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12/6/2010 6:01:00 AM
Privatization of prisons, parks supported by Gould, McLain

Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - Two local legislators are in favor of a state commission's recommendation to privatize state parks and increase the use of private prisons in the state.

Gov. Jan Brewer created an 11-member commission on privatization and efficiency earlier this year. The commission submitted a preliminary report on topics several months ago, according to the Associated Press. A larger, more detailed report is due to be released on Dec. 31.

Sen. Ron Gould said he was in favor of both ideas, but that certain measures would have to be in place to protect taxpayers.

"When you privatize something, you're always going to have people who are going to cut corners. We need to make sure there is adequate oversight," he said.

Gould pointed to the escape from the Arizona State Prison-Kingman complex as an example. He said that the person from the Arizona Department of Corrections who was in charge of

overseeing the prison knew that it was having problems with perimeter security and didn't do anything about it.

The state needs to set up a better oversight plan for private prisons before thinking about sending more prisoners to them, he said.

Arizona already houses about 5,500 inmates in private prisons, according to the Associated Press.

Gould had no problem contracting the maintenance and operation of state parks out to private companies.

"The government has no incentive to make a profit (on state parks)," he said. A private business in charge of a state park is going to find a way to make money, even if there is a cap on the amount it can charge as an entrance fee, Gould said. It will set up a concession stand or hold events.

Using private contractors to run parks isn't anything new, Gould said. The federal government and several other states use private companies to operate their parks.

Taxpayers could easily be protected from an overzealous businessperson through a profit-sharing contract, he said.

Last year, he and Reps. Nancy McLain and Doris Goodale tried to get the state to turn the operation of Windsor Park in Lake Havasu City over to the city, Gould said. Their efforts were halted because a clause in the state's contract with the Bureau of Land Management prevented the state from subleasing the property to someone else.

McLain also liked the idea of privatizing state parks and using private prisons.

"I'm still in favor of private prisons, and the escape at the Kingman prison doesn't change that," she said. State prisons have also had escapes, and a few years ago there was riot at one state-run prison, she pointed out.

McLain agreed that more oversight was needed over private prisons.

"I'm all in favor of privatizing parks," she said. Private companies could run them more efficiently than the state could, she said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Article comment by: Warren O

desert rat:

"Your socialism is best quickly defined as "From each according to his ability - To each according to his need". And, those determinations are made by a dictatorial central government."

That's a mix of Communism and totalitarianism, a la Stalinist Russia.

"Now, I don't know why you keep posting things about which you obviously know absolutely nothing. The employees that portray characters at Disneyland and Disney World are but a small percentage of the total number who work there."

That's true. They are not, however, nonrepresentative of the employee base at Disney. Most of the people who work there are not in management or skilled positions, which means they don't actually make that much money. the lion's (mouse's?) share goes to the shareholders, CEO, etc. If you believe that revenue ramains in California, you're dreaming.

"However, even in these non-skilled positions, the starting pay is above minimum wage at over $9.00 per hour."

Wrong. The non-skilled positions start at $7 per hour, and top out at $10. Since $7 is below minimum wage, those employees would, in fact, qualify for food stamps. Reference:

"Arizona has 28 State parks, ranging in attractions from Karchner Caverns to Alamo Lake. Each location has a specific reason for its existance which could be better exploited by private enterprise than by a Park Ranger."

How much do you think it costs to keep the state parks in operation? How much do you think the parks bring into the state by tourist dollars? You might want to check out my "Meditations" blog (here on the Miner), specifically the "Green tea" entry, where I discuss the topic further.

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2010
Article comment by: Prison Planet Taxation Nation

Close the prisons and open the season on violent offenders. Protect yourself. The tax collector/police rarely do so. They only generate revenue, rackateering and harassment.

A good cop is one that "takes care" of the bad cops. Any good ones left?

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2010
Article comment by: Holy Spirit

Wow! All of us up here in New Jerusalem are amazed at the level of hatred towards your Mexican brothers. You were all created equal by your Father in Heaven, yet some of you think yourselves better than your fellow man. If the state has the authority to set and enforce laws, then it is the resposiblity of the state to hold criminals, not private interests. Welcome the immigrant into your hearts and homes like Jesus Christ would do. Love your fellow man. Feed the poor, house the homeless, visit your brothers & sisters in prison, clothe the naked. When you DO these things, then you will be worthy to call yourselves Christians. Until then, you are lost to the darkness of hate and ignorance.

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2010
Article comment by: Jim Morrison

Privatize Government.

When you make peace with "authority" you become authority.

Posted: Saturday, December 11, 2010
Article comment by: desert rat

@Warren O - Your socialism is best quickly defined as "From each according to his ability - To each according to his need". And, those determinations are made by a dictatorial central government.

Now, I don't know why you keep posting things about which you obviously know absolutely nothing. The employees that portrey characters at Disneyland and Disney World are but a small percentage of the total number who work there. I will concede that they are among the lowest starting pay because the jobs are usually held by college age youngsters who have few skills but compete strongly for available positions. However, even in these non-skilled positions, the starting pay is above minimum wage at over $9.00 per hour. One would suspect that these young folks are not on food stamps which you state as being a fact without any proof.

Of course, as mentioned, the costumed characters are a small percentage of the total employee population. there are hotel workers, food preparation, chefs, grounds keepers, equipment operators, mechanics, etc., etc. Having lived near Disneyland for a period of time I can assure you that jobs at the Anaheim location are sought after positions.

Arizona has 28 State parks, ranging in attractions from Karchner Caverns to Alamo Lake. Each location has a specific reason for its existance which could be better exploited by private enterprise than by a Park Ranger. So, specific plans would depend on the location. Any interest you in particular?

Posted: Friday, December 10, 2010
Article comment by: Warren O

Ahh, desert rat - you say "socialist" like it's a dirty word.

The people who work at Disneyland (and -world) don't actually make a "good living". the people who traipse around in those costumes actually are on food stamps. They're earning minimum wage.

I never said Disneyland actually was a state park - just that is a de facto state park in California. When we have politicians speaking of means to enhance revenues to state attractions by charging admission fees, and when they're thinking of for-profit ventures to do so, I tend to think of ticket booths, lines, traffic, and so on - in other words, something not too dissimilar from Disneyland.

Which parks, exactly, do you want to see privatized, and how would you improve their visibility to draw in tourists? What scheme would you use to ensure the employees there actually did earn a good living? Hw would you propose handling liability issues?

Finally, what is it that you believe "socialism" is, and why do you seem to feel that it's somehow a threat or evil?

Posted: Thursday, December 9, 2010
Article comment by: KO TAY

In favor of private prisons huh. Maybe he would like to know about the mysterious bullets (9mm) being found for the last 3 days at the prison in Golden Valley. Apparently they (the prison) can't seem to figure out where they are from. 3 yrs ago inmates got hold of .22 bullets and made gun shot out windows. Amazing how unimformed the rest of you tax payers are. Private prisons do not train CO's well at all. Now if they agreed to train to COTA codes I would feel safer. The reason they don't easy officers could transfer to state run facilities that offer better pay, benefits. Ron is running for Chairmen of Precinct Committee on Jan 8 he just lost my vote because he support private prisons.

Posted: Thursday, December 9, 2010
Article comment by: sick of it all

Its all about who will get the bids on building and running the private prisons. these good old boys who represent us probably have campaign donations from the people who will be getting the contracts. its all set up already. havnt goodale, gould and mcclain taken any time to research other states on this issue, sure doesnt look like it

Posted: Thursday, December 9, 2010
Article comment by: desert rat

@Warren O - Holy revenue-sharing liberal, Warren. Ooops, wrong comic book.

Are you trying, with a straight face, to convince anyone with a brain that Disneyland (which is nothing like any State park I have ever seen) does not contribute to the well being of the community surrounding it and never has? And that to contribute, the revenue derived from visitors should be shared with the State of California rather than with share holders in Disney stock?

Warren, I know that it is a stretch for a socialist to understand that an enterprise built with private money, regardless of fame and fortune remains private, but that is the foolish way of capitalism. Now, as to contribution, how about the generations of California residents that have earned a pretty good living working there. How about The thousands of entrepreneurs and employees that depend on the tourism for their businessesband livelyhoods?

Could one hazard a guess that the theme park itself and the dependent businesses and the employees of both pay a very substantial amount of taxes to the bankrupt (financially and morally) state of California? And yet you lament that: "not a whole lot of that money actually does anything to enrich the coffers of its bankrupt host."

But, your socialist ranting has taken us away from the original discussion. That is: could a private entrepreneur do a better job of running a park than the State? I would put forth the concept that a private enterpreneur , who is counting on repeat as well as increased patronage has a much higher incentive for improving the facilities and/or attractions in a given location than the State.

Now, a no-growth socialist who lives within miles of said park might not approve of the increased traffic in the area or the changes in landscape or any number of trumped up reasons. Just think about how much hell could have been raised over something like Disneyland.

Posted: Thursday, December 9, 2010
Article comment by: nnp nnp

Why not make prisons a paying tourist attraction? With some modifications, it could probably be done. First, you'd have to pretty up the facilities with Las Vegas-style neon signs. Then, since someone has mentioned Disneyland here, you'd have various sections like Tomorrowland, Main Street, etc. but obviously named differently - what would you call the prison section reserved for those poor souls who had their probation revoked on a two-bit violation? How about the section housing people caught wth a five-dollar glass smoking pipe in their car? How about the section housing those who were snitched off by their best friend/trusted neighbor, etc. - someone who was guilty of far more serious crimes but worked with the DA/law enforcement to keep his arse out of prison himself ? At any rate, I'd suggest cute little passenger train car rides for tourists, through the various sections of the prison, and you'd certainly want to have some refreshment stands there, as well - ice cream, pizza, ethnic foods, etc. ( I'd call the ice cream stand "Himmler's Delights", for Heinrich Himmler, who enjoyed his favourite ice cream treats at the Officer's Mess at Dachau). Some bleachers should be erected for the tourists who wish to observe the Medi-vac helicopter flights carrying stab victims out two or three times a day in the larger prisons. What would be really cute, too, as has been a law enforcement practise in Las Vegas, would be to have children role-play crminal trials for the other tourists, complete with little teddy bears provided by police, as in Las Vegas. I'm not sure how you would depict to the tourists the rapes and various dark subterfuges of prison "life", but this is America. The country may have been robbed blind of trillions ($6.5 trillion is the latest figure I've heard from 2008, which you weren't told about), privacy viciously thugged away, Mexicans and others handsomely rewarded for the theft and desecration of our heritage, and everything from water to food and the air we breathe compromised by the greedy traitors who unleashed the previously-mentioned law enforcement apparatus upon us........but America still knows how to put on a good collusively-produced show. So let's do it. Make prisons the glitzy revenue-generating stream which history demands of a dying nation, just before the gurgling of death finally takes over.

Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Article comment by: Frank Lee Speaking

@Warren O

Go easy on him. (nnp nnp). He is straining his capabilities as it is just cutting and pasting info from his favorite white supremacist websites. At least this time he was not whining about not being able to get a job in S. CA because of them. He seems to be unaware that approx. 44% of illegals in the U.S. are not Mexican. And when that number does dawn on him, he will only be screeching for the deportation of the ones in that group who are non-white anyway.

Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Article comment by: Warren O

desert rat:

I'm aware of Disneyland's status as a for-profit venture, one that began as such. It is also a de facto state park for California, and has been since it opened in the 1950s. It's a good model to use in understanding how a for-profit state park might work.

Disneyland (CA) brings millions of dollars in revenue to California every year, but not a whole lot of that money actually does anything to enrich the coffers of its bankrupt host. The reason is simple: most of the revenues end up paying out-of-state shareholders. The money doesn't remain in California.

The citizen taxpayers of CA only get traffic snarls around Anaheim and a lot of pollution in exchange for for their pride in being able to say that they are the original home of Mickey Mouse. I'm not sure we want to follow their lead.

I'm also aware that non-private prisons have breakouts. Even when not under the Geneva Code, the first duty of a prisoner is to try to escape. However, our recent calamity resulted in a few people being shuttled out to other jobs, not indictments.

To my mind, the corporation that runs the prison in GV is directly responsible for the murder of two people in New Mexico. A state-run prison might actually have accountability for that. A for-profit enterprise clearly does not.

Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Article comment by: Tom D.

Rat, you are much to serious. I didn't need a lesson on Wall Street, I was simply using Wall Street to mean everything Big Business related (corporate America) I figured you'd pick that up beings I mentioned bailing them out. No we did not bail out Wall Street, we resuscitated and saved its @ss (Big Business) via bailouts.

I don't blame 'Big' business for shutting doors and relocating factories to areas where Unions don't have as much influence if it means their survival or simply for extra profits. My issue is with the unappreciative, un-American greedy Corp's who've moved their factories to Communist China solely for greed and profits. Which in turn has had a drastic impact on middleclass America, whether you believe it or not. Without the middleclass, we'll become another third world country, then Liberals like you won't have a voice!

In regard to your 'illegal solution', your Liberal steak really shines. More government and more! No solutions.... just "We'll fix it with more Government!" I've no problem locking up illegal's, lock away, just friggin pay for it! The last thing we need are more friggin prisons! We lead the world in prisoners, we house 25% of the worlds prison population yet only make up 5% of the worlds A good place to start would be getting rid of all your beloved Liberal 'Nanny Laws'.

Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Article comment by: desert rat

@ warren O - Get out much? Disneyland is now and always has been a private for-profit enterprise. It has never been a State or County or City park, The comparison that makes more sense is our National Park system which is now almost completely run by concessionaires, leaving Park Rangers to spent their time being conservation and traffic cops.

One might assume, from your post, that you are under the mistaken impression that no one ever escapes from a government run prison. That, sir, is far from true. In any prison there are a few guards watching several hundred inmates who have nothing better to do all day but look for ways to escape. Once in a while they succeed regardless of who pays the guards.

@ Tom D - Do you get any exercise at all except jumping to erroneous conclusions? If you knew economics, you would know that Wall Street does not create jobs. Never has, never will. Wall Street banks for and trades in stocks for companies that create jobs by manufacturing a product or providing a service, and for the millions of workers employed by those companies.

Wall Street does not set wages for anyone else. Never has, never will. Wages are determined by the other costs of manufacturing a product or providing a service, plus the desired profits for the owner or shareholders of the company versus the end user price of the product or service. The balance is available for wages. If wages are too low for employees to support their families, they have the option of looking for another position. If wages, and thus the end user price are too high, the company loses its customers and eventually goes out of business (in the real world, not the make-believe we are now in).

I certainly would not agree that the middle class in this country has been destroyed. I think that I am firmly in the middle of that class. What has come close to killing the goose with the golden egg has been the labor unions that continue to demand ever higher wages regardless of how a company is performing in the market.

You see, I do not think that anyone should be paid $72 per hour for attatching a bumper to a vehicle on the assembly line. A company where I worked for several years fell on hard times and went to the union to ask for some concessions and a temporary freeze on wages. The unions refused, the company closed up shop and 2,000 people lost their jobs. No Wall Street interference there.

Your interpretation of what I said about illegals is just nonsensical. There are several so-called "sanctuary cities" in Arizona that basically stop and release illegals without any investigation at all. If they are forced by SB1070 to do even cursory investigation, many aliens who have committed crimes in this country will be apprehended. Would you then release these animals back onto the streets as is now being done? Would you merely turn them over to the Feds for deportation knowing that within a couple of weeks they will be back?

Your presentation of alien treatment now is not accurate. Most are held for a day or two, given a date to appear in court for a deportation hearing (that most ignore) and released. ICE only deported a little over 300,000 illegals last year. How many criminals do you think slipped through those huge cracks?

Our society proscribes prison time for certain offenses against it. The State is charged with the responsibility of providing some of the prisons and should do so in the cheapest, safest manner possible.

Posted: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Article comment by: Warren O

nnp nnp:

3 brief grafs, and "Mexican" mentioned eight times, always in the context of danger, "invasion", fearmongering, killing, and so on.

Do you get your sheets at Wal-Mart, or K-Mart? Do you find that a higher thread count makes it harder for your victims to make out your features, or are they too terrified to be aware of anything but the hood?

desert rat:

Privately-run state parks, such as Disneyland, can be successful - but there really isn't a lot of California to be found in Disneyland. If I'd like to see a chunk of Arizona other than the South Rim, I'm constrained to state parks. I'd say that's reason enough to keep them around.

As for prisons being run efficiently: The men who escaped from the one in Golden Valley were escaping from a privately-owned prison.

Efficiency does not always equal safety.

Posted: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Article comment by: Tom D.

Rat says:
"As for private vs. public prisons, does anyone with a sound mind honestly think that letting an organization similar to the one that runs the Post Office, Medicare, Social Security, Cash for Clunkers, etc. run a prison system is going to be more effecient than turning it over to private enterprise?"

LOL Rat, Wall Street has done wonders for job creation and costs savings....LOL! You already forgot we had to bail them out? They got rich off slave labor rates, they destroyed the middle class and they went broke doing it!

Rat says:
"Lets be real here. If the Court allows SB 1070 to stand, there will be an abundance of illegal alien criminals caught up in normal traffic stops that are now being released back on the streets to continue their foul deeds. There will be a need for additional space to house these slugs while they serve a sentance prior to, hopefully, deportation."

All your proposing is wasting more of my tax dollars Rat. Now who's the real Lib here? Your solution is the same thing we are doing now, 'Catch and Release'. Except you are adding enormous costs to do the same thing while enriching Brewers "For Profit Prison" entourage.

Now the illegal is held temporarily, then deported. Instead you want to offer the illegal free housing, food, and healthcare. Three things they've never had consistently. Illegal's will be flooding our state with your plan. ..... "Go to Arizona, free room and board, and a free trip back home when they get tired of us! As an added benefit, we don't even have to work!" ..... You're suggesting nothing to slow down illegal immigration, just wasting a lot more tax dollars.

Posted: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Article comment by: mike tartaglia

What makes Mr. Gould think that the savings a private business can conjure up (which, as others have pointed out, will most likely come from cutting corners in various areas) will be returned to the state? Private prisons keep the profit they earn, the differential between what a state needs to run a prison, and the bare minimum they can get away with spending. Private operators of state parks would do exactly the same thing. And in fact, an internal audit done by the state of Arizona found that private prisons don't even save money, and could in fact cost more. This is a terrible plan.

For way more on the private prison industry, check out

Posted: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Article comment by: Joe (Last name withheld)

It is time we refrained from packing our prisons with non-violent drug offenders. Then we'll have plenty of room for the thieves and brutal thugs that really deserve being there. And that doesn’t even include the inmates!

Just kidding folks, just kidding- about the guards anyways. The rest is pretty spot on. We can't afford to keep building these drug gulags.

Posted: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Article comment by: desert rat

Is there really a rational reason for State Parks? After all, we have an abundance of National Parks, State Parks, County Parks and City Parks. Granted that some fill a different role as in City Parks compared to National Parks. But, what is the reason for the existance of the others?

If the taxpayers in a particular County feel the need for a County park system or the people of a State have a desire for that type of system, establish the parks, draw up operational guidelines and put them up for lease to the highest bidder. Make the lease at least a five year proposition so that any investment can be recouped and sit back and let some enterprenuer make his living there.

As for private vs. public prisons, does anyone with a sound mind honestly think that letting an organization similar to the one that runs the Post Office, Medicare, Social Security, Cash for Clunkers, etc. run a prison system is going to be more effecient than turning it over to private enterprise?

Commenters who regularly lambaste most forms of government for some strange reason are almost hysterical in their support of a state run prison system.

Lets be real here. If the Court allows SB 1070 to stand, there will be an abundance of illegal alien criminals caught up in normal traffic stops that are now being released back on the streets to continue their foul deeds. There will be a need for additional space to house these slugs while they serve a sentance prior to, hopefully, deportation.

It would behoove the State to house these and other criminals as cheaply as possible. I would support Sheriff Joe's methods but those have already been turned down by the libs. The remaining avenue is whichever proves to be more effecient cost-wise private or public prisons.

It will be very interesting to see how the December 31 report turns out.

Posted: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Article comment by: Bart Simpson

People who have entered this country "illegally", SHOULD be in those jail cells! Fill em up....

Posted: Monday, December 6, 2010
Article comment by: nnp nnp

If these reps want to cut costs they must stop the Mexican Invasion. Over half of the prison population is Mexican. The schools in Arizona are filled with Mexicans, as well as the ER's. Only after the government stops the folly, the Mexican Invasion, will anybody believe that the government are really doing something.

12 Americans are killed a day by Mexicans in American. More Americans have been killed by Mexicans than all Americans who have been killed by Muslims since 9/11.

If McClain and Gould want us to see them as credible they need to act on stopping the Mexicans from invading our country. The cost of the Mexican Invasion is killing us, it's killing CA, and TX. NY is being killed by the 3rd world people invading their state. Todays report states that these 3 states could take us into a collapse as bad as Greece.

Posted: Monday, December 6, 2010
Article comment by: vock canyon

Just take a look at the prisons in California, the prison guard unions have the state legislature over a humongous barrel. Most of these guards are making over 100k per year to start. Private prisons, well check it out your self....

Posted: Monday, December 6, 2010
Article comment by: Pancho Villa

Private prisons cost more than public prisons, as has been regularly demonstrated including in Arizona. The only reason they exist is to vacuum up campaign contributions.

The state monitors at the ASP did exactly what they were supposed to do. They looked the other way. There's no other explanation for it. Since Dora Schriro left two years ago the oversight has gone into the toilet.

This article is permanently archived at:
Corporate Con Game
How the private prison industry helped shape Arizona's anti-immigrant law.
By Beau Hodai June 21, 2010

Beside my brothers and my sisters, I'll proudly take a stand. When liberty's in jeopardy, I'll always do what's right. I'm out here on the frontline, sleep in peace tonight. American soldier, I'm an American soldier..."

So goes the ringtone of Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce's (R-Mesa) phone--as performed by Toby "we put a boot up your ass, it's the American way" Keith. Seconds into any conversation with Pearce about illegal immigration, you'll discover that the song fits. In his mind, Pearce is an "American soldier" fighting a war that he believes threatens the very fiber of the nation.

"There's been 133 nations identified crossing that border. Not just Mexicans, not just Hondurans, not just El Salvadorians, but 133 nations. Many of those are nations of interest, which means that they either harbor, aid and abet, or are somehow connected to terrorist activities," says Pearce. "And yet they continue to cross that border. We've got prayer rugs that have been found down there, other things that have been found down there--and yet they [the federal government] continue to do nothing."

So Pearce decided to do something. He became the proud and primary sponsor of S.B. 1070--the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act--signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in April and set to take effect on July 29.

Yet the fact is, some backers of S.B. 1070 are wrapping themselves in the flag all the way to the bank.

An In These Times investigation shows that the bill's promoters are as equally dedicated to border politics as they are to promoting the fortunes of private prison companies, like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group, which stand to reap substantial profits as more undocumented residents end up in jail.
Pearce and the policy pushers

In early December 2009--a full month and a half before S.B. 1070 was introduced to the Arizona Senate and nearly two months before its counterpart was first read in the House--Pearce formally submitted a version of his drafted legislation to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization to which he and 35 other Arizona legislators belong.

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, ALEC bills itself as "the nation's largest bipartisan, individual membership association of state legislators" and as a public-private legislative partnership. As such, ALEC claims as members more than 2,000 state lawmakers (one-third of the nation's total legislators) and more than 200 corporations and special-interest groups.

The organization's current corporate roster includes the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, the nation's largest private jailer), the Geo Group (the nation's second largest private jailer), Sodexho Marriott (the nation's leading food services provider to private correctional institutions), the Koch Foundation, Exxon Mobil, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Boeing, Wal-Mart and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, to name just a few.

ALEC is comprised of 10 task forces, each responsible for developing "model legislation," which ALEC member lawmakers then sponsor and introduce in their home states. This occurs despite the fact that federal tax law explicitly forbids 501(c)(3) organizations such as ALEC from taking part in the formation of legislation. ALEC promotional material boasts that each year member legislators typically carry 1,000 pieces of legislation back to their home states, 20 percent of which is passed into law.

As a testament to ALEC's efficacy as a pipeline for corporate-backed legislation, since the passage of the federal healthcare overhaul package in late March, legislators in at least 38 states have introduced the ALEC-crafted Freedom of Choice Health Care Act (Health Care Act). Ironically, given the fetish Pearce and other ALEC lawmakers have for adherence to federal immigration laws, the Health Care Act is marketed as an assertion of the states' sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment. Interestingly, ALEC claims that the Health Care Act is based on an Arizona proposition that was defeated on the ballot in 2008.

Pearce is an executive member of ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force. The private-sector executive members of this task force include CCA, the American Bail Coalition (which is comprised of nine of the nation's top bail bond insurer/bounty hunter associations), the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers Association, the National Pawn Brokers Association and Prison Fellowship Ministries. The private-sector chair of the Public Safety Task Force is the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Although ALEC's legislative members far outnumber corporate members, a look at the group's finances illustrates not only the price corporations are willing to pay for a seat at the table with state lawmakers, but where the group's loyalties likely lie. According to ALEC's most recent tax records, in 2008 the group reported a total of $6.9 million in revenue--$93,387 of which was brought in through legislative membership dues (a two-year membership is available to lawmakers for $100, or four years at $200). On the other hand, ALEC received $5.6 million (all but $1.3 million of the group's annual budget) in contributions from its corporate and special-interest members.

According to Michael Hough, director of ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force, every bill introduced by any member legislator or corporation must go through a 30-day review process of approval by both public and private sector ALEC members before it can become model legislation. This process, Hough says, was set in motion for Pearce's immigration bill when he submitted it to the Public Safety and Elections Task Force during the group's December 2009 meeting in Washington, D.C.

Pearce denies that he submitted the bill to ALEC for any purpose other than to gain its endorsement and strengthen the legislation's ability to weather legal challenges both in Arizona and other states.

However, ALEC does not issue endorsements, says Hough, but rather works with lawmakers in the formation and dissemination of model legislation. And, according to Hough, the model legislation that emerged from Pearce's ALEC task force in early January is virtually identical to the bill introduced by Pearce in the Arizona Legislature later that month.
Sanctuary city 'anarchists'

All Arizona is seeking to do, says Pearce, is enforce current federal immigration laws--laws that liberal lawmakers and "loudmouth anarchist" groups in so-called "sanctuary cites" flagrantly violate.

"It's illegal to have sanctuary policies in this state under federal law, but we have them all over this country. I mean, L.A. and San Francisco being--if you will--the poster cities of what's wrong with America," says Pearce.

To remedy this situation, the ALEC model legislation ("No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act") and Pearce's Arizona bill both feature anti-sanctuary cities provisions that prohibit any municipal, county or state policy from hampering the ability of any government agency to comply with federal immigration law. The ALEC model legislation and the Arizona law also both include sanctions aimed at those who employ illegal immigrants and tougher penalties for human smugglers.

The Arizona law has drawn the most fire for its so-called "Breathing While Brown" provision that allows law enforcement officers to arrest anyone whom they have probable cause to believe may have committed a crime--such as being in Arizona without proper documentation. When the law goes into effect on July 29, any person in Arizona found to be without legal papers will be charged with the new state crime of "willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document," under Arizona's criminal trespass statutes.

These new criminal offences carry a maximum fine of $100, up to 20 days in jail (30 days for a second offense) and restitution of jail costs. By creating these state level offenses--and by forbidding localities from ignoring them--Pearce's Arizona law and ALEC's model legislation effectively convert every state, county and municipal police officer into an enforcer of federal immigration law.

According to Hough, the main difference between the final version of the Support Our Law Enforcement Act as signed into law in Arizona and the Sanctuary Cities Act that ALEC is promoting across the country is that the ALEC legislation carries more stringent penalties under the criminal trespass section than the Arizona law.

Under the Sanctuary Cities Act's criminal trespassing provision, first offences are still Class 1 misdemeanors, but there is no 20- to 30-day cap on incarceration as the final version of Arizona's S.B. 1070 provides. Additionally, the Arizona legislation classifies subsequent offenses as misdemeanors and the Sanctuary Cities Act classifies repeat offenses as felonies, which carry lengthier terms of incarceration.
'Enhanced opportunities'

Questions of justice aside, the immigration dragnet created by S.B. 1070 in Arizona and the Sanctuary Cities Act, will greatly increase the numbers of undocumented residents who are arrested and jailed. And that bodes well for the bottom lines of private detention corporations such as CCA and Geo Group. (Neither Geo Group nor CCA responded to repeated requests for comment.)

Over the past decade, the private-prison industry has increasingly shifted its attention to the burgeoning fields of undocumented and criminal alien detention. From January 2008 to April 2010, CCA spent $4.4 million lobbying the Department of Homeland Security, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, the Office of Budget Management, the Bureau of Prisons, and both houses of Congress. Of the 43 lobbying disclosure reports CCA filed during this period, only five do not expressly state intent to monitor or influence immigration reform policy or gain Homeland Security or ICE appropriations.

Looking at the numbers, it is easy to see why the private-prison industry is eager to expand into immigrant detentions. According to ICE Public Affairs Officer Gillian Brigham, in fiscal year 2009, ICE detained 383,524 individuals, with an average daily prisoner population of 32,098 spread across the nation's 270 immigrant detention centers.

Due to the rising numbers of immigrant detentions in recent years, coupled with the rising tide of economic shortfalls at both the state and federal level (ICE reported a $140 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2010), ICE has farmed out the operations of many of these facilities to either county operators under inter-government service agreements (IGSAs) or to private-prison contractors who operate the facilities on a per diem, per inmate basis.

Currently, seven of these facilities are "contract detention facilities" (CDFs) owned and operated by either CCA or Geo Group. However, according to Brigham, ICE uses several types of facilities for immigrant detention, including county or state-owned jails and prisons contracted out by ICE under IGSAs, and "service processing centers," which are facilities operated by both federal and private detention staff.

An example of one of these IGSA enterprises would be the nation's largest immigrant detention facility, the Willacy County Processing Center in Raymondville, Texas. This jail, though owned by the county, is operated by Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based private prison manager. Consisting of several massive dome-like structures, the Willacy "Tent City" can warehouse more than 3,000 immigrant detainees awaiting deportation at any given time.

However, according to Brigham, ICE does not keep tabs on who is operating these detention centers at the state or county level through IGSAs, so it is difficult to assess how many of these facilities are run by private firms. In addition, ICE is not the only federal agency to contract out immigrant detention beds to these corporations. The detention of undocumented aliens, who are convicted of a crime and must serve a sentence before deportation, is also farmed out to private-prison contractors through the Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Understandably, Geo Group and CCA are optimistic about their industry's future. They plan to expand operations or fill thousands of detention bed "inventory surpluses" around the country (including in Arizona) in response to what these corporations refer to as "organic growth opportunities." The drivers of this growth include the increase of immigrant detentions and the inability of the federal and state governments to meet detention needs due to budgetary constraints.

In May, during the Geo Group's first-quarter investor conference call, a prospective investor asked Geo CEO George Zoley what impact Arizona's immigration law might have on business. Zoley responded with levity: "What? They have some new legislation? I never heard about it. I think I'm increasingly convinced of their need for 5,000 new beds."

Wayne Calabrese, Geo Group's chief operating officer, offered a more straightforward appraisal.

"I can only believe that the opportunities at the federal level are going to continue at pace as a result of what's happening. I think people understand there is still a relatively low threshold of tolerance for people coming across the border and those laws not being enforced," Calabrese said. "And that to me at least suggests there are going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do."

Posted: Monday, December 6, 2010
Article comment by: Warren O

"Sen. Ron Gould said he was in favor of both ideas, but that certain measures would have to be in place to protect taxpayers.

"When you privatize something, you're always going to have people who are going to cut corners. We need to make sure there is adequate oversight," he said."

Wouldn't the added expense of "adequate oversight", combined with paying the private companies, end up costing about the same as - or more than - not privatizing the prisons and parks in the first place?

""The government has no incentive to make a profit (on state parks)," he said. A private business in charge of a state park is going to find a way to make money, even if there is a cap on the amount it can charge as an entrance fee, Gould said. It will set up a concession stand or hold events."

...or cut corners on maintenance. That the state doesn't have a for-profit motive in maintaining parks and prisons might not be a bad thing I'm not sure, for instance, that the South Rim* would be improved by a nightly fireworks show or neon arcade, just to drum up business.

Consider what happened to Sedona some years back. Used to be a place where you could go to enjoy some genuinely spectacular countryside, in relative peace and quiet - and then the businesses got wind of how popular it was with New Age folks. The rest is somewhat saddening.

As I recall, the original scheme for national parks was to maintain a sort of wilderness reserve that could be accessed by Americans who wanted to get away from workaday urban life. The system was also, I understood, put in place to preserve wilderness in general.

I'm not sure how a for-profit concern, with an eye toward bigger, better, and more money, would be able to keep that sort of spirit alive in a park (or prison) scheme.

I'm also troubled by the idea that a private prison business might have a strong lobby in the legislature, through which it could push for laws that make more offenses punishable by prison time - which would be convenient indeed for the prison business.

When I think of corporations making money off of the human misery of prisons, the term "filthy lucre" comes immediately to mind.


* I know, not a state park - just using it as an extreme example.

Posted: Monday, December 6, 2010
Article comment by: Tom D.

"The government has no incentive to make a profit (on state parks)," he said. A private business in charge of a state park is going to find a way to make money, even if there is a cap on the amount it can charge as an entrance fee, Gould said. It will set up a concession stand or hold events."

I can see it now. Some unscrupulous business guy who pays out a small fortune annually to dispose of hazardous waste, bribes the minimum wage earner at the gate to drop loads of waste in desolate areas of the park. Years later we find out, it ends up costing tax payers more to clean the mess up then we ever saved by leasing them out. This should be thought out more. Should we privatize our fire and police departments too. How about the BOS?

As far as privatizing prisons, studies have shown they save tax payers zero, plus are not ran as safely. The big difference is, in private prisons the guards make much less, and those additional profits head out of state to wherever "for profit prison" headquarters are located. They send what could have been money spent in Arizona to Utah, or wherever. They cost us more money!

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