When Kasich unveiled his first biennium budget in March 2011, he called for selling five State prisons to “save money” by privatization. By the time the budgetary legislative sausage making process was completed, the Kasich Administration reversed course and instead sold only one prison, privatized the operation (but not ownership) of another and took one privately operated prison back under State control.
At the time, the Kasich Administration claimed that only the bid by Corrections Corporation of America (the former employer of Gary Mohr, Kasich’s Rehabilitation and Corrections Director) for the Lake Erie Correctional Institution made sense for the State to accept. Ironically, most of the spending from Kasich’s revised plan, according to the Kasich Administration itself, was from taking the privately operated prison back into a public institution.
So how’s Lake Erie Correctional been doing under private ownership? Not well, according to this story from the Dayton Daily News, which has reviewed audits of the facility by the State’s Correctional Institution Inspection Committee. Those inspections found:
- Padlocked fire exits;
- Meat slicers without safety guards and other food safety violations;
- Likely falsification of food service records;
- Clogged water fountains;
- Moldy showers;
- Unsecured cleaning chemicals;
- No guards monitoring “pill call” — when inmates receive medications;
- Two inmates painting a mural in the entry building that were ineligible to work in that area because they are convicted killers;
- Unacceptable living conditions of inmates being housed inside recreation areas, with no immediate access to running water for hydration, showers or the use of a toilet.
And here’s the State’s response to CCA’s unconsciousable breach of its contract with the State of Ohio:
The state docked payments to CCA this year by more than $573,000 for leaving positions vacant and violating terms of the contract.
We saved more money by paying less to CCA for operating a prison that is below Ohio’s required standards for prisons. Imagine the shock we had in discovering that a prison owned by a for-profit company would try to cut corners to turn a profit! And remember, as a result of Kasich’s privatization efforts, these companies got to rehire the state prison workers but not honor their union contracts. The savings, the Administration claimed, would come from having a profit motivated company operate a prison without having to use union labor. So, thanks to Kasich, the employees there are getting paid less and have crappier benefits for the same job they used to have. But that’s not all they face:
Under CCA control, inmate complaints about prison gangs, assaults and other problems have doubled since the state turned over control, staff turnover has been more than 20 percent and violent incidents increased 21 percent inside the medium-security prison, according to public records.
Less pay and worse benefits while working with more gangs, more violence, deplorable inmate conditions and shocking breaches of security? It’s no wonder they have large turnover there.
Just imagine how much worse it would have been if Kasich had proceeded with his original plan.
This story should be treated as a front page news and a Kasich Administration scandal all on its own. But’s it’s also a ticking time bomb. It only a matter of time before these small cut corners add up to a big disaster.
Ohioans should be embarrassed that Kasich is letting CCA lock up our fellow citizens in a facility like this and ashamed that he’s letting Ohioans work in a dangerous, shoddily-run prison owned by a for-profit corporation that appears to be more concerned with its own bottom line than the safety of its employees.
The State of Ohio should stop simply fining CCA and should look for a way to retake ownership and operation of Lake Erie Correctional Institution.
It’s time for Governor Kasich to admit that his privatization experiment has been a horrific failure, before it’s too late.
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