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New Mexico: Editorial says no.

The Santa Fe New Mexican (New Mexico)
June 14, 2005

It's a depressing prospect, made more so by the way it's being faced:
Gov. Bill Richardson says he supports Corrections Director Joe Williams' pitch for a new state prison. The state has run out of cells to hold all the felons too dangerous to be free on probation, says Williams.
Clayton, that pleasant, but distant, little town out near the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, proposes to build a 600-bed lockup for the sake of creating jobs.
A nice match -- but Williams doesn't want the bother of running the prison. Like Republican Rod Perry before him, the Democratic appointee wants Wackenhut to do the dirty work.
Now known as "the Geo Group," Wackenhut Corrections Corp. is one of the nation's leaders in the prisons-for-profit industry, a trend that took off during the Reagan years when many governmental functions were handed over to private contractors.
It was on Wackenhut's watch that violence flared at prisons in Hobbs and Santa Rosa during the late 1990s. Maybe it would have happened if the state had been running them -- but at least there would have been a clear line of accountability; one ending at the governor's desk. With privatization, our politicians smudge the line at will, pleading that whatever goes wrong is somehow out of their hands.
Prison violence, of course, is good for business: It means extended sentences, at a certain number of dollars a day. And rehabilitation and early release are bad for business -- so how anxious are the privateers to get Joe Convict back in society?
That attitude is almost as criminal as what got some inmates behind bars in the first place.
Prisons, after all, are part of the justice system -- a basic responsibility of government. Put that responsibility in corporate hands, and its executives immediately look for ways to squeeze profits from their contract. Hire guards as cheaply as possible, and never mind their education and experience levels. Make each guard responsible for a few more inmates -- until it occurs to those inmates that they can overpower the poor devil ...
And private prisons create a demand for convicts -- so the early stages of the justice system are caught up in a subtle pressure to supply them: Bill of Rights be damned -- our judiciary- and executive-friendly prison companies need bodies ...
All that was lost on Richardson's predecessor: Gov. Gary Johnson went so far as to fire his first corrections secretary for daring to mention that the state wouldn't even save much, if any, money with Johnson's elaborate prison-profiteering scheme.
Surely today's governor can do better by our justice system. If New Mexico's many social crises are unresolved to the point that we need more prisons, the least he and Joe Williams can do is maintain responsibility for the latest wave of felons.

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