As soon as the FBI became involved in investigating corruption in Alaska politics, it was far easier for them to find out how murky the relationships between our politicians and the privatized corrections industry are, than it has been for them to uncover the hand of big oil. Now the same Alaska Legislature that saw members and former large scale donors sentenced to prison, in part, for their relationship to privatized correctional schemes and scams, seeks to deepen our state's relationship with this growth industry that is fully committed to the new right corporatist paradigm of enriching investors while offering jobs for their employees that don't bring in enough money to allow these employees access to the American middle class.
Wednesday's Anchorage Daily Newsletter contained a decent article by Lisa Demer on how this is being spun in the legislature. Essentially, the industry has gained entry into the ongoing argument on the costs of running the new Goose Creek Correctional Center, nearing completion northwest of Pt. McKenzie, in the Mat-Su Borough.
The argument - based on a hefty one-page study - is that an out-of-state, private company, most likely Cornell Corrections, can run the facility for $6.5 million less than can Alaska's Department of Corrections. The study was inspired by Fairbanks Rep. Mike - go cut firewood in Barrow to stay warm - Kelly. Now he's pushing, through a DOC Deputy Commissioner, to have private companies submit requests for proposal on running and managing the prison when it is finished.
The image at the top of this article is from Cornell's home page. It is one of the facilities in another state that they manage. The image below it is an artist's rendition of what the completed Goose Bay facility will look like.
If the facility costs $6.5 million less to run by Cornell than by Alaska's DOC, is that really savings, and was there a way for Kelly's one-page "study" to analyze this enough to warrant issuing RFP's? I don't think so.
Here's a link to Cornell's page called Investor Relations Home. It invites the wealthy to invest in the company's fortunes. Most of these investors live outside of Alaska. All of Cornell's top management lives outside of Alaska.
Although their top Alaska managers, mostly imported here from California or Texas, make a middle class wage, most line employees do not. Around the country and in Alaska, most Cornell employees, if they have two kids and their spouse does not work, live below the poverty line. Because of this, the families often need state assistance of one kind or another. The line employees seldom make the field of corrections a career.
State Correctional Officers make a middle class wage. Most are career employees. The combination of longtime practical experience and continuing training makes them qualitiatively worth a lot to the system. Their higher wages are spent in the community, buying their kids' clothes, ballet lessons, soccer team fees, ice hockey skates, and so on.
Since the very early 1990s, at the same time the Cleary decision forced certain rights for inmates, based upon our constitutional mandate to help inmates get out of the cycle of continuing criminal activity, the state has instead lowered funding levels for components of correctional programming that were designed to treat and rehabilitate those who have been convicted of many crimes. Step by step, the correctional industry has been converted into the punishment industry.
Privatized correctional facilities not only punish the inmate more than do state-run facilities, they also punish the community, by removing decent, long-term employment and replacing it with scores of jobs that pay little better than work at McDonalds.
For Republicans like Kelly, this is a two-fer: less educated employees, who are more likely to vote GOP, and a healthy dose of union bashing, as most Cornell or other privately run facilities are non-union.
I worked in the privatized correctional industry for seven years, advancing from security shift supervisor to Director of the Cordova Center, to Bill Weimer's executive assistant. At least Allvest was Alaska-owned.
A privatized prison at Goose Bay will remove more recycled wages and other funds from Alaska without being spent here, than it could possibly save the state.