AFSC Sues Arizona Over Private Prisons

     PHOENIX (CN) – The American Friends Service Committee asked a Superior Court judge to block Arizona from awarding private prisons any contracts to house 5,000 inmates. The Quaker group says that “private prison operators have not been maintaining adequate security standards for years,” and the state has failed to supervise them.
     The state authorized sending a request for proposals for 5,000 private prison beds and Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill on Sept. 3, 2009. The offer was withdrawn “after the Kingman escapes,” when three men – two of them convicted murderers – escaped from a private prison. All were eventually recaptured – one after a shootout with police. Two of the men are suspected of killing two campers, Gary and Linda Haas, both 61, after they escaped.
     The AFSC and parents whose son is in prison in Arizona say the state has failed to “monitor contractors who are engaged in the inherently dangerous work of building, operating, and maintaining private prison facilities in the state of Arizona.”
     They cite an Arizona Department of Corrections Security Assessment of the state’s private prisons, of Aug. 22, 2010, which found shortcomings in the “installation and maintenance of security devices, separation and control of inmates and visitors, accessibility of controls, violation of escape prevention methods, inventory and control of weapons, searches of both staff and inmates, temperature control, sanitation, and unsafe conditions.”
     Plaintiffs Joyce Clayton and Oralee Clayton Sr. are parents of an inmate at the Kingman prison, operated by Management & Training Corporation (MTC), from which the murderers escaped. They say their son, Oralee Clayton Jr., was “exposed to riot conditions in the Kingman prison … and continues to be in constant fear of riots in the future due to the inadequate security at existing private prisons.”
     They say they son told them that “he fears for his life and feels he has to ‘sleep with one eye open.'”
     The Claytons say they are worried because the “Kingman facility saw a series of fights, riots, and disturbances starting in the summer of 2010, just before the escape of three prisoners from Kingman, and continuing into the winter.”
     The AFSC says that until Arizona “completes its statutorily required assessment of the safety and quality of facilities currently under contract, there are no assurances that these facilities are using money derived from tax revenue efficiently.”
     If the new contracts are awarded, the AFSC says the “defendants will be powerless to enforce the state’s standard should the current conditions be declared deficient in the comparison study that is scheduled to be completed in 2012.”
     Bids have been received for 5,000 new for-profit prison beds from MTC, Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, Emerald, and LaSalle/Southwest Corrections, according to the complaint.
     GEO Group and MTC hold multiple contracts in Arizona, and the AFSC says their facilities have never been evaluated.
     The plaintiffs say they will suffer “if the injunction is not granted because state monies will have been spent improperly and without adequate safeguards, and they will forever lose the opportunity to hold the contractors responsible for adequate standards of security programs, administration, and other factors.”
     The plaintiffs are represented by Stacy Scheff with Ronald Zack’s Law Office, in Tucson.

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