March 22, 2011
"Sale of prisons, fewer inmates part of budget plan"
The title of this post is the headline of this interesting article from my own Columbus Dispatch this morning. Here is how it gets started:
Sell five prisons, and privatize two. Reduce the population by 2,000 inmates. Save $10 million in medical costs. Ohio prisons chief Gary Mohr has big goals.
While some lawmakers questioned how he plans to reach those goals, none in yesterday's three-hour legislative hearing appeared intent on derailing prison-system changes integral to Gov. John Kasich's budget.
In the first airing of the proposed $2.97 billion biennial prison budget, Mohr made it clear that his proposed changes won't be easy, nor will they be accomplished without pain; 171 state employees would lose their jobs. "I do not envy you the decisions you will have to make in this budget," Mohr told the House Finance Committee, which is considering Kasich's $55.5 billion proposal. He said the budget, while imperfect, "leads us in the right direction to meet our core functions of safety, security and meaningful programming."
Mohr, a veteran of Ohio and private prison operations, said the fiscal alternative to selling five facilities was shutting down several Ohio prisons and shipping as many as 12,000 inmates out of state. "This director will not build another prison," he said.
If the legislature adopts proposed changes in sentencing, Mohr said, he expects to reduce the prison population by about 2,000 over two years. The Office of Budget and Management included $50million in the budget from sales of prisons in Conneaut, Grafton (two), Marion and a closed youth-detention center, also in Marion. Mohr said he expects the sale to generate $200million. Prison officials said they are still paying off the two private prisons, both of which opened in 2000.
State Rep. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, asked Mohr how private companies can operate prisons at a lower cost than the state. Mohr said private companies pay less and allow less vacation, sick and personal time. It takes two state employees to staff a position for a week but requires 1.7 private employees to do the same job, he said. "We are paying more people to be off more often than they are." The bottom line, he said, is that private prisons require 45 fewer people to fill 150 spots than the state.
March 22, 2011 at 07:48 AM | Permalink
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Posted by: Big pony | Apr 11, 2011 7:49:04 AM