I apologize for being so late on this; there are actually a few stories I'm behind on and I'll try to catch up as much as possible.
A report was just released by the American Friends Service Committee in Arizona that found private prisons actually cost the state more to operate than their government-run counterparts. In just three years (2008-2010), the state spent $10 million more on private prison beds than it would have cost them to just operate the prisons itself. The state for some reason loves private prisons, having previously tried to privatize its entire correctional system. The state was also the first place that an iteration of the "Breathing While Brown" law (that ALEC-written handout to private prison companies) was introduced It is currently seeking 2,000 additional private prison beds, which would cost $6 million more than beds the government could operate. And this comes at a time when the state's prison population is actually decreasing. It is also looking to outsource medical and mental health care to private, for-profit providers, for as many as 34,000 prisoners; that segment of the private prison industry suffers from all the problems inherent to the profit-driven world of incarceration.
The report was conducted because the state has consistently failed to conduct analyses of private prisons, even though there is a state law mandating that it do so. After years of ignoring calls to produce such a report, the state finally finished one in January of this year, which, surprise surprise, found private prisons to be more expensive.
This new report by the AFSC also found that private prisons are more dangerous, and experience higher levels of "disturbances" (prison parlance for riots/violent incidents), many of which were never reported to the public. In fact, the state exempts private prison companies from reporting such information that is required of government-operated prisons, shielding them from accountability for all the terrible things they let happen. The report by AFSC noted that these instances were likely under-reported, and that the public has very little access to vital information concerning the operation of prisons in Arizona.
So you would think with all this information; that private prisons cost considerably more to taxpayers, that they consistently fail to operate prisons safely and securely, that the state's political system would bring the hammer down and start to hold private prison operators more accountable for the millions in taxpayer dollars they benefit from, if not abolish the industry altogether. But, this is Arizona. The state legislature released a budget bill that still provides funding for private prisons, and actually eliminates the requirement for cost-comparison studies of public vs. private prisons that brought about the first report (by the state). Talk about burying your head in the sand.