Best News All Day, Prison Edition


One of the stories I followed closely in the past year is the state’s decision to investigate opening a private prison in New Hampshire. More than a year ago, the state issued a request for proposals from private prison contractors and developers interested in building or renovating a prison that the private company would run for 20 years, then hand back over to the state.

Interest in the proposal was strong.

But now the state has decided to end the discussion, saying none of the proposals outlined how the prisons would comply with a number of court orders, such as how they would provide equal services for men and women prisoners. Not only did the applicants fail to provide enough information on how they would comply, but in some cases they just said they would comply with the court order and left it at that.

Looking back at the coverage last year, it is worth noting the RFP was lauded for being open-ended.

“It’s probably one of the more unique and creative (RFPs) put out for some time,” said Eli Gage, the publisher of Correctional News, a national publication that covers trends in prison construction. “The state has given the ability to leave things (a bidder) is open to do or not do, depending on what they like. Even some in the industry say it’s the best RFP they’ve seen in a while.” (from Union Leader Jan. 2012)

Apparently they thought court orders fell under the open part.

The effort to build a private prison in New Hampshire was meant to save money and probably would have been met with more support if the prison didn’t have to go somewhere. When word got out developers were thinking of building a prison in Manchester (sorry only in print?!), the aldermen tossed it up like a hot potato until it landed in Ward 8, much to the chagrin of Alderman Tom Katsiantonis.

Then activists from Arizona — not a state known for compassion when it comes to prisoners —  spoke across New Hampshire urging Legislators to kill the deal.

But the real reason for killing the deal is likely the changes in the Legislature, Executive Council and Governor’s Office, as foretold by Annmarie Timmins of the Concord Monitor in Dec. 2012.

While residents of Manchester and the other towns targeted for a new prison are likely happy about the decision, the state still has little money to spare, the prisons are still in poor condition and the courts still expect the Department of Corrections to fix its problems. I guess it’s back to the drawing board.

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