Thursday, August 30, 2012

Campbell steps up call for AG investigation into for-profit, private prison operators

Campbell steps up call for AG investigation into for-profit, private prison operators

 
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), is renewing his call for Attorney General Tom Horne to investigate for-profit, private prison operators for possible legal and contract violations. Campbell warned that if the attorney general fails to fulfill his duty to enforce the state’s procurement code, he is abdicating his official responsibilities.

In July, Campbell sent a letter to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office calling for an investigation and the immediate suspension of a solicitation for new private prison beds. Today Campbell repeated his call for the investigation, adding that there could be financial and legal repercussions if the attorney general fails to act. The state is poised to sign a contract with a for-profit prison operator by Sept. 1.

“The Attorney General’s Office has the power and an obligation to intervene before that contract is signed and nothing is being done,” Campbell said. “We should not be rewarding out-of-state, for-profit prison companies with contracts if they are violating the law and wasting taxpayer money.”

In his letter, Campbell cited possible violations of:

• State law and individual contract provisions requiring proposed private prisons to demonstrate cost savings to the state
• State law requiring private prisons to provide the same or better quality than state prisons
• Contract provisions requiring private prisons to maintain safety standards and to rehabilitate prisoners
• State uniform contract provisions requiring private prisons to provide adequate staffing levels

Arizona law requires the attorney general to enforce the provisions of the state procurement code. As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, he has a duty to investigate and determine whether the alleged violations have occurred, Campbell said.

“The Republicans in the Legislature raided $50 million from the Attorney General’s Mortgage Settlement Fund. That money was supposed to be used to help Arizona families trying to recover from the foreclosure crisis. Instead, they’re using the money to pay for contracts like this one," Campbell said. “Arizona is about to make a 20-year investment in for-profit, private prisons when there is evidence to suggest the state will lose millions. It just shows that the Republicans have their priorities all wrong.”

Department of Corrections reports consistently show that the state is losing money on private prisons, and security audits indicate there are serious safety flaws in all of Arizona’s for-profit prisons.

Currently, there is enough money set aside in the 2013 budget for 1,000 new private prison beds, but the state has the option to add another 1,000 beds, for a total of 2,000 beds in the next few years. The American Friends Service Committee issued a report indicating that if Arizona adds the 2,000 private prison beds, the state could lose more than $10 million a year.

“It is clear that our state Department of Corrections has failed to hold these corporations fully accountable, and the Republican leadership in the Legislature has turned a blind eye to problems in for-profit prisons,” Caroline Isaacs, AFSC program director, said. “The taxpayers of Arizona depend on the attorney general to enforce the law fairly and to do the due diligence on these contracts.”

For more information on the AFSC findings go to http://afsc.org/resource/arizona-prison-report.


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