ACLU raises questions over private jail deal in Mesa

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The ACLU is questioning why the City of Mesa awarded CoreCivic the deal five years after submitting its original proposal. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The ACLU is questioning why the City of Mesa awarded CoreCivic the deal five years after submitting its original proposal. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
On Monday, the Mesa City Council voted 4-2 to privatize its jails, saying it will save the Mesa about $1 million a year. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) On Monday, the Mesa City Council voted 4-2 to privatize its jails, saying it will save the Mesa about $1 million a year. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
City officials also said the move will improve efficiency in transfers and bookings. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) City officials also said the move will improve efficiency in transfers and bookings. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -

A local civil liberties group is raising concerns over a $15 million contract Mesa inked this week to privatize its jail system.

The ACLU is questioning why the city awarded CoreCivic the deal five years after submitting its original proposal.

Alessandra Soler, the executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said the city should have solicited other proposals in the meantime.

"It's sort of like a quasi-no-bid contract," she said Tuesday.

Given the amount of time that's passed, Solar is concerned the company's promise if saving taxpayer money may be outdated.

[RELATED: ACLU wants records of Mesa private prison contract talks]

Mayor John Giles said there's a lot of "bad information" out there.

He says it took the city five years to negotiate its current deal with CoreCivic and the financial numbers are solid.

"There has been a continual conversation between Mesa and and folks responding to this bid and so the bid was based on current numbers," he said.

On Monday, the Mesa City Council voted 4-2 to privatize its jails, saying it will save the Mesa about $1 million a year. The contract calls for CoreCivic to jail people arrested on misdemeanor charges at a site 55 miles away at the company's Florence Correctional Center.

[READ MORE: Mesa city council votes to privatize jails]

Currently, misdemeanor inmates are taken to county jails by Mesa police. People arrested on felony charges in Mesa will continue to be housed in county jails, where the daily housing rate increased from $73 in 2008 to $101 in 2017.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, which operates the county's jails, said a variety of factors - such as jail maintenance costs, increased health care staffing and a reduction in the number of bookings - has contributed to the higher jail costs.

[RELATED: Mesa considers hiring private prison company]

City officials also said the move will improve efficiency in transfers and bookings.

During a contentious council meeting Friday, the Mesa police chief said CoreCivic had "refreshed" its cost estimates.

The city did not immediately provide the changes to those estimates.

CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corp. of America, is the largest private prison operator in the United States. It runs prisons, jails, detention centers and halfway houses in 20 states. The company already has contracts to jail county inmates in Citrus County in Florida, Marion County in Indiana and Hamilton County in Tennessee. It also houses county inmates for Tallahatchie County in Mississippi and Wyandotte County in Kansas at a prison in each of the states.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Dennis WlechVeteran political reporter Dennis Welch is a well-respected political expert in Arizona.

Dennis Welch
Political Editor

Before making the move to television, Welch wrote and edited for the Arizona Guardian, a highly influential online news site dedicated to Arizona politics and government where he served as owner and editor. During his Guardian days, Welch was a frequent guest on “Politics Unplugged” and has been a regular fixture on the state political landscape since 2005 appearing on numerous radio and television talk shows. “I am thrilled to start working with such a talented and dedicated staff of journalists,” said Welch. “This is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of my political coverage and tell stories that affect Arizona voters and their families.” With more than 13 years of experience under his belt, Welch’s arrival only strengthens 3TV’s commitment to providing first-rate political and government coverage across all platforms. When not covering politics, Welch is an avid runner and fronts a punk rock band that plays frequently throughout the Southwest and California. Welch is a well-respected political expert in Arizona and his addition means 3TV will provide a stronger, more robust political presence in Arizona. He joins 3TV from the Arizona Guardian, a highly influential online news site dedicated to Arizona politics and government where he served as owner and editor. During his Guardian days, Welch was a frequent guest on “Politics Unplugged” and has been a regular fixture on the state political landscape since 2005 appearing on numerous radio and television talk shows. “I am thrilled to start working with such a talented and dedicated staff of journalists,” said Welch. “This is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of my political coverage and tell stories that affect Arizona voters and their families.” With more than 13 years of experience under his belt, Welch’s arrival only strengthens 3TV’s commitment to providing first-rate political and government coverage across all platforms. When not covering politics, Welch is an avid runner and fronts a punk rock band that plays frequently throughout the Southwest and California.

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