Members of American Friends Service Committee gathered in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Tucson to make a point on the 30th anniversary of Corrections Corporation of America.
As they chanted "go away, CCA, go away, CCA", they took aim at the private prison industry in general.
They chose the federal courthouse because CCA facilities hold inmates who await deportation to other countries as part of Operation Streamline.
They said that their ethical problem with the industry is that it is a business built on incarcerating people. They said that laws need to be structured to solve the problem instead of sending people to prison.
"If you do what actually addresses the source of the crime, the reason for the crime, if you get people the drug treatment that they need, the mental health treatment that they need, you're actually doing more to prevent future crimes then just locking them up," said AFSC member Caroline Isaacs.
She also pointed out that a study by the Arizona Department of Corrections showed that at the medium security level, a state-run facility will operate at about $48.42 per day, per bed, while a privately run facility will cost about $53.02 per day, per bed.
The study cited a variety of factors that make such comparisons difficult and did not cite any particular corporation. The entire report can be read here.
"The difference is accountability. These private prisons literally are private corporations. They don't have the same level of accountability to the taxpayers and public as a state-run agency," Isaacs said.
Steve Owen, senior director of public affairs for CCA, responded via email:
It's unfortunate that these organizations are so closed-minded when it comes to facts and perspectives that might challenge their political agendas. Independent research from Arizona's non-partisan legislative budget office as well as a recent in-depth academic study conducted by scholars at Temple University has shown that private corrections provide significant savings to the taxpayer.
Additionally, oversight of the industry is robust, including on-site monitors with unfettered access to facilities and performance measures and contractual staffing levels that meet or exceed their own requirements.
Nashville-based CCA operates a variety of facilities across the country and in Arizona. It recently won a contract with ADOC that will begin in January.
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