Privately run prisons, as the New Yorker recently described the TV series "Girls," has become a "trending topic". That's because Gov. Kasich, determined not become privatized himself when the voters head out to the polls in 2014, has found still another way to downsize the government he manages with swagger each day. He wants to turn over food services at Ohio's prisons to the non-elected entrepreneurial class that swells with each new opportunity for its investments. He says it will save the state maybe $16 million a year.
Like so many of his "bold'" initiatives, once the headlines fade into yesterday, you have to pay more attention to second opinions. Privately run prison services have a history of failure that equal the inmates they're supposed to contain.
Cost savings for taxpayers? As Paul Krugman has pointed out, a study by the U.S. Department of Justice has concluded that such savings in other states "have simply not materialized.''
"So let's see," Krugman wrote, "Privatized prisons save money by employing fewer guards and other workers, and by paying them badly. And then we get horror stories about how these prisons are run. What a surprise!"
Reviewing earlier consequences, Plunderbund reported an audit by former Republican State Auditor Jim Petro of privatized food service at the Noble Correctional Institution in Caldwell, Oh. The audit showed Aramark, the company involved, "failed multiple sanitary inspections and was unable to provide acceptable portion sizes as agreed upon in the contract. What's more, Plunderbund said the audit revealed that "Aramark ended up billing the state for millions of meals it never actually served resulting in $2 million in overpayment being made to the company."
Never mind, the Kasich people contend, we're looking at $16 million in savings even though a transfer to private hands would eliminate 456 state jobs. Oh, it says here, the private operators would hire some of these people.
And now we come to the real bottom line. Kasich, who has no use for unions, would eliminate that many jobs covered by Civil Service. Christopher Mabe, president of the Ohio Civil Service Employes Association, is already preparing for a brawl. "This is unfair, unsafe and hurts us all and we will not stand for it," he told the Columbus Dispatch.
From the standpoint of purely practical politics, after being drubbed in his fight against public employe unions with Senate Bill 5, is Kasich really prepared to provoke labor again in an election year?