Before SB 1070, Arizona Sold Prisons to Highest Bidders

Before SB 1070, lawmakers had all but turned the state's prisons over to private companies. Now they're getting cheated.

By Jamilah King Aug 25, 2010

Earlier this week Suzy Khimm took a look at Arizona’s private prison fiasco. In total, privately run facilities make up 20 percent of the state’s prison population, but the Arizona Republic recently found that it costs $3 to $8 more per day to house inmates in privately owned facilities than state governed ones:

In fact, the reason that Arizona is taking a second look at its private prisons right now is because of a high-profile fugitive case: Three inmates escaped from a private facility last month and are believed to be responsible for two murders during their flight, having only been captured last Thursday. This is just the latest episode in a long history of scandals that have plagued private prison operators, including charges of prisoner abuse in adult and juvenile facilities.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with privately run prisons, but if they can’t even save taxpayers money — and create greater security risks in an effort to deliver as promised — then lawmakers should think again before resorting to them. Having poured millions into lobbying lawmakers, the private prison industry has also sold itself to local communities by promising to create jobs in the places where new facilities are built. The thing is, if the same funds were put toward constructing new publicly run facilities, the money could have a similarly stimulative effect on local economies — and could end up delivering more on the dollar than their private counterparts.

Read more of Suzy Khimm’s guest post over at Ezra Klein’s blog.

Via Adam Serwer.