Right here in Ohio, a company is making millions in taxpayer dollars by keeping people in prison. The longer people stays in prison, the more money they are worth. Prisons for profit are a multi-billion-dollar industry that depends on, and profits from, our national addiction to incarceration. Handing control of prisons over to for-profit companies is a recipe for abuse, neglect, and misconduct. Private prisons create dangerous atmospheres with a severe lack of oversight, and do little to encourage rehabilitation. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is the largest for-profit, private prison company in the United States. This Tennessee based company has one bottom line: money.
CCA owns and operates the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut, Ohio. Lake Erie CI has been plagued with problems since CCA bought it in 2011. Within a year of the CCA takeover, an audit found forty-seven instances of noncompliance. Violations included housing three inmates in two-person cells, improper medical care, blocked fire escapes, problems distributing medications, and lack of sanitation in food services. These violations resulted in almost $500,000 in fines. The Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NEOCC) is the federal prison in Youngstown operated by CCA under a contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons. CCA took over operations in 1997. In its first 14 months of operation, the facility experienced over a dozen stabbings, two murders, and six escapes. The city of Youngstown eventually filed a lawsuit against CCA on behalf of the inmates. Even after those tragedies, CCA still operates the prison today. NEOCC is also an immigration prison, with the majority of the population consisting of immigrants who have committed non-violent, low-level offenses. The ACLU National Prison Project released a report on Criminal Alien Requirement prisons in Texas. Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System. This in-depth report reveals numerous atrocities of private immigration prisons like NEOCC. The ACLU investigated five privately-run immigration prisons. Common problems found in each facility include:
- Arbitrary and extreme isolation,
- Inadequate medical care causing suffering and death, and
- Making it nearly impossible for prisoners to see family and loved ones.
Taxpayer dollars are also wasted to maintain profits for these companies. Contracts frequently include a guaranteed occupancy rate of 90% and automatic contract price increases. Taxpayers must foot the bill for the total occupancy rate even if there are fewer numbers of prisoners in a facility. Indeed, both the current Youngstown contract and the proposed new contract contain 90% occupancy guarantees. Ohio’s formula to calculate any cost savings results in flawed conclusions with proof of nonexistent savings. Prisons for profit don’t work. In connection with this report, the ACLU of Ohio is urging the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to end its contract to house immigrants with CCA. The contract is set to expire in 2015.
It is time to stop prison profiteering.