State Capitol News
10:10 am
Wed September 14, 2011

Judge refuses to block state from awarding contracts for 5000 new prison beds

Phoenix, AZ – The Department of Corrections is set to award a contract as early as Friday. But the American Friends Service Committee, an arm of the Quaker religion, pointed out to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Arthur Anderson that a state law requires there first be a study to determine whether private companies who say they can do the job for less actually meet the same standards for everything from security to food. And that study will not be completed until the end of the year. The group asked Anderson to keep any contracts from being awarded until that study is done. But the judge said they did not present evidence of irreparable harm, one of the requirements for a temporary restraining order. Carolyn Isaacs, the group's program director, disagreed, saying there is evidence that the private prisons are not just expensive but also dangerous.

(We've amassed quite a bit of data that shows there are serious patterns of the DoC neglecting its duty of care as far as oversight of these facilities, major systemic problems with the state's existing private prisons, that all point to the need for a serious review before we issue any more contracts.)

Isaacs pointed to last year's escape of three dangerous inmates from a private prison in Kingman as proof of the problems. Anderson's refusal to issue the emergency order does not end the matter. He has scheduled a hearing for next week where both sides can present evidence about whether the state should be allowed to go ahead with the contracts or be forced to wait until that study is completed. While state officials said they can issue a contract on Friday, they provided no indication whether they will move that fast. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.