Prison Privatization Proposal Seems Doomed in New Hampshire

CONCORD, N.H. — A long-discussed proposal to privatize prisons in New Hampshire appears to be on its last legs due to changes in the state’s political landscape after November’s election. The state issued a request for proposals asking companies to submit plans to build and operate a correctional facility for men, a structure for women or deliver a design that could hold both men and women on one campus. Four companies responded with proposals, although none of the bids were for a stand-alone women facility.

The New Hampshire Departments of Administrative Services and Corrections came to the conclusion that the bids were too varied in scope and approach for the department’s staff to evaluate on their own. The state’s executive council agreed, approving a $170,000 contract with MGT of America, a consulting firm out of Tallahassee, Fla., to help analyze the proposals.

New Hampshire’s executive council is part of the executive branch, along with the governor, and has veto power over all contracts with a value greater than $5,000. The arrangement makes the state’s government more similar to a service district or a college, as the board and governor share executive power to some extent.

Control of the state’s House of Representatives moved from the republicans to the democrats as a result of the November election, a shift the Concord Monitor suggests would not help the cause of those seeking privatization. A majority of the members of the new executive council have also voiced their preference to avoid privatization and the incoming Gov. Maggie Hassan has vocally opposed the move.

While the council has veto power over the governor, she will have the ability to keep the matter off the agenda, meaning there is many ways for the privatization plan to be stopped. The House of Representatives, governor and executive council would all have to agree on privatization for any of the proposals to go forward and it appears that they are all leaning in the opposite direction.

With that said, the incoming members of the executive council have all vowed to consider the results of the MGT analysis, which is expected to arrive in February. The current members of the executive council approved an extension of that contract, with no extra cost involved, at a meeting in early December.

One part of the proposal appears to still be on the table. The Concord Monitor recently reported that a representative for incoming Gov. Hassan sent the newspaper an email indicating she would consider allowing a private firm to build a prison for the state to run.