Sunday, August 08, 2010

Arizona's Prison Escapees Highlighting Brewer's Failures As A Leader

Tracy Province, John McCluskey, the violent escapees from one of Arizona's privately-run prisons, and their accomplice, and Casslyn Welch, are doing their part to prove the theory that the private sector can always do things better than the public sector can.*

*OK, not really.  More the opposite.

Aside from their escape, from a facility intended for prisoners convicted of DUI violations, and jaunt across Arizona, their escape is a testament to family values, evidence of the effectiveness of the rehabilitation efforts in AZ's private prisons, a travelogue of western U.S. tourism, and a primer in international cooperation.

AKA - Three prisoners convicted of murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, and more, escaped, carjacked someone to gain possession of a vehicle for their move across the state, got some assistance from family (resulting in the arrest of one of their mothers), possibly killed an Oklahoma couple visiting New Mexico, are possibly hiding out in Yellowstone National Park and planning to take their escape/crime spree to one of the U.S.'s greatest allies, Canada.

statement from Terry Goddard, Arizona's Attorney General and a candidate for Governor:
These dangerous inmates should have never been at a facility intended for DUI offenders. Now they are suspected of killing an elderly couple in New Mexico. I fervently hope they are caught soon, before they commit any more crimes. I urge Governor Brewer to take a long, hard look at her corrections priorities. Recent reports show that some of her closest advisers are paid advocates for private prisons. This kind of personal interest must never trump public safety.

Upon learning about the escape, Charles Ryan, director of the Department of Corrections and a Brewer appointee, was quick to blame staff for the disaster. Instead of blaming staff, the Brewer administration should carefully examine their management and prisoner classification failures that allowed for these dangerous prisoners to be in a lower-security prison. Even faced with a difficult budget, public safety must never be jeopardized.

From 2005-2009, the Corrections budget increased about $77 million each year. Under Brewer's watch, however, the Corrections budget instead was cut almost $68 million, leaving the agency $145 million dollars behind where it should be.

These violent offenders were not an exception in the privately run Kingman facility. Recent reports indicate that 117 inmates at that facility are serving life sentences, with either first or second degree murder charges.

Last year, Brewer signed into law HB 2010, which privatized most of our correctional system and signed SB 1028, which permitted private vendors to operate one or more of Arizona's state prisons. SB 1028 was to include a 50-year contract and an up-front payment of $100 million. Brewer signed the bill, despite a letter from Corrections Director Ryan pleading with her not to. In the letter he wrote, "Undoubtedly, a private company would pay its employees significantly lower wages and provide them lesser training to realize cost savings. This would lead to higher staff turnover, low morale and place public safety at risk."

Yet Brewer still signed it. The Brewer administration has consistently promoted private over public prisons, in spite of the public safety risk. The escape of these two violent offenders makes it clear how dangerous this policy has been. Governor Brewer's priorities are wrong for Arizona.
One of the intriguing aspects of this mess has been the absence of statements from the "law and order" wing of the AZGOP.

One can't help but think that if the escapees had Hispanic names, the likes of Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio, Andrew Thomas, and the rest, would be raising a deafening uproar over the threat to decent "Amurricans" from those dastardly brown people.

The only thing that has been deafening has been the silence pouring forth from the pro-SB1070/anti-Mexican crowd.

But it must be OK, because Jan Brewer's closest advisers were/are/will be again? lobbyists for private prison firms.

Apparently, crime is bad, especially if brown people are involved.  And just as apparently, profiting from crime is good, especially if politically-connected Republicans are involved.


Thane Eichenauer said...

Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Where does Terry Goddard believe that $145 million dollars that should have been spent come from?

Arizona imprisons far too many people convicted of drug and prostitution offenses.

Thane Eichenauer
2010 Libertarian Party candidate for Arizona state treasurer

cpmaz said...

Thane -

I can't speak for Goddard on that specific point.

I'm not a fan of private prisons in general. In general, I don't think they should be utilized or even allowed.

We *do* imprison too many people, and having the profit motive involved only encourages more.

There are good reasons to imprison people, but doing so in order for private companies to make some money is not a valid reason, and that is where we have gone as a society (and not just in AZ).

Thane Eichenauer said...

Certainly hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on prison incarceration each year in Arizona. Just because there isn't a for-profit business present doesn't mean that the Department of Corrections and Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association don't have an incentive measured in millions of dollars to ensure that the prisons are full.

cpmaz said...

Thane -

Not to get to deeply into this one (I think we agree more than disagree) but ADC and ACPOA didn't have much if anything to do with creating the demand for what they do; the private company lobbyists on Brewer's staff did, with SB1070 and other laws, including the ones that require ADC to farm out prisoners to privately-run prisons with non-ACPOA staff.