By Craig Harris

Gov. Doug Ducey is opening the door to allow counties to compete against private-prison companies for a lucrative multimillion-dollar contract to house state inmates.

The move comes after county sheriffs — including conservatives — complained that the Republican governor and GOP-controlled Legislature weren’t giving them an opportunity to make money by putting overflow state prisoners in their empty county-jail beds.

Instead, the Arizona Department of Corrections to date has mostly steered inmates — and public funds — to private prisons.

“We feel this is the best plan both for public safety and for taxpayers,” Daniel Scarpinato, Ducey’s spokesman, said Friday.

Scarpinato said Ducey’s current spending plan, crafted with legislative leaders and still under debate, calls for spending nearly $24 million a year to move 1,000 medium-security inmates out of state prisons beginning July 1, 2016. He said the governor could seek another 1,000 medium-security beds in 2017 if needed.

The proposal is scaled back from Ducey’s original $100 million, 3,000bed prison expansion that came under public criticism because the budget also envisioned cutting education funding.

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About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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