After three violent inmates escaped from an Arizona private prison in July 2010, prompting a two-week, multi-state manhunt, state corrections officials demanded improvements and stopped sending new inmates to what they called a “dysfunctional” 3,300-bed facility.
Less than a year later, the company that runs the prison, Management & Training Corp., threatened to sue the state. A line in their contract guaranteed that the prison would remain 97 percent full. They argued they had lost nearly $10 million from the reduced inmate population.
State officials renegotiated the contract, but ended up paying $3 million for empty beds as the company continued to address problems, according to state documents and local news accounts.
Far from the exception, Arizona’s contractually obligated promise to fill prison beds is a common provision in a majority of America’s private prison contracts, according to a public records analysis released today by the advocacy group In the Public Interest. The group reviewed more than 60 contracts between private prison companies and state and local governments across the country, and found language mentioning quotas for prisoners in nearly two-thirds of those analyzed.
The prison bed guarantees range between minimums of 70 percent occupancy in a California prison to 100 percent occupancy requirements at some Arizona prisons. Most of the contracts had language mandating that at least 90 percent of prison beds be filled.
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- Private prisons demand states maintain maximum capacity or pay fees (rawstory.com)
- Majority of private prison contracts demand taxpayer-backed lockup quotas – report (rinf.com)
- America’s private prisons have prison quotas where states must pay them for unused beds (philosophers-stone.co.uk)
- How Private Prison Firms Use Quotas To Fill Cells And Coffers (thinkprogress.org)
- Prison Shocker: U.S. Imprisons Three Times as Many Black People as South Africa During Apartheid (alternet.org)