Ohio High Court: Sale of Prison OK Under State Constitution

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – The state Supreme Court says the sale of a northeast Ohio prison to a private company didn’t violate the state constitution.

The Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Conneaut was sold to Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America in 2011. It was the first state prison in the nation to be sold to a private company. The court’s 5-2 ruling Thursday cleared the sale, which was authorized in a state budget bill.

A lawsuit by several former prison employees and the union representing state employees challenged the sale. They alleged it violated the Ohio Constitution, including a prohibition against state financial involvement with private enterprise.

The justices disagreed. They also ruled the State Employee Relations Board has jurisdiction to determine whether employees of privately owned or operated prisons are considered public employees.