Nearly 2,000 Hawaiian felons will be saying, “Aloha, Eloy,” after next week’s opening of a privately run prison in Pinal County built exclusively for convicts from the islands state.
The medium-security prison, which holds 1,896 beds and will be operated by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, is scheduled to open Tuesday in Eloy, south of Casa Grande.
Corrections Corporation has a contract with the Hawaii Department of Public Safety — Corrections Division to operate the $95 million Saguaro Correctional Center, for which the company will be paid a per diem for each prisoner.
“This is the first time that the Hawaiians (in mainland correctional facilities) will all be housed under one roof,” said LeeAnn Archuleta, the Saguaro Correctional Center’s chief of unit management.
Hawaii does have its own prisons, Archuleta said, but like many states it also exports some offenders to privatized prisons in other parts of the country.
Because only Hawaiians will be serving time inside the campus-style facility, the prison will observe Hawaiian holidays, accommodate natives’ polytheistic religious beliefs and even serve Hawaiian food.
“CCA does cater to the culture,” Archuleta said. “The menu is catered toward their culture.”
The company will host a dedication ceremony Tuesday that will include a speech by prison warden Daren Swensen, an invocation in Hawaiian and a ceremonial “untying of the maile lei,” which is the Hawaiian equivalent of a ribbon-cutting.
Archuleta said prison officials will be wearing Hawaiian shirts at the dedication ceremony, but they will not be part of the prison uniform.
Saguaro Correctional Center is the third prison built by Corrections Corporation in Eloy and the fifth in Arizona. The other two are in Florence.
Although the new prison is for Hawaiians, it will benefit the local community by providing more than 150 jobs and adding to the prison contractor’s charitable contributions to the area, Archuleta said.
Medium security prisons actually contain facilities appropriate for a broad range of criminal types, from the nonviolent to the ultraviolent. Unlike some other Arizona prisons, Saguaro Correctional Center inmates will not be seen picking up trash on the highway or performing any other labor in the community.
“The Hawaiians will not be working outside the fence,” Archuleta said.