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Letter: Private prisons are not the answer

I am troubled by the state’s proposal to transfer the operation of our prisons to for-profit companies.

The ill-considered rush to privatize all things done by the government destroys the function of the state whose interests are not the same as the private sector.

Does the CEO of a private company really care about the welfare of the prisoners? He cares about profitability. The purpose of a prison is to rehabilitate. The goal of a private company is to maximize profits. The two goals are incompatible. The more prisoners, the more money the CEO makes for his company.

But prisoners are not commodities. They’re our responsibility to treat humanely and responsibly. After all, we put them there.

When a private corrections company takes over, the supportive state hiring structure and training programs are gone, along with decently paid and trained employees. Then we’re stuck for whatever the private contractor charges down the road.

Some private corrections firms are even tempting state budget writers by offering to buy the state’s prisons. Money coming in instead of going out.

But plenty of evidence indicates the whole privatization experiment is an abysmal failure. Is there any going back? We would not even own the buildings.

New Hampshire is too smart to go down that road. It’s a dead end. Not good for the state, not good for the prisoners, not good for the dedicated corrections employees currently working there, but very good for some out-of-state fat-cat CEO and his company’s stockholders.

MARAYLN DOYLE

Newbury

The only reason private prisons are being considered is the bloated salaries and benefits being paid to current prison guards. If taxpayers knew what a prison guard did during his eight-hour shift, they'd realize he was overpaid at half his current wage. The threat of privatizing our state prisons should be used to rollback the wages and benefits that are unavailable anywhere in the private sector. If union members don't like the idea of reduced wages and benefits, they could ask their union brethren at Hostess how striking for higher wages/benefits worked for them. In the case of prison employees, they would be working for Corrections Corp of America at $9/hr instead of the state at approaching $20/hr plus benefits.

Libertarian Minarchists usually formulate proper government function purely in terms of legitimate exercise of force: police, court systems to decide criminal charges and contract disputes, prison systems, and a defensive military in the context of a constiutional republic. Such exercises of force cannot be a free market commodity in a sane society. On the other hand, there is no reason why government in this context ought not to borrow a page from free enterprise. Let the labor market decide what wage is necessary to attract competent personnel for the above functions. Let unions organize as they originally did, to offer organization as pressure purely in it's own right. Further government legislation empowering unions by entitlement oriented politicians has no place in a properly free society. Problems never end, as we see here.

1. You write as if you have NO idea what Correctional Officers do on a daily basis. You do not hear about most of what happens in the prison, because the officers are trained to prevent or control problems before they grow. 2. Do we REALLY want somebody who makes $9 an hour in control of a couple thousand men who spend much of their time figuring out ways to outfox the officers, and/or how to escape? 3. Running a prison for profit means that there is no incentive to get people back out on the streets to become productive citizens, no incentive to treat prisoners humanely, no incentive to prevent re-offending, no incentive to avoid violating prisoners' Constitutional rights (for which violations the State would nonetheless be liable).

Actually, Veritas, it is YOU who has no idea what a prison guard does all day. I spent 3 1/2 years on North State Street watching them daily. As for avoiding violating prisoners' Constitutional rights, all I can say is I watched one corrections officer take the stand in the US District Court in Concord, ADMIT to committing perjury and there were no sanctions against him; none whatsoever. If taxpayers knew what prison guards did on a daily basis, they would know that these state employees would be considered overpaid at half their current wage.

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