Private Prisons Gone Wild
The recent dismissal of a lawsuit filed against both Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) Director Charles Ryan and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) is the latest step in the state’s hell-bent plan to roughly double its number of privately managed prison “beds.”
The suit, filed in an Arizona Superior Court by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) on September 12, sought an injunction against ADC and the governor’s pending award of 5,000 new prison beds to be operated by a for-profit vendor. The state currently contracts out more than 6,500 minimum- and medium-security beds at seven facilities with Geo Group, the nation’s second largest private prison operator, and Management and Training Corporation (MTC).
AFSC argued that ADC is negligent in its statutorily required duty to conduct biennial cost and quality assessments of the state’s private prisons. The purpose of these assessments is to determine whether the state is receiving the same quality of service from private prison operators as provided by public facilities.
Nevertheless, ADC has not completed a single survey.
While the law defines a clear list of specific items to be assessed (such as security standards and personnel training), and a set time frame for assessments to be performed (every two years), it does not say that these assessments are the sole bar that must be used to measure standards of private penitentiaries.
Without the existence of these biennial reports, it’s anyone’s guess what cost comparison model is used by ADC, the legislature and the governor’s office.
When asked what criteria the department uses to determine if the private correctional beds managed in Arizona are operating with the same level of security and care as state-run facilities, and whether those facilities are providing any savings to the public, ADC spokesman Barrett Marson directed In These Times to the ADC’s “Fiscal Year 2010 Operating Per Capita Cost Report.”