Thursday, August 30, 2012

Officials object to Arizona private prison plan

At the end of this week, the Arizona Department of Corrections is slated to award contract to a private prison company. The contract calls for up to 2,000 medium-security beds if the prison population increases, reported the Arizona Republic. The first 500 beds would come online in 2014, while 500 more would be added the following year. There's no timetable for the potential 1,000 remaining beds.

The contract comes even though the state's overall prison population is expected to remain flat the next two years and increase only slightly thereafter. State records also show it's more costly for taxpayers to have private businesses run prisons.

State Corrections Director Charles Ryan has acknowledged that the state has an overall surplus of roughly 2,000 beds. But he also has said that Arizona has a shortage of permanent medium-security beds and that the problem is expected to get worse in 2016.

A letter sent to Governor Jan Brewer with more than 50 signatures, including current and former state legislators as well as a Pima County supervisor, Tucson's mayor and a few Tucson City Council members is opposed to the private prison contract, according to the Republic.

"There is ample evidence to suggest that for-profit corporations are not accountable to the citizens and taxpayers of Arizona," the letter states. "As private companies, they are not subject to the same transparency requirements or checks and balances as the Department of Corrections, despite the fact that they are performing the same functions and are paid with taxpayer dollars."

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