House votes to prohibit prison privatization, bill moves to Senate for review

This victory was the result of a two-year fight to block for-profit prisons in New Hampshire.    CCJR wrote and found legislative support for House Bill 443 to stop private prisons in the Granite State. We worked closely with the League of Women Voters, New Hampshire Legal Assistance, the Civil Liberties Union, the Defense Attorneys Association, the American Friends Service Committee, and the State Employees Association in fighting privatization on several fronts.  We thank everyone who gave of their time and resources in this important battle. - CCJR Staff

Union Leader March 21. 2013 1:01PM

CONCORD -- The House on Thursday 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 197-136 roll call by the Democratic -controlled House sent House Bill 443 to the Senate, where Republicans hold a slim, 13-11 majority and the bill’s fate is uncertain, at best.

The legislation, while prohibiting prison privatization, allows the governor to enter into a temporary contract with a private provider during times of a “corrections emergency” with the approval of the Executive Council.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee had recommended that the bill pass on a 13-5 vote.

Those who opposed the bill said that with a study of privatization underway, it is premature to have a ban take effect. A move to table pending more information on privatization failed.

Rep. Dan McGuire, R-Epsom, argued that the state should not prevent itself from undertaking a private option. He said the prison population is expanding.

But Rep. Robert Cushing, D-Hampton, privatizing prisons “is different than talking about who is going to pick up our garbage and plow our roads.

“I don’t think we should be outsourcing incarceration,” he said.

He said the state constitution requires the state to rehabilitate its prisoners, “yet there is a financial incentive for a private operator to keep those cells filled” and “fill corporate coffers.

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

House Republican Leader Gene Chandler argued unsuccessfully that with a study underway, “There are facts coming in on the issue and we have an obligation to look at the facts.”

SOURCE:  Union Leader March 21. 2013 1:01PM