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Ohio – Victory Earned for Ohio Prison Workers

Stopping the Privateers
Stopping the Privateers | AFSCME corrections officers picket outside the Grafton Correctional Institution in July. (Photo by Sally Meckling)

In a major setback for Gov. John Kasich’s (R) plan to privatize state-run operations, the team evaluating bids for the sale of five state prisons determined that only one of those facilities will be sold.

The governor’s budget, which the Ohio Legislature passed in June, had proposed a fire sale of sorts for the facilities. But the move was widely criticized by corrections officers, legislators and civil rights advocates. They asserted that the state was gambling with public safety as well as the safety of corrections employees.

Rep. Matt Lundy (D), a strong opponent of privatization, warned that “if the sale goes through, you’re selling valuable assets during a recession, which means you’re not getting top dollar, and employees are only going to get two-thirds of their current salaries.”

Officials of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction apparently concurred and decided it was not in Ohio taxpayers’ best interest to sell additional prisons at this time. Only the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Ashtabula County will be sold. Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison operator in the U.S., won that prison with its $72.7 million bid.

They also agreed that it would be more cost effective to combine two prisons — the Grafton Correctional and the North Coast Correctional Treatment Facility — and operate them as state facilities with one management staff. Corrections officers of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA)/AFSCME Local 11 had originally proposed the merger as a cost-saving measure 10 years ago. Craig Cassidy, chapter president of OCSEA Chapter 4710, hails the partial victory in the fight against prison privatization. “We’ve offered workable solutions on how government can better serve the citizens of Ohio,” he says. “We feel vindicated with the recent decision not to sell four of the five facilities to private operators.”

Officials in Arizona, Florida, Maine and Michigan have also made recent decisions to outsource state-run prisons. In Louisiana, a proposal to sell three prisons was defeated in the Legislature.

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