PHOENIX—The ACLU of Arizona today filed a request with the City of Mesa for public records related to Mesa’s decision to enter into a contract with private prison operator CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America).

Mesa’s elected leaders are set to vote Monday on a three-year contract with CoreCivic for the incarceration of people accused or convicted of misdemeanor offenses in Mesa. Maricopa County jails currently hold this population. Mesa would be the first municipality in Arizona to privatize its jail system.

“The public has a right to know what behind-the-scenes discussions and thought went into this very significant decision by Mesa,” said ACLU of Arizona Executive Director Alessandra Soler. “Handing people over to a profit-making prison enterprise, especially one with a reputation as bad as CoreCivic’s, is not something that should be taken lightly and deserves to be carefully scrutinized.”

If the contract is approved, Mesa’s detainees would be held in CoreCivic facilities in Eloy or Florence. CoreCivic’s Eloy Detention Center is the deadliest immigration detention center in the country. Since 2003, 15 people have died in the facility. In addition, just three months ago, a jury in Idaho found that CoreCivic violated inmates’ Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment because of a deliberate indifference to the serious risk posed by the company’s long-standing practice of understaffing. Two of CoreCivic’s five jail contracts are in the process of termination because of serious mismanagement and cost overruns.

“Using private detention facilities is not a long-term solution to rising criminal justice costs,” said ACLU of Arizona Policy Director Will Gaona. “To truly solve this problem, Mesa should re-examine its own policies and practices that lead to the incarceration of misdemeanor offenders who pose little-to-no public safety risk. Keeping this population in the community allows them to remain employed, provide for their families, and access services like counseling and treatment.”

The Mesa City Council is scheduled to discuss the CoreCivic contract on Thursday, May 18, during a study session that begins at 7:30 a.m. and vote on the proposal on Monday, May 22, during a council meeting that begins at 5:15 p.m.

The ACLU of Arizona’s records request filed today is available here: