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Officials to close NOCC earlier than expected



Published: Fri, July 6, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Hubbard Road private prison will become dormant this month.

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Within two weeks, the remaining 101 inmates at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center will be moved out, and the center will temporarily suspend its operations, the prison warden says.

For security reasons, Warden Brian Gardner would not release specific details about the timing and procedures for the inmates' departure from the Hubbard Road prison.

Gardner's news release Thursday said the inmates, all from the Washington, D.C., Department of Corrections, will be remanded to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Layoffs and transfers: After the inmates leave, most NOCC employees will be laid off or transferred to another facility of the Corrections Corp. of America, which operates NOCC and 64 other facilities, Gardner said. All employees have been offered jobs at other CCA facilities, the warden said.

The warden said he and a few other employees would remain after the inmates depart to keep the 2,106-bed private prison prepared for another potential contract to house prisoners. In the event of a new contract, employees will be recalled as needed, he said.

"We have every intention of locating a customer for that facility," said Steve Owen, director of marketing for CCA. The warden and his skeleton staff will remain "indefinitely,'' he added.

Owen said he couldn't determine what the chances are of getting a new contract to house prisoners at NOCC, which opened in May 1997, but he did say, "The facility itself, from a physical plant standpoint, is an excellent facility.''

Ahead of schedule: Thursday's closing announcement is coming several weeks ahead of the timetable the Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA had announced earlier this year. On April 20, the company said NOCC could close as soon as Aug. 18 if it didn't get more inmates. At that point, the prison had 350 inmates, down from 574 three weeks earlier. The prison once housed up to 1,500 inmates.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons, which controls NOCC inmates, had announced April 19 that it was ready to open another prison, meaning more NOCC inmates could be removed and sent elsewhere.

Owen said the timetable has been accelerated because the prisons bureau has been moving inmates out of the Hubbard Road facility faster than expected, mostly to prisons in Virginia and North Carolina that have contracts with the bureau.

Where inmates will go: The remaining NOCC inmates will likely go to facilities under contract with the bureau of prisons, to a CCA facility in New Mexico, or, for those finishing their sentences, back to the Washington, D.C., area, he said.

The Hubbard Road prison had an annual payroll of about $11 million and paid the city $250,000 in income tax last year. But in March, it announced it would reduce its staff of 449 by 200 workers because of a reduced prisoner census, cutting the city's income tax collections by more than $112,000.

Over the past three years, the Hubbard Road facility and its staff have passed all operational audits, including those of the American Correctional Association, National Institute of Corrections, and National Institute of Correctional Health Care, Gardner said.

The facility has had among the best safety and security records of all correctional facilities in the nation over the past three years, he added.




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