Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


June 30, 2013

A wise move

Kentucky ends three decades of using private prisons

ASHLAND — For the first time in three decades, there soon will be no state prisoners held in private, for-profit prisons. Good. We have always found it disturbing and a sign of poor management on the part of state government that private companies that must earn a profit to survive can operate prisons at a lower cost than state government can. 

The Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet announced Tuesday it is not renewing a contract with private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America to operate the 826-bed Marion Adjustment Center in St. Mary in Marion County. The state’s contract with the Nashville, Tenn.-based company expires today, and the state will have 120 days to move all inmates to other facilities. The state plans to move the 794 state inmates in Marion to other state prisons, county jails or half-way houses.

Kentucky officials estimate the state can save $1.5 million to $2.5 million per year by not renewing the contract. If the state does not realize that kind of savings, there is something wrong with its management skills.

The move is the latest in a series since 2008. At that point, Kentucky had inmates in three prisons run by CCA. The state in 2010 pulled out of Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville, an 800-bed facility that still houses inmates from Vermont, and in 2012 from Otter Creek Correctional Center, a 600-bed facility in Wheelwright in far eastern Kentucky that’s currently vacant.

A spokesman for CCA, Steve Owen, called the move “disappointing.” He said the company had no indication the state was making the move and “made every effort” to meet cost-savings measures. Right now, the priority was the 166 employees, he said. To be sure, the loss of that many jobs in a rural area will have a tremendous impact on the local economy, but those jobs are needlessly costing the state money.

Justice and Public Safety Secretary J. Michael Brown said changes mandated by the landmark criminal justice reform law approved by the 2011 Kentucky General Assembly eliminated the need for the state to use the private prison. That law mandated changes in the drug laws and reduced prison time for low-risk, nonviolent drug criminals caught with small amounts of drugs — all designed to reduce its prison population.

Brown said inmates currently enrolled in substance abuse programs at Marion will either complete the program before being transferred or will be placed in a similar program elsewhere to continue treatment.

“One of the major considerations in making this decision was whether we could continue to meet the treatment needs of inmates struggling with substance abuse issues, and that has been assured,” Brown said.

CCA owns the facility, which opened in 1980. The company will determine what will become of the employees working there.

Kentucky paid CCA $21 million in fiscal 2010 to operate Otter Creek, along with the Marion Adjustment Center and Lee Adjustment Center.

Kentucky has run into issues with CCA facilities in the past. Gov. Steve Beshear ordered all female inmates transferred from Otter Creek in 2010 after a sex scandal involving guards and allegations of sexual abuse of inmates at the facility. The state transferred 400 female inmates to Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Fredonia and moved men into Otter Creek.

Hawaii also removed 168 female inmates in 2009, sending them to a prison in Arizona. Multiple lawsuits were filed over the sex accusations. Most were dismissed.

Inmates at Lee Adjustment Center rioted in 2004 after allegations of inmate abuse and mistreatment increased and visits from friends and family were cut back, and CCA is being sued by a group of shift supervisors at Marion Adjustment Center who allege the company forced them to work extra hours and denied them overtime. CCA has denied the allegations. The lawsuit is pending in federal court in Louisville.

Those internal issues provide added reason for the state to cease turning the incarceration of its prisoners to private companies. But the main reason for ceasing use of the private prisons is the money it saves. The state should always be able to operate a prison for less money than a for-profit company.

CCA still houses prisoners from Vermont and other states at the facilities it owns in Kentucky, but that’s an issue for the politicians and residents of those states who are exporting their inmates far from their homes.

Text Only
  • By a thread

    It took some last-minute political maneuvering by State Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore and some skilled wheeling and dealing to prevent a bill important to AK Steel in Ashland from ending up on the scrapheap of the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly.

    April 23, 2014

  • Along the river

    Here’s hoping the weather will be as close to perfect as possible on the evening of May 30, as members of the Paul G. Blazer High School class of 2014 gather on the banks of Ohio River for the school’s first graduation on the river that has helped fuel this community’s economy since the time when it was known as known as Poage’s Landing.

    April 22, 2014

  • Good opportunity

    Morehead State University is using a highly successful program for outstanding high school juniors and seniors at Western Kentucky University to launch a similar program beginning in the fall of 2015 on the MSU campus.

    April 20, 2014

  • What's next?

    While virtually all cities in northeastern Kentucky provide their residents with some utility services — water and sewer, mainly, and sometimes natural gas — to the best of our knowledge, Olive Hill is the only town in the FIVCO‚Äąregion with its own electrical company.

    April 13, 2014

  • 'Waited too long'

    Lt. Garlin Murl Conner left the U.S. Army as the second-most decorated soldier during World War II, earning four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during 28 straight months in combat.

    April 12, 2014

  • Enact HB 3

    The National Rx Drug Abuse Summit is under way hundreds of miles from eastern Kentucky in Orlando, Fla., but the three-day conference which runs through Thursday, was organized by Operation UNITE, the eastern Kentucky anti-drug group that knows all too well the devastating impact the prescription drug epidemic continues to have on this region.

    April 11, 2014

  • State officials cease efforts to stop advance of ash borer

    Kentucky’s war against the tiny emerald ash borer responsible for already killing more than 25 million ash trees in the eastern United States has ended in surrender — by state officials, not the tiny insect.

    April 8, 2014

  • Demise of apparel industry in Kentucky continues

    The steady demise of the once thriving clothing industry in small Kentucky towns continues with the latest factory to announce it is shutting down being one of the largest: Fruit of the Loom has announced it is closing its last remaining plant in Jamestown, a move that eventually will see the elimination of more than 600 jobs in the small town near Lake Cumberland.

    April 7, 2014

  • None on ballot

    The 2014 Kentucky General Assembly considered an unusually high number of proposed amendments to the Kentucky Constitution on such issues as casino gambling, the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons and the elimination of state and local elected offices.

    April 4, 2014

  • Time runs out

    Two bills proposed by House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins and designed to boost the economy of this region have apparently died in the Kentucky Senate after being approved by the House of Representatives. Despite easily being approved by the Democratic-controlled House, neither bill was even brought up for a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate.

    April 2, 2014

Featured Ads
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
SEC Zone