Gov. Bobby Jindal is trying for the second year in a row to fill holes in next year’s budget by selling one of the state’s prisons.
According to The Times-Picayune
, a House committee on Tuesday will debate Jindal’s proposal to sell Avoyelles Correctional Center for $35 million. If the legislature approves Jindal’s proposal, the state would be allowed to enter into a 20-year contract with the private prison company for operating the prison.
Jindal’s bid to privatize state prisons in Winn and Allen parishes failed during last year’s session due to objections raised by prison workers, many of whom would have been laid off following the prison sale. State Sen. Eric Lafleur, D-Ville Platte, said last year that the “one-time fix” for the budget wasn’t worth the uncertainty about future costs the state could incur from the private prisons, costs that haven’t been specified in the legislation that allows for Avoyelles to go private.
“The sale of state assets has been championed, but that’s one-time money. It’s a lie, and it’s misleading the public,” LaFleur said at a 2011 legislative breakfast sponsored by the Louisiana Assciation of Business and Industry.
Some legislators who first heard Jindal’s newest prison proposal amid appropriations hearings in March have already raised concerns about the plan, according to The Advocate
, citing disturbing details about the Corrections Corporation of America, the publicly traded largest private prison company in America, and its stipulation that states doing business with CCA should keep prisons at a minimum 90 percent occupancy:
The state Department of Corrections is slated to receive $445 million in next year’s budget, a more than $53 million decrease from the current spending year.
The agency would save money by shedding employees at the privatized and closed prisons. The actual profit from selling Avoyelles Correctional Center would not be pushed back into the budget.
State Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, noted that Corrections Corporation of America approached 48 states about purchasing prisons following Ohio’s recent sale of a prison for $72.7 million.
Louisiana apparently was among the states to receive an overture from CCA. The corporation’s pitch included receiving assurances that states would keep the purchased prisons full of inmates.
“That bothers me when we want folks to go back into society. It really gives me angst,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, The Huffington Post
, in a sarcastic post titled “Top 7 Reasons Why You Should Invest in Private Prison!”, quotes directly from CCA’s fourth-quarter investor report, a document that urges investment in private prisons for the following reasons:
1. High recidivism
2. One in every 100 U.S. adults are in prison or jail.
3. At current imprisonment rates, prison populations would grow by about 80,400 between 2012 and 2017, or by more than 13,000 per year, on average.
4. Constraints on new public prison construction and compelling value proposition have benefited the partnership corrections industry.
5. No meaningful, new competitor has entered industry in 20 years.
6. Filling Vacant Beds Drives Earnings.
7. Local governments reduce ongoing and long-term pension obligations