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article imageOp-Ed: NH House passes bill to forbid privatization of prison system

By Ken Hanly     Mar 22, 2013 in Crime
Concord - The New Hampshire House passed a motion today (March 22) that will prevent the privatizing of the state prison system. Earlier, the Department of Corrections had sought proposals from private contractors to run the system.
The New Hampshire Department of Corrections had put out a request for proposals that could have resulted in the contracting out of the entire state system at least for male prisoners. Four companies responded. The proposals would see a private contractor run the system for 20 years. Among the private contractors submitting plans were Corrections Corporation of America based in Tennessee and the GEO Group based in Florida. The combined revenues of the two companies surpasses $3 billion. New Hampshire would be the first state to privatize its entire system for male inmates. Florida recently tried to expand its private system but it was voted down in their Senate earlier this year.
States that often face huge debts are attracted by any proposals that might cut the expenses associated with the prison system. Private prison contractors spend millions lobbying to advance their cause with authorities. In the past decades, just three companies spent over $45 million on campaign donations and lobbyists to pass favorable legislation at both the state and federal levels.
. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has contracts with private companies to retain more than 23,000 immigrant criminals. There are 13 contracts that vary in length but are worth a whopping $5.1 billion. In 2000 Corrections Corporations of America was almost bankrupt and facing lawsuits, management issues, and fewer contracts. However, in 2012 , 43% of its contracts were with the federal governments and it had a net income of $182 million. The GEO Group has also flourished with its income jumping from $16.9 million in 2000 to $78.6 million last year.
A 2011 report shows that the private prison industry lobbied for longer sentences so as to increase profits. The same report showed that CCA spent $900,000 on federal lobbying. House Speaker John Boehner, Republican from Ohio, and Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona, were among those receiving donations from the industry. Private prisons have been found guilty of various abuses and violations of regulations. In a recent report about a Georgia private prison run by CCA detainees were charged $5 dollars a minute for phone calls, while they are paid a dollar a day for menial labor. As reported in City Beat: "A recent audit of the Ohio prison bought by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) found the private prison is only meeting 66.7 percent of the state’s standards. The report found a total of 47 violations in the CCA-owned prison, which the state government sold to CCA last year as part of a privatization push set out in Ohio’s 2012-13 budget."
No doubt many states might be inclined to overlook such practices as long as the private systems saved them money but there is evidence that in many cases these prisons turn out in the end to be more expensive. Last year a study of Arizona's private prisons found that the State was actually losing about $3.5 million every year by having for-profit corporations house many of their prisoners. The study found that compared to the cost of state-run prisons the Arizona government overpaid by $10 million from 2008 to 2010 for its private prison beds.
Bill 443 that forbids the jail privatization passed by a vote of 197 to 136 in the New Hampshire House controlled by Democrats. However, the bill now goes to the Senate where Republicans hold a 13 to 11 majority. The fate of the bill remains to be decided, but it seems unlikely that New Hampshire will be the first to privatize all prison facilities for male prisoners at least.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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