Ohio's prisons agency made about $4.5 million from selling cattle and equipment after shutting down its prison-farm system, according to records from the state Department of Administrative Services.
That amount doesn't include 12,000 acres of state-owned farmland that hasn't been sold or leased yet, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The livestock and equipment was sold though auctions in the summer and fall.
The union representing state prison employees is criticizing the sale of the cattle and equipment and suggesting the state didn't get its money's worth, the newspaper reported.
"Relatively new equipment sold for pennies on the dollar," said Christopher Mabe, president of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association. "Hay was sold at a fraction of its value. The cattle sale didn't even cover the cost of the recent upgrades."
The prison farming operation dated back to 1868, but the prisons agency decided in April to leave the farm industry, just as officials were wrapping up nearly $9 million in improvements to the prison farms.
The state either doesn't know whether the sale was a good deal for taxpayers or isn't trying to find out, according to the Dispatch. Neither the prisons agency, nor the state department that handled the sales could answer questions from the newspaper about taxpayer value.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr said that farmlands are often used to smuggle contraband into prisons and that preparing inmates for farm jobs is outdated.
"We want to focus more on prison enterprises inside the walls," Mohr said at the time.