Whether due to hubris, a desperate desire to prove their worthiness of campaign funding, or some more depraved cause, state officials and lawmakers have recently been engaged in a bizarre game of one-upmanship, with each trying to outdo the last through conspicuous demonstrations of corruption.
Ohio made a strong claim on the throne when its “Director of Rehabilitation and Corrections”, a former executive at the Corrections Corporation of America up and sold one of the state’s prisons to his old employer last year, and after Florida legislators’ various ambush attempts to pass prison privatization bills were brought down first by a federal judge and then in-party opposition, many thought we would never again see their efforts surpassed. Well, it turns out that Arizona has had the field beat all along…
The thin justification for outsourcing prisons to the private sector has always been to “save money,” and so a group called the American Friends Service Committee decided to see if the state’s privately run prisons were actually doing that:
For the past six years, [cost comparison reports] have consistently found that private prisons are not saving the state money, and in many cases, the private beds cost more than equivalent public beds. In fact, an AFSC analysis of ADC Per Capita Cost Reports revealed that between 2008-2010, Arizona overpaid for its private prison beds by $10 million.
To avoid breaking the law, the legislature had been inserting exemptions into contracts, but once the AFSC brought attention to the trick, lawmakers decided to try a less furtive tactic:
In the 2012 legislative session, the Criminal Justice Budget Reconciliation Act (CJBRA) repealed the sentence in the statute referring to the standard cost comparison model.
But they didn’t stop there. The bill also repealed a requirement for the state to conduct a quality comparison assessment of public and private prisons.
If private prisons don’t have to save money or provide better service than publicly run facilities, what exactly is their purpose? Considering that AFCS’s requests for records related to the repeal were rejected, one can only speculate…
The Private Prison Industry’s Grip on Congress
Arizona Charging Fees for Inmate Visits