Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
Conservative group calls for privatization of Iowa prisons
Iowa should privatize its prison system in order to alleviate budget problems, a conservative watchdog group said Monday.
Ed Failor Jr., president of Iowans for Tax Relief, said the privatization of Iowa’s prisons would result in many positive benefits, from making communities safer to minimizing inefficiencies. But the biggest benefit would be cost savings, he said.
“Iowa taxpayers would save tens of millions of dollars from the sale and operation of private prisons,” Failor said. “The current budget situation requires lawmakers to make real changes to state government, and selling the state prison system is part of the solution to moving Iowa forward.”
Failor points to Arizona, where lawmakers project privatizing prisons could save their state more than $100 million in the corrections budget, and calls on Iowa to consider a similar move.
“Today, there are over 9,000 inmates in Iowa prisons, and the average annual cost per prisoner is approximately $30,000,” Failor said. “Iowa taxpayers spend over $265 million on state prisons, and the average cost per prisoner increases each year.”
Privatizing state functions is an idea getting serious consideration around the country, as state’s grapple with an historic economic downturn that has decimated their budgets. In Iowa, Gov. Chet Culver recently announced a 10-percent cut to the state budget in order to overcome a more than $400 million deficit.
Not everyone is sold on the benefits of privatizing prisons.
A U.S. Department of Justice study found that the cost-savings promised by private prisons “have simply not materialized.”The study concluded that rather than the projected 20-percent savings, the average saving from privatization was only about 1 percent, and most of that was achieved through lower labor costs.
Opponents of privatization also express worry that the quest for higher profits will result in lower staff levels and training at private facilities and could lead to increases in incidences of violence and escapes.
A federal study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found Iowa ranked second-lowest nationally in per-capita spending on corrections. The state spent $121 per person, lower than every state but North Dakota, which spends $116 per person. The national average was $210.