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School Allows Private Prison Company To Conduct Drug Sweeps

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A private prison company in Arizona conducts "drug sweeps" at a public high school. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A private prison company in Arizona conducts “drug sweeps” at a public high school. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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Casa Grande, Ariz. (CBS LAS VEGAS) – Arizona’s private prison employees have found a new job – helping law enforcement in public school drug raids.

Recent events in the central Arizona town of Casa Grande show that private corrections corporations are reaching into the classroom by assisting local law enforcement agencies in drug raids at public schools. The state has graced national headlines in recent years as the result of its cozy relationship with the for-profit prison industry, PR Watch reports.

Vista Grande High School Principal Tim Hamilton ordered the school — with a student population of 1,776 — on “lock down,” kicking off the first “drug sweep” in the school’s four-year history. According to Hamilton, “lock down” is a state in which, “everybody is locked in the room they are in, and nobody leaves — nobody leaves the school, nobody comes into the school.”

“Everybody is locked in, and then they bring the dogs in, and they are teamed with an administrator and go in and out of classrooms. They go to a classroom and they have the kids come out and line up against a wall. The dog goes in and they close the door behind, and then the dog does its thing, and if it gets a hit, it sits on a bag and won’t move,” Hamilton told PR Watch.

Although drug sweeps are common in schools across the US, it is the involvement of CCA — the nation’s largest private, for-profit prison corporation — that causes this high school “drug sweep” to stand out as unusual; CCA is not, despite CGPD’s evident opinion to the contrary, a law enforcement agency.

CCA is the nation’s largest for-profit prison and immigrant detention center operator, with more than 92,000 prison and immigrant detention “beds” in 20 states and the District of Columbia, reported $1.7 billion in gross revenue last year, PR Watch reported. This revenue is derived almost exclusively from tax payer-funded government (county, state, federal) contracts through which the corporation is paid per-diem, per-prisoner rates for the warehousing of prisoners and immigrant detainees.

And the public school raids have drawn the ire of many.

“To invite for-profit prison guards to conduct law enforcement actions in a high school is perhaps the most direct expression of the ‘schools-to-prison pipeline’ I’ve ever seen,” Caroline Isaacs, program director of the Tucson office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker social justice organization that advocates for criminal justice reform, told PR Watch.

“All the research shows that CCA doesn’t properly train its staff to do the jobs they actually have. They most certainly do not have anywhere near the training and experience–to say nothing of the legal authority–to conduct a drug raid on a high school,” Isaacs added. “It is chilling to think that any school official would be willing to put vulnerable students at risk this way.”

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