Still No Final Word on Private Prisons

The State Prison for Men in Concord is shown.

Earlier this week, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on HB 443, which bans prison privatization in NH.  Those who testified in favor of the bill outnumbered those who spoke against it.  However, NH Dept. of Corrections Commissioner William Wrenn registered his opposition to the bill, including the amendment that had been drafted in response to his areas of concern brought forward in the NH House hearing.  He testified that the bill would remove “certain inmate housing options that are currently available” and “are important parts of the strategies that would be needed for the management of the over-populations of our facilities, or in the event of an unexpected emergency.”

Wrenn had been clear that he found HB 443 too restrictive as originally written.  The House amended it to allow prisoners to be sent to private facilities if the governor declares a corrections emergency. The department in that case would be able to enter into contracts in three-month intervals with private firms and for no more than 21 months.

Wrenn said the provision does not define an emergency and is “onerous, potentially costly,” and “fraught with unnecessary burdens.”  It does seem, however, that Wrenn believes that private prisons are not good for NH.

“Having spoken with Commissioner Wrenn after his testimony, I feel confident that he wants to work toward finding amendment language that will ban private prisons and still allow him the flexibility needed if an emergency situation should develop,” said Diana Lacey, President of SEA. “We look forward to working with him on this.”

Members are encouraged to reach out to members of the Finance Committee to make sure they know that prison privatization is simply wrong for New Hampshire. You can find contact info for Finance Committee members here.

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