Background

Privatizing prisons in New Hampshire came as a surprise.

With little input by the community, no direct vote by the legislature and almost no public discussion of pros and cons, the Department of Corrections simply started bidding.

Three Requests for Proposals (RFPs) were issued in December 2011: for a men’s prison, a women’s prison, and a hybrid prison for men and women. Together they contemplate as many as 3,000 people worth of space – though New Hampshire only uses roughly 2,500.

New Hampshire might become the only state in the nation to outsource all of its prison operations. The decision goes beyond our borders. Contractors are planning to fill the extra space with people (and payments) from Maine and Vermont.

Nobody bid on the women’s prison, the smallest of the three. The Corrections Corporation of America remarked that bidding on that facility would be “too small to fit its business model.”

Four companies bid on the men’s prison and the hybrid facility:

  • Corrections Corporation of America, Nashville, Tennessee.
  • GEO Group, Boca Raton, Florida.
  • Management and Training Corporation, Centerville, Utah.
  • Hunt Group/Lasalle Corrections, joint venture, both from Texas.

These bids are so complex that the state issued a separate RFP for a consultant to evaluate them. The state hopes to finish the process by August 2012. The bidding companies are spending heavily to secure these contracts.

The decision will be made by the Executive Council, which decides all state procurements over $10,000. The Council is made up of five Councilors directly elected from five Executive Council Districts every two years, along with traditional elections in November. A majority of three votes is needed to advance the procurement. Thus, three individuals can decide whether the New Hampshire corrections system will be sold to a for-profit company.

The Executive Councilors are:

  • District 1: Ray Burton
  • District 2: Daniel St. Hilaire
  • District 3: David Wheeler
  • District 4: Ray Wieczorek
  • District 5: Christopher Sununu

If the Council treats the RFP like an ordinary procurement, New Hampshire could become the only state with a fully privatized prison system and an export-destination for other states:

  • Without a direct vote by the legislature.
  • Without a bond issue approved by voters for a major, high-priced commitment on infrastructure. 

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