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Prison reform has been an important topic in recent years, including in Arizona, where many people in government and out want to find alternatives to some of the time served. However, in some parts of the country, authorities have gone way too far against incarceration in general, letting many offenders go with little consequence, and the criminals certainly are aware of that. 

Some of the commentary involves the use of private prisons, implying that they are not as competent or even try to retain more people behind bars. That is not true. The justice system in Arizona and other jurisdictions determines the amount of time served, and those same jurisdictions contract with private prisons for some basic reasons — because they provide space at a competitive price and do a competent job.

Lawsuits often are filed regarding prisons and their conditions, and many of those are questionable in nature. Take for instance one just rejected in Arizona by a federal judge. As District Judge Douglas Rayes makes clear in his ruling, some of the claims really are a stretch.

The filing by the state NAACP said the state is benefiting from the "fruits of prisoners’ economic value and labor’’ and that they have effectively been turned into property. The suit claimed discrimination against African Americans and a violation of the constitutional prohibition of slavery, but the judge said that clearly is not the case. The plaintiff announced plans to appeal. Judge Rayes also rejected a claim of violation of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits unusual punishment. Ditto for a claim of lack of equal protection. The judge said convicted criminals are not a special "protected class."

Rayes said the prison contracts require cost savings to the state and must offer “a level and quality of services that are at least functionally equal to those that would be provided by this state.’’

The state now has more than 6,900 men, about one in five males, in private prisons.

The private prisons employ many people in Pinal County and pay taxes to help support institutions of government. At the same time, they are saving money for the taxpayers, something that is worth mentioning.

— Donovan Kramer Jr.

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