Lundy, union worry about future of Grafton prison with Kasich
MORNING JOURNAL/NATE PARSONS
By KELLY METZ | The Morning Journal
GRAFTON — Local officials and prison workers are eager to learn if Ohio Gov. John Kasich has plans to privatize Grafton Correctional Institution in his state budget proposal being unveiled today.
State Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, said he has heard Kasich wants to have GCI privatized. North Coast Correctional Facility, which is also located in Grafton, has already been privatized.
Carlo LoParo, chief communications officer for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said he was not authorized to release any information on the governor’s proposed budget yesterday.
Kasich would try to have the prison transitioned to a private contractor by the first of next year, Lundy said.
“According to state law, the state has to be able to demonstrate a minimum of 5 percent savings when considering this,” Lundy said. “My issue is I am sure if the state is saying it wants to see at least 5 percent savings by going the privatization route, we can find 5 percent in savings without having to privatize.”
Bobbie Peters, AFSCME union chapter president and account clerk in the prison business office, said she also believes the governor can find 5 percent savings while keeping the prison under state control. She said workers would be willing to take more furlough days and even a pay cut if it meant they could keep their jobs.
Both Peters and Lundy said if the prison becomes privatized, several workers could be laid off with the possibility of being rehired by the new operator of the prison.
Lundy said, “We are not taking time to talk these through. Even as the state rep in Lorain County, no one came to me and said if we could get 5 or 10 percent in savings at Grafton we wouldn’t have to privatize. I don’t believe we are taking enough time to talk these through; it has a major impact on the county and on a lot of Lorain County families. When you start impacting Lorain County families, I have an issue with that.”
According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, 362 people are employed at the prison. Peters said that could be 362 people who would be out of work.
“Where are we going to get a job? The economy is already failing. Where are more than 300 people in this area going to get a job that offers health benefits and those sorts of things ... People are upset and people are scared.”
Workers that get a job in a privatized prison would take significant pay cuts, which would affect the local economy, Lundy said.
Safety becomes an issue if fewer workers would be hired, but the prison is currently has 1,537 inmates.
Peters added, “In a private prison, they are going to cut corners and cut on security, and we are right in the middle of a community.
“We have churches, schools, houses. And with untrained people and lower wages, what is going to happen to the community? It’s scary. We have level 3 inmates who are very dangerous — murderers, rapists, child molesters, we have them all.”
Kameahle Christopher, a political coordinator for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, and Lundy both said privatizing the prison is a “short-term solution to a long-term problem.”
“I think I have already resigned myself to the fact that this is happening,” Peters said. “Most of us are feeling utter shock this could happen to us, and like most people, I am scared. I am afraid. What’s going to happen? I know people who are living paycheck to paycheck or could be losing their homes. This just isn’t right.”