Innovation Ohio Facebook Innovation Ohio Twitter Innovation Ohio Instagram

· May 19, 2011

Private Prisons: Money Losers?

As Ohio legislators consider a state budget that calls for more private prisons to save money, the New York Times reports “privately operated prisons can cost more to operate than state-run prisons — even though they often steer clear of the sickest, costliest inmates.’’ The research was done by Arizona Department of Corrections and shows that inmates in private prisons can cost an additional $1600 annually, while many cost about the same as those housed in state-run institutions. Ohio is among several states considering an expansion of private prisons, with supporters insisting the private sector can run them more efficiently. The Ohio Senate is debating the House-passed spending plan that calls for selling six state-owned prisons to private firms. Advocates of the plan say it will save taxpayers money but as Russ Vav Fleet, co-director of the University of Utah Criminal Justice Center told the Times, “There really isn’t much out there that says that’s correct.’’ Ohio experts agree. According to a January report in the Dayton Daily News,  private prisons “cherry pick” the healthiest, best-behaved inmates, aren’t overcrowded like the state prisons, and their costs don’t include overhead such as building construction. The newspaper also pointed out that Ohio’s experiment with private prisons has not been without controversy: “In 1998, a federal prison in Youngstown run by Corrections Corp. of America saw six inmates escape, including five killers. Prior to that two other inmates in the CCA facility were murdered and as many as 20 others were stabbed. Problems at the Youngstown private prison led to a $1.5 million legal settlement between CCA and the inmates housed there. CCA still operates the prison for inmates from the U.S. Marshal Service and Federal Bureau of Prisons but has not had significant problems in recent years. And the North Coast Treatment Correctional Facility in Grafton first opened in February 2000 with CiviGenics as its operator, but compliance issues and problems led the state to switch to M&TC.”

Related Content

Tagged in these Policy Areas: