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The ACLU of Utah Sends the Department of Corrections a Statement of Concerns on the Privatization of Prisons

14 July 1999 Published in State Policy Work

In response to the private prison contract currently under negotiation in the State of Utah, the ACLU of Utah reiterates its strong opposition to the privatization of prisons both as a matter of law and public policy.

 July 15, 1999

Pete Hahn
Jesse Gallegos
Utah Department of Corrections
6100 South Fashion Boulevard, Suite 400
Murray, Utah 84107

Re: ACLU Position Statement and List of Concerns on the Privatization of Prisons

Dear Mr. Hahn and Mr. Gallegos:

In response to the private prison contract currently under negotiation in the State of Utah, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah would like to reiterate its strong opposition to the privatization of prisons both as a matter of law and public policy. The enclosed list of concerns reflects some of the many problems already associated with private prison facilities across the nation. In fact, these issues have also led to a congressional bill in opposition to federally funded private prisons. In addition to the numerous administrative problems and potential constitutional concerns related to the delegation of state power, the ACLU of Utah believes that it is an entirely inappropriate public policy for an incarceration facility to be maintained by an organization motivated by profit.

The enclosed statement of concerns should in no way be construed as an implicit endorsement of the pending private prison contract in the State of Utah. Rather, accepting that the contract cannot be prevented at this time, it is our hope that these concerns will be thoughtfully addressed throughout the contract negotiations.

Sincerely,

Carol L. Gnade
Executive Director

Stephen C. Clark
Legal Director

Cc: Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice Committee, Utah State Legislature
Gary Doxey, Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel

ACLU Statement of Concerns on the Privatization of Prisons

What type of contractual protections will ensure that the private facility’s profit motive, particularly when the facility is paid on a per prisoner basis, does not improperly extend a prisoner’s incarceration time?

What type of contractual protections will ensure that the private facility’s profit motive does not cause improper cost cutting measures that will adversely affect the central features of the prison facility, such as:

An experienced and properly trained prison staff
Adequate security
Educational programs
Medical and mental health services

Where will responsibility lie for making quasi-judicial decisions such as classification, transfer, discipline, and parole?

What type of oversight will the Department of Corrections retain over the various functions of the private facility?

Will the public and members of the press have access to the private prison records, through GRAMA requests or alternative means? Will the prison contract provide for full compliance with state FOIA laws?

What recourse will members of the public have if they do not approve of how the institution is operated, i.e., what grievance procedures will be in place?

What overall standards and internal grievance procedures will govern the private facility?

Who will be responsible for regularly monitoring the facility to ensure the applicable standards are met, including but not limited to applicable health and fire code regulations?

Who will be responsible for maintaining security and using force both at the institution and in cases of escape? In cases of escape from a private facility, who will be responsible for retrieving the prisoner?

Will the private facility be able to refuse to accept certain inmates – such as those who are HIV positive or those who suffer from mental illness?

Will the private facility allow union membership among its employees? What "whistleblower" protections will be provided for under the contract?

What will prevent private contractors, after gaining prominence in the incarceration field, from lobbying for reforms to enhance their profitability at the expense of the prison system?