Saturday, November 7, 2009
Wait Listed by Jail-11
"One of the newest residents on Arizona's death row, a convicted serial killer name Dale Hausner, poked his head up from his television to look at several visitors strolling by, each of whom wore face masks and vests to protect against the sharp homemade objetcs that often are propelled from the cells of the condemned. ... But in a first in the criminal justice world, the state's death row inmates could become the responsibility of a private company. ... The privatization effort, both in its breadth and its financial goals, demonstrates what states around the country--broke, desperate and often overburdened with prisoners and their associated costs--are willing to do to balance the books. Arizona officials hope the effort will put a $100 million dent in the state's roughly $2 billion budget shortfall. ... Assuming the company could operate the prisons more cheaply or efficiently than the state, any savings would be equally divided between the state and the private firm. ... Arizona is no stranger to private prisons or, for that matter, aggressive privatization efforts (recently, the state put up for sale several government buildings housing executive branch offices in Phoenix). Nearly 30 percent of the state's prisoners are being held in prisons operated by private companies outside the state's 10 complexes. ... For advocates of prison privatization, the push here breathes a bit of life into a movement that has been on the decline across the country as cost savings from prison privatizations have often failed to materialize, corrections officers unions have resisted the efforts and high-profile problems in privately run facilities have drawn unwanted publicity. ... As tough sentencing laws and the ensuing increase in prisoners began to press on state resources in the 1908s, private prison companies attracted some states with promises of lower costs. ... 'There simply isn't the money to keep these people incarcerated, and the alternative is to free many of them or lower cost,' said Ron Utt, a senior research fellow for the Heritage Foundation", my emphasis, Jennifer Steinhauer at the NYT, 24 October 2009, link:
If the company can reduce costs, Arizona can hire it as a consultant, pay it a fee and reap the savings. I expect this to save Arizona nothing. Operating and financing decisions are separable. It doesn't matter who owns the prisons, what matters is what the new owners do differently.