Bill would begin phase out of private prisons in New Mexico

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- A House panel passed a bill that starts the process of phasing out New Mexico’s dependency on private prisons.

A revised version of House Bill 352 also creates a new moratorium on the state entering into any contracts with private prisons.

The bill calls on state leaders to analyze the state’s ability to be fully responsible for our own inmates.

"The purpose of this bill is really to take back the responsibility that is solely the state’s responsibility," said Joachim Marjon, attorney for the ACLU. "If we are going to take people’s liberities in every shape and form, we have a duty to make sure it’s done right."

Opponents of the bill claim it puts county jails in a tough spot. Many counties across New Mexico rely on the private sector to provide this service.

"Unfortunately, there are challenges in the way this legislation is drafted. It would prohibit replacing a private current operator with a different private operator. This would place the counties at a significant disadvantage with negotiations," said Grace Phillips, lawyer for the New Mexico Counties Association.

Advocates for the bill argue the private prison industry is more interested in profits than the safety and welfare of the inmates.

House Bill 352 will now move on to the House Appropriations Committee.