Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Hampshire considers privatizing prisons

New Hampshire is considering privatizing its prison system.The state's prison population climbed 31 percent between 2000 and 2010 despite a stable crime rate, according to state officials. Half of that increase was attributed to inmates who leave prison only to return for a parole violation or a new offense, reported the Concord Monitor.

"The governor thinks we need to look at different options, including various forms of public/private partnerships to ensure we can meet the future needs of our corrections system," New Hampshire Governor John Lynch's spokesman, Colin Manning, wrote in an email sent to the Monitor. "The responses to these (requests for bids) will provide important information about the feasibility of various alternatives and how they compare to our current model."

A private company, Diana Lacey, president of the state employees union told the Monitor, needs to keep inmate beds full and security, salary and program costs down to make money. Meanwhile, the state's goal is to rehabilitate inmates and keep them out of prison. "Those are totally conflicting viewpoints," she said.

"The trend is positive," corrections spokesman Jeff Lyons told the Monitor, citing the population drop the prison has seen each of the last 13 months. "But we won't have any hard numbers until 2013 or 2014. People want something right away, but you can't really (assess efforts to curb recidivism) right away."

Privatizing prisons is a conversation state leaders say is worth having.  One of the bidders is Correction Corporations of America which reportedly requires states to sign a contract guaranteeing 90 percent occupancy.  In a first of its kind contract, Ohio sold a prison to CCA with a reported occupancy clause.

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