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Do your part to preserve good jobs at Valley’s private prison

CCA Prison Not Just About Jobs

This response was submitted to the Vindicator, which declined to publish it. Thus it is being posted in the comments.

This Vindicator editorial urges local residents "to come to the aid of their economy" by helping CCA, which operates the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NOCC), renew its contract with the Bureau of Prisons.

As the editorial notes, the loss of more than 400 jobs at the facility would be hard for the local economy. Yet the focus on jobs avoids a more serious discussion of whether CCA should be incarcerating people for profit in the first place, and also fails to address past abuses at the CCA-run prison -- abuses of which the Vindicator is well aware, as it reported on them.

Some of those abuses include two murders, the escape of six dangerous prisoners in broad daylight – and a delay by CCA officials before notifying law enforcement – as well as inadequate medical care and high levels of violence (including 20 stabbings) that led to a lawsuit which settled for $1.65 million.

While these incidents happened in the late 1990s, to quote George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” More recently, for example, consider the 2007 escape of NOCC prisoner Billy Fitzmorris, who overpowered a CCA guard, stole a car, robbed two banks and took a citizen hostage.

The above editorial cites “independent research” which found private prisons save money. However, much of that research was funded by the private prison industry; for instance, a recent study by Temple University was funded by CCA and other for-profit prison firms.

The Vindicator further mentions that CCA and the city had resolved a tax dispute – basically, the city imposed a tax that CCA didn’t want to pay, so the company filed a lawsuit. This begs the question: If CCA is such a good community neighbor, why didn’t it want to pay its fair share of taxes?

Certainly NOCC provides jobs. But that alone shouldn’t be the sole justification for the Vindicator’s one-sided support of the facility. The South African prison that held Nelson Mandela for decades under the racist apartheid regime provided jobs, too.

With respect to NOCC, if the incarceration of people for profit is immoral then the jobs created by the prison are likewise immoral – but the Vindicator bypasses that discussion by simply echoing CCA’s refrain of jobs and payroll.

When a newspaper becomes a cheerleader for a private company and regurgitates that company’s PR messages, it does a disservice to residents who rely on the news media for objective reporting.

-- Alex Friedmann

Alex Friedmann serves as president of the Private Corrections Institute (www.privateci.org), a non-profit citizen watchdog group that opposes prison privatization. A former prisoner, he served 6 years at a CCA-operated prison in the 1990s – while the worst abuses at NOCC were occurring – prior to his release in 1999.

January 21, 2014 at 7:55 p.m. suggest removal

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