Prisons eyed for varied locales

New Hampshire Sunday News - UNION LEADER
June 30. 2012 11:41PM

A developer has identified potential prison sites in Lancaster, Northumberland and Hinsdale, according to a Lancaster official.Another company says it wants to build a new prison next to the existing men's state prison in Concord, retaining and renovating some existing spaces.

And since the state requested proposals last fall, two other firms have also submitted ideas for a men's prison, with the same four vendors providing plans for a combined men's and women's prison, according to William McGonagle, assistant commissioner for the state Department of Corrections. No one submitted plans for a women's-only prison.

The state's request for proposals said a new prison should accommodate a minimum 1,480 male inmates, 154 female inmates and 70 civilly committed people in a secure psychiatric unit. As of Wednesday, the men's prison had 1,431 inmates, the women's prison 120 and the psychiatric unit 58 people, according to McGonagle.

The proposals are being reviewed.

Concord proposal

Buddy Johns, president of CGL, based in Columbia, S.C., said the Concord project could be completed within the state's two-year timetable.

“We would build a majority of a new facility ... outside the existing fence, and after that was built and operational, we would go back in and either demolish buildings that wouldn't be used or rehab existing facilities,” Johns said in a telephone interview last week.

NH Hunt Justice Group, a partnership formed for this project, is an entity owned by CGL and Hunt Companies, out of Texas. LaSalle Corrections, also based in Texas, would manage the prison if the state didn't.

“I consider it a new facility with components of renovations of the existing one,” Johns said.

Johns said the company submitted proposals to build the prison and let the state run it or to build the prison and let LaSalle Corrections operate it.

“We don't really want to dictate what's best for the state,” he said.

Lancaster plan

Lancaster Town Manager Ed Samson said Saturday that officials from Corrections Corporation of America told him they were looking at sites in Lancaster, Northumberland and Hinsdale.

CCA officials recently briefed Lancaster community leaders on the proposal for a possible prison, off Route 3 near the Northumberland town line, to house 1,500 to 2,000 inmates. Construction costs of $100 million to $120 million could bring the town about $2 million in property taxes yearly, Samson said.

“The overall consensus of the board (of selectmen) is something they want to pursue,” Samson said. “Everything's pretty much contingent on what a majority of people would decide if it would come to Lancaster.”

The town also could receive upgrades in water and sewer infrastructure as part of the prison project, he said.

Attempts to reach officials in Northumberland and Hinsdale were unsuccessful Saturday.

In Manchester

In Manchester, Richard Danais, president of the Manchester-based Danais Realty Group, last week said Management & Training Corp., based in Utah, had included a Manchester site he owns on Hackett Hill in its proposal.

Danais said 25 of 100 acres would be used for the facilities, with the remaining land acting as a buffer.

“I have not seen their proposal, so I haven't been in touch with them basically since March,” Danais said.

The fourth firm, The Geo Group, based in Florida, declined to discuss its plans.

“As a matter of policy, our company cannot comment on active ongoing procurements,” Pablo Paez, vice president of corporate relations, said in an email.

Under review

Three state evaluation teams — reviewing the design, operation and financing of the proposals — will need until at least September or early October to sift through proposals to build a private prison from four companies, McGonagle said. In April, officials had hoped to present recommendations to the governor and Executive Council in the late summer.

Once evaluation teams complete their work, the process shifts to Corrections Commissioner William Wrenn, Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Hodgdon and the governor's office for a review.

Should plans advance further, the Executive Council and the Legislature also would need to give approvals, he said.

The state made clear in its requests for proposals that it might not accept any plan, he said.

“If it proves not to be financially sound or put the state in serious liability for operational reasons, then I would imagine there would be an argument against that,” McGonagle said. “Those are public policy decisions and we don't make those decisions.”

Mike Cousineau may be reached at