Sunday, August 8, 2010

LETTER: Still 117 lifers in for-profit Kingman prison

(Editor's note: The following letter was written and submitted by Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard who is a Democratic candidate for governor and will most likely oppose Gov. Jan Brewer in the general election.)

People's Gazette Editor,

I write to you with disturbing news. On July 30, three high custody inmates escaped from a private run for-profit prison in Kingman, Ariz. Two of the men, one serving time for murder and the other for attempted murder, are still at large. Investigators now believe these two are responsible for the double-murder of an elderly Oklahoma couple in New Mexico.

Today, I released released the following statement:

"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."

Please share this letter with your friends, and encourage them to visit my website to learn more about where I stand on issues that matter to Arizona families, and to get involved with our campaign. Together, we can make Arizona work again.

Terry Goddard

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