While Gov. John Kasich’s plan to sell four prisons plus a closed juvenile corrections facility promises to raise much-needed cash for the state, the news isn’t so good for affected employees, who could see their pay cut by one-third and lose paid health-care benefits, says the Columbus Dispatch. If approved by the legislature in the budget process, the prison sales would produce an estimated $200 million for state coffers. In addition, there would be annual savings on operating costs, probably a minimum of 5 percent as required by current state law.
The state would contract with the new owner-operator to house and care for inmates. It also would mean that about 800 employees, including 475 corrections officers, would lose state jobs. Sources said employees would receive hiring “preference,” but not guarantees, from the new owners. The silver lining for the communities could be new property-tax revenue when prisons go from tax-exempt state ownership to taxable private ownership. One source estimated that to be from $400,000 to $1 million per year for each institution. Ohio Civil Service Employees Association officials said pay at two private prisons averages about one-third less than comparable jobs at state prisons. The prisons and juvenile facility would be sold to the highest, qualified bidder, a process that would narrow the field considerably to existing companies with the money to buy and operate the institutions.