Alaska looking for bargain prison accomodations

To some shoppers, the recession means cheap cars, undervalued homes and discount vacations.

But bargain prisons?

The Alaska Department of Corrections thinks so.

The department currently sends 868, or 20 percent, of its inmates to a private prison in Arizona because it doesn't have enough prison beds here. The contract with that rented prison is almost up, so Corrections is shopping around for a better deal.

"This is driven by our own want, our own need, to be responsible with public money," said Corrections Commissioner Joe Schmidt.

He said he's looking for "what the market might offer us right now."

The opportunity to grab the $20 million-a-year deal from the current contractor, Corrections Corp. of America, is attracting both private and state-run prisons. Alaska officials have already visited potential sites in Colorado and Minnesota and expect to visit more as the bids come in, Schmidt said.

States like Nevada, in fiscal trouble and considering releasing some of their own prisoners, are taking an interest. Administrators of a new 464-bed prison in Hardin, Mont., say they plan to bid for some of Alaska's business. Hardin made the national news recently when it offered to house detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

To read the complete article, visit