- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

MESA, Ariz. (AP) - The Mesa City Council voted Monday night to make its city the first in Arizona to privatize its jail for low-level offenders.

The council approved a new three-year contract with CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corp. of America, or CCA.

The contract calls for about $5 million in costs annually.

Mesa currently pays the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to transfer and house inmates suspected or convicted of committing misdemeanor offenses.

City leaders said privatizing the jail will save the city $2 million next year and improve efficiency in transfers and bookings.

People arrested on misdemeanor charges will be kept in a CoreCivic detention center in Florence, about 55 miles southeast of Mesa.

According to a presentation to the council, the Sheriff’s Office has consistent delays in the booking process at its Fourth Avenue jail in Phoenix, often taking several hours for groups of prisoners to be transported.

Mesa officials said the Sheriff’s Office has increased its daily housing rate from $73 in 2008 to $101.72 in 2017.

CoreCivic is the nation’s largest and oldest private prison operator.

But opponents said CoreCivic has a reputation for poor inmate care and that privatizing jails isn’t a good long-term solution to the rising costs of incarceration.

The ACLU said last week that it wants records of communications between city officials and prison operator CoreCivic or its lobbyists. The company runs prisons nationwide, including in Eloy and Florence.

The civil rights group said CoreCivic has a long history of problems with inmate care and noted that 15 people have died at the Eloy immigration detention center it operates since 2003.

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