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Federal court rules Arizona private prisons don't violate inmates' rights

A federal appeals court has ruled that the state of Arizona is not violating the rights of inmates by keeping them in private prisons.

The decision leaves intact moves by state lawmakers to increasingly contract with companies that run private prisons.

Nearly a third of the state's roughly 32,000 male inmates are in private facilities. That’s about a 10% increase in the last four years.

NAACP attorney Dianne Post says operators are financially motivated to keep inmates for longer on top of forced labor. 

“Doing this for profit is the same thing as slavery. Yes, it is not exactly the same as chattel slavery. But it does not have to be in order to be a violation of the 13th Amendment," Post said.

In its ruling, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the 13th Amendment explicitly carves out incarceration, meaning it does not forbid prison labor requirements.

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Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.