Since 1987, Arizona’s Department of Corrections has been legislatively mandated to produce cost and quality reviews for its private prisons, in part to judge how they compare with state-run facilities. The data on costs were collected, but in recent years, it took a lawsuit by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for the Department of Corrections to release quality comparison data. Finally, in December it complied. The results were damning.
In mid-February, the AFSC released its report Private Prisons: the Public’s Problem. It found Arizona had overpaid for private prison services between 2008 and 2010 by $10 million while receiving inferior services. Writing in The Nation, Sasha Abramsky reports, “One might think that, faced with evidence that the state isn’t getting enough bang for its buck, Arizona legislators would rethink their commitment to putting ever more prisoners into private facilities. Instead…they’ve simply tried to bar the state from collecting the evidence. On February 27 the legislature proposed a budget bill eliminating the requirement for a cost and quality review of private prison contracts.”