Arizona prison businesses are big political contributors
Read the whole thing. It’s a solid article with links to documents and a good section on ALEC.
Corrections Corp. of America, the country’s largest private-prison operator, says it thrives by offering better service at a lower cost than state-run prisons. It’s an argument echoed by the three smaller rivals bidding on a 5,000-bed private-prison contract with the state of Arizona.
But when it comes to other ways of winning business, such as employing platoons of lobbyists, doling out campaign contributions and working through political connections, CCA stands head and shoulders above its competitors, in Arizona and across the country.
Thirty of CCA’s 35 lobbyists on Capitol Hill previously worked for members of Congress or for federal agencies. Two CCA senior executives are former directors of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, including Harley Lappin, whom CCA hired in June as chief corrections officer a week after his retirement from the bureau. CCA is a major bureau contractor. Another CCA vice president, Bart VerHulst, previously worked as chief of staff for then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee.
Since 2000, the company has won $3.84 billion in federal contracts, including just under $546 million for federal contracts in Arizona, according to government records. CCA’s six prisons in Arizona hold inmates from other states, federal prisoners and immigration detainees. Its bid calls for moving out prisoners from Hawaii and California at its existing Red Rock and La Palma prisons in Eloy and moving in Arizona prisoners.
Brewer has advocated for privatizing Arizona prisons. But even other privatization supporters say her CCA connections raise red flags.
“I’ve questioned Brewer’s choice of staff in the past for the same reason; she has a lot of contract lobbyists, and I have a problem with that,” said Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City. “At the very least it gives the public the appearance that these companies have too much influence, and you have to wonder what’s going on when they leave Brewer’s office and go right back into lobbying.”
Brewer’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
CCA has other connections with legislators in Arizona and elsewhere, most notably as a longstanding corporate member of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Laurie Shanblum, CCA’s senior director of business development, was the private-sector chair of the task force in the mid- to late ’90s, when it produced a series of model bills promoting tough-on-crime measures that would send more people to prison for a longer time.
They included a “Truth in Sentencing Act” requiring that convicts serve at least 85 percent of any sentence, and 100 percent of a sentence for violent crimes; a “Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Act,” imposing longer, mandatory sentences for all drug offenses; a “Third Strike” law mandating a life sentence for a third violent felony conviction; and dozens of other bills that called for violent juveniles to be tried and sentenced as adults, and for longer sentences for child-porn crimes, drunken driving, repeated retail theft and many other crimes.
These are mere highlights. The article is meaty.