January 24, 2011
Open Letter to Mr. Jerry McCreary, EDC Board President
From: Jim E. Moss, Globe Resident & Business Owner
Dear Mr. McCreary,
During CALL TO THE PUBLIC at the January 10 Globe City Council meeting, and through other public statements, you have raised several questions/issues that deserve a response.
Let me begin by saying that the SGCEDC, which you lead, is obviously comprised of very fine individuals trying to make positive decisions for our community.
Public policy debates can become overheated, and naturally it can be difficult to avoid personality clashes etc. Unquestionably, I have spoken out passionately for our position in this debate. Keep in mind — we the citizens, do not hold the ‘official’ reins of power. Therefore, in order to achieve our goal it has become necessary to build a grassroots coalition. In doing so,the political environment becomes lively, as the status quo is challenged. Democracy in action can get a bit testy — but we have attempted to conduct our entire campaign in a way that we can be proud of.
The disagreement so many of us have with the private prison proposal is not meant to be a personal affront to you or anyone on the EDC. That being said, I have found many of your statements and actions to lack credibility. So, here is my response.
Mr. McCreary, you asked, “What exactly is a Prison Town?” And, you referred to Florence, AZ as a true example — but, you asserted, “surely not Safford”. Do you recall the booklet we provided six months ago titled PRISON TOWN . (please, do not complain again that you did not receive a ‘Notebook’ – as they were widely distributed to Chamber/EDC Offices) Also, I have addressed this question previously by discussing the ‘stigma’ that social science research
attributes to small towns with a BIG prison presence. The label also reflects the reality of the many social side-effects that arise when a small rural community hosts a big prison. I have repeatedly talked about ‘proportion’ or ‘scale’ — that is, the bigger the prison population ratio in relationship to a town’s population — the more significant impact is felt. What impact? Impacts related to crime, juvenile delinquency, stressed social services, economic ‘opportunity
costs’, etc. Regarding Safford, AZ — whether or not it is now perceived as a ‘prison town’ I honestly do not know. I do know that the three correctional facilities located there consist of two State-run facilities and one Federal. No For-profit prisons — which is some consolation. I can recount a conversation with a retired pharmacist and his wife who lived in Safford for 15- 20 years, and who recently retired & moved to Globe. They were adamant when describing the negative effects on the Safford community as the prison population increased. It would be interesting and informative to speak with scores of long-time residents of Safford to learn if their observations are similar to the anecdote mentioned above. As for your assertion that Florence, AZ is a good example of a ‘prison town’ — not really. Actually, Florence qualifies as a ‘Prison Industrial Complex’ — a magnitude far surpassing the ‘prison town’ connotation.
Mr. McCreary, you questioned the relevancy of the social science research Abstract delivered to your office a couple weeks ago. You claimed this Washington State University study was “outdated”. Actually, this study titled: Prisons, Jobs, & Privatization: The Impact of Prisons on Employment Growth in Rural U.S. Counties 1997-2004 was submitted for publication in a professional journal in 2010. This was duly noted on the cover sheet submitted in your packet. I also offered to provide a copy of the entire text of this study. But, true to form during this entire 6-month debate/campaign — NOT ONCE has any ‘leader’ from your side requested ANY additional information. Nor, has anyone from your side offered ONE BIT of unbiased research, report, data, etc. to support your position. In fact, ‘leaders’ on your side have withdrawn into an ‘information cocoon’ — expressed ZERO interest in genuinely discussing
the contents, substance of the issues & concerns we have raised. In fact, several local public officials who supported a private prison implored you to provide solid information they could use to effectively rebut our assertions. What did you provide them? During the past 6 months, after repeated requests to elected officials — we received 4 sheets of paper from one Council Member that represented his/her ‘due-diligence’. All four pages were merely ‘talking points’ from the private prison promoters. No surprise. We have done our homework, and know that your side has very few legitimate sources to draw upon to defend your bold claims about any & all aspects of this issue.
Mr. McCreary, you have made several public statements that are simply not true.
For example, you claim that “Globe is currently using only half of its available water resources”. Can you back this up with documentation?
You claim that the financing of private prisons with Revenue Bonds is a good deal for taxpayers. Really? Are you not aware of the many examples across the nation of private prisons in financial difficulty, or in default of bonds that were issued? How about the private prison in Willacy County, Texas where prison promoters privately negotiated a 12% interest rate on a bond unbeknownst to taxpayers? Are you not aware that interest payments on Revenue Bonds are much higher than rates paid on General Obligation Bonds? And, in most cases, Revenue Bonds are ‘privately negotiated’, circumventing voter approval, which makes this sort of debt much less accountable to the taxpayer. Did you not review the five pages about ‘Bonding’ included in the ‘Notebook’ — or the September, 2010 Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money magazine article referencing the many private prison projects that have experienced financial
Is it any wonder we keep asking all of our local ‘leaders’ advocating for a private prison — Where’s your due-diligence? “Where’s the beef”? Where’s your leadership?
Mr. McCreary, you castigate “internet research” as though information gleaned on-line is inferior to what one might find at a public library. The fact is that the internet is equivalent to thousands of libraries, at your finger-tips, if one knows how to use the technology. What really matters, is how one approaches research. If you seek FACTS, if you seek information from a broad range of sources, then a consistent story-line begins to emerge. The story-line for private
prisons does not paint a pretty picture — regardless of which story path one pursues.
Mr. McCreary, you ignore or minimize the outrageous private prison scandals such as Hardin, Montana or Kingman, AZ as merely isolated incidents that would not happen in Globe. Although Hardin & Kingman do represent extreme examples, this does not discount the fact that the private prison industry has been plagued with all sorts of controversial events during its entire modern resurgence in America over the last 30 years. It seems that the obsession
with ‘easy money’ blinds for-profit prison proponents from seeking or accepting the truth.
Mr. McCreary, you have often publicly praised Emerald Co. as a “fine Operator”. On what do you base this claim? How can you disregard the scores of investigative reports that cast questionable shadows over so many of the private prison promoters and the corporations they represent? Are you unaware of the notorious reputations of private prison promoters& operators who have bribed public officials, sold false promises, and engaged in unethical
business practices? Have you carefully scrutinized all of the prison promoters associated with the proposed ‘Globe Project’? What did their background checks reveal?
Mr. McCreary, are you aware that the private prison industry lobbies the State and Federal Government to secure favorable treatment, and less regulation over their publicly funded enterprises? For example, the industry is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requirements. They operate in as much secrecy as possible, and thus are not accountable to Taxpayers in the same way that State-run facilities are.
Are you aware that the private prison industry’s claim that they can incarcerate inmates more efficiently & effectively than the State is bogus? The supposed 5 to 20% “Taxpayer Savings” has been shown to be a myth. And, this comparative analysis generally does not even address the enormous cost to the Taxpayer that accrues because of a burgeoning prison population — in large part due to the driving ‘market’ force to build more prisons and fill more beds.
Mr. McCreary, you have publicly exhorted the idea that the Globe prison proposal is so rock- solid because ‘our’ prison would not be built on speculation. The Globe For-profit prison would be locked into a contract with the State of Arizona, thus guaranteed a 90%+ occupancy. Seriously — are you unaware that private prison contracts are routinely altered, even canceled by State and Federal Governments? Do you really believe that IF the State of Arizona deemed it necessary to shut down a facility or sharply reduce its inmate population — that the private prison in Globe could not be adversely affected? That the profit-making enterprise you hail as rock-solid could not turn into an albatross?
The most disturbing aspect of hailing the virtues of a guaranteed State contract is the apparent lack of concern about the true mission of criminal justice in our society. This profit-driven mindset that focuses exclusively on maintaining a 90% + occupancy rate is diametrically opposed to what is truly in the best interest of a democratic society — namely to incarcerate fewer people. For both fiscal and social reasons, surely we want to imprison as few individuals
as necessary. This gets right to the heart of the philosophical objections to For-profit prisons. The criminal justice goals of a democratic society are simply not compatible with a profit-driven business model of incarceration. A State contract that aims to keep ‘our’ prison full to the brim so we can capitalize on a per diem payment & revenue stream to local governments —exemplifies what is so wrong with this public policy.
Your excitement, Mr. McCreary, about the economic feasibility of this project due to a State contract underscores the necessity of ‘filling beds’ to make this enterprise financially successful. It is precisely this mentality that enables the private prison industry to flourish. The business model, similar to the hotel industry, is about building more facilities (prisons) and filling more beds – period.
Of course, one big problem with this picture is that the ‘enterprise’ is financed and sustained with 100% Taxpayer dollars! The private prison industry has seduced policy makers at every level of government to endorse this creative form of taxation. The result is fiscal insanity! Look no further than Arizona’s $1 Billion Corrections budget. And — AZ State policy makers, aided & abetted by a handful of Globe officials, want to build 5,000 new prison beds! What
Mr. McCreary, you have stated that the private prison you want to bring to Globe will not be plagued with the mismanagement fiascos that are endemic in the industry. No way Globe could have a ‘Kingman incident’, you claim. Really? Are you not aware of the horrendous mismanagement track record of private prisons? Have you conducted any serious due- diligence, whatsoever? Where is the research on which you base your assumptions & beliefs?
Take a look at the News Release (attached) published by AZ Capitol Times dated December 3, 2010. I present this current report about a private prison in Idaho — NOT because it is a compelling story — NOT because it is out of the ordinary — No, I share this simply because this story crossed my desk today, as do similar stories about private prisons cross my desk on a frequent basis. It is the familiarity of such a story that is so disturbing.
And, Mr. McCreary, you have the audacity to assert that the City of Globe could actually exercise strict oversight to ‘our’ private prison! The City of Globe will have no more control over the operation of a private prison than it does over the production of copper at Freeport Mining Co.! Your misleading claim in this regard is inexcusable.
Mr. McCreary, your proclamation in the local newspapers that the EDC will be hosting ‘listening & dialogue’ sessions with the public over the next six months — with all due respect — is ‘a day late & a dollar short’! IF you, and the handful of ardent backers of a private prison would have hosted such events a year ago, you would have discovered early on that our community does not support this idea. If you had genuinely sought community input, from the beginning – — instead of trying to fly under the radar to avoid controversy — you would have undoubtedly learned what I have — that the vast majority of residents have serious concerns for all sorts of valid reasons.
Mr. McCreary, please provide a specific, prompt answer to the following questions. Who produced and paid for the ‘private prison for Globe’ Promo DVD that was shown at Dream Manor Inn back around June, 2010? Who wrote the script for this DVD? And, how on earth could you or your cohorts who appeared on this video proclaim with a straight face that the citizens of Globe-Miami are/were supportive, even “excited” about a private prison project?
Mr. McCreary, I must comment about the “EDC Looks for Workers” PSA you placed in both local newspapers last week. This ploy was quite unprofessional, and frankly smells like ‘false- advertising’. It is obvious that you were dangling an imaginary prison job to see how many recruits might emerge to join you at City Hall or County Complex and publicly declare, “We want a private prison job!” Good Luck.
Just one more page….
Mr. McCreary, lately you have been suggesting that opponents of your proposed private prison project are not thinking clearly, due to emotionalism and irrational fears. Not so. Fearfulness, if based on fact, is a healthy reaction. Area residents who are opposed to a private prison are
not experiencing wide-eyed terror — but rather, they are exercising prudent judgment based upon serious, fact-based concerns.
It is perfectly normal to possess a high level of concern due to:
1. The recognition that we have finite water resources, and want to allocate water to its best, positive use for our community.
2. An understanding that private prison jobs are poor quality, that high job turnover rate
(50%+) creates a dangerous work environment, and adds instability in the community.
3. The fact that a large inmate population does indeed attract negative elements such as drug trafficking, etc. to the host community. ** Remember the woman who aided the Kingmanbreakout ? She had been bringing heroin from PHX to Kingman for over a year.
4. The undisputed fact that private prisons ‘cut corners’ any way possible to make a lucrative profit for shareholders & corporate executives.
5. The fact that violence inside private prisons is a severe & chronic problem.
6. The fact that social science studies demonstrate there is an ‘opportunity cost’ to bringing a big prison to a small town — that it does tend to discourage many good business enterprises and families from locating there.
7. Public safety issues related to increased juvenile delinquency, etc.
8. The fact that increased incarceration rates are helping to bankrupt our State — that building more prisons & filling more beds = fiscal insanity.
9. The waste of local Taxpayer dollars on the pursuit of a private prison that most citizens do not want.
10. The unethical enterprise of incarcerating people for profit.
So please, Mr. McCreary, spare us your mocking admonition that we are reacting emotionally
out of misplaced fear.
In conclusion, I say again — my/our words or actions are not meant to be a personal affront. We know the EDC is comprised of very fine individuals.
The debate we are engaged in requires us to organize public opposition and demands that we respond swiftly & assertively to set the record straight. We intend to do so until we achieve the goal of protecting our community from the private prison industry.
Guest Contributors include press releases, guest authors, and columnists who contribute less than 4 times a year.