First published on WhyIHateCCA
Sometimes, a story comes along that really makes me wonder whether a lot of politicians just really don’t give a shit about people at all. And no, I’m not even talking about how North Carolina decided it would be a good idea to codify discrimination in its frigging constitution. I’m talking about the great state of Arizona, whose political leaders have given up their charade of pretending to represent their constituents.
Now, you might say that’s a bit of hyperbole, but how else can I explain the fact that, faced with evidence from numerous sources, including a government study, that demonstrated private prisons actually cost Arizona taxpayers more than government run facilities, the Arizona legislature decided to not only fund more private prisons, but to eliminate the requirement for the government to report on the efficiency and services it receives from the companies it contracts with to operate these money pits?
The industry is already exempt from public records laws that government agencies must adhere to, a distinction granted because it is comprised of private corporations (despite the fact that they perform an inherently governmental function). So Arizona actually found what might have been the only way to further reduce transparency and oversight for an industry that’s not required to report much of anything about how it operates.
In addition to removing that reporting requirement, the budget that just passed allocated $16 million for 1,000 new private prison beds, while taking $50 million from funds intended to help struggling homeowners manage their mortgages. That $16 million might go to MTC, the company that operates the Kingman prison, from which 3 prisoners escaped in 2010 in one of the most highly-publicized prison escapes in years (largely because they murdered an elderly couple). Or it could go to CCA, the company that, despite all its denials about its influence on the legislation, was in the room when SB1070 was drafted and stands to profit handsomely from it.
In yet another example of the corrupting and toxic influence of money in government, this budget proposal was really the handiwork of Governor Brewer’s Chief of Staff, Chuck Coughlin. Coughlin founded HighGround Consulting, the most powerful lobbying force in the state. HighGround happens to represent the private prison industry. A former CCA lobbyist, married to a current CCA lobbyist, also works on Brewer’s staff. And John Kavanagh, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, is quite cozy with Public Policy Partners, a lobbying firm that represents the GEO Group. So it naturally made sense for him to be the one to introduce the provision that eliminated the analyses of private prisons in the state.
I don’t even think it’s a question who Governor Brewer and the rest of the Republican establishment in Arizona represent. And it’s a damn shame. Thank god I don’t live there.