In a last-ditch effort, private-prison opponents called on Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to scuttle a contract that is expected to be awarded Friday for 1,000 medium-security beds for men, reports the Arizona Republic. A coalition of elected officials, educators, and faith leaders sent an open letter to Brewer, saying the beds are costly and unnecessary. They also contend the five out-of-state companies bidding to run a new prison facility have histories of questionable management practices and safety problems. Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said sufficient correctional facilities are a critical component of public safety. “Gov. Brewer supported these additional prison facilities because she recognizes the state faces a shortage of medium- and high-security beds in the near-term, a situation that would place the safety of both inmates and correctional staff in jeopardy,” he said.
The contract calls for up to 2,000 medium-security beds if the prison population increases. The first 500 beds would come online in 2014, while 500 more would be added the following year. The contract comes even though the state’s overall prison population is expected to remain flat the next two years and increase only slightly thereafter. State records show it’s more costly for taxpayers to have private businesses run prisons. State Corrections Director Charles Ryan has acknowledged that the state has an overall surplus of roughly 2,000 beds. But he also has said that Arizona has a shortage of permanent medium-security beds and that the problem is expected to get worse in 2016.