By Peter H. Milliken
The Corrections Corp. of America hopes local residents will write to their elected officials soon, urging them to support continued use of CCA’s Northeast Ohio Correctional Center to house U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmates.
That’s because CCA must submit a competitive proposal to the bureau by Aug. 15 if it wants to continue to house the federally convicted and sentenced undocumented immigrants BOP sends to the local correctional center on Hubbard Road.
Those inmates constitute about 75 percent of the approximately 2,000 prisoners housed at NEOCC. CCA’s contract with BOP to house those inmates here at $69.72 per inmate per day for 1,507 inmates expires May 31, 2015, BOP said.
In a letter to Mayor Charles Sammarone, CCA officials said the loss of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons contract here would cause the elimination of most of the 418 jobs at NEOCC. The Hubbard Road prison has an annual payroll of $21.7 million, the letter said.
“Since 2005, NEOCC has paid almost $157 million in local payroll, almost $14 million on utilities and more than $10 million in local taxes — for a total direct local economic impact of more than $180 million,” the letter said.
The letter said CCA fears BOP may consolidate NEOCC’s current contract with another contract held by the Moshannon Valley Correctional Center in Phillipsburg, Pa., which is in rural central Pennsylvania. That contract, which expires April 1, 2016, is for 1,820 inmates at $65.22 per inmate per day, BOP said.
“One facility will receive the contract, and the other will have to scale back or close,” CCA brass told the mayor. One of the company’s challenges will be to address “BOP’s interest in reducing costs,” they added.
Chris Burke, BOP public affairs specialist, said the agency is not consolidating contracts, but it needs about 2,000 inmate beds in the region consisting of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York.
“All proposals are evaluated based on price and nonprice evaluation criteria,” Burke said. “Award selection will be made based on a best-value basis for the government,” he added.
Sammarone said he supported NEOCC when it opened in 1997 and fully supports efforts to keep the federal prisoner housing contract here now.
“I continue to support CCA. They hire many people that are city residents, and they create jobs for the whole Youngstown community,” Sammarone said.
“Keeping this facility open and operating at full capacity is important to me — but especially important to those families who make a living there. I have expressed my concerns with the federal Bureau of Prisons and urged them to give the NEOCC proposal its strongest consideration,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Ryan of Niles, D-13th.
“In spite of local signs of economic strength, we still have too many people unemployed and need to ensure that the Bureau of Prisons understands the economic impact of their decision on the Mahoning Valley,” the congressman said.
“We feel confident that we can be competitive,” said Tony Grande, chief development officer for the Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA. “In many of these procurements, it comes down to pennies” of cost difference per inmate per day between facilities, he added.
Steven Owen, the corrections corporation’s senior director of public affairs, said community support for retention of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmates here will be important in the federal government’s decision-making process.
NEOCC is independently accredited by the American Correctional Association, which Owen described as “the gold standard in this country for correctional management.”
Because the BOP inmates already have been sentenced, the proximity of NEOCC to federal courts in Youngstown, Akron, Cleveland and Pittsburgh isn’t likely to be a major advantage for the Hubbard Road prison, said Bart VerHulst, CCA’s vice president of federal partnership relations.
“Unlike other industries that you see come and go, we can’t pick up and go somewhere else,” Grande said of the Youngstown prison, which he said likely would cost $120 million to $150 million to replace. “We made a commitment to this community.”