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Study: Private and state-run prisons comparable in cost and quality

Most of Arizona’s private prisons are comparable in cost and quality of service to state-run prisons, a biennial study issued Wednesday by the Arizona Department of Corrections found.

According to the study, which was done for the first time despite being a requirement for over a decade, only one private prison provides a lower quality of service.

Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan wrote in a letter to lawmakers that it is nearly impossible to make exact comparisons between state and private prisons.

“. . .(I)t is important to recognize that exact private prison unit versus state prison unit comparisons are not possible due to inherent complexities resulting from the many differences in operating structure and requirements,” Ryan wrote. “This is equally true when comparing facilities and when comparing cost.”

The cost-benefit analysis comes as bids for the construction of private prisons to house 5,000 inmates are pending.

A Quaker group had gone to court and lost in an attempt to stop the bidding until the report was completed.

The study compared the state’s six private prisons, which house about 6,400 inmates, with six state prisons that are comparable in population size and custody level.

The study found that four of the private prisons provide comparable quality of service within the “range of per diem costs for the same inmate custody level,” while one is below par. Another private prison provides a comparable quality of service, but a cost comparison couldn’t be done because the unit wasn’t opened until April 2010.

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