State rep tries to give company nearly $1 million in budget - CBS 5 - KPHO

State rep tries to give prison firm nearly $1M in new budget

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Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills. (Source: CBS 5 News) Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Rep. John Kavanagh wanted to give an extra $900,000 to a private prison company at a time when Child Protective Services is underfunded. That has people asking if inmates are more important than Arizona's children.

CBS 5 News went straight to Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) to ask him why he thinks a private prison company, which operates three prisons in the state, deserves a nearly $1 million bonus. 

"If you don't do good things for people who do good things for you, they won't do good things in the future that you need," Kavanagh said.

Kavanagh said The Geo Group, Inc. reduced its rates from $37 to $10 per inmate per day in 2008. Now it wants some of that back. 

"Last week, they came back and they said, 'Look, can you at least give us $900,000?' I thought that was reasonable," Kavanagh said. He said if they don't keep Geo happy, the state could end up having to spend more with a different company. 

Geo happened to donate more than $2,500 to Kavanagh's 2012 campaign, according to documents on the Arizona Secretary of State's website.

"It was slipped in last minute, obviously behind closed doors," said Rep. Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix). He said he's asking for an emergency meeting to discuss how the appropriation made it into the House budget.

"To actually give a handout to one particular company because they came and asked for it is just downright wrong," Campbell said.

"This is how small things like appropriating a million dollars to private prisons happen, when there's no public accountability," said Sen. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson. She is on the appropriations committee across the Capitol lawn. The Senate struck down the amendment Monday. 

"We have children that are being neglected. We have schools that are not properly funded, but yet we have a representative that felt a private prison needed a bonus," Tovar said.

The Geo Group sent CBS 5 News the following statement:

The GEO Group has had a long-standing partnership with the Arizona Department of Corrections and has always strived to provide high quality services while creating savings for Arizona's taxpayers. During the recession, our company voluntarily reduced the contracted rate for emergency correctional beds which resulted in $3.7 million in annual savings for Arizona's taxpayers. GEO's contracts with the State of Arizona contain provisions for annual inflationary cost adjustments. GEO has not received an inflationary adjustment since 2007. The requested increase this year would have represented a 2% inflationary adjustment that would have been used to account for inflationary cost increases as well as wage increases for our dedicated employee workforce in Arizona. GEO is committed to providing safe and secure services under partnership with the Arizona Department of Corrections.
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