Shipping out Prisoners 

 

State ships out more inmates

By JOAN BARRON
Star-Tribune capital bureau

 

March 10, 2005

 

www.casperstartribune.net

 

The Wyoming Department of Corrections recently moved 33 women inmates from the Women's Corrections Center at Lusk to the Rolling Plains Regional Jail and Detention Center at Haskell, Texas, a department spokesman said Wednesday.

 

On the same day, Feb. 18, the department moved 27 male inmates from the Wyoming State Penitentiary at Rawlins to the Haskell, Texas, facility.

 

In addition to the 33 women inmates, a total of 40 Wyoming women prisoners are incarcerated at a facility in Brush, Colo.

Remaining in Lusk are 116 women prisoners, said Melinda Brazzale, Department of Corrections public information officer.

When the expansion of the women's prison in Lusk is finished in the summer of 2006, all the women can be moved back to Wyoming, Brazzale said.

 

The department, meanwhile, has pulled all Wyoming male inmates out of the Nevada Department of Corrections prisons.

Nineteen male inmates were moved from Nevada back to the Wyoming State Penitentiary at Rawlins on Jan. 24. The following day, 65 more were moved from Nevada to the Rolling Plains regional center in Haskell, Texas.No Wyoming inmates remain in Nevada prisons, Brazzale said.

 

The reason for the pullback, she said, was to consolidate the inmates, which was possible because of the contract with the large Rolling Plains prison in Texas. Now they're in three states instead of four," Brazzale said.

 

Also, the department was able to move the 19 higher-security inmates from Nevada back to the Wyoming State Penitentiary maximum-security prison.

 

The total prison population at the penitentiary in Rawlins is 667. Although an expansion project is under way to add a medium-security unit there, it will not mean an increase in the number of inmates. The purpose of the project is to provide a unit for each inmate and end double-bunking, Brazzale said.

 

The Legislature recently appropriated $76 million to build a 650-bed medium-security prison at Torrington. Total cost of the new prison is about $84 million when the $8.4 million money spent on design and construction administration is counted.

 

A Department of Corrections team chose Torrington over Rawlins and Riverton as the preferred site for the new 310,000-square-foot prison. The facility will employ about 300 people, including professionals under contract.

Construction of the new prison is scheduled to be finished by the fall of 2007. At that time, the inmates housed in out-of-state prisons will be returned to Wyoming, state officials say.

 

Where they are

A total of 485 male inmates from Wyoming are incarcerated in out-of-state prisons, including:

* 27 in Bent County, Colo.

* 16 at Crowley County correctional facility, Colo.

* 58 at Kit Carson prison, Colo.

* 179 at Rolling Plains Regional Jail in Haskell, Texas.

* 205 in Littlefield, Texas.

Capital bureau reporter Joan Barron can be reached at (307) 632-1244 or at joan.barron@casperstartribune.net.

 


 

To shape up, state to ship out inmates

Edwin Garcia

 

Oakland Tribune

 

Feb. 3, 2007

 

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20070203/ai_n17204185

 

SACRAMENTO -- Faced with unprecedented prison overcrowding -- and the threat of a federal judge imposing an early release program as soon as this summer -- state officials Friday announced a temporary plan to transfer thousands of inmates against their will to out-of- state prisons.

 

In doing so, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation acknowledged that voluntary transfers -- its preferred method of lowering the population from its level of 174,000 -- hasn't succeeded to the agency's expectations.

 

"We are severely overcrowded and the need for more space is absolutely critical," prisons chief James E. Tilton said. "These transfers allow us to improve the safety of inmates and correctional officers while avoiding the potential of being unable to accept new inmates.

 

"This decision is being made to protect public safety."

 

The plan, which advocates of inmates say is illegal and might be challenged in court, calls for transferring as many as 5,000 inmates to private facilities in Arizona, Oklahoma and Mississippi, beginning as early as April 2. First to go would be illegal immigrants already scheduled to be deported after serving their sentences, and low-risk offenders.

 

The state pays two out-of-state private prison companies to house inmates, at almost $3,000 less per inmate per year than it costs to lock them up in California.

 

California's beleaguered system has often been described as a powder keg waiting to explode -- and most of the problems can be traced to the astronomically rising population, which forces some inmates to sleep in gymnasiums and rooms that were never intended for housing. In recent years the system also has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits filed by inmates who have complained of substandard conditions, and its health care system is being run by a receiver appointed by the federal government.

 

Moving inmates out of state is a temporary solution ordered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as the first step toward a complete overhaul of the system, which is being debated this year in Sacramento.

 

"The safety of our correctional officers is threatened; we have the highest recidivism rate in the country because there is no room for rehabilitation, and we face the possibility of court ordered early release of felons," Schwarzenegger said Friday.

 

Prison officials said, without the out-of-state transfers, they would have to send inmates to local jails, which would accelerate early releases of inmates serving time for misdemeanors.

 

The decision was immediately heralded by the Legislature's Republicans who promote a tough-on-crime agenda, and criticized by Democrats, who are more sympathetic to the needs of prisoners. The decision also was denounced by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which stands to lose overtime shifts when the population dips.

 

And a spokesman for the leading inmate advocacy group, the Prison Law Office, called the involuntary transfers a "pathetic public policy" that invites yet another lawsuit against the state over a crisis that the Legislature and the governor for years have been unable to solve.

 

"It's illegal because California law says you need the prisoners' consent" to be transferred out of state, said Steve Fama, a staff attorney with the Prison Law Office in San Rafael. "If an affected prisoner was to contact us, we would challenge involuntary transfers in court, if necessary."

 

The state's non-partisan Legislative Counsel suggested in October that transfers may violate the California Constitution unless the agency could show that housing inmates in California cannot be performed adequately, competently, or satisfactorily by state civil service employees.

 

But a prison system spokesman supported the legality of the transfers based on an Oct. 4 emergency proclamation issued by Schwarzenegger. "We believe that under the emergency conditions" enacted by the governor, said prisons spokesman Bill Sessa, "we have the authority."

 

The proclamation cites "severe overcrowding" as a threat to the health and safety of inmates in 29 of the 33 prisons -- and allowed officials to immediately contract with private facilities that pay the state to temporarily house inmates. The two out-of-state private prison companies contracted by the state, the GEO Group Inc. and the Correctional Corporation of America, are required to operate consistent under California law.

 

The politically powerful prison guard's union has maintained that "shipping of inmates and contracting the work" is unconstitutional. The spokesman, Lance Corcoran, also said lowering the population through transfers may or may not make prison guards feel safer. While a smaller population generally correlates to safer prisons, he said, guards worry that involuntarily transferring inmates may "irritate and potentially agitate the inmate population."

 

News of Friday's announcement brought calls for much-needed reforms from legislators with differing ideas of solving the crisis.

Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, blamed Schwarzenegger and prisons officials for "raising the white flag" three years after he first recognized the prisons problem. "This export called for today," she said, "is an abdication of California's responsibility to run our correctional system."

 

Her solution: Implement immediate reforms to the parole system, because more than 20,000 former inmates, she said, return to prison each year.

 

Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, praised the announcement, calling it long overdue. "We're out of options and involuntarily transfers is the only way we're going to start to chisel away at overcrowding." He acknowledged the transfers could be challenged in court, but added, "Let's be clear, they're going to go in front of a federal judge and the judge is going to say we have until June to relieve overcrowding."

 

Prison officials say they turned to involuntary transfers because too few inmates have taken advantage of a voluntary program in place since last fall.

 

Only 80 inmates were transferred to the West Tennessee Detention Facility, and about 300 were sent to the Florence Detention Center in Arizona.

 

**************

Judge blocks plan to ship prisoners out

Edwin Garcia

 

Oakland Tribune

 

Feb. 21, 2007

SACRAMENTO -- A major piece of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to relieve prison overcrowding was rejected Tuesday by a judge who ruled the governor's decision to ship inmates out of state exceeds his authority. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Gail Ohanesian said Schwarzenegger's Oct. 4 Prison Overcrowding State of Emergency declaration was "unlawful," and said the state is not allowed to contract for services that are usually performed by civil service employees within California.

 

The ruling comes as the prison population surges to dangerously high levels and Schwarzenegger and the Legislature scramble for solutions before the federal court decides whether inmates should be released before completing their sentences. The Schwarzenegger administration has already sent some 400 inmates out of state who volunteered to go, and wants 5,000 more to be sent against their will.

 

Schwarzenegger vowed to appeal the judge's decision. "Our prison system is in desperate need of repair, and the transferring of inmates out of state is a prudent alternative to the risk of court-ordered early release of felons," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "Public safety and the interest of all Californians should prevail and this challenge to sound public policy must be defeated." Schwarzenegger, who called Ohanesian's decision a "disappointing ruling," maintained that his proclamation "complied fully" with the state's Emergency Services Act.

 

But Ohanesian, who wrote that prison overcrowding was "a crisis creating conditions of extreme peril," stated that the act, which is most commonly used before and after a natural disaster, is intended to allow a governor to quickly get involved in providing assistance for a local emergency. The emergency in question, she wrote, is due to circumstances ordinarily under the control of the state government, "namely, the lack of sufficient prison facilities to keep pace with the growing number of people sentenced to prison." In other words, the act doesn't apply to prison overcrowding.

 

"Many, many states are leery of providing governors and executives unchecked power to do things," said Bruce Bikle, an assistant professor of criminal justice at California State University, Sacramento, and a former jail administrator in Santa Clara County. "The judge gave the governor a civics lesson today."

 

Some 174,000 inmates are jammed into California's 33 prisons, some of which house inmates in gyms where bunks are triple-stacked. The contracts recently signed with out-of-state prisons also would have saved the state an estimated $8 per inmate per day.

 

The legal challenge was initiated by the powerful prison guards union, known as the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, and the Service Employees International Union, which sued the Schwarzenegger administration to halt the transfer of inmates.

 

CCPOA Vice President Chuck Alexander was encouraged by the ruling, but discouraged upon learning of the planned appeal.

"I would think that continuing on is a waste of taxpayer money, a waste of state resources, both of which could be better utilized by applying them to the problem and seeing if we can work on a comprehensive change to the system."

Transferring inmates won't fix the problem, Alexander said, because each bed space that becomes empty will be soon taken by another prisoner.

 

The unions also have an interest in prisoners remaining in California. A loss of prisoners could mean a loss of lucrative overtime pay or even jobs, but Alexander insisted that a high population count "is in nobody's interest."

 

Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, who criticizes Schwarzenegger for delving into the prison crisis too slowly, applauded the ruling, saying "exporting" inmates and even building more cells, as the governor has proposed, won't end the population problem. "The actual crowding is not the problem itself, it's a symptom of the problem," said Romero, who prefers reforms in sentencing, rehabilitation and parole to ease the system's 70 percent recidivism rate.

 

Assembly leader Mike Villines, R-Fresno, said the ruling acts as a "warning" that the state can no longer delay solutions to overcrowding, such as building more cells. "We now face the very real prospect of serious and repeat criminals roaming loose in our neighborhoods," Villines said, "unless we get the job done soon."

 

After Schwarzenegger declared the state of emergency, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation found only 400 inmates who agreed to be transferred to Arizona and Tennessee. Another 100 to 200 are in the pipeline to be transferred, said corrections director James Tilton.

 

Acknowledging the transfers were unsuccessful, Tilton earlier this month announced plans to ship up to 5,000 inmates involuntarily, beginning as early as April.

 

Schwarzenegger, corrections officials and legislators have been scrambling to remedy the overcrowding since a federal court judge in December gave the state until June 4 to reduce the inmate count.

 

If the population continues to rise, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton can create a panel of judges to suggest options, including the early release of inmates.

 

Tilton told reporters Tuesday he was "trying to use every option at my disposal to address the overcrowding situation," but vowed the state was not "releasing violent criminals."

 

The judgment is scheduled to take effect in 10 days, pending the outcome of the appeal.

 

 

c2007 ANG Newspapers.

*****************

  

Prisoners as commodities

Critics slam Governor Baldacci’s plan to ship Maine inmates out of state to a for-profit company

 

By: LANCE TAPLEY

 

The Phoenix

 

4/25/2007

 

http://thephoenix.com/article_ektid38746.aspx

 

Democratic Governor John Baldacci’s proposal to ship 125 Maine prisoners 2000 miles to a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) lockup in the Oklahoma boondocks has run into a chainsaw of criticism within his party. Critics are raising questions, too, about the appropriateness of a corporation lobbying the Legislature to imprison human beings for profit. The lobbyist for the private prison company is James Mitchell, a close Baldacci advisor, campaign contributor, and fundraiser.

 

Department of Corrections officials say the transfers, of inmates from the Maine State Prison in Warren and the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, would ease prison overcrowding, which they say they are mostly concerned about because it is a danger to guards. The department expects to have 2200 prisoners by year’s end, with 1950 beds for them.

 

The Democratically controlled Legislature is discussing the transfer as part of the budget. But if the Legislature takes too long to resolve the issue, Baldacci’s office says he may use his emergency powers, which it is researching, to move the prisoners.

“Some legislators would hit the roof” if Baldacci moved too fast, says Jeremy Fischer, House Appropriations Committee chairman, though it is not certain if they could do anything. In an e-mail, Fischer adds: “I’m not convinced that Maine does need to send prisoners out of state.”

 

His counterpart, Senate Appropriations chairwoman Margaret Rotundo, says if Baldacci acted on his own, “Many of us would have significant concerns.” She is unsure if the governor has the legal authority to act by himself. She and other legislative leaders say they anticipate a special committee drawn from members of the Appropriations and Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committees will look at alternatives to Baldacci’s plan.

 

Even on the Criminal Justice Committee, which supports the request, House chairman Stanley Gerzofsky does so “only as a last resort.”

 

He sits on a Council of State Governments criminal-justice panel, and he believes the Kentucky-based national think tank could help Maine solve its prison problems.

 

The council has worked with Connecticut to reduce the number of people sent to prison for probation violations and to furnish more drug and mental health treatment for people released from prison, plus more support for them in finding jobs and housing. As a result, Connecticut’s inmate numbers have dropped in the past few years. On April 19, Vermont leaders announced a bipartisan effort to resolve their state-pocketbook-busting prison population crisis by working with the council to go down the same path as Connecticut.

The opponents’ view


Groups opposed to Baldacci’s plan stress the need for immediate and long-range actions to relieve overcrowding.

Zachary Heiden, of the Maine Civil Liberties Union (MCLU), suggests “supervised release” for nonviolent offenders. Also, the governor could commute sentences for model inmates, he says. In an e-mail, Richard Snyder, of the Maine Council of Churches, says “hiring as few as three additional probation officers and assigning a normal load of new probationers from county jails to each would free up more than enough beds [in the jails] to house those prisoners slated to be sent out of state.”

As long-range solutions, Snyder would expand prisoner “re-entry” programs and re-institute parole, which is early release for good behavior. It was eliminated in the 1970s in favor of fixed sentences. Probation is a kind of “trial” period in freedom, usually after a convict does hard time.

 

The NAACP Portland Branch and the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also are opposed to shipping prisoners out of state. The groups say it would prevent families from seeing prisoners, and “The best way to prevent re-offense after release is through strengthened ties to the community,” as several organizations wrote the Appropriations Committee in a letter.

These critics also are opposed in principle to private, for-profit prisons.

 

“When you combine the profit motive and the desire to cut costs with a captive client base,” bad outcomes occur, says David Fahti of the MCLU’s parent, the American Civil Liberties Union, in Washington, DC.

 

The many religious critics of what they call the “prison industrial complex” feel the same way. Catholic bishops in the South have written, “When prisoners become units from which profit is derived, there is a tendency to see them as commodities.” They add in a document: “We question whether private prisons have the incentive to assist people not to return to prison.” The bishops are “deeply troubled that the private prison industry has actively supported institutions that lobby for harsher sentencing laws which increase the prison population.”

 

Cutting costs means “cutting staff, payroll, benefits, supplies, security, and rehabilitation programming,” according to a United Methodist Church document. Frank Smith, of the Private Corrections Institute, another industry critic, says escapes, guard turnover, assaults, prisoner recidivism (return to crime), and corruption are high in for-profit prisons. He says the Corrections Corporation of America’s North Fork Correctional Facility, in Sayre, Oklahoma — where the Maine prisoners would be sent — saw Wisconsin pull its prisoners home because of high inmate phone charges, leaving the prison empty for years.

 

Mary Ellen Pecci, a Bath restaurateur whose son Jason Pecci has been a Colorado prisoner at North Fork since January, says it has been “locked down two or three times” since he arrived because it doesn’t have good ways of handling problem inmates. By contrast, the Maine State Prison has had one lockdown in five years.

 

Although most legislators don’t see a problem, outside-the-State-House critics are dismayed by CCA’s lobbying of the Legislature to get Maine’s business. “I fear that this lobbying will tempt us to cross the line from concern for justice to the crass calculation of dollars and cents,” says Snyder, of the Maine Council of Churches.

 

Corrections estimates it would cost $3 million to board Maine prisoners in Oklahoma for a year and $4 million at the county jails. “We are now seeing a lobbying effort that treats prisoners as property,” says Lynne Williams, chair of the Maine chapter of the liberal National Lawyers Guild, in an e-mail.

The corporate view


CCA is known for its political involvement. It indirectly contributed $6000 to Baldacci’s re-election campaign via the Democratic Governors Association and $17,500 to Republican Chandler Woodcock’s campaign, indirectly, via the Republican Governors Association. It is the largest player in the for-profit prison industry. It made a profit of $105 million in 2006 on 72,000 prisoners in 64 prisons in 19 states (about $1500 a prisoner; the company would therefore reasonably be predicted to earn $187,500 a year in profit on the Maine prisoners, if Baldacci’s plan goes forward).

 

In addition to helping Baldacci financially, Jim Mitchell, the affable CCA lobbyist, has contributed to the campaigns of William Diamond, the Criminal Justice senate chairman, a conservative Democrat. Mitchell says, “There is no connection at all between my advocacy for my clients and what I do in politics.” He says he has spoken to Baldacci about the CCA plan. Corrections commissioner Magnusson says CCA lobbying “is not different than being a lobbyist for another private company.”

 

Magnusson says he’s open to other solutions to overcrowding — even to reinstituting parole — as part of a “long-term strategy. . . . We see people on the adult side who are ready to go out but they’ve still got 15 years.” He is sending a team to Connecticut to look at the reforms there. If long-term solutions can kick in, he says he hopes to bring back the prisoners from Oklahoma in eight months. “We’re doing several other things” besides planning for the transfer, he points out. These include leasing cells from county jails and opening vacant housing at the Charlestown Correctional Facility.

But now, he says, “The [prison] staff is exhausted. . . . We’ve got an emergency.” Dealing with the transfer through the state budget process may be too slow, he warns. The people he envisions sending to Oklahoma would be volunteers, prisoners whose roots are out of state, people who are rarely visited, and troublemakers.

 

The North Fork prison, he says, is “moving toward accreditation.” He didn’t know its staff wages rates or the recidivism rate of freed prisoners. Steve Owen, CCA’s spokesman at corporate headquarters in Nashville, also is vague on numbers. While he would say that Colorado, Wyoming, and Vermont had prisoners in the 1400-bed facility, he wouldn’t say how many because it was a company business secret. He says he doesn’t have figures on staff turnover, assaults, or escapes. Wisconsin pulled its prisoners from North Fork because it was part of their long-range plan, he says.

Desperation


“The only presentation we hear from Corrections is their desperation,” says Peter Mills, Republican senator and a former gubernatorial candidate who is opposed to shipping prisoners out of state. But state politics is often one step away from desperation, which often calls the shots. And in the past John Baldacci has won his policy battles with his party’s legislative leaders. This time, however, the opposition seems entrenched. If Baldacci goes around the Legislature with an emergency order, a big division could open between the governor and the Legislature.

 

****************

Maine Contemplating Sending Prisoners to Oklahoma

Maine eyes out-of-state prison


David Hench

 

Portland Press Herald


 April 15, 2007

Maine corrections officials want to ship 125 medium-security offenders out of state to relieve overcrowding in state prisons. But civil-rights groups and defense lawyers say the plan is unfair to prisoners and their families, and could boost the likelihood convicts will re-offend once released.

The Maine Department of Corrections wants to employ a series of temporary measures to house an overflow of 245 prisoners. The plan calls for opening an empty housing unit at the state's Charleston Correctional Facility and leasing cell space from Cumberland, York, Lincoln and Sagadahoc county jails, which have excess capacity.
But the part of the plan drawing the most concern calls for shipping 125 prisoners to a for-profit prison in Oklahoma."It's immediately available, it's appropriate for that security level and length of incarceration, and it's also a less expensive option," said Denise Lord, associate commissioner of Maine's corrections department.

The plan is being criticized by the Maine Civil Liberties Union, the Portland branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

"If Maine has a serious criminal justice problem, it shouldn't be in the business of exporting that problem to other states. We should work together to solve the problem here," said Zachary Heiden, legal director for the MCLU.

Sending prisoners far from home would cut off the community support they need to avoid re-offending when they're released, he said.

Maine corrections officials went to Oklahoma last week to inspect the facility, a prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America. They described it as clean, safe and well-run, though somewhat lacking in programs compared to Maine facilities.

The prison has been accredited by the American Correctional Association, the same organization that approved the operation of Maine's prisons, Lord said.

The Tennessee-based company is the nation's largest private prison company, and has more prisoners than all but the federal government and three states.

The company is able to house prisoners cheaper than states can because it has extensive experience in the field, and has economies of scale unmatched by most public entities, in areas such as purchasing food, medicine and clothing, said Louise Grant, vice president of marketing and communication for the company.

CCA also pays less for labor, construction, real estate and heat than many states do, she said.

Private prisons offer programming based on what is called for in individual state contracts, but typically include courses in academics, substance abuse and trades, Grant said.
It sounds adequate, but Heiden, of the MCLU, said protecting prisoners' rights often means meeting with inmates and visiting the facilities where they are housed.

He also said the proposal could have implications for public safety. "Cutting off inmates from their communities for some indeterminate open-ended period of time will reduce the chances of them being rehabilitated," Heiden said.

CRISIS DRAWS CRITICISM

Walter McKee, an attorney who is spokesman for the Maine defense lawyers, questioned the plan's urgency.

"Why are we at this emergency stage in the first place? We're talking about shipping people 2,000 miles away. Isn't this something that should have been taken care of a long time ago, before we got into this crisis situation?" McKee said.

He faulted the Legislature for passing mandatory minimum sentences during the past three sessions, exacerbating the problem.

McKee also said the distance would hamper prisoners' ability to pursue legal appeals, and to participate as witnesses in other cases.

The MCLU, NAACP and the defense lawyers association sent a letter to the legislative chairs of the Appropriations Committee urging a full analysis of the proposal.
The surge in prison population is being felt in almost every state in the country, even those with historically low incarceration rates, like Maine.

New Hampshire has about 500 prisoners more than capacity, and Rhode Island's governor recently declared an emergency to try to deal with that state's prison overcrowding.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency and tried to ship up to 5,000 prisoners out of state, but prison workers have blocked the plan with a lawsuit.

WHO WOULD GO?

About half the states in the country pay to have some prisoners housed out of state, according to Corrections Corporation of America.

In Maine, the increase appears to stem from a rise in people with shorter sentences being sent to state prison rather than county jails, and to a steady climb in the number of people sentenced for sex and drug crimes.

Maine's emergency plan calls for transferring out-of-state prisoners who volunteer and those who are from other states but committed crimes in Maine. The department also will be reviewing records to see which prisoners have not had regular family contact.

Corrections Commissioner Martin Magnusson said at a recent legislative hearing that the state could also use out-of-state placement for prisoners who have been problematic for state officials.

Although there is no law dictating how to choose prisoners for out-of-state transfer, there are guidelines the commissioner has said he intends to use.

The agreement with the Oklahoma prison would require prisoners to return to Maine at least six months before they are released, time to reconnect with community supports, Lord said.
The annual cost of sending the prisoners out of state would be about $3 million, compared to about $4 million if the state boarded them in Maine's county jails.

Corrections Corporation of America is active politically in Maine; it contributed $17,500 to a Republican political action committee and $6,000 to Democratic groups last year, according to state records. Lord said the company has been in contact with Maine officials over the years but was selected because it can immediately accommodate the prisoner overflow.

The spending plan now before the Appropriations Committee would send prisoners out of state for just eight months, through December, while the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee develops a long-term solution to the overcrowding.

If the out-of-state prisons were part of a long-term solution, the state would employ a competitive bid process, Lord said.

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, chairman of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said the overcrowding situation is serious and must be dealt with now.

"It is not about the comfort of prisoners," he said. "It has everything to do with the safety of the guards and the extremely costly event for the state if a consent decree or lawsuit is applied."

The out-of-state placement might be a short-term solution, but many states that resorted to such measures in an emergency have continued to rely on out-of-state prisons.
Vermont sent a couple hundred prisoners to CCA in 2004 and now has 500 housed with the company, Grant said.

A state analysis shows the expense of using out-of-state prisons through 2010 to help alleviate overcrowding.

Diamond said the state needs a solution for the future that avoids a replay of the current crisis.

"It would just be a Band-Aid if we didn't commit ourselves to a long-term plan, a long-term solution that includes other things besides buildings," Diamond said. "If it's building buildings, that's the easy way out and the least popular way."

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:
dhench@pressherald.com

CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA owns and operates 64 for-profit prison facilities in 19 states with a total capacity of more than 72,000 beds, up from 59,000 in 2002;

has contracts with roughly half the states as well as the federal government;

operates North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla., a medium-security prison with a capacity of 1,440.Source: Corrections Corporation of America

LEARN MORE ONLINE:Department of Justice report on prison statistics, 2005:http://tinyurl.com/325yznReport by the Maine Commission to Improve Sentencing, Supervision, Management and Incarceration of Prisoners:http://tinyurl.com/28qyvgArticles on prison overcrowding from the National Institute of Corrections:http://tinyurl.com/3a7dvk -->
http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/news/state/070415prison.html