COLUMBUS — Legislation that would allow prisoners to be transferred to private facilities, like one in Youngstown, passed the Ohio Senate Thursday.
The vote on SB 185 was 26-1, and the legislation heads back to the Ohio House for consideration of Senate amendments.
The original legislation focused on arson offenses, expanding the crime to include unoccupied structures. Language added by senators during committee deliberations would enable the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to contract with private facilities to house state prisoners.
Sen. John Eklund (R-Chardon), who serves as chairman of the committee that considered the legislation, said the language would allow the state to take advantage of inmate beds left vacant when the federal government ended contracts to house federal prisoners at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown.
“It would be very, very helpful to reduce or work toward reducing the density of the population in our prisons, if DRC could move some prisoners… into those vacant beds,” Eklund said.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons opted last year to not renew a contract with NOCC on Youngstown’s East Side that resulted in the exodus of about 1,400 of its 2,000 prisoners. Those prisoners were illegal immigrants charged with committing felonies.
Then, four months ago, officials announced they would no longer routinely house federal inmates in privately operated prisons because of a rapid decline in the U.S. inmate population nationwide.
The prison, run by CoreCivic of Nashville, currently houses about 580 inmates through a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service that expires at the end of 2018.
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) supported the bill after it was amended on the floor. He said the prisoner language could be a benefit to Youngstown.
“We have an empty facility in the Valley,” he said. “We lost a federal contract. If we can put inmates in that facility, we could put more prisoner guards to work. Hopefully they can work with the (Ohio Civil Service Employees Association) and try to get some union prison guards in there. And that will be the next step, working with the mayor, working with Congressman [Tim] Ryan, working with the local officials and OCSEA.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio was among opponents of the prisoner provisions.
“Ohio prisons are bursting at the seams,” Assistant Policy Director Jocelyn Rosnick said in a released statement. “They’re at 130 percent capacity, housing over 50,000 prisoners in a system built for 38,000. Sending these prisoners to a private prison, whose sole mission is to reap profits from incarceration, does not address the underlying problem in our overcrowded prisons, and may actually make it worse. Ohio prisoners could now be sent to a prison with a troubling history which was deemed unfit for federal prisoners even though the structure and the operation of the prison remain unchanged.”
> Sending these prisoners to a private prison, whose sole mission is to reap profits from incarceration
This is 100% accurate. Private prisons - aside from being false imprisonment in my view - have one mission: Fill empty beds with prisoners. Do you think they want marijuana legal ? Rhetorical question.
Also, note that they are hiding from themselves, or have a corporate name where you can't determine their line of business:
-->NASHVILLE, Tenn., Oct. 28, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Corrections Corporation of America(CXW) (the “Company”) today announced that it is rebranding its corporate enterprise as CoreCivic.
-->Geo Group, another private prison company