Kansas Wants to Ship Its Inmates Off to Private Prisons in Arizona

Photo: John Hanna (AP Photo)

The Kansas prison system is in shambles. And rather than reform or fix it, the state is now poised to push prisoners off to a controversial private prison company and its facilities in Arizona.

In March, a federal judge allowed a class-action lawsuit to proceed against CoreCivic for lying about its safety and security operations. And yet, on Thursday, the Kansas City Star reported that state officials—led by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly—are currently leaning toward paying CoreCivic to accept hundreds of prisoners currently in one of the state’s over-crowded facilities. The inmates would be housed at CoreCivic’s facilities hundreds of miles away in Arizona, per the Star.

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The decision came after negotiations with the GOP leaders in the state Senate to increase the prison system budget fell through. “It’s certainly not a practice we would go into voluntarily,” Kelly said, per the Star. “I just don’t think we have much of a choice at this point but to contract with those private prisons to alleviate the overcrowding and the stress on our staff.”

The decision also comes in the midst of a highly volatile period for Kansas prisons. Jefferey Zmuda, the new head of the Kansas prison system, came under fire six days ago following the reveal that an Idaho judge accused Zmuda of offering “disingenuous” testimony regarding claims he made as the deputy director of Idaho’s prison system about access to execution records. Should he be confirmed by the state Senate as Kansas’ secretary of corrections, Zmuda will inherit a broken prison system, one that double-bunks inmates, underpays prison staff, and is in the midst of a two-year spree of destructive riots.

On Kelly’s decision to nominate Zmuda, she told the Star that Zmuda admitted the case was “not handled very well” but that he totally understands her commitment to transparency.

As if this wasn’t bad enough already, it’s worsened by the fact that Kansas recently banned the The Song of Ice and Fire series—which, in the long run, for any inmates who get out and might be interested in watching the television adaptation and its awful ending, might actually be a good thing. No, wait, banning books is still horrible, just like the rest of this shitshow.

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