Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hey Ducey: Arizona's Prison System Ain't Working, Don't Give It More Money (Especially After the Kingman Riot)

Posted By on Tue, Jul 7, 2015 at 2:00 PM

The Quaker nonprofit American Friends Service Committee is asking Gov. Doug Ducey to stop negotiations with the for-profit prison company that runs the state prison in Kingman—you know, where there was a riot last week.

After several days of craziness, nine prison staff and seven inmates were injured. The facility is so beat up, that roughly 1,000 people had to be moved out of the place. In response, Ducey called for an investigation into what happened, saying residents need to ensure stuff is in order within private and state-run prisons.

Mind you, this is the same prison where three inmates escaped and killed two people in 2010.

Still, in a few weeks, Ducey and Management and Training Corporation—which operates the prison in Kingman—and other prison gurus are going to discuss contracts to manage thousands of additional prison beds. The committee is calling on Ducey to suspend the talks, at least until the investigation into the riot clears up.

"None of these companies deserve another multi-million dollar 20-year contract," Caroline Isaacs, the committee's program director says in a statement. The group works to reduce the prison population and improve conditions for those who are incarcerated. "Problems like riots, assaults, and escapes are inherent in the business model of for-profit incarceration. These corporations’ first priority is to make money, and public safety comes second. The way to win contracts is to be the lowest bidder. Yet, these companies also need to make a profit. The result is cutting corners, usually on staff pay and training."

Isaacs says the sate's for-profit prisons have chronic issues with mismanagement and inexperienced staff. The only way to make sure the issues are addressed is to cancel the bidding process for new prison beds and do a full review of all contracts, she adds. 

From the committee's press release:
In 2013, the state legislature repealed a statute that previously required the Department of Corrections to conduct cost and quality comparisons of public and private prisons. This and other oversight measures might have prevented this latest tragedy.
The riots in the MTC prison represent more than a costly blunder—they are a betrayal of the public’s trust. Our state leaders have handed over control of this critical public safety function to corporations that put their shareholder’s interests ahead of ours. We cannot afford to make this mistake again.
Arizona House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer issued this statement. He really wonders whether Ducey will fix any glitches there are in the system, since his campaign "received more than $10,000 in contribution from lobbyists and political committees with ties to the private prison industry."
In 2012, Republicans repealed a state law requiring a comparison of state and private prisons every two years to ensure that private prisons provide the same quality of services as state prisons at a lower cost. Although this official comparison is no longer available, the multitude of security breaches paints a dire picture. Despite these public safety issues, Republicans passed a budget this year that will spend millions of tax dollars on 1,000 new private-prison beds in 2016 and potentially 1,000 more in 2017.

The for-profit, private prison system is not working, and I question the governor’s ability to reform this system when his campaign received more than $10,000 in contributions from lobbyists and political committees with ties to the private prison industry. This seems like a conflict of interest and presents some serious concerns about both safety and responsible use of taxpayer money.
The state Legislature/Ducey budget butchered funding for education, but gave the Arizona Department of Corrections an additional $39 million.

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