The prison company is calling the cuts 'temporary layoffs.'
By ROGER G. SMITH
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The private prison has carried out the layoffs it announced two months ago, and more workers could be left jobless.
The warden, however, has high hopes that all the workers will be back before the prison's pending August closure.
Corrections Corporation of America, owner of the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, is negotiating two contracts. Each looks promising for bringing medium-security inmates from other states, said Warden Brian Gardner.
About pacts: One contract would be to house 2,000 inmates; the other would be for 1,000 prisoners. Gardner declined to identify the states.
He described the chances of getting a new contract as "pretty promising," which could avoid the Aug. 18 shutdown date the prison company gave the city. The notice is required under the federal court-approved contract between the city and CCA.
Gardner expects to know by August whether CCA will get either of the contracts under discussion.
"We're diligently working right now on [the] other contracts," Gardner said. "We feel like it's just a matter of time."
Layoffs: On Sunday, NOCC laid off 175 of its 449 workers. That's about the same number of workers as the prison said it would lay off in late March. The cuts touched all aspects of the prison, Gardner said, from security and administration to education.
"It's across the board. It affected pretty much all departments," he said.
Up to another nearly 90 workers could be laid off, depending on how fast the federal Bureau of Prisons transfers inmates from NOCC. The prison bureau controls the Washington, D.C., inmates housed at NOCC. The federal government is sending those prisoners to other lockups.
NOCC has 244 prisoners, Gardner said. The building has 2,106 beds. Staffing could drop as low as 185 workers -- the minimum under the city contract -- as the inmate count drops, he said.
Staffing changes are based on the number of inmates and the cuts are allowed under the contract, said Law Director Robert Bush Jr. The city's prison monitor is tracking worker and inmate counts to assure the right balance, he said.
New contract expected: The prison company is calling the cuts "temporary layoffs" because CCA expects to get a new contract and keep NOCC running.
A skeleton staff will remain even if a contract isn't secured, and the building closes in August. A presence will continue in anticipation of the company getting a new contract and reopening the prison, Gardner said.
The city has expressed a willingness to let the private prison keep higher-level medium-security prisoners there so Youngstown can keep the jobs and resulting income tax revenue. A fully staffed prison has an annual payroll of about $11 million and paid the city $250,000 in income tax last year.
The private prison houses what are considered midlevel medium-security prisoners.
NOCC was plagued by stabbings, homicides and an escape among prisoners after it opened in 1997. Mixing inmates of different security levels was blamed for most of the problems.
The most promising potential contracts each involve the same type of inmates as the prison now has. That makes things a little easier both in negotiation and with the city, Gardner said.