States Should Run Screaming From the CCA to Avoid Dangerous and Disgusting Prisons

Given the terrifying tales coming out of Ohio's Lake Erie Correctional Facility, states should get as far away as possible from the Corrections Corporation of America's (CCA) latest get-rich-off-imprisonment scheme: purchasing and running public prisons.

CCA launched this scheme one year ago, with the first private purchase of a state prison anywhere in the country. Following their purchase of Lake Erie, CCA officials wrote a bold letter to 48 governors stating that this was only the beginning – that states would line up to sell public prisons to turn a quick dime.

I've seen the damage the scheme has done to a community in northeastern Ohio, and I have a message for the states CCA is likely to subject to its big sales pitch: run away as fast as possible. CCA's track record over the last year at Lake Erie amounts to an across-the board failure: burdening the local community, failing to control the escalation of dangerous conditions within prison walls, all the while ratcheting up costs despite big promises of efficiency. Let me walk you through a few of CCA's failures.

CCA took control of Lake Erie Correctional Facility on January 1, 2012, and the problems started almost immediately. Officials in Conneaut, Ohio – where the prison is located – were surprised to learn they may be on the hook for policing the facility because state law prohibited the highway patrol from so investigating crimes in this no-longer-state-owned building. Conneaut taxpayers were not keen on CCA and the state passing the financial burden onto them, and despite the community successfully lobbying the state to change this law last year, Conneaut is still saddled with increased responsibility for policing Lake Erie.

Unfortunately, this is not where the problems end.

In September 2012, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) released its first internal audit report. If this was CCA's first report card, let's just say they would need to repeat the semester. The compliance rating plummeted from the 97.3% compliance rating the prison achieved when publicly-owned to 66.7%. Auditors found outrageous violations like prisoners being forced to use plastic bags for defecation and cups for urination because they had no running water for toilets. Basic conditions were heinous, with black mold, standing water, and spoiled food found throughout the prison. Perhaps even more troubling were reports that the medical department is grossly understaffed and many prisoners go untreated.

CCA attempted to cover up its terrible audit by inviting the state back in November 2012. The updated audit found many of the conditions improved – staff cleaned the black mold and replaced broken water fountains. However, the major problems like severe overcrowding, expanded use of solitary confinement, and inadequate medical care were simply left as "pending" – a polite governmental term for "not done."

These conditions are resulting in very real problems for the prisoners and corrections officers at the facility. Only a few days after CCA released the new audit report, a prisoner died of a suspected drug overdose. This death underscores a growing problem within the prison: drugs, alcohol and other contraband are rampant throughout the facility. Conneaut police reported they fielded 248 calls regarding the prison this year, compared to only 157 over the past ten years combined.

The situation has deteriorated to the point that city police have had to set up a nightly patrol of the perimeter of the prison to apprehend people tossing contraband over the fence. Conneaut City Councilman Neil LaRusch pleaded with state officials to help the city patrol as it was costing taxpayers significantly more money.

Of course, CCA doesn't want the people in Ohio or the 48 governors to pay attention to that. They recently announced that the prison now has accreditation from the American Correctional Association. What they failed to mention is that only a few days before the announcement, a fight broke out in the prison involving dozens of inmates – resulting in shattered windows, a prisoner with a broken leg, a prison-wide lockdown, and 39 prisoners transferred to a state prison because CCA could no longer handle them.

It's obvious that the divide between CCA's spin and reality is growing. If states were unsure if selling their prison to a private corporation was a bad idea before, the rapid decline of Ohio's privately-owned prison should be proof enough that this is just a bad idea.

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Dyrale

Who the heck ever thought that a prison run by a private, for-profit company would be a good idea? Any profits seen by the local government from the sale of a correctional facility are quickly spent. Over the last 50 years our presidents have sold off or contracted out military services to private entities who promised efficiency and cheaper costs and we got the EXACT opposite. Private companies put profit first and putting them in charge of anything other than non-essential goods and services has always been and will always be a disaster.

SandraDee

Privatizing prisons is just bad ju-ju in so many ways.

Anonymous

CCA is a pathologically larcenous and mendacious corporation who couldn't give a damn about the fate of its line staff or its prisoners. It can always buy enough politicians to escape the consequences of its actions. It did so badly at its Youngstown prison that it was closed for years.

The American Correctional Association has always been compromised, but for the last 30 years it had gradually become little more than a full time, corrupt stooge of for-profit prison corporations.

The people of Conneaut should have done about 10 minutes worth of research before signing on to this inevitable boondoggle. Better yet, they should have known that the endorsement by Kasich was based on hosing the taxpayers. He doesn't care about "savings." He cares about campaign contributions.

Gary Mohr, his DOC director, is a former CCA hatchet man. What more can you expect from this operation?

His

Anonymous

its march 18th 2013 and conditions are still lacking..they are not giving prisoners full access to the educational programs only 3 out of 9 are currently available...and anyone with less than 4 and a half years are able to sign up rather than a sign up basis..isnt it available to everyone? and why not? what do other prisons do? are they run like this also? i know this is one way to earn good days and its not available for all?? who is overseeing their practices??? i want some answers..

Anonymous

The ODRC continues it's downward spiral.

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