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Some Lawmakers Skeptical of another Private Prison

Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan speaks during an Arizona Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Feb. 3. Photo credit: David Wallace/The Arizona Republic

By Craig Harris for The Arizona Republic

State Corrections Director Charles Ryan made his pitch Feb. 3 for a new 3,000-bed private prison, but some members of a legislative budget panel were skeptical, with one asking him to cut spending to free up money for education.

Ryan, whose proposal has the support of Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, told the Senate Appropriations Committee that the state needs more prison beds to combat current overcrowding and accommodate a projected increase in inmates.

Ryan’s staff told lawmakers that despite a decline in inmates the past few years, more are now violating their probation and being remanded into custody. Ryan projects the state will house an additional 80 inmates a month for at least the next two years, so he is seeking another medium-custody prison.

Ryan’s private-prison request is part of Ducey’s $1B fiscal 2016 spending plan for the state Department of Corrections. The proposed budget, which runs the entire state prison system, is $52M more than that of last year’s. Corrections is one of the few agencies that received a spending increase in Ducey’s austere budget plan, which must account for a decline in state revenue.

No action was taken Tuesday on the request to add a seventh private prison. Six private facilities across the state now house about one-sixth of the state’s roughly 42,000 inmates.

Critics, however, in the past few days have voiced opposition to Arizona funding another private prison.

The Grand Canyon Institute, a Phoenix-based centrist organization, projects the state will pay close to $1.5B during the next 20 years to operate the new private medium-security facility.

Read more at The Arizona Republic