COLUMBUS —State lawmakers have snuck through a bill permitting the sale of another state prison to a private, for-profit company, without any opportunity for public comment in either the Ohio House or Senate. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on Governor John Kasich to veto the legislation.

“Legislators have shuffled the sale of a state prison between bills like a shell game during the massive biennium budget review, with absolutely no public notice or debate,” said Mike Brickner, ACLU of Ohio senior policy director. “We are now urging Governor Kasich to say no to these political games and veto this extremely controversial sale.”

House Bill 238, which will allow the sale of the North Central Correctional Institution in Marion among other state-owned properties, was passed by the Senate last week, and today the House concurred with the Senate’s changes. The prison sale was originally in House Bill 239 before being inserted into HB 238 by the Senate. The ACLU and other organizations had no chance to present testimony against the sale.

Brickner said, “Politicians have not learned their lesson from the disastrous sale of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut. Violence and drugs, among other serious problems, skyrocketed at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution after being sold to a for-profit prison company. In the end, it’s the taxpayers of Ohio who will pay dearly.”

Among the many problems that arose from selling the Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LaECI) to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in 2011:

  • Upon taking over LaECI, CCA added close to 300 new beds to an already crowded prison to increase its profit margin. Prisoners were triple bunked in spaces typically reserved for one or two people, and inspectors found them with no access to running water and defecating in plastic bags.
  • Staff members had safety concerns “due to low staffing number and not enough coverage,” according to a memo from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, dated October 3, 2012.
  • According to the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, prisoner-on-staff assaults increased by 300 percent, and prisoner-on-prisoner assault increased nearly 190 percent between 2010 and 2012.
  • The Conneaut Police Department received 229 prison related calls in 2012, which is nearly four times more calls received than the previous five years combined.

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