Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs announced in November that the State of Arizona would not
renew its contract with Management & Training Corporation (MTC) to operate the Marana
Correctional Center in Marana, Arizona. The contract between the Arizona Department of
Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry (ADCRR) ended December 31, 2023. Marana
Correctional Center opened during the Symington administration as the first private for-
profit prison in Arizona.

Governor Hobbs said this decision was made to save the State $15 million over the next
two years. The facility was operating at half capacity. The State had guaranteed MTC a high
occupancy level and was paying for empty cells. Due to the closure, approximately 275 men
were to be transferred from Marana to several other Arizona state prisons. It was not clear
from the Governor’s remarks whether those other prisons will be public or private.
The decision to close was criticized by the Mayor of Marana and the Republican Caucus of
the Arizona State Senate due to job losses and short notice.

Last March, Abolish Private Prisons hand-delivered our letter to Governor Hobbs’ office on
behalf of 26 organizations and community leaders. In that letter we asked Governor Hobbs
to use her executive powers to not renew and terminate the State’s contracts with all
private prisons.

On May 11th we met with staff at the Governor’s office to discuss our request and more,
including the potential nonrenewal of a contract that would expire in 2023, which turned
out to be the Marana facility. So, have we made progress with this closure?
Governor Hobbs and ADCRR Director Ryan Thornell described the State’s rationale for the
closure as an economic one. We do not know if they philosophically oppose the use of
private prisons.

Nevertheless, we hope the closure of Marana Correctional Center is a good beginning…..and
we remember that we have seen this dynamic before in other contexts. In October, 2016,
we wrote on our blog about the US Department of Justice’s call for an end to the federal
government’s use of private prisons. But a new administration in 2017 reversed course and expanded the use of
private prisons.

In January 2021, President Biden signed an executive order, again calling for an end to
federal contracts with private prisons. We wrote about that as well. The Federal Bureau of
Prisons no longer contracts with private prisons but the US Marshal Service and ICE still

Governor Hobbs has three more years to phase out Arizona’s use of private prisons. If her
administration focuses only on the transition details, they may lose sight of both the
potential for greater good as well as the greater harm posed by the status quo.
We hope to see much bolder action from the Hobbs administration together with timely
explanations, such as:

  • Termination of the State’s five remaining contracts with private prisons;
  • Comparison of the costs of incarceration to the costs of education rather than just
    comparing the costs of public vs. private incarceration;
  • Decrying the costs of mass incarceration to individuals, families, communities, taxpayers
    and safety net programs;
  • Application for new Medicaid funding from CMS to facilitate more successful reentry by
    those being released from prisons, and to reduce recidivism.