If you're a state hellbent on turning corrections over to the for-profit prison industry, what do you do when an annual survey shows that private jails are often more expensive than the old fashioned public variety? Especially if, by law, the state may contract for private prisons only if they prove to be less expensive? Simple, just eliminate that pesky study.
Buried in the $8.6 billion budget proposal passed at the state Capitol this week is a plan to "eliminate the requirement for a quality and cost review of private prison contracts." It means there would no longer be an annual review of how private prisons operate. CBS5.comThe corrections industry in Arizona is enjoying a good ride. They've been held harmless in the last two state budgets, while education, healthcare, and every other public service has been cut off at the knees. Along with its budget, the corrections cartel's political power has increased. Tucson Citizen's Cell-Out AZ has lotsa dirt, like raiding mortgage settlement funds for prisons. The industry's biggest legislative win, of course, was SB 1070, which the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) helped craft and pass, alongside ALEC. It's not like the incarceration industry has a financial interest or anything, since SB 1070, if implemented as written, would provide them a heckuva lot more customers.
One might ask why the legislature ended an annual review of private prisons, less than two years after three inmates, two of whom were convicted killers, escaped from the Kingman facility run by Management & Training Corporation (MTC). A manhunt ended in their capture, but not before an Oklahoma couple was murdered. Immediately after this tragedy, there were loud calls to clean up the crappy security at Kingman -- and all prisons statewide. This Arizona Republic story, titled "Arizona Prison Oversight Lacking for Private Facilities," was typical:
[The three convicts] took advantage of lax security and faulty alarms to escape on July 30, 2010, from the Kingman prison, run by Management and Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah. The men cut their way out using tools McCluskey's cousin and fiancee, Casslyn Welch, had tossed over the fence. Arizona RepublicAnd a followup study revealed tons of problems at Kingman (the state and MTC ended up in court over payment). But rather than push for more oversight, which is what the public wanted, this week the legislature voted to eliminate the one annual review that tells the Arizona Department of Corrections, and the elected officials responsible for the agency's funding, how effectively prisons are operating. House Minority Leader Chad Campbell (and here that Dem "Minority" is real minor) has gotta be spittin' chili:
"It's insanity, that's the only way to describe this, removing the ability for the state to do a cost and quality analysis of the private prison contracts that are being funded by taxpayer dollars makes absolutely no sense whatever." CBS5.comEliminating the study was the
What other state agency can simply eliminate oversight, reviews, and evaluations if they don't like the outcome? Schools? I think not. I bet most teachers would love to spend less time reporting so they'd have more time for preparation and teaching.
In case you didn't already know it, you'll be shocked to hear that Governor Brewer's Chief of Staff, Paul Senseman, is a former lobbyist for the Corrections Corporation of America. Oh, his wife currently lobbies for CCA. Then there's Chuck Coughlin, the Governor's chief advisor. His consulting firm also represents CCA. And they all like Jan Brewer, contributing $60,000 to her 2010 campaign. You'd have to say that was a good investment.