Topeka Kansas lawmakers wanting to increase punishments for sex offenders will have to vote for a bill that also authorizes the state to allow private prisons.
"It makes the sex offender bill a complete package," Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, said.
"If legislators want to incarcerate more sex offenders, this gives them a place to incarcerate them," said Schmidt, who for years has pushed for construction of a private prison in his district.
The two measures - increasing prison time for sex offenders, and authorizing private prisons - have been put together in one bill that is now in a House-Senate conference committee.
But some other legislators didn't appreciate Schmidt's efforts to tie the two issues together.
Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, called the legislation a "vicious twist."
He added, "Since we cannot bed all of the inmates this bill will create, let's contract out to private prisons."
Sen. Donald Betts, D-Wichita, criticized the combined bills because he said he wants to lengthen prison time for sex offenders, but opposes private prisons.
"There are numerous examples of private prison corporations cutting corners in order to maximize their earnings, primarily through cutting back on staff pay, training and inmate programming," he said.
Schmidt defended the private prison industry as having corrected early mistakes.
"In the early days, there were problems in the industry. It was unregulated and growing fast," he said. "But that was a quarter century ago. We have the experience of 30 plus years, so we know what works and doesn't work."