Thursday, August 25, 2011

Update on Arizona's RFP

The state of Arizona is currently seeking proposals from private prison companies to construct 5,000 new prison beds. This comes despite the fact that numerous private prisons already operate in the state (but they mostly take prisoners from other states, which is a whole separate mess), and that those private prisons have been proven to be more expensive than the government-run ones.

So the supposedly conservative leadership of the state apparently doesn't really care about fiscal responsibility. No surprise there.  But I sure hope they care about contract non-compliance and a failure to deliver efficient and effective services.  Because the groups vying to get the contracts for these beds all had awful track records.  A DOC spokesman said recently that the department would consider past performance in awarding the contracts.  If so, the GEO Group might not fare too well in the bidding process, because very recently they have had major issues operating the Walnut Grove Youth CF and the Eastern Mississippi CF.  Things like riots, stabbings, guards selling drugs, children being sprayed with chemicals while locked down, physical abuse, extreme malnourishment of prisoners, and abusing prisoners for displaying symptoms of untreated mental illness.  You know, little things.

Another company, MTC, is no better.  After 3 convicts escaped their Kingman, Arizona facility last year and killed an elderly vacationing couple, it took the company 8 months to implement new security measures.  Unfortunately, I don't think these issues or the ones that all other private prison companies seem to suffer from will stop the state from privatizing, partly because these companies are very effective PR machines, able to consistently sell bad products to the same consumers.  The good citizens of Goodyear, AZ didn't fall for the sales pitch, and emphatically declared their opposition to a private prison coming to their town.

The rest of the state's taxpayers may also be in luck.  Rep. Chad Campbell, the state's House Majority Leader, has called for a delay of the proposed 5,000 bed expansion.  As public hearings continue in various rural areas throughout the state to debate the relative merits of bringing a private prison to town, Campbell asks that the expansion be delayed until "after enhanced security, training, and monitoring policies are in place and shown to be effective at all existing private facilities."  Thank you Mr. Campbell for injecting some common sense into the situation.

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