Friday, January 13, 2012

Updates on Hernando County, FL and Conneaut, Ohio

Two quick links stories here, to update two recent examples of private prisons failing to provide cost-effective services.

First, let's look at Hernando County, Florida, which had contracted with CCA for over 20 years to manage its jail.  After an inspection by the Sheriff uncovered a litany of neglected maintenance issues requiring millions of dollars worth of repairs, CCA bailed on the contract rather than fix the facility they had let fall into disrepair.  The sheriff's office then took over operations of the jail, and quickly realized they could operate the facility cheaper than CCA had, with higher-quality staff, even after performing the maintenance CCA had failed to do.  In fact, the jail for the first time passed an inspection as a "Model Jail" for the state of Florida, and by taking over operations, the sheriff's office has saved Hernando County taxpayers more than a millions dollars in just one year.

Then there's Conneaut, Ohio, an innocent bystander in Governor Kasich's rush to privatize his state's prison system.  Conneaut is the home of the Lake Erie CF, which was purchased by CCA last year.  After CCA purchased the prison, the local police department learned that it would now be responsible for responding to emergencies or disturbances at the facility, which the state police had done when it was owned by the state.  A small town like Conneaut does not have the resources to staff a police department capable of responding to something like a prison riot, so they were rightfully pissed off.  Thankfully, the state's attorney general appears to be a reasonable guy, because he just released a ruling that the state would still be the primary law enforcement authority for the prison.  Which is a good thing, because emergencies seem to happen more often at privately owned and operated prisons.

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