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Cheaper to Exile Prisoners?

The state of Connecticut closed its Northeast Correctional Institution (NCI) in July 1997 in a budget-cutting move. Just seven months later, state legislators called for the governor to reopen NCI because of overcrowding in the state's other prisons.

But the administration of Gov. John G. Rowland claims that it would be more cost-effective to keep NCI closed and pay to have the prisoners shipped to out-of-state rent-a-prisons.

The now-mothballed NCI prison was built in 1990 at a cost of $17.5 million and can accommodate 350 prisoners -- the exact number Rowland wants to ship out of state.

Marc Ryan, a Rowland budget adviser, said it would cost $9 million a year to operate NCI, and estimates the cost of exiling the prisoners at a mere $7 million a year ($54.70/prisoner/day).

However, whether or not NCI houses prisoners, the state will still be saddled with $940,000 a year in interest payments on a mortgage that will not be paid off until 2001. In accounting parlance, that's referred to as a "stranded cost". If Rowland has his way and exiles Connecticut prisoners, there will be an additional "stranded human cost" to the prisoners and their families, one that cannot be measured in dollars.

But the Governor may think, and rightly so, that such cruelty can be measured in votes. In political parlance, that's referred to as "Getting Tough".

Associated Press

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