Letters to the Editor

Posted: Friday, September 07, 2001

I have philosophical reasons to be against the Kenai Peninsula Borough's private prison project. I believe that it's inappropriate for our state government to abrogate its public safety responsibility in overseeing incarcerated Alaska prisoners.

Public safety is a constitutional mandate and our state government's duty. Turning this job over to Cornell Corrections is no different than replacing the Alaska State Troopers with Guardian Security. It's just not something we should do.

Private prison proponents attempt to sell this idea by claiming it will produce jobs. I believe that the opportunity for good-paying jobs is minimal, while the cost to our society will be enormous. Profits will go to an out-of-state corporation. Out state, our borough and our citizens will shoulder the costs and responsibility. If this project, with its 1,000 inmates, becomes a reality, the Kenai Peninsula will never be the same.

Cornell has a checkered past of hiring ex-felons and running its facilities in a much less secure manner than the public sector. It has failed to run its much smaller facilities within Alaska safely or within the minimum requirements of Alaska law. Successful lawsuits against Cornell support my contention. Cornell actually sued Delta Junction when it was denied the opportunity to do what it is attempting to do to us, here, on the Kenai Peninsula. It sues the government entities it proposes to serve, changes locations within our state and attempts to sell itself as a good neighbor. These are all easily obtained facts.

I hope people come to understand that this is not private enterprise; it is corporate welfare. Our borough will fund the design and construction of this prison facility with the largest bond of its type ever in Alaska. And it will be our borough and our state, which will suffer the potential liability when Cornell fails to deliver what it promises. This project represents special interest legislation which benefits powerful lobbyists and corporations, carried out at the expense of all Alaskans in general and the residents of the Kenai Peninsula Borough in particular.

The costs to our state of incarcerating prisoners will increase from $54 per day per inmate in Arizona to $89 per day per inmate in Kenai. This will cost our state millions of dollars more every year and turn the Kenai Peninsula into the private prison capital of Alaska. We'll build a $100 million prison and assume the responsibility for the problems and shortcomings for a private operator, so Cornell can make significant profit.

Don't fall for Cornell's marketing ploy: "Vote for Jobs!" Cornell's representative publicly stated before the Soldotna City Council that there was no way his company could hire all 150 qualified guards from within the peninsula. I expect that over half the employees would be brought in from Outside, while the profit from their enterprise, our state revenue, will go to a corporation outside the state of Alaska.

I'd like to encourage everyone to protect and preserve our community. I hope the citizens of the Kenai Peninsula realize the facts and vote "No" on Oct. 2.

James Price


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