Leading the movement to fight back against the private prison industry, New Hampshire rejected all bids last month to house private prisons in the state, and passed a bill in the House to prohibit the private facilities that profit from incarceration. But the bill died in the Senate Thursday along party lines, with opponents saying they wanted to retain the flexibility to contract with private facilities in the future. The New Hampshire Union Leader reports:
Supporters of the bill said private prisons often maximize profits at the expense of prisoners who are separated from their families. They said private prisons focus on driving costs down while paying scant attention to rehabilitating inmates, which the state has an incentive to do to keep them out of corrections system once they are released.
But opponents say the state should not tie its hands and it needs the flexibility in the future, particularly in an emergency if a prison burned.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said there are no contracts on the horizon for using private prisons or turning the state’s prison system over to a private company to manage.
The bill is not needed, he said, adding that the discussion began two years ago when former Gov. John Lynch proposed looking into prison privatization.
Opponents also said they wanted to have the option to use private prisons in the event of an emergency, even though the bill contained a provision that explicitly allowed the state to transfer inmates to a private facility in an emergency. New Hampshire’s new governor has been vocal in her opposition to private prisons, and under her leadership, the state recently rejected every proposal to site private prisons in the state, citing their insufficient understanding of court-mandated standards of inmate care. A legislative change, however, would have prevented new proposals from being solicited and considered next year.
Private prisons have a perverse incentive to lobby for imprisonment in a country that already has the world’s highest rate of incarceration. In 2012, both GEO Group and Management & Training Corp. contributed to the campaigns of Republican state officials whose agency commissioned studies of private prison proposals. And Corrections Corporation of America had in the past contributed to the campaigns of then-Gov. John Lynch, who had solicited the private prison bids. As of April 2012, all three private prison firms had at least two lobbyists in the state.