September 27, 2019

LITTLE ROCK – The ACLU of Arkansas today condemned the decision by the Board of Corrections to approve a 20-year contract for LaSalle Corrections to operate a private prison in southeast Arkansas.

“Profiteering has no place in our prison system,” said Holly Dickson ACLU of Arkansas legal director and interim executive director. “Privately-run prisons are infamous for their brutal conditions, understaffing and a lack of transparency and oversight. It is inexcusable that the Board of Corrections would rush to put taxpayers on the hook for a decades-long contract without meaningful public input or accountability. Building a new private prison in response to Arkansas’ growing prison population is like sending an arsonist to put out a fire. The solution to Arkansas’ mass incarceration crisis is reform – not more prisons. The Board of Corrections should reconsider this decision and cancel this contract immediately.” 

Earlier this year, a state watchdog reported that staff members in a privately-run youth detention center in Lewisville zip-tied children, forced them to urinate in foam cups or Gatorade bottles, slammed them into walls and gave them Benadryl when they needed mental health care.

The ACLU of Arkansas detailed numerous problems with the private prison industry: 

  • Private prisons have, on numerous occasions, been found in violation of their contract with the government, especially in areas of staffing and programming. By cutting back on the number of staff and the availability of programming, private prison operators increase their profits. Because of limitations on the public’s access to information, non-compliance with contracts often goes unchecked unless an issue is revealed through litigation, or otherwise discovered and reported by the media.
  • Though most contracts between private prison companies and the government include a required staff-to-prisoner ratio in order to maintain a safely-run prison, there have been several known occasions in which companies have retained fewer staff than dictated by the contract, keeping the money saved from vacant staff positions as extra profit.

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