Ohio 1st in US to sell prison to private company

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — A lockup along the shores of Lake Erie has become the first state prison in the nation to be sold to a private company.

Lake Erie Correctional Institution in northeastern Ohio’s Ashtabula County is the only one of five state prisons up for sale that will be sold, state officials said Thursday. Corrections Corporation of America will buy it for $72.7 million, more than the $50 million needed from the privatization effort to balance the state’s prison budget.

The four other prisons for sale didn’t generate offers advantageous to taxpayers, state officials said.

CCA, the nation’s largest prison operator, takes control of the Lake Erie facility in Conneaut on Dec. 31, pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the move.

Offering the prisons for sale was an idea spearheaded by Republican Gov. John Kasich as he grappled with an $8 billion budget hole earlier this year. He wasn’t the only governor to propose it: Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana introduced a similar plan that was shot down by state lawmakers in June.