- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

CLEVELAND (AP) - A privately run prison in northeast Ohio won’t close completely when the U.S. Bureau of Prisons pulls 1,400 low-level offenders from the facility sometime next year.

Nashville, Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America learned Dec. 29 that it had lost its contract with the Bureau of Prisons to another private company. The 2,000-bed facility is expected to remain open, however, because the CCA still has a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service to house detainees awaiting trial. That contract does not expire until the end of 2018.

A Marshals Service spokeswoman said the agency has 550 detainees at the Youngstown prison.

Northeast Ohio Correction Center employs about 400 people who pay more than $450,000 a year in income taxes to Youngstown. As part of an agreement that settled litigation over the city’s efforts to collect a $1 a day bed tax for each prisoner, starting last year Youngstown receives an additional $300,000 a year from the CCA.

Mayor John McNally told The Associated Press that the potential loss of jobs is a “kick in the gut” to economically distressed Youngstown and the surrounding Mahoning Valley.

“I don’t want to portray this as a total catastrophe,” McNally added. “We still have some wriggle room.”

A CCA spokesman said in an email that the company would market the prison “to provide solutions for new government partners.”

CCA’s loss of the contract surprised McNally. He said he and others, including Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, had been lobbying the Bureau of Prisons and U.S. Justice Department to get CCA’s contract renewed. McNally called CCA “a good corporate citizen.”

That relationship has not always been so amicable. The city sued CCA in 1998, not long after the prison opened, because of poor security that led to escapes, slayings and other safety concerns. Most of the inmates housed at the facility in those early years came from Washington, D.C., and proved too unruly for a newly trained staff to handle.

A state law passed in 1998 limits private facilities holding-out-of-state prisoners to inmates classified as a low- or medium-level risk. Robert Hagan, a Democrat and term-limited state representative from Youngstown, helped craft that law. Hagan on Wednesday criticized President Barack Obama’s administration for having hurt the region.

“They really ignored the responsibility of taking care of an area like the Mahoning Valley after it has been struggling for years,” Hagan said.

The CCA spokesman said the company would be meeting with Bureau of Prison officials to discuss why the contract was not renewed. CCA is the largest private prison company in the U.S. with more than 90,000 beds.

An inspection of the prison in 2013 by a state agency generally gave the prison high marks but noted that staffing had been drastically reduced. And the prison continues to be the target of complaints filed through the ACLU of Ohio.

Nearly 250 prisoners refused to return to their cells during a peaceful protest last summer over the quality of food, medical care, access to recreation and respect from staff.

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