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  • mcprison mcprison Feb 15, 2001 1:13 PM Flag

    Contract problems in Arkansas, 1

    http://www.ardemgaz.com/today/ark/A01xprison15.html

    Private prisons at a crucial
    point

    CATHY FRYE
    ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

    The Board of Correction and Community Punishment will decide today
    whether private prisons in Arkansas stay or go.
    The decision culminates a 90-day probation period during which the
    company that manages two of the state's lockups was ordered to make
    drastic improvements to the prisons -- or else.
    Among the concerns cited by the board last fall were dangerous staffing
    shortages, unsanitary living conditions, poor maintenance and a lack of work
    and educational programs.
    These worries -- combined with a request for more money by Wackenhut
    Corrections Corp., the company that manages the state's private prisons --
    have prompted board members to contemplate taking control of the two
    units.
    "We have always considered this an experiment in Arkansas," board
    Chairman Mary Parker said several days before the meeting.
    "This was and is a worthy experiment. Did it work? If this ends [today],
    then we have had two very good years and three years of running those
    prisons economically."
    "I'm just not sure Arkansas is the place for long-term private prisons."
    Parker said she had no idea how she or her fellow board members might
    vote, adding that much depends on the results of surprise visits to the private
    units in the weeks before today's meeting.
    It's entirely possible, however, that the board could decide to oust
    Wackenhut from Arkansas.
    A decision has to be made today because if the state decides to continue
    working with Wackenhut, the current contract stipulates that negotiations
    begin in March, Parker said.
    If Wackenhut is asked to leave, the state must either assume operations of
    the Newport units or begin taking bids from other private companies.
    Wackenhut officials, declining to comment for this story, said they wanted
    to wait until after the board's vote to make a statement. Repeated efforts by
    the Democrat-Gazette to get a tour of the prisons before today's meeting
    failed.
    Wackenhut is a private, Florida-based company that manages lockups
    across the nation. In Arkansas the company oversees the Grimes and
    McPherson units, both of which are in Newport.
    The Grimes Unit houses about 600 young male inmates. McPherson is
    Arkansas' only facility for women. It holds 685 inmates.
    Wackenhut was awarded the Newport contracts in February 1996 when
    Arkansas decided to experiment with privatized prison operations. While the
    Department of Correction owns the Grimes and McPherson units, the prisons
    are staffed and run by Wackenhut.
    At first, things seemed to be operating smoothly, board members say.
    But last year state prison officials began questioning how the units were
    managed. Their inquiries began when a litany of complaints from inmates
    proved credible after surprise visits to the two prisons

 
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