With our state finances under strain, I knew coming into the state legislature in January that some changes would have to be made in order to balance the books. One of those changes that I supported included privatizing some of Ohio’s prisons, and the Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LaECI) ended up being selected as one of the prison to be sold and operated by others—purchased by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for $72.7 million.

I have had a number of questions about how the privatization of LaECI would affect our local area. In order to discuss the sale and transition of the prison, I was pleased to invite local officials, such as the city planner, law director and council members of Conneaut, to a meeting I held in Columbus, along with Director of Rehabilitation and Correction Gary Mohr and staff of Senator Capri Cafaro.

We have worked with Conneaut City Council to set up a follow-up meeting to engage all interested parties in the transition of the facility to CCA and to work to find a remedy on the questions of jurisdiction.

This move and other plans for Ohio’s prisons will save about $13 million each year and help to ease overcrowding. Additionally, over $1 million in real estate revenue will be generated annually. The Conneaut School district will be receiving the largest portion of the real estate revenue, and the city of Conneaut, Ashtabula County and the Ashtabula County Technical & Career Campus will also share in the revenue we receive.

CCA is expected to employ nearly 280 people, not including contract positions such as food service positions, dietician technicians, warehouse/sanitation workers and various medical positions. CCA will be retaining the same number of jobs currently at the prison when it takes over. With the contract positions included, the number of jobs is closer to 300.

After speaking with CCA, I was pleased to know that they will be giving all those currently employed by the state at the prison the option of applying for the jobs. The former employees of LaECI will be receiving preferential treatment during the hiring process, a provision that I advocated to write into state law. The hiring process is currently underway, with interviews for correctional officers just wrapping up and other interviews to come shortly. Near the end of the year, my understanding is that the warden will be reaching out to city and county leaders to review current practices and form partnerships.

The transition of the prison is a huge positive for city of Conneaut, and I was happy with the conversation we were able to have about LaECI at the meeting. While a few questions still remain about the transition, our upcoming follow-up meeting will help in moving towards a solution on the questions that still remain.

I want to assure you that my job as a state representative is not about creating top-down laws from state government, but rather to truly represent the people of the 99th House District and serve as a liaison between you and those who work in our state government agencies. It’s my hope that we can continue to capitalize on these relationships—at the state and local level—that will benefit the people of Ashtabula and Trumbull counties.


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