John Moritz’s report in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today about state Board of Corrections discussion Thursday to move forward with a privately operated regional prison in South Arkansas is stirring opposition.
First objection is history and the state’s previous woeful experience with a private prison operation. In the name of profit, staffing and operations suffer and oversight is lacking, here and everywhere. For example.
Another objection is running the deal through county governments in Drew and Bradly counties. Why not have an open state bidding process? Why just give the deal to LaSalle, which, by the way, has had problems operating a Texas facility that houses some Arkansas inmates? Maybe because Gov. Asa Hutchinson is on board? LaSalle is a major operator of ICE facilities, too. Not exactly a recommendation in my book.
LaSalle plays politics. One of the family owning the company poured $3,500 into legislative races in 2016. Looking for other influence efforts. We do know LaSalle’s lobbyist is Gilmore Strategy Group, comprising former employees of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and including the person that still leads his fund-raising activities, Jon Gilmore.
I guess we should be happy with two-day notice on a state agency deliberation of such consequence. Little Rock School District taxpayers got 16 hours before the Hutchinson administration cramdown. One senator is as acute on the idea of a private prison as she is on the folly of state segregation of the Little Rock School District into haves and have-nots. From the D-G:
“We have been down the road of having private lockups in the state and we got rid of them because they did not work in any way the state wanted its name attached to,” said Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, an opponent of the project. She’s also a member and former chairman of the Arkansas Legislative Council’s Subcommittee on Charitable, Penal and Correctional Institutions.
Elliott blew up the beginning of this plan, then proceeding in secret, a year ago.