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In Private Hands, Safety Issues Quickly Arise in Ohio Prison

by Pablo Ros  |  February 06, 2013

In Private Hands, Safety Issues Quickly Arise in Ohio Prison Lake Erie Correctional Institution

Patterns of inadequate staffing, delays in medical treatment and “unacceptable living conditions” among inmates, including the use of plastic bags for defecation, are but a few of the problems that have arisen inside an Ohio state prison in the single year since it was privatized.

According to a new report by the Huffington Post, the privatization by Gov. John Kasich’s administration of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution led to a significant increase in drug-related criminal activity near the facility, with police responding to nearly four times as many calls related to the prison in 2012 as in the previous five years combined.

“Unacceptable living conditions” include “inmates being housed inside recreation areas, with no immediate access to running water for hydration, showers and the use of a toilet,” according to a letter dated September 4, 2012 from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. “There was evidence of urine in plastic containers inside the recreation area and inmates using plastic bags for defecation. This must cease immediately!”

Concerns have quickly spread – about prison inmates and staff but also the surrounding community. A councilman for the nearby town of Conneaut, Ohio, Neil LaRusch, says, “We understand that it’s a private entity now, and that it’s for-profit, but nothing can come at the expense of the safety and security of our citizens.”

AFSCME’s Chris Mabe, president of the Ohio Civil Services Employee Association (OCSEA)/AFSCME Local 11 and a 20-year veteran of Ohio’s state prison system, put it this way: “That the Lake Erie Correctional Institution failed their safety audit should be a surprise to no one. We know where the corners get cut when prisons are privatized. But the more we learn about the horror stories coming out of the first prison ever to be sold, the more we fear for the safety of not only the staff and inmates, but the whole community.”

AFSCME is fighting to keep politicians from selling off public services through privatization. Learn more about that fight here.

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