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Sheriffs say state favors private prisons in housing bids

police-620An Arizona sheriffs’ group says private prisons have the advantage when it comes to bidding for inmate housing contracts.

The complaint from all 15 elected sheriffs comes ahead of the state’s July 22 opening of an application process to house 1,000 medium-security inmates, the Arizona Republic reported. The beds are needed to handle anticipated growth in the overall prison population.

Plans to house another 1,000 next year require legislative approval.

Gov. Doug Ducey started letting counties compete for these contracts in March. Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato says the governor is considering the issues raised by the association, and that the state would like to be accommodating.

He said the state isn’t trying to exclude counties from the bidding process.

In a letter to the Governor’s Office, the Arizona Sheriffs Association says the application process favors private prisons by asking counties to shoulder unreasonable financial risks, like medical costs for inmates.

Private prisons take healthier inmates, while counties can possibly house prisoners with mental health conditions and chronic illnesses.

Navajo County Sheriff K.C. Clark says the application sets counties up for failure, and yet many of the requirements in the 179-page form are waived when inmates need emergency housing.

The association asks that the state continue waiving these kinds of requirements when awarding contracts to counties.

Counties are also being asked to allow the Department of Corrections to have a say in hiring leadership roles at the jails, which the letter calls “an infringement of the authority of the counties and the elected Sheriff.”

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu’s jail accepted 380 inmates from the state prison in Kingman after a riot early this month. As the association’s vice president, he co-signed the letter.

He said the counties want a fair opportunity to compete, but that it doesn’t look like that will happen.

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One comment

  1. middlegroundprisonreform

    The county jaiils have absolutely no business attempting to obtain a contract to house state-sentenced prisoners on a long-term basis. Jails were never intended to be long-term confinement faciilities and they don’t gear their visitation, recreation, programming, educational, religious, property, commisary, or any other operations toward long-term confinement. For example, does Joe Arpaio expect to use his money-making mandatory video visitation scheme on a state-sentenced prisoner who won’t be allowed an in-person visit with his wife or children for five or ten years? Arizona’s harsh criminal code results in prison terms that are years and/or decades in length. The county jail does not belong in the “prison” business and just because the county sheriffs’ want to share in the money being spent on private prison beds is not justification for housing state prisoners in their facilities on a long-term basis. Middle Ground Prison Reform is opposed to this on every level!

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