I received a letter from State Representative Chad Campbell, District 14, downtown Phoenix, regarding the principle of how elected leaders should be expected to “follow the law.” I found it most interesting coming from a lawmaker such as him and saw a sincerely effort to hold all elected officials accountable to the state constitution and its constituents as the laws are there to protect us all from harm or liabilities. In the first paragraph Campbell mentioned a bi-partisan effort by past legislators to enact a state law “requiring a bi-annual analysis to compare the cost to the taxpayer of private vs. public prisons. You added a statement that explained the reason for your letter as you go on to describe the behaviors of some by saying “Unfortunately, the state simply hasn’t followed the law. What’s more, Governor Brewer and Republicans in the legislature are pushing to issue more contracts to out-of-state corporations without that cost analysis and in open violation of state law.”
In writing this writing, I realized he added another concern that I share as I am a former and retired corrections official dedicated to public safety and state in the letter “What’s even more astounding is that all of this is taking place after Arizona’s private prisons made national news for lax security and high-profile jailbreaks, one of which led to the tragic and avoidable murders of Gary and Linda Haas, an Oklahoma couple vacationing in New Mexico.”
Since I was personally present at the Coolidge town meeting where the private prison contractor of the Kingman prison (MTC) presented their new prison plan to the town of Coolidge residents, I also heard Gary Haas’ mother testify before the entire crowd and MTC officials, former prison director Terry Stewart (identified as a MTC consultant), prison director Charles L. Ryan and his management team saying to the crowd out loud “I’ve been through a lot of painful times in 81 years,” she said “Even surviving the terrible tornado that hit Joplin recently. But nothing compares to the pain of having my kids brutally murdered because MTC [Management and Training Corp] couldn’t do its job of keeping criminals locked up.” It was both sad and with shock that MTC has the nerve to show up to solicit for a new contract after failing our state in the area of public safety and sound correctional practices. It just doesn’t make good business sense to award a multi-million dollar contract to a firm that has demonstrated flaws and deficiencies in the immediate past plus the loss of two innocent lives while the escapees were fugitives and on a national crime spree.
Representative Campbell asked me to call the “governor today and tell her to follow the law. It is time to stop wasting our money.” I decided to do a little more than that. I am letting Governor Brewer know through this open letter to her and the public this law must be followed in order to maintain an ethical and accountable approach to her plans to privatize prisons in Arizona. In addition, I will fax this letter to her office and other legislators to send the message that this law serves a purpose and that purpose was determined by responsible persons [lawmakers] who have our future and our wellbeing in considerations as well as making sure we conduct state business the right way.