ACLU: BOP should end NEOCC’s immigrant inmate contract

By Peter H. Milliken


The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is urging the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to terminate its contract to house immigrant prisoners at a for-profit prison in Youngstown.

The Ohio ACLU, based in Columbus, is asking BOP to end its contract with the Nashville-Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America to house 1,507 federally convicted and sentenced undocumented immigrants at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road.

Those prisoners constitute about 75 percent of NEOCC’s 2,000 inmates.

The immigrant-inmate contract in Youngstown expires May 31, 2015, and CCA officials will be taking BOP officials on a tour of the Youngstown facility later this month.

CCA has been urging public support for renewal of the immigrant-housing pact in Youngstown, rather than transferring it elsewhere, to maintain NEOCC’s 418 jobs, $21.7 million annual payroll, nearly $2 million in annual local taxes paid and the resulting economic benefit to the local community.

“We are aware of the ACLU’s report and take seriously the allegations made in it,” said Chris Burke, public-affairs specialist for the federal prison system, declining to comment on specifics of the report.

He added, however, that BOP performs both scheduled and unscheduled safety, security and quality-control inspections of prisons where it houses inmates under contract.

“We are proud of the quality corrections and rehabilitation services we provide at Northeast Ohio,” said Michael Pugh, the NEOCC warden.

“We will continue to be a good neighbor and corporate citizen in Youngstown, all while providing great value for our governmental partner and the taxpayers it serves,” he said.

He accused the ACLU of conducting a Washington, D.C.-based “cookie-cutter” attack on CCA and added: “It’s sad that an organization that exists to protect civil liberties is so closed-minded when it comes to facts and perspectives that might challenge its political agenda.”

The ACLU’s objection to CCA is based on its national report, titled “Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System.”

That report alleges abuses at CCA prisons in Texas, including extreme isolation, lack of appropriate medical care, overpopulation, lack of prisoner programming and recreation, unreasonable restrictions on family visitation, a culture of secrecy and lack of accountability.

“It is far past time for Ohio to get out of the for-profit prison business,” said Mike Brickner, ACLU of Ohio senior policy director. “We should not allow our immigration or our criminal-justice system to generate a profit for any corporation. It is bad for prisoners, prison employees, communities and taxpayers.”

An ACLU release cited 13 stabbings, two homicides and the escape of six prisoners in the first 14 months after NEOCC opened in 1997.

It also cited a 187.5 percent increase in prisoner-on-prisoner violence, a 300 percent increase in prisoner- on-staff violence, two heroin overdoses and lack of prisoner access to running water at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut during the first 18 months after CCA purchased it in 2011.

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