Ask The Candidates: What Are Your Public Safety Priorities?

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voteGiven the Arizona’s out-of-control prison spending and the influence of the for-profit incarceration industry in Arizona politics, it is critical for voters and taxpayers to know of the candidates’ ties to this industry, as well as their views on criminal justice policy in general.

Consider the following:

• Arizona has the 6th highest incarceration rate in the US, and the highest of Western states, including California

• The budget for the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) in FY15 will be over $1 billion. The budget includes $144,321,300 for Private Prison Per Diem payments.

• ADC is the third largest state agency budget, eating up 11% of the General Fund

• In Arizona, CCA associates and its political-action committee have reported giving about $35,000 in political donations over the past decade to Brewer, Pearce, former House Speaker Kirk Adams, House Speaker Andy Tobin and many others

• In the 2010 election cycle, GEO Group’s lobbyists made about $39,000 in campaign contributions to Brewer, Pearce, Adams, Kavanagh and others. GEO associates and its political-action committee have given more than $28,000 in campaign contributions over the last decade.

Given the tremendous investment of taxpayer dollars in Corrections, as well as the clear implications for public safety, here are some suggested questions for candidates for statewide office in Arizona:

1. Arizona currently spends over $1 billion on prisons: More than higher education, the Department of Health and the Department of Economic Security. Corrections is the third largest budget in the state, absorbing 11% of the General Fund. Do you think that this level of spending is too high, too low, or about right? Please explain your budget priorities.

2. For-profit prisons and correctional contractors in Arizona have shown to not be saving the state money, are not transparent and accountable to taxpayers, and have had patterns of serious security lapses, mismanagement, staff shortages, prisoner abuse and other problems. Do you support the use of for-profit prison contractors in Arizona? Why or why not?

3. Has your campaign accepted contributions from for-profit prison corporations like CCA and GEO Group, either directly or through PACs or lobbyists associated with the companies?

Arizona has an unfortunate history of for-profit prison corporations buying influence in public policy. In 2010, the state made national headlines when it was revealed that two Governor Brewer’s top advisors were current or former lobbyists for CCA at the same time that she signed the controversial SB1070 anti-immigration bill. Had it been fully implemented, the law would likely have funneled thousands more immigrants into detention centers run by CCA in Arizona.

Attorney General Candidate Mark Brnovich is a former CCA lobbyist, having represented the company from 2005-2007.

The more candidates are faced with these questions directly from voters, the more likely they are to get the message that not all Arizonans favor a lock-em-up approach. They will also learn that affiliation with the private prison industry is politically unpopular.

Here is a list of upcoming candidate forums in Tucson and Phoenix:

Date Time Office Location Topic Sponsors
Sept. 18 7pm Governor JCC Tucson JCRC, Hispanic Chamber, YWCA
Sept. 21 3pm Governor UofA Centennial Hall (Tucson) UA Students
Sept. 30 6pm Governor,Atty General Virginia Piper \Center, Phx Health, Human Serv. PAFCO
Oct. 6 6:30pm Atty General Pima C.C West Campus, Tucson League of Women Voters
Oct. 9 6:30pm Governor Pima C.C. West Campus, Tucson League of Women Voters

2 comments

    • Bob Basque

      This is great information! I agree that questions regarding the ACLU lawsuit would be wonderful! Thank you for such good work on behalf of those with no voice!

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