April 6, 2012

AZ: Arizona’s private prisons: A bad bargain

In mid-February, the Arizona chapter of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) released a report on the impact of private prisons in the state. Private Prisons: the Public’s Problem concluded that Arizona overpaid for private prison services between 2008 and 2010 to the tune of
$10 million, and that the services it received were shoddy at best: malfunctioning alarm systems, fences with holes in them, staff who didn’t follow basic procedures and many other failings. All told, the state’s auditor general documented 157 serious security failings across five facilities that hold in-state prisoners. (There are three additional private prisons.) At least twenty-eight riots were also reported. (The report’s authors hesitated to give exact numbers on the latter, concluding that private prison administrators tried to hide evidence of riots from the public.)
…One might think that, faced with evidence that the state isn’t getting enough bang for its buck, Arizona legislators would rethink their commitment to putting ever more prisoners into private facilities. Instead, in a move Orwellian even by the gutter standards of Arizona politics, they’ve simply tried to bar the state from collecting the evidence. On February 27 the legislature proposed a budget bill eliminating the requirement for a cost and quality review of private prison contracts. The Nation
AZ: No roads yet, but legislators want collection enforcement
..They sent the governor a measure that authorizes an enforcement mechanism for toll roads and toll lanes, even though the state has yet — if ever — to enter the toll world…Lawmakers three years ago approved a bill authorizing public-private partnerships to help build state infrastructure. Toll roads are one of the possible projects. But no one caught the fact the bill lacked a way to ensure tolls were collected. In fact, it included a provision that would have allowed refunds of tolls, particularly for truckers. The bill removes the refund provision and outlines a three-strikes process for collecting money from people who might ignore payment requests…Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, voted against the bill because he said he feared it would ensnare unwitting motorists…Toll roads still are a concept in Arizona, not concrete reality. However, ADOT is looking at building a bypass road around Nogales as well as creating a north-south connector in Pinal County. State officials are hoping for federal approval to build Interstate 11, a north-south highway across the state that would be part of a transcontinental road connecting Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. The Republic

MI: Detroit city council approves consent agreement
…Although many of the details are unclear, the agreement lets Bing and the council keep authority over the city’s finances and budget. However, they would be required to renegotiate recently ratified union concessions and share decision-making with a newly hired project manager and chief financial officer. A nine-member board would monitor the city’s fiscal restructuring. The Detroit case is the highest-profile yet involving a controversial year-old Michigan law that gives the state more power to intervene in financially troubled cities and school systems. Emergency managers have the power to toss out union contracts and strip locally elected leaders of authority. A petition drive aimed at overturning the Michigan law is trying to qualify for the November ballot.  Governing