It’s often been said that politics is downstream from culture. Thanks to series like “Orange is the New Black,” “Making a Murderer” and “Serial,” there’s a spotlight on the criminal justice system. In July, President Obama became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. Naturally, it was for a reality show, “Fixing the System.”
While it’s important to get Americans’ attention on important issues, these series exist to tell compelling stories. They aren’t necessarily educational endeavors. That doesn’t stop people from being armchair experts in the criminal justice system.
Here in Arizona, Democrats need to put down the remote and step away from Netflix. When Governor Ducey announced a plan put together by the governor’s office, the Department of Corrections, and the Department of Administration to purchase the privately-run Kingman prison, Democrats got a rare case of concern about saving taxpayers’ dollars. Unfortunately for them, their claims have been debunked by Politifact with this smoking gun – math.
In a blog post, Arizona House Democrats criticized the plan for the $137 million purchase and because – gasp! – they would use some of the $8 million in savings to give correctional officers raises.
Let’s face it, correctional officers aren’t exactly the one percent. They do an often-times dangerous job and here in Arizona, their salaries are currently way below the average. From Politifact:
Politifact also notes that the $2 million in annual expenses from salary increases would be off-set by the $8 million in annual savings from buying the prison and allowing it to still be run by GEO Group workers. So, that’s still a $6 million savings despite Democrats’ faux concern over taxpayer dollars. Instead of heralding a plan that saves money and provides a raise (that’s still below the national average), Democrats are complaining that the guards are “employed by a multi-billion dollar company.”
The average salary for a state correctional officer is $36,800. Under this plan, Kingman correctional officers would see a 13 percent raise, from $29,453 to an average salary of $33,300. That’s still less than the state average and well under the national average of $45,320, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For years, many have rightly complained that one of the biggest problems with private prisons is that salaries for correctional officers don’t attract the best workers. Drawing back to “Orange is the New Black,” this could be attributed to a myriad of problems, like employing those who are inexperienced, those who may participate in the prison black market, or those who seek to take advantage of prisoners in other ways. In a recent piece in the left-wing Mother Jones, one reporter went undercover as a correctional officer for four months and talks about officers’ meager paychecks at $9 per hour. He also wrote about one young officer with two kids who entertained an offer from an inmate who wanted to buy his watch. Some of the prisoners have more available funds than the officers. Creating that same environment is not good for Arizona.
The hypocrisy among Democrats who claim to stand up for low-wage workers is astounding. Do Arizona Democrats suddenly oppose minimum wage increases for workers of other multi-billion dollar companies like McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Walmart? Doubtful. It seems that they simply can’t get over the fact that Gov. Ducey and state agencies leaders have not only put together a plan that can save taxpayers’ money in the long-run, but improve the lives of those working at Kingman prison. The Democrats’ phony concern for how taxpayer money is spent is purely partisan.