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Ohio Prisons Spending $2.6 Million on Milk After Selling Dairies
June 15, 2016

After selling off its dairy herd, Ohio prisons will pay $2.6 million a year to buy milk for 50,000 inmates.

An existing state contract with four Ohio dairies was expanded on May 31 to include milk for state prisons, according to records from the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, the business arm of state government. The state needs about 1.3 million gallons of milk annually for inmates.

The dairies supplying the milk are Borden Dairy, Cleveland; Toft Dairy, Sandusky; SmithFoods, Orrville; and Reiter Dairy, Springfield.

In the meantime, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has sold about 1,000 dairy cows. Another approximately 2,000 beef cattle are scheduled to be sold this fall.

The milk money is needed because of the April 12 decision by the prisons agency to get out of the farm business. The announcement came as a surprise, especially as the department was in the final stages of completing nearly $9 million in improvements to the prison farms.

The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, the union representing 30,000 state workers including those in prisons, filed a lawsuit challenging the farm sales, alleging a contract violation. The state responded by filing motions seeking to block the union from gaining information about the farm sale.

A hearing is scheduled at 9 a.m. Thursday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Prisons Director Gary Mohr cited two reasons for closing the farms. He said preparing inmates for post-release in farm jobs is outdated, and the farms pose a continuing security risk because tobacco, drugs and other types of contraband are frequently dropped off on open farmland and smuggled into prisons.

Some have suggested other possible reasons for the quick turnaround, including potential buyers eager to snap up 7,000 or more acres of farmland at 10 sites across the state.

By: Alan Johnson
Source: Columbus Dispatch


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