Recent newspaper articles reveal that Arizona prison management is still filled with many serious flaws that indicate the agency has not yet succeeded in providing the state’s taxpayers and residents an acceptable level of performance for the price of $ 1 billion dollars a year. The director, in a newspaper interview regarding this report says that under the circumstances, this audit report is well blown out of proportion as it does not give credit where credit is due. Making a 93 % efficiency statement to the public, he marginalized those errors found and says they are making progress with training related to the oversight of private prisons and guiding staff to follow established policies and procedures. In the meantime, he brashly requested the additional hire of 306 correctional staff for next year’s budget.
The article’s reporter Bob Ortega writes “And although the department plans to impose tougher security and reporting requirements in contracts for up to 5,000 prison beds it is now evaluating, it said it can’t impose those requirements on existing private-prison contracts until they come up for renewal or are rebid.” Today, Arizona prisons are becoming more expensive on a daily rate and are seeking financial relief from the private prisons with an additional 5,000 bed contract this coming year. It appears that the Republican majority in the legislature approves of the director’s findings of adding more beds and accepting a 93 percent efficiency rate for the amount of money being spent. At this rate, the director will be asking for an increase of the existing 11 % share of the budget for Arizona state prisons to operate in the coming years plus an expected increase in costs for those private prison contracts when they expire or come up for re-negotiations to include these new audit recommendations so to enhance their security audits to meet the same standards as state prisons are today.
In the meantime [but written at the same time], an editorial written by Republican Representative Cecil Ash recommends an alternative to building more prisons and curtailing related costs. Speaking confidently and at risk of being alienated by his fellow Republicans, he is suggesting evidence based alternative sentencing to reduce costs and help to reduce the state budget deficit. Rep. Cecil Ash explains, “I think most politicians are inclined to run on the slogan of being ‘tough on crime’ and so as they increase the sentences for various crimes, it sounds like they are tougher on crime.”
He writes in his editorial to the Arizona Republic “As a conservative Republican, I support the privatization of many government services: in schools, where the consumers of the product are its purchasers; in construction, where the project is open to public scrutiny; in maintenance, where performance can be observed or measured. In each of these cases, the provider’s goal of a profit is subject to the forces of the competitive marketplace. With private prisons, however, the consumers of the product (the inmates) have no say in its quality. The free market is not in play. They cannot take their business and go elsewhere. The goal of the private prison – profit – is antithetical to the goals of the state: incarceration, rehabilitation and the reduction of recidivism. In fact, the less rehabilitation, the more recidivism, the greater numbers to be incarcerated, the better for the private-prison industry’s bottom line.”