I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Thursday, September 3, 2009

No Private Prisons

EXTREMELY Urgent Action Alert!!!


The state legislature just sent Governor Brewer the exact same lousy budget deal she vetoed in the regular session.  Once again, this budget could privatize ALL state prison complexes, as well as medical care and food services to prisoners.  This includes the state’s only women’s facility and may extend to maximum and supermaximum security units, including death row. 

The Governor has until September 5th to make her decision.  She needs to hear from YOU!

If this proposal goes through, it will be Arizona’s largest ever relinquishment of state control over a core government function to the for-profit sector.  No private prison corporation has ever attempted to run an entire state’s prison complexes.  Very few manage high security prisoners, and only in small numbers.  This is a risky, unproven strategy that gambles with public safety in the name of questionable returns.

If these prisons are privatized and the state abdicates its authority, this will place over 11,000 additional prisoners in the hands of for-profit corporations that have chronic histories of wasteful expenditures, contractual failures and public endangerment.

Why Arizona should SAY NO to for-profit prisons:
1.  Privatizing an entire state’s prisons would be a reckless experiment that gambles with public safety. 

No private for-profit prison corporation has ever attempted to run an entire state’s facilities.  Even Tennessee, the home state of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), refused the corporation’s bid to take over that state’s prisons.  These companies have no track record to prove that they can safely manage all the various security levels and special needs of prisoners in Arizona.  Do we really want our state to be a guinea pig for a national experiment?

Every for-profit prison corporation that would compete for these contracts has a history of serious problems, ranging from financial mismanagement, abuse scandals, riots and disturbances, and patterns of violence and abuse.  The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) found a significantly higher rate of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in private prisons (66% more) than in public prisons.  Inmate-on-staff assaults were 49% higher in the for-profits.
For specific information regarding lawsuits, incidents, and poor management of prison facilities for each of the major corporations doing business in or with the state of Arizona for, please see the attached “Rap Sheets”or go to:
This risky, unproven strategy could prove to be a disaster for Arizona. 
2.  Private, for-profit prisons are no bargain.

Every credible, independent cost comparison study ever conducted has found that analyses of purported cost savings of private prisons in legitimate apples-to-apples comparisons, conclusively demonstrate that the for-profits cost about the same or in some cases are more expensive.

Maximus, an independent, reputable research firm, studied Arizona's prisons in 2006. It determined taxpayers were spending an estimated $1,526,289 MORE annually on two privately run prisons.

Counties and states often pick up the tab for things that private prison companies don’t provide, like mental health and medical care.  And when there are riots or escapes, it is local law enforcement that has to put out the fires, send in SWAT teams, and track down escaped prisoners—at taxpayer expense.

Giving one private corporation a monopoly over Arizona facilities gives them little incentive to cut costs.  What’s more, the proposal vetoed by Governor Brewer actually proposed to split any cost savings between the state and the private operator!  Once they take over the entire state system, the corporation would have Arizona over a barrel if the company decided to raise its rates. 

These are out of state, for-profit, publicly traded corporations that are concerned only with their bottom line, not what’s best for the people of Arizona. 

3.  Privatizing Arizona’s prisons means lower wages for prison staff, in the middle of a huge recession.

One of the ways private prison corporations cut costs is by cutting corners—primarily on staff pay and training.  Public safety is one of the few remaining employment sectors in Arizona, and privatizing these jobs would be a huge economic blow to the thousands of men and women who work in these facilities. 

That’s why the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association (the state’s prison guards union) rallied at the State Capitol Monday, July 13, to show their opposition to legislative efforts to privatize the state's prisons. Corrections officers were joined by AZCOPS leaders and union activists from CWA and AFL-CIO. 

None of the corporations in the running for these contracts is based in the state of Arizona, so all the dollars spent on administrative costs would flow out of the state into the pockets of out-of-state corporate CEO’s.

4.  Arizona legislators, including several members of the Republican leadership that brokered this deal, are in the pocket of the private prison industry.

All the major private prison corporations have numerous, highly paid lobbyists working day and night to influence our elected officials. 

These lobbyists and other private prison interests gave $77,267 to Arizona candidates during the 2002 and 2004 election cycles.  Republicans received nearly 90% of industry contributions. 

Is it any wonder that some of the biggest beneficiaries of these contributions are now the ones leading the charge to privatize Arizona’s prisons?:

RECIPIENT                                          2002                              2004
Sen. Russell Pearce (R-18)                            $880                                       $2,400
Sen. Robert Burns (R-9)                                $1,735                                    $736
Sen. Robert Waring (R-7)                              $650                                       $1,595
Sen. Thayer Verschoor (R-22)                       $0                                            $1,130
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-22)                                 $0                                            $675
Sen. Jack Harper (R-4)                                   $0                                            $625

Keep in mind, Arizona’s contribution limits are among the lowest in the country, at $270 per legislative candidate per election in 2002 and $280 in 2004.  Unfortunately, no comparable statistics were available for the 2006 or 2008 elections. 

Source:  The Institute on Money in State Politics, “Policy Lock-Down:  Prison Interests Court Political Players.”  April, 2006.
What YOU can do….
Contact Governor Brewer TODAY and tell them to SAY NO TO PRISONS FOR PROFIT!
Governor Jan Brewer
602.542.4331 or 800.253.0883 ph, 602.542.1381 fax.  Make a comment online at:
If you can blind copy us, we will have a better idea how effective this initiative is.  If you receive responses, even boiler-plate ones, please forward those to us, if possible.
Thanks for all your continuing assistance.  Together we can stop this!
Caroline Isaacs
Program Director,
American Friends Service Committee
Arizona Area Program
103 N. Park Ave., Suite 111
Tucson, AZ  85719
520.623.9141 p/520.623.5901 f

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