Sununu Has Taken Thousands in Contributions from For-Profit Prison Industry

Sununu's "conflicts of interest are staggering."  His brothers are even into lobbying for the industry.

CONCORD, NH — During recent legislative sessions in New Hampshire, some politicians flirted with the idea of privatizing our prison industry. Others put forward a bill to prevent turning our corrections system into a for-profit business. Neither proposal fully advanced, and thus it could be that New Hampshire will have this policy discussion again in the future.

That’s why it is critically important for both candidates for governor to state unequivocally where they stand on this issue of prison privatization.

Studies and research show private prisons are worse than public prisons at providing safety for inmates and guards, reducing costs, and providing the rehabilitative services that prevent recidivism.

In August, an U.S. Office of the Inspector General study found that private prisons were worse than public prisons in nearly every major category: contraband, lockdowns, inmate discipline. Private prisons had higher rates of assaults, measured by both inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-guard assaults.

The cost argument is just as thin. Studies by the Arizona Department of Corrections and the University of Utah have shown private prisons cost just about the same as public prisons.

Worse yet, private prisons offer little of the rehabilitative services vital to reducing recidivism. Our state is in the midst of an opioid crisis, and many incoming inmates suffer from addiction. It’s critical they receive not only treatment, but the skills and job training to make them contributing members of society on the outside. Switching to private prisons, which offer fewer of these services, could likely increase recidivism rates.

On one hand, Colin Van Ostern has publicly stated his opposition to prison privatization. On the other, Chris Sununu has taken thousands of dollars in campaign SUBSCRIBE

The GEO Group, the world’s largest private prison corporation, has donated nearly $10,000 to his campaign. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), another leading private prison corporation, has donated another $5,000. And its connection isn’t limited to just Sununu — they’ve got their claws in his family’s business, too.

Profile Strategy Group, a lobbying firm that represents CCA in New Hampshire, is owned by Sununu’s brothers, Michael and James. They’ve spent countless hours trying to win contracts for CCA, while at the same time CCA is pouring money into Chris Sununu’s campaign.

The brothers also lobby for Securus Technologies, a company which provides criminal justice technology for New Hampshire prisons. And when Securus was about to lose a large contract in our state, who fought for its delay in the Executive Council? Chris Sununu.

These conflicts of interest are staggering, but they help explain why Chris Sununu has been soft on supporting privatizing our prisons, even though research reveals it would decrease safety, increase recidivism and do nothing to reduce costs.

In the last open race for governor, both Democrat Maggie Hassan and Republican Ovide Lamontagne stated outright their opposition to prison privatization. They were not afraid to call it the bad policy because evidence shows they do more harm than good.

Chris Sununu’s past stance and continued campaign donations from the private prison industry make us uneasy about where his allegiance would lay. He should step up and publicly reject prison privatization in New Hampshire, for the good of our state, our people, and our tax dollars.

By Richard Gulla, president of State Employees’ Association of NH/SEIU Local 1984