COLUMBUS - The American Civil Liberties Union and a broad coalition of policy and religious groups today urged all states, including Ohio, to reject a recent offer by the nation’s largest private prison company to buy and privatize state prisons. The ACLU’s letter cautioned that Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) offer was a backdoor invitation to take on additional debt while increasing CCA’s profits and impeding the serious criminal justice reforms needed to combat the nation’s mass incarceration crisis. Two similar letters are also being sent today by religious coalitions to governors.

“Unfortunately, in 2012 Ohio became the first state in the nation to sell a state facility to a private prison company,” said ACLU Director of Communications and Public Policy Mike Brickner. “Our state should not continue down this path, and must reject calls for further privatization. Numerous studies have shown private prisons do not save money, harm public safety, and lead to more people incarcerated. Ohio needs to shrink its prison population, not grow it.”

Today’s letters come in response to a letter sent last month by CCA to officials in 48 states announcing what it is calling a “corrections investment initiative,” in which CCA is offering to purchase prisons from states so long as they contain at least 1,000 beds and the states agree to pay CCA to operate the prisons for at least 20 years and keep the prisons at least 90 percent full.

“It is inherently wrong to allow private businesses to make a profit off the incarceration of others,” added Brickner. “Our state’s prison system is bloated, and private corporations have a vested financial interest to ensure our prisons remain full. If state officials have any hope of shrinking our prison population, we must implement transformative criminal justice reform policies and reject interests that grow our prison system.”

CCA’s letter to governors touted their recent purchase of Lake Erie Correctional Institution. However, the letter failed to mention important information about cost savings and the transition in ownership, including:

  • CCA stated that they retained 93% of the staff at the Lake Erie facility, but did not indicate that the workers were never state employees, as the facility was privately operated for over a decade.
  • They made no mention of public fears over whether local police or Ohio State Highway Patrol would investigate incidents at the facility. Conneaut City Council members became so concerned, Attorney General Mike DeWine authored an opinion on it and legislators have considered policies that would clarify the issue.
  • They boast cost savings, but do not address recent reports from Policy Matters Ohio that show the facility may cost taxpayers more money over the long term.

Copies of the letters sent today are available online: