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NPR Uncovers Web of Prison Companies and Politicians Profiting Off of Arizona’s SB 1070

by Mahwish Khan on 10/29/2010 at 10:54am

prison cell for saleA new investigative journalism report from National Public Radio adds a shocking element to the already-disturbing story of Arizona’s controversial “papers please” immigration law.  It turns out the only ones truly profiting from SB 1070 are a vast network of prison contracting companies and the politicians they fund, whose concern for their bottom line and political careers trumps the U.S. Constitution as well as the economy and reputation of their state.

According to NPR’s investigation, major private prison contractors were the architects and major financial backers of Arizona’s SB1070 legislation:

Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.

Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.

“The gentleman that’s the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger,” Nichols said.

“He’s a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman.”

What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.

As NPR wrote, in a secretive meeting held last December, private prison contractors helped to write a bill for Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce that focused on a “new business model to lock up illegal immigrants.  And the plan became Arizona’s immigration law…” The law, which would target Latinos and send unprecedented numbers of hard-working undocumented immigrants to jail instead of finding ways to turn them into full taxpayers, could also mean “hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.” 

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