A minimum-security prison in Marana is looking to renegotiate with the town what types of inmates it can accept, and how many.

Due to a lack of inmates — 2008 saw a 92-percent occupancy rate — the 500-inmate Marana Community Correctional Treatment Facility intends to ask the town to allow it to house inmates who have up to five years left to serve. The facility’s permit allows for inmates who are four to 12 months shy of release.

“We’re like a hotel,” said Mike Murphy, the vice president of Management and Training Corporation, the Utah-based family business that runs the prison. “If we don’t stay full, we can’t make money.”

The prison also is looking to modify its use permit to allow for an additional 500 inmates, which it would accommodate by adding buildings to its property.

Not on the negotiating table are the criteria that Maranans spoke out about before construction started on the prison in the early 1990s, said John Hallahan, director of offender operations for the Arizona Department of Corrections.

At a special meeting Tuesday, Feb. 10, Hallahan told the town council a revised permit would continue to exclude inmates with a history of sex offense arrests or convictions or child abuse convictions, except in cases of neglect that directly results from inmates’ substance abuse problems.

Also, he said, no inmates would be permitted that have a history of felony convictions for offenses involving the threat of violence or actual violence.

“There are no changes to the exclusions,” Hallahan said. “The only change would be to the time of release.”

The Marana prison stands east of Sanders Road on the north side of Silverbell Road.

Since it opened in 1994, it has not had an escape or major incident.

The prison’s mission is to rehabilitate inmates with substance abuse problems so they can return to society as productive citizens. Each inmate attends 14 weeks of intensive substance abuse treatment and participates in continuous treatment for the rest of the stay.

Personal development programs at the facility include study for GEDs, parenting classes and finance management classes.

According to a presentation at the Feb. 10 meeting, the prison benefits Marana by contributing $327.50 per inmate to the town, mostly through the Local Transportation Assistance Fund and the Highway User Revenue Fund.

Inmates also offer community service labor hours to the town.

Expansion of the facility also could benefit the town, Murphy said, by providing employment, both in the construction phase and in the hiring of additional people to work inside the facility.

Mayor Ed Honea expressed enthusiasm for the prison’s relationship with the town thus far.

“I think a minimum security prison is a good thing,” Honea said. “I’ve heard no complaints. And they helped us clean up for Accenture.”

Councilwoman Roxanne Ziegler added to the praise.

“You all have been a fantastic neighbor,” she said.

The council last week agreed to take up the matter at an as-of-yet undetermined date.

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