Arizona Governor Seeks Major Prison Expansion

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Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano wants $470 million in new prison space to handle a projected 33 percent inmate population in the next few years, the Arizona Daily Star reports. The governor wants the prisoners in state, not private, facilities.

“Over five years, we can literally save tens of millions of dollars in land acquisition and construction costs by expanding existing facilities and regrouping inmates rather than paying for new privatized prisons,” Napolitano said. She wants $26.4 million this year to relieve prison overcrowding and offer hiring incentives to guards. The Department of Corrections is looking at prisons all over the country to find space for some of the 4,100 Arizona inmates above the state’s 27,000-person capacity.

The plan, which Napolitano presents at an Oct. 20 special legislative session, drew criticism from Republicans and a lukewarm reaction from some Democrats. Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, a staunch supporter of moving inmates to private prisons, said Napolitano is digging the state into a deeper financial hole while ignoring the potential long-term savings of private prisons. Pearce said, “I am appalled that she owes her soul to the unions and pandering to the unions and pandering to everybody but the taxpayers who pay the bills.”

The $470 million for new prisons would be repaid through taxes on cigarettes and alcohol.

Rep. Ted Downing, D-Tucson, wants more attention given to the Alternatives to Sentencing working group–10 House members who are looking at ways to reduce the number of people in prison.

Officials estimate that 45 percent of those entering prison are not committing new crimes but rather are violating probation or parole rules. Corrections Director Dora Schriro said a “shock incarceration” program, which would run parole and probation violators through intensive prison programs, would help lower the number of inmates.


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