Ohio became the first state to sell a state-owned penitentiary to a private prison company earlier this year. After the sale, numerous organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) implored states to deny any further offers to purchase and privatize state prisons, particularly bids from Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s biggest private prison corporation.
Corrections Corporation of America recently issued offers to buy prisons to 48 state governors, pitching it as a solution for indebted states. However, in order for CCA to buy the prisons, the governors would have to agree to keep those prisons at 90% capacity. The ACLU asserts that privatization would invite even more state debt, which taxpayers would be stuck with financing for at least twenty more years.
The ACLU of Ohio hopes that the ODRC will also decide not to privatize prison services including food and healthcare. Mike Brickner, ACLU Director of Communications and Public Policy, reasons that “Arguments for privatizing these services use the same faulty logic as the arguments for privatizing more prisons.” Brickner also revealed that “…numerous studies have shown private prisons put their own profit ahead of good public policy.”
According to Brickner, Ohio is beginning to move toward reform for its overcrowded, congested prison system. A move toward prison privatization would have a different goal: the corporations behind privatization have financial interests is making sure that prisons stay full.
Some people argue that private contracting of prisons has a lower cost for taxpayers than facilities run by the government. However, a private contractor may not be able to maintain security as well as a government-run facility can. A contractor might also reach the level of power at which they could refuse to submit to government security audits making the privatization question one of public safety as well as finance and ethics.