New Hampshire Decides Against Privatizing Prisons


Here’s a rare bit of good news from our criminal (in)justice system. The state of New Hampshire, after taking bids from several companies to take over their prison system, has rejected all of those proposals on the grounds that they were unable to provide the level of care necessary for inmates.

The state announced yesterday that it has dropped its bid to privatize the state’s prisons because none of the four companies that wanted the job showed they could meet court-ordered requirements for inmate care.

The private prison companies also proposed wages and benefits that are half what security staff at the prisons earn now, according to two reports on the bids released yesterday by the state Department of Administrative Services and Department of Corrections.

“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.”

It looks like this idea is likely dead in New Hampshire for the foreseeable future. The governor opposes it and the state House recently passed a bill prohibiting such privatization. This is a very good thing.

Comments

  1. slc1 says

    Any state looking into privatizing its prison system should be aware that in California, the prison guard unions are the most powerful in the state.

  2. dogmeat says

    They should also look very closely into the costs as well as the treatment of inmates.

    Here in AZ, the required audit a few years ago found that it was costing an additional $1500 a year per inmate in the private prisons versus the state run facilities. The promise that they would save the state money was not only not realized, it was a utterly ridiculous. Add in the argument that the treatment of inmates is worse, the fees and charges added to their families for such “luxuries” as phone calls and visitation, and the fact that the state legislature never got around to discussing why the private prisons were in direct violation of the state legal requirement that they “save the state money,” and you end up with a situation where you get a worse prison system for more expense and no real likelihood that anyone will do anything to correct these glaring abuses and financial mishandling. On top of that the prison lobby in our state now has an even greater vested interest in legal code (lobbied like crazy for SB1070) and harsher penalties.

  3. otrame says

    I can never understand how “privatizing” anything the state is supposed to do can work out. The companies have to pay people, just like the state. The companies have costs for materials, building maintenance, etc. just like the state. But the companies have to make a PROFIT. The state just has to come up with the actual costs.

    So the companies do not pay as well, and use poor materials and don’t do needed upkeep in order to save money so they can pay their stockholders.

    It’s a con job that makes a lot of money for a few people and fucks everyone else over but good, including the everloving “taxpayer” (peace be upon them).

  4. slc1 says

    Re otrame @ #3

    It’s very simple, for services like garbage collecting, the companies hire undocumented aliens whom they pay minimum wages or less with no benefits.

  5. says

    I think the theory is that the government wastes a bunch of money since they don’t have shareholders who are pushing them to operate efficiently. This hasn’t worked out in practice. A good chunk of “waste” isn’t and congress is supposed to be doing budget oversight.

  6. dogmeat says

    Ace @ 5:

    I’d agree with your argument. The old joke is that Republicans argue that government is ineffective and inefficient and that, when elected they set out to prove themselves right.

    The foundational argument behind privatization is that companies, because they have to make a profit, does things more efficiently than government that doesn’t. The problem is that this argument assumes waste and inefficiency in government while it assumes the opposite in private business. I’ve always had a problem with this argument because I have yet to see an example of the government turning an activity over to private businesses and that activity not either going to hell in quality of service or costing a hell of a lot more than it did when the government was doing it, or worse yet, both.

  7. says

    Well, there is one area where the prison for profit industry probably is a cost saver. Joe Arpaio’s been sued multiple times and if memory serves, lost a few of the suits. Then again, anyone who thinks that Arpaio hasn’t been grabbing money with both hands for years needs edjukatin on that subject.

  8. Ben P says

    The foundational argument behind privatization is that companies, because they have to make a profit, does things more efficiently than government that doesn’t. The problem is that this argument assumes waste and inefficiency in government while it assumes the opposite in private business. I’ve always had a problem with this argument because I have yet to see an example of the government turning an activity over to private businesses and that activity not either going to hell in quality of service or costing a hell of a lot more than it did when the government was doing it, or worse yet, both.

    This is true but….incomplete.

    There’s a further foundational argument, which is that it may simply not be cost effective for the government to maintain all the infrstructure necessary for a particular role, and that it is far more cost effective to contract out that particular function.

    This is a bad argument for private prisons. But in a very easy example, the state government office I work in produces a lot of documents that contain protected information (HIPPA etc.) we can’t throw any of this away without shredding it, and the whole office probably has to shred thousands of pages a day.

    Sure, the governemnt could do this in-house – authorize the purchase process for a high capacity paper shredder, buy it, find space in the office for it, train someone to operate and repair it, and hire someone whose primary job is gathering up documents and shredding them.

    Or the office can pay a couple hundred bucks a month to a commercial company that stops by every afternoon with a truck and picks up the documents to shred them.

    This is not functionally different from “privatization” (at least if the government had done it, and now wants to contract it out.)

    The solution is clearly not a dogmatic “leave it to the private sector” or a dogmatic assumption that introducing private companies is just a way to rip anyone off, but a clear eyed look at the risks, costs and benefits of doing so.

  9. cry4turtles says

    I hope our shitface govenor Tom “privatize every fucking thing” Corbett reads this article before he’s voted out (come on 2014!)

  10. dogmeat says

    Ben @9:

    I agree, some goods & services aren’t cost effective for government to do, much like companies don’t build their own company cars, etc. My point was simply that the big focus on privatization over the last decade or so has generally been directed towards areas that don’t generally save money and private businesses aren’t providing superior services; in essence, simply redirecting funds to friends and cronies at higher price tags.

    W2 in Wisconsin (forced thousands of women to leave college, cut benefits to welfare recipients to fund the private organization that was managing the program and ultimately cost the state more money instead of saving)

    Private Prisons (numerous examples provided here)

    Private security like Blackwater/Xe replacing military personnel (total mess often discussed here)

    Additional contractors for DoD (A family friend is making 6 figures plus benefits & bonuses doing the exact same job he was doing as a non-com for less than 1/4 the pay & benefits)

    Charter & Voucher schools (majority are worse than the schools they’re designed to replace)

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