Going public on privatization / Consider security, hidden costs, prison board told

Source: Sandy Scarmack, Sharon Herald, July 16, 2014

…County Commissioner Chairman John Lechner has explained at several commissioners meetings that he believes the move toward privatization is a financial need and is “in no way” tied to either contract negotiations or the lawsuit. According to Lechner, the $7 million annual jail budget eats up about a quarter of all tax monies paid by residents. By adding in state and federal dollars the county gets to operate the prison, it still takes nearly 12 percent of the county’s total $56 million operating budget. Opponents to the privatization issue have primarily been the guards, who likely would be facing a 50-percent pay cut, looking at their wages being hacked from a top end of $24 an hour to $12 an hour under a private contractor….

Mercer County may privatize jail
Source: WYTV, July 15, 2014

…Just weeks after receiving a 100 percent rating from the Pennsylvania State Department of Corrections, union leaders at the Mercer County Jail are questioning why the Mercer County Prison Board is thinking about privatizing it. Members of the Mercer County Prison Board, who oversee the jail in Mercer County, said the answer to rising costs may be to hire an outside company to run the lockup. Members of the board gathered Tuesday to discuss the possibility….Columbiana County privatized their operations and uses Corrections Education Center(CEC). The company is paid just over $3 million to operate the jail in Lisbon, which has 100 fewer beds than Mercer. The agreement saves Columbiana County about $1 million per year. Recently, CEC officials toured the Mercer County Jail but no other negotiations or move to elicit a bid from the company occurred. No official proposals have been solicited or submitted from any company….

Jail privatization mulled / County considers options with eye on saving money
Source: Melissa Klaric, Sharon Herald, June 19, 2014

Mercer County stands to save millions of dollars if it hires a private company to run the county jail, and that decision could be made by the end of the year, county Commissioner John Lechner said…. The jail, in Findley Township, opened in November 2005 at a cost of $21 million. Lechner said a private company could take over the canteen fund, commissary, food service, medical services, counseling, and labor to manage and operate the jail….One private company, Community Education Centers, toured the jail and made a presentation to the prison board this week on what they could offer….She said CEC lacks a pension plan, its 401(k) plan does not match employee contributions, and salaries could be cut in half if the company kept current employees…. Lechner said a lawsuit filed by corrections officers had nothing to do the board considering privatization. The suit, filed by 57 present and former corrections officers, alleges that the county owes them hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime. Lechner said it would just be like a job change for them. “My understanding is that there would be no union, but the workers would still have the ability to form a union again. The union currently represents the employees throughout the county, and they’d no longer be employees under the county,” he said….