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Nathan Newman on May 3, 2007 - 8:54am
Take 1200 prisoners from Arizona, hire Indiana at $64 per day to house them, then ship them 1500 miles from home and loved ones to a private prison in New Castle, Indiana run by the GEO Group, a private prison company that has been repeatedly cited for substandard conditions. When a riot among 500 prisoners broke out last week, with prisoners taking over the facility for two hours, it was hardly surprising to observers.
As the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette noted in an editorial:
The director of the Arizona Department of Corrections had visited New Castle a week before the riot and ”“ based on what she found there ”“ halted the planned transfer of 630 more inmates. A spokeswoman for the Arizona department said there were not enough guards on duty and they did not have enough experience...Some former prison employees have charged that GEO Group has cut staffing, and there are reports that privatization of the food services prompted complaints from inmates.
Profits for private prisons comes, as the Journal-Gazette emphasizes, from "cost savings and low-wage jobs that come at the expense of public safety."
Adding to these concerns is the fact that prison privatization in Indiana, as in too many states, followed a massive infusion of $226,000 in campaign contributions by prison interests to state-level candidates between 2001 and 2004, including $52,900 to incumbent governor Mitch Daniels.
This is all part of a broader trend, as Business Week details this week, of cash-strapped states increasingly turning to privatization of public assets like highways, airports and bridges -- a dangerous recipe for undermining public safety and ripping off the taxpayer, as we explained earlier this year.