Commentary

01.07.15

Corrections Corporation of America’s Loss is Ohio’s Gain

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What happens when a prison for profit loses one of its main moneymakers?

We’re about to find out.

The federal Bureau of Prisons announced last week that they would not renew their contract with Corrections Corporation of America to house prisoners in the Northeast Ohio Corrections Center in Youngstown. The facility houses nearly 1,400 prisoners that will be transferred to other federal prisons. Given CCA’s abysmal track record at the Youngstown facility, it is no wonder that the BOP decided they no longer wanted to be in business with them.

When the prison opened in 1997, CCA staffed the prison with officers who had little to no experience in corrections and then populated it with 1,700 high-level prisoners from Washington, D.C. Within the first 14 months, the facility experienced 13 stabbings, two murders and six escapes. Youngstown officials feared so much for the safety of residents that they sued CCA in federal court for failing to abide by its own standards. The judge in the case agreed and ordered CCA to remove 113 of the maximum security prisoners from the facility.

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Unfortunately, the problems did not end there.

Last August, 140 prisoners led a 14-hour protest by refusing to come inside from the yard. The protestors objected to unsanitary food conditions, lack of medical care, inadequate programming, and the unfair use of solitary confinement. CCA officials were finally able to take control of the prison, but not after many tense hours.

The problems at the Youngstown prison were similar to those found at other for-profit federal prisons and are a key reason why the ACLU urged the BOP not to renew CCA’s contract.

While some might worry about the potential loss of jobs because of the contract renewal, this is a positive for Ohio and the communities around the prison. As we can see, CCA could not be trusted to provide adequate security at this prison. CCA and other private prison operators also make our communities less safe by incentivizing incarceration and feeding the already bloated criminal justice system. Not to mention, it is inherently wrong to profit from incarceration. No job is worth sacrificing our safety or our values.

CCA is not gone from Ohio yet. They still have a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service to house prisoners in Youngstown and they still run the Lake Erie Correctional Institution, a state prison that has had more than its share of problems.

Ending the contract in Youngstown was an important step toward eliminating prisons for profit in Ohio. Hopefully, the state prison system and the U.S. Marshals follow the BOP’s lead and cut ties with CCA as well.

 

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