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March 15, 2011

"5 prisons to be put on block by state"

The title of this post is the headline of this front-page article appearing today in my own Columbus Dispatch.  Here are the details:

While Gov. John Kasich's plan to sell four prisons promises to raise much-needed cash for the state, the news isn't so good for affected employees who could see their pay cut by one-third and lose paid health-care benefits.  Kasich is expected to propose selling the prisons, plus the closed Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility, in his two-year budget plan to be unveiled today....

If approved by the General Assembly in the budget process, the prison sales would produce an estimated $200million for state coffers.  In addition, there would be annual savings on operating costs, probably a minimum of 5 percent as required by current state law.  The state would contract with the new owner-operator to house and care for inmates.

It also would mean that about 800 employees, including 475 corrections officers, would lose state jobs.  Sources said employees would receive hiring "preference," but not guarantees, from the new owners.  The silver lining for the communities could be new property-tax revenue when prisons go from tax-exempt state ownership to taxable private ownership. One source estimated that to be from $400,000 to $1 million per year for each institution.

The administration refused to confirm the deal, but sources said for-sale signs will go up on the North Central Correctional Institution in Marion and the Grafton Correctional Institution in Lorain County, both state-owned, and the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut, in Ashtabula County, and North Coast Correctional Treatment Facility in Grafton.  The latter two are operated by Management & Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah.

Ohio Civil Service Employees Association officials said yesterday that pay at two private prisons averages about one-third less than comparable jobs at state prisons. Salary schedules aren't available from the private company, but the union obtained some details from public-records requests.  For example, a state corrections captain earns about $30 an hour compared with $20 at private prisons....  Prison employees are "absolutely scared," said Tim Shafer, union operations director and a former corrections officer. "They're concerned about their families and their communities."...

The prisons and juvenile facility would be sold to the highest, qualified bidder, a process that would narrow the field considerably to existing companies with the money to buy and operate the institutions.  The largest private-prison operators, in addition to MTC, are Corrections Corporation of America, of Nashville, Tenn., and the GEO Group, of Boca Raton, Fla.

March 15, 2011 at 09:04 AM | Permalink

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I have to agree with bill here on BOTH subjects.

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