Some terms need to be, or should never be, in a prison contract. Do our negotiators know the score? If we get to the point of negotiating contracts, contracts need language along these lines:
1. No guarantee of prison occupancy, at any rate.
2. Contract lengths must be limited. Twenty year contracts are too far to foresee population levels, and provide too much assurance of continuity over marginal performance. They should be renewed annually.
3. Precise liquidated damages for failure to comply with contract terms, including
- Staff vacancies, unfilled positions or high turnover rates;
- Failure to provide programming or education;
- Operational problems such as poor sanitation, slow or inadequate food, or access to religious counsel.
4. Any contract should take advantage of the experienced, professional corrections staff already working in New Hampshire
- Current corrections staff should get preferential hiring
- Current wages and benefits must be maintained under any future contract
- The contract must specify minimum staff training, pay scale and licensing requirements, in line with DOC’s current standards.
5. New Hampshire has first right of access to space and must affirmatively release space to other government entities. New Hampshire must also retain the right to review inmates transferred from other places, and to refuse admission on an individual basis or for entire categories of offense or offenders.
6. Any contract should require a preference for local vendors for food, clothing and other operations.
7. Contractors and subcontractors shall be subject to all state open records laws and audit by state authority. Records must be kept a minimum of three years.
If vendors will not agree to terms like this, we need to go our separate ways! We don’t need them; they need us.