John Kasich just announced in Chillicothe that he’s appointing Gary Mohr to be the next director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

Mohr has been a managing director of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the first, for-profit private prison company in American and has his own prison consulting business operated out of Chillicothe.

CCA has its own sordid history in Ohio during then-Governor Voinovich’s experimentation with private prisons as a budget saving mechanism.

“In 14 months of operation, the Northeast Ohio Correction Center in Youngstown, Ohio experienced 13 stabbings, 2 murders and 6 escaped inmates. In reference to the Youngstown facility, Peter Davis, director of the Ohio Correctional Institution Inspection Committee said, “There is nothing in Ohio’s history like the violence at that prison.”16 Reviews of the correctional facility determined that the problems occurred due to inadequately trained staff and the improper acceptance of maximum-security offenders to the medium-security facility.

In March 1998, Youngstown filed suit against CCA on behalf of all the prisoners alleging that prisoners were put at risk by being sheltered with maximum-security prisoners in a facility not designed for containing them. The court ultimately ordered the removal of 113 inmates deemed maximum-security offenders by an independent consultant.

Kasich, of course, took the opportunity to announce his support for private prisons.  From the Columbus Dispatch:

"Everything is on the table," Kasich said last month. "Is it possible to have private companies run prisons, build prisons? Of course it is; we’re looking at it. But this will all be part of that budget. I mean, you’re not going to privatize the whole Department of Corrections, but is there a place for privatization? Yeah, I think there is, and so we’re looking at it, we’re thinking about it."

Meanwhile, during the most recent General Assembly, several Senate Republicans proposed a roadmap to privatizing half of the State’s prisons in a year..

Ohio presently has two private prisons in operations, but critics point out that pro-private prison policies enacted by the Taft Administration that carefully selected the prison population there created a false illusion of costs savings by hand picking the inmates who posed the least risk and required the least in services.

So bad was the situation caused by CCA in Ohio in the late 1990s that then Congressman Ted Strickland introduced legislation banning the federal government from using private, for-profit prisons entirely.

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  • Prismaticsight

    while I agree that the privatization issue is a sordid one, this article fails to mention the 25ish years that the new Director spent in ODR&C as warden at 3 facilities and twice as deputy director. Additionally his company, while I am sure personally for profit reasons, was formed professionally as a consulting company for the corrections system as a whole after his stint as managing director with CCA.

    I fear for my job in corrections with all of this new talk, and think that the outgoing director was not given a change to affect change in the year-ish since his appointment, but there needs to be full disclosure in articles such as these.

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t mean to downplay his background within DRC, but given Kasich’s a) war with public unions and b) his past comments supportive of privatization of prisons, his pick’s history with CCA is more relevant. CCA itself became a well-known symbol in Ohio of the everything that could go wrong with prison privatization.

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