An Arizona bill scheduled for hearings today would move thousands of state inmates into private prisons. The Arizona Daily Star says that the measure threatens to turn a special legislative session into a battle of private vs. public facilities. The proposal would send inmates to two private Arizona prisons and probably to one in western Oklahoma, where a prison sits empty.
Department of Corrections officials and Gov. Janet Napolitano’s staff said the bill violates the state constitution, costs the state more money and binds the state for years to ensure a supply of prisoners. The bill is sponsored by Republican Reps. Bill Konopnicki of Safford and Russell Pearce of Mesa. “Private prison beds are going to have to be a part of the mix,” Pearce said.
The bill instructs the state to contract with Florida-based Correctional Services Corp. (CSC) to expand the company’s operations in Florence and Phoenix. The two sites house about 1,200 inmates now and would add 1,600 beds. Some say that violates the constitutional provision that forbids legislation benefiting one company. The state houses about 4,100 inmates more than its designated capacity.
Arizona sends about 600 inmates to a CSC facility in Texas but has had problems with the company, including two escapes. Problems in other states for CSC include a $300,000 fine in New York for giving gifts to lawmakers and walking away from a contract in Nevada when it became unprofitable.