Humpday Hall of Shame: Private Prison Power Couple

Welcome to The Hump Day Hall of Shame – every Wednesday we’ll be highlighting the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

Rarely do we have the opportunity to induct a husband and wife team into the Hump Day Hall of Shame.  Paul Senseman, formerly Governor Jan Brewer’s Chief of staff and his wife Kathryn (Kathy), a lobbyist for the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), offer us such an opportunity.

In her position with the Policy Development Group, Ms. Senseman lobbies on behalf of CCA with the Arizona State legislature.  Ms. Senseman made personal political contributions of $1900 in the 2010 cycle, with about $1860 of that going to Republicans. As you will remember, the Arizona Immigration bill, SB1070,  passed the House on a 35-21 party-lines vote, and the Senate 17-11 with every Republican except Senate District 8’s Carolyn Allen voting for it.

Paul was honored in Peoria, Arizona with a city proclamation of Paul Senseman Day on February 15th of this year.  In an interview about that occasion, Mr. Senseman was asked about some of the controversial issues he had dealt with during his time on the Governor’s staff.  About the Arizona immigration law he said,  "Being around SB 1070 and the reaction to it. The governor described it this way: the positive reaction she received from every walk of life and around the world, it gives you a sense the notion of rule of law matters most to people. If you have rule of law and it's not being enforced, then chaos ensues. So, it really struck a chord with her.”  It should be noted that Paul Senseman had also previously worked as a lobbyist for CCA with the Policy Development Group, an organization he has since returned to since leaving the Brewer administration.

Private prisons are thriving in Arizona - The Senseman lobbying is paying off for CCA in Arizona.  A 2010 report in the Phoenix New Times News reports that CCA gets $11 million a month for inmates in the company's Arizona facilities. CCA’s profits are boosted by SB1070, drafted by ALEC (and private prison corporations).  SB1070 positively affects CCA’s bottom line – more arrests, more detention beds, more profit for the private prison and detention industry.

Attorney General Terry Goddard accused Governor Brewer of increasing the potential for more prison escapes by favoring for-profit prisons over state-run prisons.  He called for a moratorium on putting violent criminals in private facilities after the infamous Kingman escape, Brewer’s spokesperson Paul Senseman said: “His criticisms are little more than an irresponsible stunt attempting to score political points off of a terrible tragedy.”

The terrible tragedy he refers to was the murder of Linda and Gary Haas, high school sweethearts married for forty years, who were kidnapped, murdered and burned by two escapees from the privately operated Kingman prison in Arizona. For the record, Arizona pays the Kingman facility, Management and Training Corporation (MTC)  $62.16 per inmate per day or, between $64 million and $79 million a year depending on capacity.

Together, the Senseman’s are a formidable team with connections and relationships within Arizona’s highest levels of political power.  Their record, in government and in influence-peddling, is extraordinary.  Lets keep our eye on this power couple.