Phoenix: The American Friends Service Committee and the NAACP of Maricopa County today took the second step in their protest of the Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by the Department of Corrections for 2,000 private, for-profit prison beds.
The protest, filed earlier this month, argues that the state of Arizona does not need and cannot afford more prison beds, and that the existing prison contracts are in violation of state statute as well as contract provisions which require private prisons to cost less and provide the same or better quality of service as state prisons. The groups cite Arizona Department of Corrections cost studies that show that some private prisons are more expensive than equivalent state units. They also point to a host of security inspections, Auditor General Investigations, and other published data that reveal that private prisons have inferior safety standards, faulty alarms, chronic understaffing, and do not measure recidivism.
The initial protest was dismissed on Monday March 19th by the Chief Procurement Officer of the Department of Corrections. In his dismissal letter, he argued that the groups do not have standing to protest under the state procurement code. In addressing the numerous and well documented objections raised by AFSC and the NAACP, he responds by stating only that they are “wrong,” without offering any evidence or documentation to refute them. The dismissal is attached.
The groups are now taking the next step—an Appeal to the Director of the Department of Administration. They contend that AFSC was specifically directed to file a protest under the Procurement Code by the Attorney General in his Motion to Dismiss their lawsuit against the last private prison RFP, and question why he would have done this if the group did not have standing. They also point out that the Arizona Department of Corrections is itself implicated in the violations of state law, and has failed in its responsibility to properly screen bids, monitor contracts, or hold private prison corporations accountable for their mistakes.
Caroline Isaacs, the Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Arizona office, says that allowing the Department of Corrections to determine the outcome of the protest is “akin to letting the fox tell the farmer whether the henhouse is properly managed.”
The groups are asking the Director of the Department of Administration to immediately halt the prison RFP process while he reviews the appeal. They then have requested that the state formally and permanently cancel the RFP and award no contracts for new private prisons.