Back to top

Public School Enlists Controversial Private Prison Firm To Conduct Drug Raids

Sam Sabzehzar 2012-12-04 0 comments

By Rebecca Leber  |  Published in

Are we policing for profit?

The nation’s largest private prison corporation appears to be playing a part in drug raids at some Arizona public schools, PRWatch reports.

On October 31, Vista Grande High School in Case Grande, Arizona had its first drug raid in the school’s four-year history. Three students were arrested for marijuana possession, and if one is charged with a felony, she could face prison.

One of the four parties involved was Corrections Corporation of America, which operates private prison facilities notorious for poor treatment and violations.

Neither the Police Department Public Information Officer nor the high school’s principal saw a problem with the company’s participation:

According to Casa Grande Police Department (CGPD) Public Information Officer Thomas Anderson, four “law enforcement agencies” took part in the operation: CGPD (which served as the lead agency and operation coordinator), the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Gila River Indian Community Police Department, and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

It is the involvement of CCA — the nation’s largest private, for-profit prison corporation — that causes this high school “drug sweep” to stand out as unusual; CCA is not, despite CGPD’s evident opinion to the contrary, a law enforcement agency. […]

Despite the obvious differences between CCA and actual law enforcement agencies, those involved in the Vista Grande High School drug sweep seem unable to differentiate between CCA employees and law enforcement officers.

”CCA is like a skip and a hop away from us– as far as the one in Florence,” said Anderson. “We work pretty closely with all surrounding agencies, whatever kind of law enforcement they are– be they police, or immigration and naturalization, or the prison systems. So, yeah, this seems pretty regular to me.”

CCA has a strong presence in the Arizona county, where it operates six facilities. The state recently awarded CCA a contract for 1,000 new beds. Arizona already houses 6,500 of its inmates in private prisons.

CCA does not save the state money, either.

According to a report by American Friends Service Committee, the state overpaid its private prison industry by $10 million between 2008 and 2010. In return, the facilities had 157 serious security failings.

CCA has been at the heart of controversies across the country: In Idaho, a lawsuit alleges that CCA partnered with violent gangs to save money. At another facility, CCA’s poor treatment of inmates reportedly led to a deadly riot.

Not too surprisingly, CCA was also active in the American Legislative Exchange Council until 2010.