By Steve Terrell | The New Mexican
May 24, 2007
New Mexico pays significantly more than nearby states to house inmates in private prisons, according to a report presented Wednesday to state lawmakers.
The 100-page audit by a Legislative Finance Committee review team says New Mexico's private-prison spending rose 57 percent in the past six years, while the inmate population increased only 21 percent.
"Business decisions across two administrations may result in New Mexico paying an estimated $34 million more than it should pay for private prison construction costs," the report says.
But Corrections Secretary Joe Williams defended the private prisons, saying the higher operating costs are justified.
The major private prison operator in the state is The GEO Group, which operates facilities in Hobbs and Santa Rosa and will operate a prison being built in Clayton.
GEO, formerly known as Wackenhut, was brought in to manage private prisons by former Gov. Gary Johnson and has been embraced by Gov. Bill Richardson.
New Mexico pays nearly $69 a day per inmate at the private prison in Hobbs and more than $70 at the prison in Santa Rosa.
In Texas, the cost is $34.66 a day. Colorado pays $50.28 a day for inmates at private prisons. In Oklahoma, the rate is $41.23. Other states listed in the study include Idaho, $42.30, and Montana, $54.58.
Santa Fe New Mexican