Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ToMA: People need to learn about prison

The prison story broke in the Courier on Dec 17, a scant five days ago, so Councilwoman Lasker's column appears well ahead of the paper's usual two- to three-week publishing schedule for this sort of thing -- which only illustrates that they can get things printed in a more timely fashion when they want to.

I'm not taking a position yet on whether it's a good idea for PV to get into the prison business. I have to say that the idea of public officials panting after this sort of "growth business" is repellent, extending PV's history of rash, tasteless action for its own sake (the zombie civic center, the untenable public debt, the invented downtown, the tickytacky developments, the arena, the traffic cameras, ack). Having for-profit corporations operate such facilities is just wrong-headed as well, for a multitude of reasons. But if the project is necessary (debatable) and this is a good place for it, "not in my back yard" just isn't a good argument against it. And while I live in Prescott, I consider PV my back yard as well. The entire area has a stake in this decision, and PV officials should acknowledge that.

Ms Lasker plays the part of the smart shopper, but with no experience or homework to inform what she's seeing, she's a babe in the woods for a sales job, as we can infer from her comments here. The one thing a corporation will always do better than government is sales.

What concerns me most is the likelihood that a prison-town mentality will develop around it, a mindset that treats people as things. If we're to have a prison here, let's consider how we can do it better for everyone, the workers, the community and the incarcerated. Let's have some new ideas on facility and systems design to create a place where the people coming out are more likely to be better for the experience, and the community is as well.


coyoteradiotheater said...

The Correction Corporation of America. Seriously. That's your growth industry? Is there no handbook for "what goes into a balanced, livable people-sized economy" that can be leant to these people? When they develop fresh enthusiasms for a job rich "chicken rendering plant" to go next door to the Hometown Blackwater facility will no irony be perceived at all? Lord!

Fred said...

You write about "PV's history of rash, tasteless action for its own sake (the zombie civic center, the untenable public debt, the invented downtown, the tickytacky developments, the arena, the traffic cameras, ack)" I'm a newcomer to the area, and I'm struck by how much more pervasive traffic cameras seem to be in PV than elsewhere. (Actually, I'm from a part of the country where traffic cameras are practically non-existent, and I'm rather ... overwhelmed? ... by how pervasive they are throughout AZ.) Wondering if you can give me your perspective on how PV got to be so enamored of traffic cams.

Steven Ayres said...

Welcome Fred. You really have to get into murky personal psychologies to really get at why traffic cams are attractive to anyone, but there was a series of events and circumstances that encouraged it.

It started in Scottsdale when the eastern leg of the Loop 101 opened and people started flying down there and getting into awful wrecks. Scottsdale PD didn't want to get involved and DPS was undermanned, so the city brought in the Redflex system as a trial. It seemed effective and Gov Napolitano expanded the experiment to other freeways.

At about the same time there was a lot of public heat about accidents on 69 between Dewey and Prescott, mostly caused by people crossing into oncoming lanes. But public officials were under pressure to do something, and with DPS even more undermanned up here and ADOT unwilling to do anything to separate the lanes, PV got in bed with Redflex.

Beyond safety the system was also heavily sold as a revenue generator, so that's probably part of the picture. In recent weeks we've learned that the revenue projections were more than a little optimistic, of course, and it appears that people have learned to slow down around the cameras and speed up again once past them, complicating traffic flow without much benefit. Wreckage on 69 hasn't much abated either, it seems to me. But Prescott is still considering introducing cameras here as well.

Fred said...

Thanks for the historical perspective, Steve. I'm sorry to hear the Prescott (where I live) is considering introducing cameras.

Steven Ayres said...

The issue hasn't been on Council's radar for a while, probably because of the expense coupled with widespread public revulsion, but I expect it's still on the manager's to-do list. When it does come, all I can say is show up at the Council meeting and say your piece on it, or write a personal letter to Council. It's not omnipotent, but it actually does get their attention.