A group that advocates rehabilitation of people convicted of crimes has issued a statement blasting moves to have Arkansas again try private contractors to house prison inmates.
Sen. Eddie Joe Williams arranged an unofficial legislative visit last week with a Louisiana private prison operator, LaSalle, at the Wrightsville unit.
The rehabilitation advocate, Arkansas Cure, says it’s a bad idea. It said in a statement distributed today:
Some of our Public Officials believe that: Shipping Arkansas imprisoned citizens to out-of-state Private-4-Profit Prisons is a good idea… It is NOT! Shipping Arkansas citizens across state lines as a ‘quick-fix’ to prison overcrowding is an abhorrent practice of treating incarcerated men and women like commodities and our state’s dangerous reliance on incarceration.
Shipping incarcerated people across state lines into for-profit prisons rather than prioritizing reforms that would reduce the number of people behind bars exemplifies our state’s dangerous reliance on incarceration, particularly incarceration for profit. This costly tactic, which fails to address the root causes of mass incarceration, severely diminishes prisoners’ ties to family and community while private prison companies profit handsomely.
Proponents of this plan may characterize it as a temporary arrangement, but the experience of other states shows that these arrangements generally become permanent. The four states currently shipping prisoners out-of-state have been doing so for between seven and 18 years.
There are cost effective, common-sense alternatives to this idea that will keep Arkansas safe, represent a better use of taxpayer money, and avoid making things even more difficult for incarcerated Arkansas citizens and their families.
Arkansas Cure notes a past failed experience at hiring a private operator to run a new prison in Newport. “Conditions deteriorated, and the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into the scandalous conditions in the prisons. The state eventually backed out of the deal and took over the prisons again.”