NM posts record prison profits ahead of new GOP push for more incarceration

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If Republicans in the State House get their way, New Mexico’s prisons are about to get a lot more crowded – and profitable.

6,849 New Mexicans are incarcerated in the state’s prison on any one day, according to the state’s Corrections Department.  In it’s mission to reform inmates, some inmates participate in Corrections Industries jobs building furniture, making uniforms and providing low-wage labor for projects around the state.

Since Governor Martinez took office the state went from providing those job skills cheaply to turning a profit on prison labor.

Here’s the data from the Corrections Department’s 2013 annual report:

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Source: NM Corrections Department, 2013 Annual Report

And since 2013, the industries are still posting a profit – more than $109,000 in FY14.

Now Republicans are fast-tracking a whole package of bills to increase prison funding and send more New Mexicans to prison by taking money from other state programs, including preventive programs paid for by the state’s DWI fund.

Speaking to the NM Political Report, Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas says the $3.5 million from DWI funds were troubling since they “address it on the front-end” instead of spending “on the back-end” in prison time. In a press release Rep. Maestas said, “I cannot vote for a doomsday budget that proposes to build more prisons while cutting the local DWI fund. House Republicans have chosen capital gains tax breaks for the super affluent over the future of our children. New Mexico deserves better.”

Rep. Maestas and all but two House Democrats kept their word and voted against the House GOP’s budget last weekend.

Dubbed the “Republican Bridge to Nowhere Budget” by Democrats, the Republican budget is highly irresponsible because it seeks to use one-time appropriations to fill gaps in recurring expenses (which will create a $50 million shortfall in next year’s budget).

But in addition to the simple fact that the Republican budget would negatively impact New Mexico’s working families in a number of ways, it includes a 4% increase in corrections funding while only increasing public school funds by 1.1%.

It costs almost five times more to house an inmate ($34,000 per year) as it does to educate a child ($7,300), by the way.

To be fair, the construction industries program is designed to fund the state’s Crime Victims Fund, family support and other obligations of inmates.

But that hasn’t stopped some in Santa Fe from asking if the state should be posting a profit on the labor of inmates.

And would sending more people to prison ramp up the state’s profits? The House Republican plan would do exactly that.

And who would benefit the most from bigger prison profits? Some of the same for-profit prison companies that house 40% of New Mexico’s prison populations and whose major donations supporting Republican candidates helped the GOP take back the House.

For more on the ties between Nate Gentry’s House Republican “more prisons” agenda and the for-profit prison corporations who helped make the new House Republican majority a reality, read our report:

REPORT: Ahead of GOP’s “more prisons” agenda,
private prison helped fund negative ads against Dems