PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Corrections plans to re-issue a Request for Proposals for the construction and management of 5,000 prison beds once officials revise state provisions governing private prison operations.
The DOC cancelled the original RFP in September in the wake of an investigation into security issues raised by the July escape of three inmates from the privately operated Arizona State Prison-Kingman — a 3,508-bed minimum- to medium-security complex operated by Utah-based firm Management and Training Corp. The department will issue the revised 5,000-bed RFP before the end of the year, officials say.
The original Arizona RFP resulted in bids from four firms. In addition to MTC, private prison firms Corrections Corporation of America, based in Nashville, Tenn.; Emerald Correctional Management Co., based in Lafayette, La.; and GEO Group, based in Boca Raton, Fla., submitted proposals.
The RFP cancellation and overhaul of provisions is designed “to ensure that private prison contractors can meet security and operational requirements and to eliminate or reduce unfavorable occurrences within Arizona’s contracted private prisons,” according to the findings of the investigation. The DOC has four other in-state private prisons under its jurisdiction — ASP-Central Arizona Correctional Facility, ASP-Florence-West, ASP-Marana, and ASP-Phoenix-West.
The revised RFP will include “additional safeguards, performance requirements, and compliance monitoring processes designed to ensure public safety,” and require review by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee prior to issuance, according to the DOC.
For example, current DOC policies regarding private prison contracts do not include provisions requiring private prisons to provide employees with a means of reporting safety or security problems anonymously to facility management, contractor executives and the DOC. The department will amend future contracts to include such requirements, according to reports.
In the aftermath of the Kingman escape, the DOC immediately ceased inmate transfers to ASP-Kingman and launched a comprehensive review of all prison operations.
The moratorium will remain in place until MTC complies with the agency’s policy and contractual requirements. For instance, the private prison operator is in the process of replacing the entire electronic security perimeter system at Kingman, which had been plagued with operational problems, while staff is being re-assigned and retrained, according to reports.
The department implemented an ongoing security assessment of the Kingman facility and DOC teams also conducted complete security assessments of the other four in-state private prisons. The agency also assessed perimeter fencing and security systems at all DOC-operated prisons throughout the state.
The post-escape security assessment and administrative investigation revealed significant security device and operational practice deficiencies associated predominantly with human error. The investigation also found DOC methods for contract administration and operational oversight measures for the Kingman facility were inadequate.
Security assessments of the other private prisons revealed the inspection/reporting procedures in-place “lacked specific accountability components to ensure compliance” and highlighted “failures to follow and/or enforce facility inspection policy requirements.”
Although contractors are obligated to adhere to all DOC policies, the agency has the ultimate responsibility to inspect and report deficiencies, according to the report.
The new or expanded provisions inserted into future private prison RFPs and contracts include, expanded and better defined RFP evaluation criteria; the annual re-certification of all security systems; more comprehensive information requirements regarding contractors’ past performance and incidents.
Future contracts, which will include additional monetary offset provisions and sanctions, will also stipulate enhanced contract performance auditing guidelines, and stringent performance outcome and measurement and reporting requirements.