Some days, 20 new prisoners arrive at the Ohio reception center, other times, as many as 150. Officials never know what to expect because counties don’t have to provide advance notice. In the 2010 fiscal year, 24,023 prisoners entered the system, says the Columbus Dispatch. Nearly half of them will be released in a year or less.T axpayers pay a tab of $66.04 per day per prisoner. It’s no wonder that prison administrators have been pushing for years to stem the tide of incoming inmates to save money and reduce crowding. Ohio prisons house 50,976 offenders (33 percent over capacity), have a staff of more than 13,300 employees and a two-year, $3.54 billion budget.
That makes prisons one of the largest single categories in the state budget, accounting for roughly 7 percent of general fund spending, and a top target for cutbacks as state officials struggle to deal with an impending $8 billion shortfall. Gov.-elect John Kasich has made it clear that changes in prisons, including privatization and sentencing reform, will be in his sights when he takes office Jan. 10. “Everything is on the table. Is it possible to have private companies run prisons, build prisons? Of course it is; we’re looking at it,” Kasich told the Dispatch. “But corrections reform is critical. It’s one of the big cost sinks that we have. Kasich, who beat incumbent Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland last month, said locking up offenders who have committed “relatively minor crimes” in costly state prisons “doesn’t make sense to me. “You want to put your prisoners in an environment where the public is safe, but where it’s the least costly,” he said.