Prisons plan raises key questions

Published 9:36 am Friday, September 2, 2011

On its surface, the plan to privatize Ohio’s prison system looks like it may have been a win for taxpayers, but it raises serious concerns over whether or not incarceration should be a cottage industry.

The state — pushed by Gov. John Kasich — had tried to sell five prisons to private corrections firms but ultimately will only part ways with the Lake Erie Correctional Institution.

Also, Management Training Corp. will merge the North Central Correctional Institution and the vacant Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility into a single prison camp, a move that is projected to save 6 percent on state costs, the prisons department told the Associated Press.

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We understand the need for trimming the state’s expenses — and this does that because these companies say they can operate cheaper than state-run facilities.

That is concerning in its own right because you have to question what corners will be cut and whether or not inmates will receive the same treatment, although these companies do have to meet all state standards.

But the biggest concern is that this is a slippery moral slope because we are essentially allowing the imprisonment of our citizens to become about profit. These companies wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t money to be made.

Although Ohio certainly isn’t the first state to use private companies to operate prisons, it did become the first to sell a state-run facility outright to a private firm.

This privatization move may provide some short-term budget relief but creates some long-term concerns about what our state deems most important about its prison system.