On Friday, the Democratic controlled New Hampshire House voted 197-136 to ban the privatization of the state’s prison system. Whether this passes the Republican held (13-11) Senate is debatable but considering that last year there was movement to hand the prison system over to for-profit corporations, the move is significant.
It’s important to note that the Democratic Party re-took control of the House this past November. Elections have consequences. The New Hampshire Union Leader reports:
CONCORD — The House on Thursday voted to forbid the executive branch from privatizing the state prison system, saying that to do so would shirk the state’s constitutional responsibility to rehabilitate inmates.
The 197-136 roll call by the Democratic -controlled House sent House Bill 443 to the Senate, where Republicans hold a slim, 13-11 majority and the bill’s fate is uncertain, at best.
The legislation, while prohibiting prison privatization, allows the governor to enter into a temporary contract with a private provider during times of a “corrections emergency” with the approval of the Executive Council.
It’s also important to note that the House didn’t just vote not to allow privatization, they voted to restrict the executive branch from doing so in the future.
The problem with private prisons is that they have absolutely no incentive to rehabilitate or even release prisoners. Early parole is bad for business. Reducing recidivism is really bad for business. Even more disturbing is the amount of money and effort the private prison industry puts into creating more jailable offenses, lengthening sentences and introducing mandatory sentencing for crimes as small as having a half-smoked joint in your pocket. That the industry is a big supporter of the War on Drugs goes without saying.
Private prisons cost more, have terrible safety and health records and several have been implicated in scandals to bribe judges to hand down harsher sentences in order to keep the prisons filled. This reprehensible behavior has even extended to the juvenile justice system. The logic is clear: kids that go to juvie tend to become adult criminals. Get’em while they’re young and you’ll have a customer for life.
Another dark facet of the Prison Industrial Complex is the push for “immigration crack-downs.” The industry is a major force behind the “sudden” urge for Republican-controlled states to arrest every person with brown skin they can find. Arizona’s now-infamous SB1070 was specifically created to make money for prison corporations who would then “share” their good fortune with the state. If you thought parking tickets were a nuisance, imagine being locked up for the sole purpose of closing your state’s budget shortfall.
There’s a reason the United States has the highest amount of prisoners per capita and it’s not because we believe in justice or punishment. We worship profit and depriving our fellow humans of their freedom and future is quite lucrative.
Whether or not the New Hampshire Democrats can stave off the predatory practices of the Prison Industrial Complex and the poison it injects into the corrections systems remains to be seen. If they do, perhaps the Democratic Party can begin to stand up to the vultures who are turning our country into a police state simply to fatten their bottom line with the broken lives of others.