Larry Mantle |

Does it matter to you that private prison companies were early supporters of Arizona's SB 1070?

I’m still sorting through my reaction to Thursday's Morning Edition story about Arizona state senator Russell Pearce presenting his anti-illegal immigration bill to a national group of business people and legislators before the bill went to the state legislature.  Laura Sullivan’s story implied that there was something secretive and unusual about a legislator first sharing proposed legislation with those who could financially benefit, including business groups, advocacy organizations, and unions.  We talked about the report Thursday morning on AirTalk.

I could be completely wrong, but I was under the impression this was standard practice in Sacramento.  Legislators receive significant financial support from entities which represent their constituencies.  For Republicans, that’s typically business groups and conservative advocacy organizations.  For Democrats, it’s environmental groups and labor unions.  Even in cases where there are no financial contributions, significant support can be provided to the candidate via campaign workers and endorsements.

In the case of Russell Pearce and the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America, it’s clear why the company that operates prisons would want the number of people imprisoned to expand.  It makes sense that CCA would want SB 1070 to pass. 

There’s certainly a legitimate argument to be made against private prisons but, at this point, some states use them.  It might even be unseemly for those operators to lobby on behalf of tough on crime (or immigration) legislation.  However, it doesn’t appear to me to be a different process than what one typically sees in Sacramento.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this, particularly if you have expertise in the workings of state legislatures.  Though I wasn’t surprised by Pearce’s actions, maybe you’re aware that what he did was outside the legislative norm.

Regardless, it’s interesting to know that CCA was a player in the process of SB 1070 becoming law.