Attorney General called to investigate for-profit, private prison operators

Some Arizona House democrats are urging Attorney General Tom Horne to investigate for-profit, private prison operators for possible legal and contract violations.

“We have evidence that for-profit, private prisons are not saving the state money,” Campbell said. “If that is the case, then there is no reason the Republicans should be funding private prison expansion. It shows a lack of judgment, especially when they are financing the expansions by doing things like raiding $50 million from the mortgage settlement fund, which was supposed to help people save their homes from foreclosure. It is unacceptable.”

Last month, in a campaign year move, Chad Campbell sent a letter to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office calling for an investigation and the immediate suspension of the Arizona Department of Corrections’ solicitation for up to 2,000 new private prison beds. Campbell is renewing his call for the investigation, as the state is poised to sign a contract with a for-profit, private prison operator by Sept. 1.

“I’ve not received a response from the Attorney General’s Office and the clock is ticking,” Campbell said. “We should not be rewarding for-profit prison companies with state contracts if they are violating the law and wasting money. ”

The 2013 budget repealed a state law requiring a comparison of state and private prisons every two years to ensure that private prisons were providing the same quality of services as state prisons, at a lower cost. Department of Corrections Per Capita Cost Reports compiled over five years consistently show that the state is losing money on private prisons, and security audits show serious safety flaws in all of Arizona’s for-profit prisons, including malfunctioning cameras and alarm systems.

Currently, there is enough money set aside in the 2013 budget for 1,000 new private prison beds, but the state has the option to add another 1,000 beds, for a total of 2,000 new beds in the next few years. The American Friends Service Committee issued a report indicating that if Arizona were to add the 2,000 private prison beds, the state could be losing more than $10 million a year.

“It is imperative that the attorney general take action now to avoid further waste of taxpayer dollars,” Caroline Isaacs, AFSC program director, said. “After reviewing the reports, it should be clear that we can’t just hand over millions of dollars to for-profit prisons and not hold them accountable.”

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