Private prison faulted for violent escape
A lethal prison break in Arizona has added tragically to the costs and consequences states must consider when weighing prison privatization. In August, a state report blamed the poor security, faulty alarms, and general complacency at a for-profit prison in Kingman for the escape of three convicted killers. Two of the escapees are accused of murdering an Oklahoma couple during the escape.
The case has raised concerns among Arizona officials and others that for-profit prisons can be more costly and less secure than state-run facilities. Critics say private prisons often seem to save money only because they shift problems and costs elsewhere. For instance, they regularly refuse to accept inmates with costly problems, and cut corners on security and rehabilitation programs.
The thriving prison industry also has a record of using extensive lobbying and large political contributions to gain lucrative contracts and promote laws that keep their prisons full. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wants to privatize all state prisons, and several of her high-level advisers have lobbied for private prison companies.
It's clearly in the public's interest to have violent criminals housed and rehabilitated securely and effectively. Arizona and other states must review the troubled track record before turning over that responsibility to profit-making companies.