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Lawmakers aren’t eager to ditch private prisons in NM

SANTA FE — New Mexico relies more heavily on private prisons than any other state in the nation.

And lawmakers sounded interested this week negotiating future contracts to hold corrections companies more accountable for their performance — a recommendation of legislative analysts.

State lawmakers, however, didn’t offer much support for getting out of the private prison industry altogether.

The topic came up Tuesday at a meeting of the legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee.

Outgoing Rep. Bill McCamley, a Las Cruces Democrat whose term ends Dec. 31, pitched the idea of prohibiting the state and local governments in New Mexico from hiring contractors to run prisons and jails.

The priorities of private corrections companies — to make money housing inmates — don’t match the state’s, he said.

New Mexico is also out of step with the national picture, McCamley said. About 43 percent of New Mexico’s prison population was in privately run facilities in 2016, compared with 9 percent nationally, according to the Sentencing Project, an advocacy group.

In any case, no other legislator took up the cause during Tuesday’s meeting or suggested they’d carry McCamley’s bill in the upcoming session.

But some committee members expressed concerns about a lack of transparency and cooperation by corrections companies and suggested they’d like to adjust their future contracts to align with state goals.

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