Private prison owner CCA appeals ruling on Youngstown tax

Published: Fri, October 19, 2012 @ 12:09 a.m.

By David Skolnick


A private-prison owner is appealing a judge’s decision that the city didn’t violate laws when it enacted a $1-per-prisoner, per-day tax on inmates at the lockup while the city filed a court complaint seeking to collect $1.5 million from the company in back fees.

The two cases are running parallel paths in the 7th District Court of Appeals and in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of common pleas court ruled in May that the city didn’t violate the state or federal constitutions or the city charter when city council approved legislation to tax private prisons, effective December 2009.

Corrections Corporation of America, a for-profit company based in Nashville, Tenn., and owner of Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road, filed a lawsuit in January 2010 contending the city’s prison-tax ordinance violated laws.

CCA’s facility is the only private prison in the city, housing about 1,500 illegal immigrants convicted of felonies through a contract it has with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

CCA filed an appeal Sept. 13 in the appellate court of Judge Krichbaum’s ruling. The city has until next Thursday to file a brief in response.

Meanwhile, the city filed a complaint against CCA in common pleas court seeking to compel the company to pay about $1.5 million in back fees and interest.

CCA approached the city to settle the matter for significantly less money than the $1-a-day amount it hasn’t paid for nearly three years, said city Law Director Anthony Farris. Part of that informal proposal also included paying a lot less in future fees, said Farris, who didn’t have the figures available Thursday.

The city rejected the offer, Farris said.

The city filed the complaint because even though Judge Krichbaum ruled against CCA, “we had to file a suit to get the money,” Farris said.

Steve Owens, CCA’s spokesman, said, “We believe the $1-per-inmate tax imposed by the city council is not only invalid but unwarranted, and we are pursuing the same due-process rights that are afforded to all individuals and businesses. Our company believes we have a compelling case to make, but we have not yet been given the opportunity to present it.”

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