General Civil Liberties Press Release

05.11.11

OCSEA, Policy Matters Ohio, and ACLU to Address Prisons for Profit at Programs Across Ohio

CLEVELAND – The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, and Policy Matters Ohio announced today they will co-sponsor a six stop tour of Ohio to discuss problems with prison privatization. As part of the biennial state budget proposal, the state would triple the number of private prisons, and be allowed to sell the facilities to private companies for the first time. The tour, titled “Prisons for Profit: A discussion of prison privatization” will begin on May 16 in Portsmouth and conclude May 25 in Marion.

“Civil liberties experts, prison workers, and researchers all agree — privatization will hurt our prison system and do little to alleviate our budget,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “The motive of private prison companies is to generate as much revenue as possible, leading to increased prison populations and cutting corners in staff training, medical care, and facility maintenance. In order to maximize savings, Ohioans need lawmakers to focus on ways to keep people out of prison in the first place.”

OCSEA spokesperson Tim Shafer said, “With state prisons over 130% capacity, privatization could pose serious safety risks for corrections officers and the communities where they serve. Private prison operators save money by paying less and offering fewer benefits to workers. This leads to more inexperienced and unqualified corrections officers who are unable to respond adequately to serious situations when they arise in a facility. The cost of one tragedy far outweighs any minuscule savings state lawmakers hope to get.”

Policy Matters Ohio Executive Director Amy Hanauer said, “Private prisons are often billed to produce tremendous cost savings, but researchers haven’t been able to conclude that such savings exist. Ohio’s two current private prison facilities haven’t shown that they produce the cost savings required under Ohio law—why would the state expand something when it can’t prove savings after a decade-long experiment, and when there are so many other reasons to be cautious about private prisons?”

In April 2011, both the ACLU and Policy Matters issued reports on prison privatization. The ACLU published “Prisons for Profit: A look at prison privatization,” which examined a broad range of issues such as cost savings, safety, transparency, and rehabilitation. Policy Matters’ report, “Cells for Sale: Understanding Prison Costs & Savings” addressed the formula the state uses to calculate savings generated by private prisons. Policy Matters found that the state couldn’t show it was saving the required 5% yearly minimum, and that the facilities may have even cost additional money in some years.

The tour will stop in Portsmouth, Chillicothe, Cambridge, Dayton, Lima, and Marion. To download a full schedule of the tour, visit http://www.acluohio.org/events/2011FreedomTourPFP.asp.