New Hampshire Says No To Private Prisons

(Originally appeared in The Valley Advocate, but not online.)

It seems New Hampshire won’t be privatizing its prisons anytime soon.

“The House … voted to forbid the executive branch from privatizing the state prison system, saying that to do so would shirk the state’s constitutional responsibility to rehabilitate inmates,” the New Hampshire Union-Leader reports.

The vote comes less than a year after the state’s Department of Corrections sought proposals from for-profit companies to manage its penitentiaries. “Two of the firms [that were] interested are publicly traded,” notes the New Hampshire Business Review, “Nashiville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America [CCA] and The GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla., with a combined annual revenue of over $3 billion.”

The GEO Group owns or manages close to 100 correctional facilities, encompassing over 70,000 beds in Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, the company’s website says, with the majority of its business (approximately 60,000 beds in 60 facilities) being done Stateside.

(The GEO Group recently made news when the company received naming rights to the football stadium, formerly known as FAU Stadium, of Florida Atlantic University, which has prompted massive protests from the university’s student body.)

CCA currently houses some 80,000 inmates at more than 60 facilities in 16 states, making it one of the largest and most profitable prison companies in the world.

CCA works with “all three federal corrections agencies,” the company’s website notes: the U.S. Marshall’s Service, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), from which they acquired over $200 million in contracts in 2011 alone, reports Colorlines.

On a recent conference call, company CEO Damon Huninger assured investors, “… there’s going to be a demand for bed space here in the U.S. because of all the things they’re doing both within the interior, on the border, from the people that are released from state prisons that are ultimately need to be deported,” Colorlines continues.

New Hampshire would be the first state in New England to partner with CCA. But if Granite State representatives like Hampton’s Robert Cushing have their say, that won’t be happening anytime soon.

“When we take somebody’s liberty away from them,” Cushing told the Union-Leader, “those who are overseeing that bondage should be responsible to the governor of New Hampshire as opposed to a corporate entity.”

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