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Arizona Busts Private Prison Company

Donald Cohen

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As the saying goes, it takes a village. And when corporations spend vast resources to gain control of public services, it takes a village of smart, savvy and nimble people and organizations to beat them back. That’s exactly what happened in Arizona this week.

Last Friday, Arizona House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh snuck $900,000 into the state budget earmarked for GEO Group, the nation’s second largest private prison company. That amount was above and beyond the $45 million GEO already rakes in from Arizona taxpayers. Interestingly, the Arizona Department of Corrections did not request the increase. According to the Arizona Republic, GEO’s lobbyists worked directly with Kavanagh, who, when asked to justify the earmark, said simply that GEO “wants to get more money.”

Private prison critics quickly sprang into action. The American Friends Service Committee and Human Rights Center helped lead a strong coalition that included the American Civil Liberties Union, Arizona Justice Alliance, NAACP of Maricopa County, Samaritans, the Unitarian Universalist Justice Arizona Network and In the Public Interest. After a weekend of action alerts, media appearances and public information requests, the Arizona senate stripped the budget of Kavanagh’s GEO giveaway.

Be sure to read what happened here. It really does take a village.

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