LITTLE ROCK –  The ACLU of Arkansas today urged the Arkansas Legislative Council to reject a proposal to build a new private prison facility in southeast Arkansas that would be operated by LaSalle Corrections. There have been numerous complaints about conditions at LaSalle Corrections’ facility in Texarkana, Texas which houses more than 300 Arkansans through a contract with the Arkansas Department of Correction. 

The proposal was approved by a subcommittee earlier this week and is scheduled to be considered by the full Legislative Council on Friday, December 20.

“The Legislative Council should reject this effort to put Arkansas taxpayers on the hook for a 20-year contract with a private prison operator with their history of alleged abuses,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas legal director and interim executive director. “Profiteering should have no place in our criminal justice system, and LaSalle Corrections’ troubled track record should disqualify them from operating prisons in our state. Every dollar we spend expanding a failed system of mass incarceration is a dollar we can’t spend on things that actually make us safer – like expanding access to mental health and addiction treatment. Arkansas should be investing in communities, not building more cages.”

Earlier this year, the ACLU of Arkansas released a plan to reduce the state’s prison population by 50 percent and reinvest the savings in programs that would improve public safety and strengthen communities.   

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

  • Private prisons have, on numerous occasions, been found in violation of their contract with the government, especially in areas of staffing, health care, 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.