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Should NH privatize the state prison system?

Sep 11, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

Several times this year, New Hampshire’s state prison system has made headlines— most recently, with the resignation of Corrections Commissioner William Wrenn in late August. The Department of Corrections is in the midst of a staffing crisis, which will likely delay the opening of the new women’s prison in Concord. Some believe New Hampshire’s state penal system could be better managed by a private company.

History of private prison debate in NH

Privatizing Granite State prisons is not a new idea. In 2012, the Dept. of Corrections considered bids from private companies to build and manage several new facilities as a means of dealing with overcrowding. The winner of the contract would have also taken over existing state prisons. Eventually, the state cancelled consideration of the idea, finding that the proposals did not meet their standards for inmate care.

While the 2012 privatization attempt failed, so did a state law banning privatization of state prisons in 2013. This means the door is still open to privatizing NH prisons. Doing so would make New Hampshire the only other state in the area, besides Vermont, to have private incarceration.

Support for private prisons

Proponents of private prisons argue that, in general, private industry operates more efficiently and effectively than the public sector. Since New Hampshire’s current prison system has suffered from cost overruns and drastic understaffing, some believe that privatizing the prison system could help the Dept. of Corrections better manage its current facilities. Notably, President Trump decided to roll back the Obama-era plan to stop using private federal prisons— a boon to the stock prices of many corrections companies.

Private prison opponents

Opponents of prison privatization say it’s wrong to profit from incarceration. They feel that doing so creates a perverse incentive to keep inmates locked up longer and invite habitual relapse into crime. Recent studies, including a 2016 report by the Dept. of Justice, indicate more incidents of assault and insufficient medical care for inmates in private prisons. There are also more incidents of smuggled contraband and use of force by staff, according to the Inspector General.

What do you think? Should NH privatize its prison system? Let us know by leaving a comment - yes or no - below.

Comments

David Burris
- Concord

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 9:34pm

No. The reality is that privatizing NH Corrections would be prohibitively expensive! Additionally it's amoral. These companies lobby through special interest groups like ACORN to get harsher sentencing, lengthier sentencing, etc. That's not going to help rehabilitate. It's only going to warehouse them and when they get back out they'll reoffend. Instead, invest into the NHDOC and stop trying to run it on a shoe-string budget. Increase the pay so that starting pay is more attractive to qualified candidates. $35k starting is a joke. A 10% increase would bring starting pay to $38/39k. That's much more manageable for a starting officer in NH. When compared to MA DOC, that's still low. Start hiring people at that rate and the OT starts to go down and we aren't running millions over the so-called over-time budget, which is a joke when you consider the facility must be staffed so when you blow that budget out of the water 3 months in, what do you expect? When it happens year after year and the state responds by lowering that number for the next year, that just tells me they've got monkeys on the computers and whatever number comes up is the new budget.

Deb Green
- concord

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 9:20pm

No. every state that has done it has regretted it. it is hard to back out of - theyhave you over a barrel. there are no statistics showing improvement. some states have had to guarantee to keep the beds full. If it costs less plus pays stock holders and CEO's etc, then you know they are cutting corners every where they can.

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