New Hampshire Rejects All Private Prison Bids

New Hampshire officials rejected all four bids to privatize its prisons, citing prison operators’ insufficient understanding of court-mandated standards of inmate care, and proposed wages that are half what prison security staff now earn. The decision comes following a recent vote by the state House of Representatives to prohibit private prisons in the state. For-profit prison operators’ interest in profiting off inmates leads to perverse incentives, and many private facilities have been cited for human rights abuses and violations of state law. The Concord Monitor reports:

“The proposals exhibited a lack of understanding of the overarching legal requirements placed upon the (corrections department) relating to the court orders, consent decrees and settlements which, in large part, dictate the administration and operation of their correctional facilities and attendant services to the inmate populations,” read the report. It concluded that meeting those requirements for inmates’ medical and mental health care “appeared to be too great a burden for the vendors.”

The state’s decision to cancel the bid puts prison privatization off the table for now unless Gov. Maggie Hassan or the Legislature directs the state to reissue the bid, said Michael Connor of the state Department of Administrative Services. That seems unlikely. […]

State corrections and administrative service officials began investigating prison privatization in 2011 at the direction of former governor John Lynch and the last Legislature. Four companies submitted 17 proposals that were so voluminous and complex that state officials hired a private consultant, at a cost of $171,000, to help them evaluate the bids.

New Hampshire’s now-governor has been vocal in opposition to private prisons, and her spokesman said this week that “the track record of such arrangements in other states has not demonstrated success in terms of protecting taxpayer dollars while maintaining the highest level of public safety.” The state could, however, solicit new proposals in future years if the House bill to prohibit the facilities is not also approved by the Senate.


Earlier coverage of the bids reports that the three national private prison companies each have at least two lobbyists in the state, reflecting the nationwide efforts of prison firms to lobby for privatization of prison facilities, prison health care, and laws that incarcerate more people in a country that already has the world’s highest incarceration rate. Legislators who support private prisons, many enriched by campaign contributions from these very companies, have claimed that they are a way to save money. But New Hampshire’s report confirms the experiences of other states — that these prisons cost more. New Hampshire spent $171,000 for a consultant to pore through proposals that, in spite of being too unwieldy to be reviewed in-house, failed to address basic state criteria. What’s more, New Hampshire’s report is the latest evidence that private firms’ attempts to cut costs come at the expense of adequate inmate treatment and good wages.