Gov. John Kasich says a plan to privatize five Ohio prisons could bring in about $200 million for the state, but some are expressing concern about the proposal and its potential impact on jobs and safety.
Kasich wants the prisons under private management in the next year. The proposal has current state workers concerned about what will happen to their jobs if some prisons go private.
"The uncertainty is worrisome for a lot of people right now," said Adam Ruth, a state corrections officer. "We don't know what salary. We don't know benefits package plans."
One of the prisons that could go private is located in Marion.
The state could give up management of North Central Correctional Institution, but still run the Marion Correctional Institution, located next door, 10TV's Jason Frazer reported.
State officials do not deny some jobs will be lost. If the prisons are privatized, new management may make different staffing decisions, but state officials said salaries will remain competitive, Frazer reported.
"If you're the private vendor, you want to make sure that you have the best and the brightest available to you and you won't have that if your next door neighbor is paying a better wage," said Carlo LoParo, of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
The possible change in management of North Central is not just a concern for prison staff. It also worries local pizza shop owner Jennifer Payne, who estimates that about 10 percent of her orders come from North Central every day.
"It makes a huge impact on our bottom line," she said. "If they're not there, they're not going to live in Marion anymore so then I lose that business."
Some argued that privatizing prisons could raise serious safety concerns. Ruth claimed that other states have encountered issues with privately operated prisons.
"Arizona and Idaho have had issues with a privatized prison corporation having issues with escapes," Ruth said.
State officials said steps will be taken to ensure the safety of prison employees.
"Private facilities will only be allowed to house minimum security inmates. Second of all, the workers in the private facilities will receive the same training as state correctional workers," LoParo said.
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