Monday, May 2, 2011


New Mexico's government loves private prisons. They love them so much that they don't even care to collect information on their operating costs, because hey, why would a company that incarcerates people for profit try to use any underhanded business tactics?

The former secretary of corrections loves private prisons so much that he declined to fine the industry for up to $20 million worth of penalties for not complying with their contracts, costing his taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in potential revenue from companies known to have violated the terms of their contracts with the government.

It's actually kind of remarkable how poorly private prisons have performed in New Mexico, and the continued failure of the government there to do anything about it. 4 of NM's ten prisons are privatized, and the companies can be fined when they fail to maintain 90% staffing at any of the prisons. From January of 2010 to last month, two GEO Group facilities combined to fall below that threshold for 23 of a possible 28 months. No fine. Another prison, a CCA one, missed the mark in one out of every four months reviewed. No fine. In fact, at one of the GEO facilities, the staffing vacancy rate hovered above 1/4. ONE OUT OF EVERY FOUR POSITIONS WAS VACANT, for seven consecutive months. This creates dangerous situations not only for prisoners, but for the poor guards who actually work there. If there are supposed to be, say 4 guards for every 100 prisoners, but there's only 3, that means those 3 have more work, more stress, and are often asked to work overtime to cover the extra time.

It is simply unacceptable for New Mexico's taxpayers to be forced to continue to pay these consistently underperforming companies to not properly maintain a government function. Hopefully, the new administration will not simply continue to follow in the footsteps of the previous one, which allowed this problem to fester for far too long.

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