The Arizona Department of Corrections is bucking a national trend by seeking to continue its prison expansion into the next few years, citing an anticipated uptick in inmates, reports the Arizona Republic. The department is expected to hire a private-prison contractor to provide additional beds to ease the strain on a state budget facing a $1.52 billion shortfall for the current and next fiscal years. A contractor is required to pay all up-front costs to build a prison, saving the state tens of millions of dollars in the short term. However, the state eventually pays the full cost of the prison, or more, by paying the contractor to house inmates over a long period.
The Corrections Department wants Gov.-elect Doug Ducey and the legislature to grant permission to add 3,000 new medium-custody beds to the system by fiscal 2018. Medium-custody male inmates are scattered throughout Arizona prisons and account for about 40 percent of the system’s 42,000 inmates. A medium-custody inmate represents a moderate risk to the public and staff. Those inmates are not allowed to work outside the secure perimeter of a prison and are allowed only limited, controlled movement within any institution. The state relies on private contractors to house about one-sixth of its population.