Thank God that last night, three weeks after it began, the private prison break ended. As much as she doesn't want to talk about it, it was Jan Brewer's call to shift some public prisons to private control. Her chief of staff and a top campaign aide both are lobbyists for the private prison industry, and it was her decision in January to allow the transfer of over 100 dangerous maximum security inmates, including murderers, rapists and other violent felons, to a medium security private prison that was built for DUI offenders.
We should salute the professionalism of law enforcement officers from several states and the Federal U.S. Marshal's Service, and a U.S. forest ranger that finally ended the private prison break yesterday after three weeks, two murders, a kidnapping, a shootout, auto theft and millions of dollars worth of man-hours. In contrast, this is how private prisons work:
Shortened hours that led to no patrols of the perimeter fences during shift changes, alarm systems that often did not work or resulted in false alarms, guards who took over an hour to respond when the alarm did go off, a prison door propped open with a rock...
Let's also not forget underpaid and poorly trained guards resulting in high turnover.
State prisons director Charles Ryan almost grudgingly had to admit that it was time to move almost 150 especially dangerous inmates, including all the convicted murderers, out of the 'medium-security' facility and back to a maximum security facility run by the state. No word on why it took them three weeks to even recognize it was time to do that.
The most telling paragraph:
Washington [spokesman for the private prison company] offered up this explanation for the blatant security failures: "We have a lot of new and young staff that have not yet integrated into our security practices, so we're going to go back to basics with that staff."
OF COURSE THEY DO!! I used to live near a private prison in New Mexico and they had people getting hired and moving on out of there almost like they do at a truck stop or a carnival. If you pay people just what you need to pay them to keep warm bodies present (which private prison companies do, after all they are mainly interested in maximizing profits) then an inexperienced workforce will be the usual situation, not something that is rare or remarkable. If anything, they probably have a more experienced than usual workforce now, because at least they have the recession to hold people in their jobs a little bit longer.
Once the economy picks up, they will leave even faster. If anyone remains there it will be the misfits and incompetents who can't get a job that pays any better. Anyone who is actually competent enough to be worth more will find a better paying job elsewhere, very likely with a state or federal prison or law enforcement agency.
Here's the absolute kicker: It took them SEVERAL HOURS to find this hole:
Private prisons are NOT the way to go. In a public prison with professional, career prison guards, there is nothing the inmates know that the guards don't know. Any other model is not as secure.