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Ignorance in action: The foolish private prison ban

March 19. 2013 6:49PM

Public officials are still waiting for the results of a state-commissioned report on the pros and cons of prison privatization. Well, some state officials are. Not the Solons of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. There, a bill to ban the state's use of private prisons is up for a vote today.

Normally legislators would wait to receive the official state study before acting on an issue. Even if their minds are made up already, if a study has been commissioned it at least looks good to wait until the report is in. But the leadership in your House of Representatives thought it was wise to vote on House Bill 443 before all the facts were in.

So today representatives vote on the bill, which would make it illegal for the Department of Corrections to house New Hampshire inmates in any private prison facility.

The bill actually strikes the word "private" from state law and replaces it with the word "government." What could possibly be the motivation behind such stupendous nincompoopery?

The first and most obvious motivation is to signal to the state employees unions: "We're your loyal stooges! Just keep those campaign contributions coming!"

The other, even worse, motivation is simple ideological foolishness. There are some legislators who abhor the profit motive. To them it is distasteful at best, evil at worst. Private prisons must be awful places because the people who run them are in it to make money. Case closed.

Such a childish notion is dashed with ease: The bill would prohibit the transfer of a New Hampshire prisoner to one of the privately run prisons in 37 U.S. states, but not to government-run prisons in Cuba, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico, or North Korea. One not even use such extreme examples. Would the liberals supporting this bill like to see New Hampshire inmates sent to state-run prisons in the notoriously tough-on-crime states of Alabama, Mississippi, Arizona, or Texas?

The notion that government-run prisons are inherently superior, inherently more humane, inherently more civil than privately run prisons is nonsense. The bill deserves a humiliating defeat.

Crime, law and justice Politics Editorial

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