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At a time when states are struggling to reduce bloated prison populations and tight budgets, a private prison management company is offering to buy prisons in exchange for various considerations, including a controversial guarantee that the governments maintain a 90% occupancy rate for at least 20 years.
Roger Werholtz, former Kansas secretary of corrections, said states may be tempted by the "quick infusion of cash," but he would recommend against such a deal. "My concern would be that our state would be obligated to maintain these (occupancy) rates and subtle pressure would be applied to make sentencing laws more severe with a clear intent to drive up the population," Werholtz said.
Yesterday, Frank wrote that the ACLU, Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network, and a broad coalition of civil rights and faith leaders were opposing CCA's recent offer to buy state prisons in return for states maintaining 90% occupancy at these facilities.
Now, these groups are being joined by Texas State Senator John Whitmire, the Dean of the Senate and long-time chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Whitmire, speaking to USA Today ("Private purchasing of prisons locks in occupancy rates," March 8th), had this to say:
"You don't want a prison system operating with the goal of maximizing profits," says Texas state Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and advocate for reducing prison populations through less costly diversion programs. "The only thing worse is that this seeks to take advantage of some states' troubled financial position."
Former Kansas Secretary of Corrections Roger Werholtz also warned against the temptation of a "quick infusion of cash" saying
"[m]y concern would be that our state would be obligated to maintain these (occupancy) rates and subtle pressure would be applied to make sentencing laws more severe with a clear intent to drive up the population."