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Editor's Note 

Dear Private Prison Industry

click to enlarge bigstock-prisoner-behind-jail-bars-73500814.jpg

In conversation between friends, it isn't unusual for politics to come up, and when it relates to our life in Crazyland, it isn't unusual for me to bring up Arizona's involvement in the private prison industry. It's a longtime relationship, and those paying attention probably understand why a good read on the industry would want to make anyone take a long hot shower to make the grime and filth disappear. If only it were that easy in Arizona.

Luckily for us, there's an organization with a Tucson office that's been rattling cages and making a difference when it comes to the politics of Arizona and the private prison industry—the American Friends Service Committee. For many years the AFSC's Tucson office has tirelessly researched this relationship, and other crazyland doings with the Arizona Department of Corrections, like the effects long term isolation in supermax prison facilities have on prisoners and other deplorable conditions, all paid for by the taxpayer.

This week, the AFSC released a statement giving the ADC a bit of a pat on the back, happy the agency extended a request for proposals due date by 60 days—due Sept. 22 in order to take a closer look at the recent incidents in the Kingman facility. The RFP is for medium-security inmate beds, and the due date, according to the ADC "allows for the completion of the assessment on the recent incidents at the Kingman private prison." However, AFSC doesn't think the 60 day extension is enough time to determine if private prisons are operating safe and cost-effective prisons. More has to be done, they say, to make sure all five private prisons operating in Arizona are safe and that there's some measure of accountability. Accountability is something the AFSC has steadfastly brought up many a time. Part of the problem with private prisons everywhere, not just Arizona, is that there's not transparency, no requirement that they let us know everything going on behind its walls as we can do through information requests to federal and state facilities.

AFSC is calling on Gov. Ducey to cancel to the RFP and I'm suggesting you join them in this call. They also want more. From their statement:

·   Conduct a full-scale statewide review of all private prison contracts, safety measures, staffing and other performance measures.

·   Ensure that any investigations and audits are conducted by an independent third party. The public and many state leaders have little to no confidence in ADC's ability to investigate itself.

·   Take action to reinstate an independent oversight body over the Department of Corrections and its contractors

·    Enact legislation to require cost and quality comparisons, oversight and accountability requirements, and other safeguards over all private prisons operating in the state of Arizona

"The only way to ensure that these problems are addressed once and for all is to cancel the bidding process for new beds, do a full review of all the state's contracts, and ensure that real accountability measures are put in place. ... Taxpayers are shelling out over $1 billion per year on Corrections. They deserve assurances that their money is well spent and that these facilities are safe—for staff, prisoners and the surrounding community."

Exactly. Don't we deserve these assurances? Give Doug a call. Hell, call them all.

— Mari Herreras, mherreras@tucsonweekly.com

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