Youngstown's private prison operator reacts to Biden Executive Order
The operators of a privately run prison in Youngstown say they aren’t surprised that President Biden has ordered the Justice Department not to renew contracts with privately operated detention facilities. However, CoreCivic, operator of the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, says in a statement that they are not a “driver of mass incarceration.”
In issuing an executive order aimed at ending federal use of private prisons, President Biden on Tuesday called it a continuation of efforts started under the Obama administration, and reversed under the Trump administration.
“This is the first step to stop corporations from profiteering off of incarcerating -- incarceration that is less humane and less safe, as the studies show. And it is just the beginning of my administration’s plan to address systemic problems in our criminal justice system,” said Biden.
CoreCivic operates prisons throughout the U.S., including the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, which has been in business since 1997 on Youngstown’s East Side.
With a staff of more than 300 employees, the medium-security facility’s customers include not only the U.S. Marshal’s Service but also the Ohio Department of Correction.
Youngstown 2nd ward Councilman Jimmy Hughes said he has concerns on the negative economic impact this could have on the city.
"Tax dollars, jobs, all of that is going to come into play," Hughes said, "We're still going to arrest them...You're still going to need a place to put them and we already got a facility up and running, so let's end the problem before it gets to the prison."
The prison has a capacity for more than 2,000 prisoners, however, as of this month, the inmate population was 872.
“The BOP has experienced a steady decline in inmate populations over the past several years, so today’s announcement was no surprise considering the agency’s diminished need for capacity,” CoreCivic said in a statement issued Tuesday. “It’s a trend we’ve watched carefully, and we’ve worked hard to diversify the solutions we provide.”
The CoreCivic statement criticized the President’s reference to a 2016 Inspector General finding that privately operated criminal detention facilities don’t maintain the same levels of safety and security for people in the Federal criminal justice system or for correctional staff.
“We have a duty to provide these individuals with safe working and living conditions,” said Biden.
Claiming that the Inspector General’s report has “significant flaws, CoreCivic said its authors admit that they were unable to evaluate all of the factors that contributed to the underlying data, and they failed to account for the impact of elements such as population demographics.
“The findings simply don’t match up to the numerous independent studies that show our facilities to be equal or better with regard to safety and quality, or the excellent feedback we get from our partners at all levels of government,” said CoreCivic in their statement.
“Any assertion that our company or the private sector is responsible for the rate of incarceration or detention is false. Under longstanding policy, we don’t lobby on any policies, regulations, or legislation that impact the basis for or duration of an individual’s incarceration or detention. What’s more, only 8 percent of inmates are cared for in facilities run by private contractors,” according to the CoreCivic statement.