The NAACP and a group of Arizona prisoners have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Arizona’s private, for-profit prison system is unconstitutional.
The group’s legal counsel said the private companies that own Arizona prisons have a financial interest in maximizing the amount of people imprisoned because it means increased profits, Tucson.com reported.
The counsel explained that prisons give violations for bad behavior that can lead to sentence extensions for inmates; meanwhile, the prisons are incentivized to over-dispense violations because the longer an inmate stays in the prison the more profit the prison sees.
“That discipline can result in the person remaining in the prison longer because of disciplinary ‘tickets,”’ the counselor said. “And we know from research that more tickets are given out in for-profit prisons, which results in inmates remaining longer than they would have if they didn’t have said tickets.”
A report by the ACLU in 2018 revealed that Arizona has the 4th highest incarceration rate in the United States. It found that marijuana possession charges in particular dominated prison admissions.
“You have to maintain so many beds, per the contract,” said the NAACP. That’s because the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry – the new name the agency was given by Gov. Doug Ducey – guarantees a minimum occupancy, meaning the state pays for a certain number of inmates whether they get sent there or not.”
Currently, marijuana possession in any amount is a felony in Arizona. But that could change with enough votes this November because a highly supported ballot initiative known as the Smart and Safe Arizona Act could legalize adult (recreational) marijuana use and possession.