When a series of fights broke out at the Lake Erie Corrections Institution last week, the company that operates the prison, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), was forced to call Special Response Teams (SRTs) from the state of Ohio for assistance.
According to representatives of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA), CCA’s own special response team has been in Mississippi since May when a riot broke out at a CCA facility in that state. One guard was killed and multiple others were injured in that incident.
To assist CCA in Friday’s disturbance at the prison in Conneaut, Ohio, two special response teams from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections were dispatched – one from Trumbull Correctional Institution and one from the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown. The teams transported 41 inmates from LECI to the Mansfield Correctional Institution, where a previously closed unit was opened to house the men.
Mandatory overtime has since been instituted for corrections officers at Mansfield in order to maintain necessary staffing levels for the extra inmates.
Corrections officers in Ohio start with a salary of $34,008 per year and top out after six years at $41,350 – or approximately $20 per hour. With three shifts a day and four officers per shift, each making time-and-a-half, the labor cost to the state for housing these inmates could easily exceed $20,000 a week.
The state is also covering the cost of medical treatments, transportation of the inmates, and the additional costs associated with opening an extra unit in the Mansfield prison.
Though the incident occurred on Friday and early Saturday morning, Conneaut city officials weren’t formally made aware of the incident until Monday after OSCEA members spoke up about the disturbance.
Jimmy Adkins, OCSEA Corrections Assembly President and an 18-year employee at Marysville Reformatory for Women, expressed concern that LECI and other private prisons, unlike state-owned facilities, have no requirement to inform state or federal officials of incidents that occur with their inmates.
“There is no transparency with the private prison”, said Adkins. “And this puts staff, inmates and the whole community at risk. Had OCSEA not blown the whistle about this incident no one still would have known.”
Before being appointed as Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections by John Kasich, Gary Mohr was a consultant and managing director for CCA.
According to the Huffington Post, CCA has been using Ohio’s LECI as a case study in their marketing materials to other states calling the acquisition “seamless” and their operations at the prison a “success”.
As we pointed out earlier today, CCA’s acquisition of LECI has resulted in multiple serious violations, safety concerns and an increase in drug use and crime in and around the prison, along with a dramatic increase in calls to local law enforcement.
CCA’s inability to handle the disturbance that occurred last Friday further adds to our concerns that in a rush to privatize state assets, the Governor has put the safety of the employees and prisoners at LECI and the citizens of Conneaut at serious risk.