At 6:00 p.m. on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, Arizona officials announced the granting of a multi-million dollar contract to Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison giant, for the operation of one thousand medium security prison beds. The grant was not exactly a big surprise; CCA had hired as lobbyists people close to Gov. Jan Brewer.
What should be more surprising is that officials are arguing with a straight face that the deal is good for taxpayers, in spite of evidence to the contrary. As the Arizona Republic reported,
The contract calls for CCA to be paid a per diem rate of $65.43 per bed. The most recent information available shows the average daily cost per inmate in a state-run medium-custody facility in 2010 was $48.42. The award to CCA is 35percent more than what it cost the state to house and monitor inmates two years ago.
Unfortunately for taxpayers, Arizona officials have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to tap taxpayers in order to advance an anti-government ideology and boost the profits of a company that is generous with its spending on lobbying and campaign contributions.
People For the American Way Foundation’s recent report “Predatory Privatization” noted that private prisons in Arizona cost the state as much as $7 million more in 2009 and 2010 than units operated by the state department of corrections. The report also noted CCA’s aggressive expansion plans:
Earlier this year, CCA wrote to officials in 48 states offering to buy and run prisons if states would guarantee a 90 percent occupancy rate. A coalition of religious groups urged state officials to turn down the offer, which the groups said would create an incentive for mass incarceration and “be costly to the moral strength of your state” as well as costly financially.
According to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, the aftermath of SB 1070 was hardest on… Jan Brewer. In an interview with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Brewer defended her harsh and partly unconstitutional anti-immigration law SB 1070, and even cited Jesus. She told Brody that she felt politicians turned on her after she signed the discriminatory, racial profiling bill into law, noting that the aftermath was “tough” on her and she would sit on her patio and think “Jesus hold my hand, you got me here, now you’ve got to get me through all of this.”
The signing of SB 1070 was a very difficult time for me personally because I knew immediately that although we monitored the bill and amended the bill in the legislature that it was going to be a lightning rod, however, I didn’t know or realize at the time just how big of a lightning rod it was going to be. But I knew that they would be out there, some of the political pundits and elected officials calling Arizona racist and bigots. And they turned on me, they really turned on me harshly and it hurts. And when you see protesters saying and doing and presenting things out there that represent things that you just absolutely know aren’t true, that was tough. Many a night I would sit on my patio and think, Jesus hold my hand, you got me here, now you’ve got to get me through all of this.
The Arizona Senate yesterday passed one of the harshest immigration enforcement laws in the country. The bill, written by right-wing state senator Russell Pearce, would allow police to arrest anyone who could not immediately prove they are in the country legally. Despite criticism from civil liberties and immigrants’ rights groups, the bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Jan Brewer.
Michael B. Keegan, President of People For the American Way, issued the following statement: