Your July 21 editorial, "Private prisons are a bad idea," did a good job addressing the negatives of prison privatization. Hopefully, citizens and legislators will agree and keep a bad idea from being implemented in Utah.

Testimony before the Utah Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee estimated Utah's private pris-on cost savings between 5 percent and 15 percent. But history proves a meager 5 percent discount is not worth public safety compromises and liability risks.In 1996, 100 Utah prisoners were sent to a privately run Texas facility. Before the prisoners were returned to Utah, eight inmates escaped, four of whom were convicted murderers.

Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in Richardson vs. Mc-Knight that privately employed prison guards do not enjoy the "qualified immunity" public employees have. Essentially, the state retains financial liability for its prisoners regardless of where they are incarcerated. The greatest private prison expense Utah may incur is the liability from damage or physical injury caused by an escaped inmate.

Unlike state-run prisons, private facilities are not subject to state oversight statutes and may not require comparable employee training. Private prison escapes may also result from understaffing's attempt to further maximize profits.

By implementing private prisons, Utah not only assumes the risk to our communities, families and children but also the expense and liability of tracking and incarcerating these potentially dangerous escapees.

Utah Public Employees' Association feels prison privatization is definitely bad public policy. The savings are simply not worth the cost.

Tom Bielen

UPEA associate director