Abolish Private Prisons, an Arizona nonprofit, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Phoenix to challenge the constitutionality of prison privatization. It represents five individuals in private prisons, the Arizona State Conference of the NAACP, and a purported class including everyone placed in private, for-profit prisons by the State of Arizona.
The lawsuit is against the Director of Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, or ADCRR, and seeks an injunction to end the practice of private, for-profit incarceration.
“Using a person’s incarceration to generate corporate profits is a form of slavery”, says John Dacey, Executive Director of Abolish Private Prisons. “ A profit-motivated criminal justice system also conflicts with individual rights that are protected by the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution.”
The filing asserts that the first priority of for-profit prison corporations is profit and not public safety or protection of those inside the prisons. “This business model encourages the incarceration of more people for longer terms, discourages release of prisoners, and conflicts with rehabilitation and taxpayer interests,” said Dacey.
The Arizona State Conference of the NAACP has worked actively since at least 2008 on the issue of abolishing for-profit prisons in Arizona, according to Executive Director Charles Fanniel. “We are proud to be plaintiffs and represent the thousands of NAACP members who fought for freedom and who will live to see its fruits,” said Fanniel.
The plaintiffs and their attorneys intend to place the issue of private incarceration before the United States Supreme Court to establish that the practice must be abolished throughout the country. The lawsuit further asserts that profit motives cause cost-cutting that jeopardizes the welfare of everyone inside the private prisons, including those who work there and those who are serving their sentences.
ADCRR contracts for operation of at least six private prisons in Arizona to incarcerate state prisoners. The contracts are multi-year agreements that commit ADCRR to provide a minimum number of prisoners to the prison corporations including the three largest: CoreCivic, Inc., The GEO Group, and Management & Training Corporation. These corporations incarcerate more than 90% of all privately incarcerated prisoners nationally.
Private prisons in Arizona also incarcerate prisoners from other states, the City of Mesa, and the federal government.
The plaintiffs are also represented by Tucson attorney Thomas A. Zlaket, the former Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, and by Lousene Hoppe and Jacob Baer of the Minneapolis-based law firm Fredrikson & Byron.
“We recognize that this will require a prolonged effort,” says Dacey. “However, some core functions of government should be the government’s responsibility alone. Establishing profit incentives to deprive people of freedom is a horrible idea.”
For more information on Abolish Private Prisons: www.abolishprivateprisons.org