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Tuesday, September 2, 2014 | Last updated: 5:00pm

Guest Column: DeConcini's ties to CCA calls credibility of regents into question



Editor’s note: An earlier version of this guest column reported that the Corrections Corporation of America lobbied for SB 1070. This error was linked to a report by NPR that was later corrected. This column has been updated to reflect the correction.

Has anyone ever heard of the Arizona Board of Regents? The Board of Regents is an undemocratically appointed group with the license to oversee all three state colleges in Arizona. This board makes decisions that affect us students every day, from tuition increases to academic planning and development.

This is a board that hands down decisions to us, when in fact they should take their agenda from the students and learners who make up their constituency. As students, we pay more for our education through tuition than the state of Arizona does through education funds. We deserve complete transparency and accountability from the Board of Regents.

Local Tucson attorney and former Democratic State Sen. Dennis DeConcini sits on the Board of Regents as a publicly appointed official.

Since 2008, DeConcini has also sat on the Board of Directors of a leading private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America. In 2011, CCA recorded revenues of more than $1.7 billion. As of March 2012, DeConcini owns upwards of 8,700 shares in CCA or roughly $222,268.

CCA counts its profits according to the number of prison beds filled each night. And by virtue of his investments, Dennis DeConcini does too.

Even though Dennis DeConcini has publicly called for the repeal of racist immigration laws (in an Arizona Republic article, he wrote “Arizona knows better, and it’s time the politicians stopped grandstanding and using this issue as an election-year attention-getter. Arizona needs to repeal SB 1070 and do it now”), DeConcini stands only to benefit from SB 1070 and laws like it.

CCA is an influential political machine and is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which worked with Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce to draft the legislation that later became known as SB 1070.

By spending millions each year on lobbying and campaign donations, CCA contributes to a climate of hate, racism and criminalization.

Furthermore, CCA generates revenue through federal and state contracts to house prisoners and detainees in private facilities. Where does the money for these government contracts come from? Why has there been an exponential increase of prisons over the last thirty years even in the midst of a declining crime rate?

As taxpayers, we deserve to know how our tax dollars are spent and into what private corporations they are funneled.

I found out about Dennis DeConcini’s less than ethical relationship to both CCA and the Board of Regents through a local movement called the Fuerza! Campaign. Fuerza is a Tucson based coalition of families and communities mobilized against the growth of the prison industry.

The Fuerza Coalition is spearheading a current campaign that asks Dennis DeConcini to resign from his position on the CCA Board of Directors. The coalition states, “If DeConcini wishes to live up to his public statements in support of immigrant rights, he should immediately resign from the CCA Board and denounce the company’s practices of profiteering and exploitation.”

To not take a stand against injustice is to be complicit with it and benefit from it, and DeConcini’s complicit actions speak louder than his words.

It is unsettling to think there are Board of Regents members actively profiteering from the increasing prison and detention population. The United States is the world’s leading incarcerator, outpacing every other country. The detention of migrants and separation of families has become big business. What does that say about our own standards of human rights and dignity? What does that say about Dennis DeConcini’s own moral compass?

As a UA student, I have great reservations about the composition of such an influential board. The Board of Regents plans to meet on Dec. 6 at 9 a.m. in the Student Union Memorial Center. These meetings always have a public comment section. This is the board’s opportunity to hear from the public it supposedly serves.

If you feel like DeConcini should speak to these issues and resign from CCA, show up and ask him. I know I will.

— Patricia Hohl is a graduate student studying Latin American Studies. She can be reached at patriciahohl@email.arizona.edu .


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