Bankrupt Puerto Rico plans to save money by closing as many as a third of its jails and shipping inmates to mainland private prisons.
The commonwealth is considering offloading some 3,200 prisoners, apparently to privately run lockups across the water, according to the latest fiscal turnaround plan.
The island, crawling back from ruinous Hurricane Maria, said its 35 facilities are “archaic” and near capacity, and it can ill-afford to build new ones or retrofit the old. Moreover, the commonwealth has been looking to trim costs since it filed for a form of bankruptcy last year, weighed down by some $120 billion in debt and pension liabilities. It’s been working with a Congress-mandated control board to reshape its finances.
The plan compared Puerto Rico’s current daily expenditure of $95.62 per prisoner with the $60 it said California pays to have its prisoners held out of state. It didn’t say which facilities it would turn to, but California’s out-of-state program uses facilities run by private corporations.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said in a letter to the control board Thursday that the governor’s plan is simply based on bad math.
It questioned the source of the $60 estimate in the plan, noting that California’s corrections budget assumed $80 a day. It noted that Puerto Rico — unlike the Golden State — is an island and would pay to fly inmates to their destinations.
Furthermore, the proposal would shift some $70 million of annual spending to the mainland, meaning those funds wouldn’t flow into the commonwealth’s economy or generate taxes, according to the letter.
Puerto Rico’s corrections department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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