Exec Council to weigh extending contract with consultant on private prison bids

The contract with a consultant who is advising state officials in their evaluation of the bids by four private companies to take over the state's prison system will be extended until the end of February, should the lame-duck Executive Council approve that extension on Wednesday.

In June, the council originally agreed to hire MGT of America, a Tallahassee, Fla.-based consulting firm, and pay it $171,000 for its work on a project that was supposed to be completed at the end of October. The work, however, has taken longer than anticipated. '

The cost of the consulting contract would remain the same.

The state received the four bids last spring after issuing a relatively vague request for proposal last spring to build and perhaps run a prison to handle all of the state's inmates. Thus far, no other state has turned its entire prison population over to a private company.

That RFP was the result of even vaguer legislation – never debated by lawmakers but instead tucked into a large budget bill — that appeared to be more interested in looking at shipping inmates out of state to private facilities elsewhere. However, the wording morphed into an RFP for a private prison company to set up a facility so large that it would have the capacity to import prisoners in from other states, an idea favored by outgoing Gov. John Lynch.

The four bidders, all which have extensive experience running private prisons around the country, responded with various options, leaving it to the Department of Administrative Services and Department of Corrections to compare the financial costs and benefits of the various proposals. The MGT consulting team — headed by a former corrections commissioner with ties to the private prison industry – was hired to help state officials' wade through the voluminous information.

Even with the delay, the fate of the private prison proposal appears tenuous, considering that Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan has gone on record opposing private prisons.

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