Not far enough
The governor’s announcement that the state will end its contract with Management and Training Corporation to operate the private prison in Kingman, where riots left 16 people injured, does not go far enough to address the public safety and efficiency concerns related to these for-profit facilities.
A report from the American Friends Service Committee identified “chronic understaffing at Kingman… and poor management” as well as “cost cutting” measures as contributing factors to the most recent riot. The Department of Corrections was in charge of investigating itself in this incident, and the governor directed the department to evaluate all private prison operators. The DOC investigation of the riot highlighted MTC’s “culture of disorganization, disengagement, and disregard” of DOC policies.
However, the AFSC found that “between 2006 and the first part of 2013, the Arizona Department of Corrections levied a total of 152 monetary sanctions against MTC, collecting a total of $2,315,989 in fines for staff vacancies.”
It appears that DOC officials have been aware of staffing problems in both the for-profit and state-run prisons for some time. A recent report in The Arizona Republic showed that in the last fiscal year, Arizona had to pay almost $40 million in overtime wages because the 10 state-run prisons have hundreds of job vacancies.
This information raises questions around DOC’s ability to investigate itself and draws criticism of the level of transparency and accountability within the department. To help restore public confidence, there should be an immediate, independent investigation of Arizona’s correction system.
For years, Republicans have repealed statutory oversight of private prisons, while increasing the number of these for-profit facilities. Until oversight is restored, an independent investigation is completed and Arizonans are satisfied that their tax dollars are being used efficiently to protect public safety, all contracts for future private prisons should be canceled. This includes the current contract for up to 2,000 new private prison beds.
Let’s #AskDuceyWhy private prisons will continue to get state support, regardless of ongoing concerns about accountability, safety and responsible use of taxpayer money.