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Mesa Council Approves Private Jail Contract

Mesa City Council
(Photo by Jimmy Jenkins - KJZZ)
Mesa City Council Chambers

Despite Mayor John Giles’ pleas for calm, a boisterous, standing-room-only crowd interrupted the Mesa City Council over and over again Monday evening with shouts of "Do the right thing!"

The crowd was overwhelmingly against a contract the council was considering that would privatize the city’s jail services through Core Civic.

Pat Drake of Mesa said the contract went against the grain of her community, "Un-Christian, Un-American, Un-everything else - it isn’t us - it isn’t the real us,” she said.

Roman Allman of Mesa was one of 12 members of the public to speak against the contract - 24 people signed up to speak against the proposal, but Giles cut the list in half for time purposes.

Allman said the contract reflected poorly on the city. "It gives everyone the message that Mesa cares more about money than we care about people and our families,” he said.

RELATED: Mesa Could Become First City In Arizona To Privatize Jail Services

But Mayor Giles said the contract was exactly what constituents had asked for.

"Ladies and gentlemen this is jail reform - this is what you want,” Giles said to a chorus of boos. In the face of public safety budget cuts, Giles said it was the council’s duty to preserve the financial strength of the city.

“There’s just no comparison when it comes to the cost," Giles said. "The booking fee at Maricopa County is $325 as opposed to zero with this facility. The per diem is $101 at Maricopa County versus $67."

Giles said it was necessary to take a stand against rising prices charged by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

In addition to the per diem, Mesa will pay Core Civic $35,000 a month in transportation costs. Core Civic will make three trips a day, seven days a week, transporting misdemeanor offenders from the Mesa Police Department to the company’s private detention facility in Florence.

Mesa Police have estimated the new contract could save the city more than a million dollars a year.

Council members Freeman, Glover and Thompson, joined Giles in voting for the contract. Council members Luna and Whittaker voted against the measure.

Whittaker repeatedly warned that such a proposal would open the council up to lobbying efforts that could lead to more incarceration.

The contract is for three years with an option for renewal. Core Civic will take over Mesa's jail services from MCSO on June 1.

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Jimmy Jenkins is a senior field correspondent at KJZZ and a contributor to NPR’s Election 2020 and Criminal Justice station collaborations. His work has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, The Takeaway and NPR Newscasts.Originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, Jenkins has a B.S. in criminology from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.Much of his reporting has focused on the criminal justice system. Jenkins has reported on Tasers, body cameras, use of force, jail privatization, prison health care and the criminal contempt trial of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.