Private prisons hinge on issue of state study
Whether more private prison beds will be added in Arizona — including perhaps here in the Yuma area — remains uncertain in the wake of a court ruling earlier this week.
Awarding of bids for private companies to build prisons to house thousands of prisoners are pending by the Arizona Department of Corrections. Among the bidders are two companies proposing to build prisons in Yuma County.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) asked a judge early this week to immediately halt awarding of bids pending completion of a study of the effectiveness of private prisons. The judge declined to do so, but did schedule a hearing next week on the issue.
The Quaker group, which says private prisons are more expensive than state-run prisons and not as secure, fears the corrections department may proceed with bid awards before the hearing.
Private prison operations in Arizona have been questioned since three dangerous inmates escaped from one last year in Kingman, resulting in a deadly crime spree.
The current dispute hinges on a study of the effectiveness and cost of private prisons ordered by Gov. Jan Brewer when it was discovered a 1987 law requiring one had not been implemented. It is scheduled to be done by the end of the year.
AFSC contends new prisons can't be built until the study is done. State officials disagree.
Even if the study isn't yet done, does it really make a difference? It certainly hasn't stopped building of private prisons in past years.
The Legislature ordered the building of the new private prisons. And ultimately it is a decision for the Legislature to make as to the best way to house the state's prisoners, not outside interest groups.
Our guess is that the judge will come to the same conclusion.