Originally Published: March 26, 2010 9 p.m.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Four of seven Town of Prescott Valley council members, including the mayor, have publicly opposed getting into the prison business. Meanwhile, attendance at all prison-related forums over the past several months is evidence that the citizens are speaking out, both in support of and opposition to a proposed prison.Corrections Corporation of America has said that Prescott Valley is off its list, a local real estate development firm has said it will continue to pursue a prison, and citizens on both sides wonder if anyone's listening.Bill Fain and his son, Brad, of the Fain Signature Group announced during the Town Council meeting Feb. 11 that they want to proceed with plans to annex and rezone land off Fain Road that CCA had considered for the prison site. The Fains said they would favor taking the issue to the ballot to let the voters - and not seven council members - decide whether to bring a private prison to the community.However, the election would take place only if the council were to approve the Fains' request. Voters seeking to overturn a council "yes" decision would need to launch a referendum drive, similar to what Wal-Mart opponents sought unsuccessfully in a March 2007 election to overturn rezoning of property off Lakeshore Drive and Glassford Hill Road. The Daily Courier profiled three regional towns with prisons - Blythe in California, and Florence and Kingman in Arizona - to survey life on the inside from the outside. The Courier and its sister newspapers in Blythe and Kingman undertook the project before the issue appeared to die in Prescott Valley.Courier reporter Ken Hedler joined local business people on a tour of a federal detention center that CCA operates in Florence. The tour took place Jan. 28, the same day three members of the council announced they would oppose proceeding with prison plans.KINGMAN - A new $130 million addition at the Arizona State Prison-Kingman in Golden Valley, operated by Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, is nearly finished. The new lockup will add 2,000 beds, doubling the size of the original minimum/ medium security prison. The prison expects to receive the first inmates for the new cells in April.ASP-Kingman currently employs more than 250 residents and pays more than $7 million in payroll per year, according to Deputy Warden Lori Leader. The number of employees will increase to more than 500 and $19 million in payroll once the new addition opensw and reaches full staff, she said. One class of new prison guards already has finished its training. Another is currently training. And the prison's Human Resource Department is wading through more than a 1,000 applications for the next class, Leader says.The prison also expects the amount of property taxes it pays to jump from its current cost of about $250,000 a year, said Deputy Warden of Operations Scott Yates. How much those taxes will increase with the new facility won't be known until next year. "I would say around 30 percent of the supplies and materials we purchase comes from the local community," Yates said. "Home Depot must love us, I'm over there multiple times a week to purchase something."Inmate programsAs part of their rehabilitation, prisoners must give something back to the community. This past year, inmates and prison employees contributed more than 120,000 service hours to the community. Many of the prisoners participate in one of the many inmate work programs, where they build barbecue grills, birdhouses and children's playhouses and other items that are auctioned or raffled off for charities. Inmates also perform clean-up and landscaping work at Mohave Community College with the County's Environmental Rural Area Cleanup Enforcement program, the city of Kingman and with other organizations. At one county clean-up project, inmates picked up more than 92 tons of garbage out of the desert, he said. The prison also is home to the Friends from the Pen program, a local dog-training program that pairs dogs from no-kill shelters with prisoners. The prisoners train the dogs in basic obedience skills over a six-week period and then the dogs go up for adoption. The intensive training makes the dogs more attractive to potential pet owners, Roy Hayes, a dog trainer who works with the inmates said during a series of stories in the Miner last summer. The program also helps the inmates, Leader said. "Working with the dogs' problems is like working with the problems in my own life," inmate Rod Knagge said. Another inmate who participated in the program and was released from prison recently has become a dog trainer in Phoenix. In order to get onto a clean-up crew, work with the dogs or work in the shops, an inmate has to apply for the positions just as they would for a job outside of prison, Leader said. The prison monitors inmates that participate in these programs constantly. A supervisor checks on each work site randomly twice each day, she said. Inmates who get into trouble or break the rules immediately lose their spot on the work crew.Part of the communityBesides the work programs, many of the inmates participate in fundraisers, donate to specific charities and more, Leader said. This past month, several inmates donated part of their paychecks to a Haiti relief fund. Inmates also have marked special meal days as a way to raise money for charities.The inmates are not the only ones who contribute to the community. Many prison employees participate in fundraising events and other public service, as well, Leader said. A group of employees have raised money for and participated in the Race for the Cure in Phoenix several years in a row. Many will buy meals during the special meal days or donate part of their paychecks to causes."I think we have a really healthy relationship with the community," Yates said. The prison is not without controversy. Many residents still oppose the idea of such an institution in their backyard. "We've never had an escape attempt," Leader said. Once the new addition is at full staff, the prison actually will become safer, Yates said. Security levelInmate security is a regular controversy for the prison. The original contract with the state of Arizona called for a medium-level substance abuse prison, Yates said. The prison currently houses level 2 minimum and level 3 medium offenders.The level of security depends on the felony an inmate committed, the number of years left on his sentence and his actions while serving time in prison.Level 3 offenders are nothing new at the prison, Yates said. The prison has housed medium level offenders since 2005. "The state controls who they send to us. It's not our choice," Yates said. Water usageWith more than 1,500 inmates and 250 employees, water resources are vital.The current agreement calls for Mohave County to provide the prison with at least 220 gallons per minute of water. The prison has sunk another well as backup. It also has installed a gray water system that treats wastewater to nearly drinkable standards. The treated water goes for landscaping and other purposes. The U.S. Geological Survey and the Arizona Department of Water Resources currently are studying the aquifer to determine how much water it holds and how quickly users are drawing down that water.