money
Not that I’m terribly surprised. But now we have the smoking gun, what do we do with it?
Election season may be our best chance to shove the stink under the noses of those running for office and get them to answer questions, or at raise the issue at debates and public appearances of candidates.
Here’s some sample tough questions to ask candidates for the AzLeg. If you call or email a campaign office, they should give you some kind of response, and it lets them know that this issue is important to voters. Tell me if you try this and get any answers!
While we’re at it, how about some positive leadership? Dr Dave Wells of the Grand Canyon Institute has a proposal for saving anywhere from $30-70 million while impoving outcomes by implementing an Earned Release program involving drug rehab and intensive probation. Most states have something similar, Arizona is the only state that makes all nonviolent prisoners serve 85% of their time behind bars at $21K/year. We also may be the only state with a governor whose campaign chairman and policy advisor is (not was) a lobbyist for a private prison corporation.
Mental health services, drug rehabilitation, intensive probation are all effective tools to reduce recidivism (read, repeat crime) and they are cheaper than locking people up. More effective, less expensive – sounds like an ad campaign. But why should we care? Prisons are big business in Arizona, and business makes jobs! Prison guards have steady pay and good health benefits, who could say no to that? Teachers smeachers, prisons are the real growth industry in this town.