KINGMAN - Despite the downturn in the economy, one major business in the Kingman area has expanded its operations and is hiring new people. The new $130 million addition at the Arizona State Prison-Kingman in Golden Valley, operated by Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, is nearly finished. The new facility will add 2,000 beds, more than doubling the size of the original 1,500-bed minimum/ medium security facility. The prison expects to receive the first inmates for the new facility in April.
ASP-Kingman currently employs more than 250 residents with a payroll of more than $7 million a year, said Deputy Warden Lori Leader. The number of employees will jump to more than 500 and payroll to $19 million once the new addition is opened and fully staffed, she said.
One class of new prison guards has already finished its training, while another is currently training, and the prison's Human Resource Department is already wading through more than a 1,000 applications for the next class, she said.
The prison also expects the amount of property taxes it pays to jump. Currently, the prison pays about $250,000 a year, said Deputy Warden of Operations Scott Yates. How much those taxes will increase with the new facility won't be known until next year.
The prison adds more than just jobs, taxes and inmates to the community, Leader and Yates both said.
"I would say around 30 percent of the supplies and materials we purchase comes from the local community," Yates said. "Home Depot must love us - I'm over there multiple times a week to purchase something."
As part of their rehabilitation, prisoners must give something back to the community. Last year, inmates and prison employees contributed more than 120,000 service hours.
Many of the prisoners participate in one of the prison's many inmate work programs, where they build barbecue grills, birdhouses and children's playhouses and other items that are auctioned or raffled off for charities.
Inmates also perform cleanup and landscaping work at Mohave Community College with the County's Environmental Rural Area Cleanup Enforcement program, the city of Kingman and with other organizations. At one county cleanup project, inmates picked up more than 92 tons of garbage out of the desert.
The prison is also home to Friends from the Pen, a dog-training program that pairs dogs from no-kill shelters with prisoners. The prisoners train the dogs in basic obedience skills over a six-week period and then the dogs are put up for adoption.
The intensive training makes the dogs more attractive to potential pet owners, said Roy Hayes, a dog trainer who works with the inmates. The program also helps the inmates, Leader said.
"Working with the dogs' problems is like working with the problems in my own life," inmate Rod Knagge said.
Another inmate who participated in the program and was released from prison recently is a dog trainer in Phoenix.
The inmates consider working in these types of programs an honor, Leader said. In order to get onto a cleanup crew, work with the dogs or work in the shops, an inmate has to prove himself.
They have to apply for the positions just like they would for a job outside of prison, Leader said.
Inmates that participate in these programs are constantly monitored. A supervisor checks on each work site randomly twice each day, she said. Inmates who get into trouble or break the rules immediately lose their spot on the work crew.
Besides the work programs, many of the inmates participate in fundraisers, make donations to specific charities and more, Leader said. Last month, several inmates donated part of their paychecks to a Haiti relief fund. Inmates have also held special meal days as a way to raise money for charities. Many times, it's the inmates who bring the fundraising ideas to the attention of the prison administration, Leader said.
The inmates are not the only ones who contribute to the community. Many of the employees of the prison participate in fundraising events and other public service, as well, Leader said. A group of employees have raised funds for and participated in the Race for the Cure in Phoenix several years in a row. Many will purchase meals during the special meal days or donate part of their paychecks to causes.
"I think we have a really healthy relationship with the community," Yates said.
The prison is not without controversy. Many residents were and are still opposed to the idea of such a facility in their backyard.
"We've never had an escape attempt," Leader said.
Once the new addition is fully staffed, the prison will actually become safer, Yates said.
Another controversy has been the security level of the inmates in the prison. The original contract with the state of Arizona was for a medium-level substance abuse facility, Yates said. The prison currently houses level 2 minimum and level 3 medium offenders.
The level of security is based off of the type of felony the inmate committed, the number of years left on his sentence and his actions while serving time in prison.
Level 3 offenders are nothing new at the prison, Yates said. Medium level offenders have been housed at the prison since 2005.
"The state controls who they send to us. It's not our choice," Yates said.
Another concern that continues to pop up is the amount of water the prison uses. With more than 1,500 inmates and 250 employees, that's a lot of water.
The prison currently has an agreement with the county that requires the county to provide it with at least 220 gallons of water per minute. The prison has sunk another well as backup. It has also installed a gray water system that will treat wastewater to nearly drinkable standards. The treated water will be used for landscaping and other purposes.
The U.S. Geological Survey and the Arizona Department of Water Resources is studying the aquifer to determine how much water is in it and how quickly that water is being drawn down.