Humpday Hall of Shame: The “Live Free or Die” State Considers For-Profit Prisons

Welcome to The Hump Day Hall of Shame – every Wednesday we’ll be highlighting the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

Earlier this month New Hampshire Corrections Commissioner William Wren issued requests for proposal to privatize the nursing, pharmacy and sex offender treatments programs within the state’s prisons, hoping, according to Wrenn, “that a private contractor would hire the state workers performing those functions now.” (Norma Love, Associated Press, Monday, Oct 17, 2011)

Now, Wrenn has announced that the Granite State will explore the option of for-profit corporations building and operating prisons in New Hampshire with initial bids for a 3,000-bed men’s prison and a 300-bed women’s prison.  The size of the prisons may open the facilities to inmates from other states.

In May of this year, New Hampshire Public Radio reported that Wrenn told the Senate Finance Committee the move would actually cost the state.   And he questioned the commitment of private contractors to rehabilitation and the state’s commitment to community corrections programs offering counseling and treatment to help lower the rate of recidivism, "They're in the business to make money…They're going to be looking to be sure all the beds are filled to make a profit."

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Morse (R), who has long supported privatization announced that a legislative study committee will look for ways to privatize incarceration in New Hampshire.  Its report is due on December 1st and, according to Senator Morse, should help lawmakers decide on legislation for 2012.  "I would hope we would have something in the spring," he said.

The New Hampshire State Employees' Association is concerned and according to SEA President Diana Lacey, “The union wants to be sure the corrections system is high-quality, promotes rehabilitation and protects inmates' rights as well as makes victims and the public feel secure.”  And Governor John Lynch (D)  “wants to know whether New Hampshire can save money by letting business do what the state has traditionally done.”

From the New Hampshire law firm of Rath, Young & Pignatelli,  Glenn Wallace, David G. Collins, Gina R. Rotondi and Brendan S. Perry are all registered lobbyists for the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private prison industry .

We need to keep our eyes on New Hampshire as its Democratic and Republican officials consider privatizing some or all of its prisons.  Clearly questions about for-profit incarceration should be posed as presidential hopefuls make their rounds in anticipation of the New Hampshire primaries.