Prisonomics 101: How ALEC and the Prison Industry Got Arizona’s SB1070 onto Gov. Jan Brewer’s Desk

jan brewer signing[de]R[/dc]ecently,  NPR aired a story on a profiteering plot that watchdog groups have watched unfold for months—private prison corporations, who stand to make hundreds of millions in profits from the detention of immigrants, not only had a hand in drafting Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement law, SB1070, but contributed millions to the bill’s cosponsors and continue to push the legislation in other states. While there’s nothing illegal about private industries drafting legislation, there is something particularly vile about watching state legislators like Russell Pearce (sponsor of SB1070) accept campaign contributions from prison industry lobbyists and then turn around and sell the legislation to the public as though he’s doing what’s right for America.

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce is no stranger to the prison industry. According to NPR, Pearce met with a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization consisting of state legislators and powerful corporations like Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), last December to talk about how to generate more revenue from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it. “There were no ‘no’ votes,” Pearce said. “I never had one person speak up in objection to this model legislation.”

And four months later, the model legislation ended up “almost word for word” as Arizona’s SB1070 for signature on Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk. While Pearce and other legislators, like Michael Hough (who’s running for Maryland’s House of Delegates and also plans on supporting a similar SB1070 bill), apparently don’t mind the association with ALEC and private prison corporations, campaign contributions from said corporations have a way of just making you look bad, especially when you cosponsor SB1070.

As soon as Pearce’s bill hit the Arizona statehouse floor in January, there were signs of ALEC’s influence. Thirty-six co-sponsors jumped on, a number almost unheard of in the capitol. According to records obtained by NPR, two-thirds of them either went to that December meeting or are ALEC members.

Thirty of the 36 co-sponsors received donations over the next six months, from prison lobbyists or prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation and The Geo Group.

The Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest private prison corporations in the US, earned over $1.7 billion in revenue in 2009, 40% of which came from ICE, the US Marshalls Office and Federal Bureau of Prisons. In Arizona specifically, the Governor’s office proposed a budget that set aside $98 million for private prison corporations alone, mostly to accommodate the influx of undocumented immigrants with new private and state prison beds, according to the Arizona Education Network.

seth hoyIt would be helpful for the bandwagon of SB1070 supporters to pull back the curtain and take a look at the great and powerful Wizards of Arizona and their relationship with America’s private prison corporations. After all, politicians who take campaign contributions from corporations who blatantly exploit our broken immigration system as a money making opportunity clearly care less about legitimate solutions to our immigration problems and more about lining their yellow brick roads with more yellow bricks.

Seth Hoy

Reprinted with permission from Immigration Impact.


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  3. marshall says

    A lot of opinions and feelings from all. I would tell the gent who wrote the article that it contains “according to” quotes but few facts. When you write an article like this, you have to do your own fact checking and not depend on emails from friends. I check a lot of stuff a snopes and then send the facts to my email friends. Just give me the facts, the ones that check out, and save your opioion to the last. NPR is not high on my list of sources and would check it out before I used them as a source. I vote for the madjahawk.

  4. Mad Jayhawk says

    There would be no need for prisons if there were no illegals (known in some circles as Undocumented Democrats) in Arizona. If the federal government would do its job and secure the border, prosecute cities that disobey the law, and deport undocumented Democrats Arizona wouldn’t have a problem.

    If other parts of the country want to help out I am sure that the Arizona state prisons would be happy to put every prisoner they have on a bus heading their way so those smug self-righteous elitists can deal with the crime, the cost of educating their children and providing health and welfare benefits to them. Arizona citizens would rather spend its tax money on its legal citizens.

    The Democratic Party favors the illegal alien invasion of our country because they know that once these uneducated folks are given amnesty that they will all be good little Democrats, dependent on them for government handouts like their other constituencies. Voting for a Democrat is voting for amnesty.

  5. DavethNative says

    And so now they arrest Native American elders who can’t speak the foreign English and because their skin is brown and some of them were given Spanish names when the conquerers came. My, my how the hate sickness spreads with FEAR. And the wealthy use that to get their agendas pushed through. And as far as Russell Pierce goes. I have seen his buddy buddy photos with Nazi sympathizers here. We all know where he is coming from.

  6. annieR says

    Private prisons are a huge, expensive problem in states other than Arizona. It’s not hard to understand that owners of private prisons lobby for longer sentences to keep those prisons filled to enhance their profit. Government-run prisons want fewer prisoners, not more. There have even been cases of juveniles being railroaded to judicially owned detention facilities without being allowed an attorney. Advisors to Jan Brewer have connections to prison owners. She even refuses to follow the recommendation of her own clemency board and release a man imprisoned for 35 years whose alleged crime was confessed to by another inmate. Private prisons have been called part of “The New Jim Crow.” The city of Phoenix has been ranked 45th in intelligence in a list of 50 U.S. cities. Excepting Tucson, that likely applies to all of the state.

  7. Citizenrite says

    You’re an idiot. Russell Pearce has been passing legislation for years, especially after Prop 200 won with 57% of the vote in 2004.

    Janet Napolitano, then governor vetoed most of it.

    Pearce wrote and passed SB 1070. The clincher for Brewer to sign it was when rancher Rob Krentz was murdered in Cochise County by illegal alien drug runners.

    The prison industry had nothing to do with it from start to finish.

    The purpose of law enforcement is to DETER crime, moron. Not arrest everybody.


    Arizona is a war zone. Phoenix is the kidnap capital of north America due to illegal aliens and Mexican drug cartels and you useless eaters want to debate whether or not our immigrant laws are enforced. YOu take the side that sez no.

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