Showdown Looms Over Private Prisons


By Howard Goodman
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Boca Raton-based GEO Group would be among the for-profit companies to benefit if the state privatizes prisons. (Photo courtesy of GEO Group.)

By Howard Goodman
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

The state Senate appears ready for battle today over a GOP plan to turn over a lot more of the state’s prisons to private companies.

Republican leaders have been pushing hard to privatize one-fifth of the state’s corrections facilities along with all inmate health care. Right now, about 9,000 inmates are in the state’s seven privately run “correctional facilities,” a small fraction of the roughly 100,000 people incarcerated in the third-largest state prison system in the United States.

But the privatization plan has run into opposition, not only from Democrats but from some skeptical Republicans as well.

State Sen. Paula Dockery released a report showing that the state’s existing private prisons aren’t actually saving money over publicly run prisons — undercutting the outsourcers’ strongest argument.

She’s been joined in opposition by Sen. Mike Fasano, a Pasco County Republican who was stripped of his chairmanship of the criminal justice budget committee after questioning the privatization deal. Senate President Mike Haridopolos yanked the chairmanship after Fasano offered an amendment requiring a thorough study of privatization’s costs and benefits.

That amendment failed yesterday in a close vote, 21-19 — a close enough vote that GOP leaders couldn’t be sure they’ll be able to pass their privatization bill, which they plan to present today.

Months ago, Gov. Rick Scott fired his first corrections secretary, Ed Buss, for his tepid support for the lawmakers’ plans to privatize “all of the prisons in the 18-county region south of Polk County to the Florida Keys,” according to the Palm Beach Post.

Dockery, a Republican from Lakeland, was obviously referring to such heavy-handed moves in a statement issued yesterday. “In an effort to privatize our state’s prisons, Senate leaders are acting like politicians at their worst — twisting arms in backrooms and giving contracts to special interest donors,” Dockery said. “They need to start acting like any business in the private sector would and stop using imaginary numbers.”

Proponents of the sweeping privatization plan insist that Florida will save 7 percent over state-run prisons. But Dockery has noted that there are few reliable comparisons — prisons differ so greatly. And “there’s extensive evidence that shows private prisons have received the cream-of-the-crop inmates — leaving the state with more-expensive sick, elderly and dangerous prisoners.”

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2 thoughts on “Showdown Looms Over Private Prisons

  1. Prison privatization only privatizes the warehouse function, but does not allow prisoners to accept work for private companies, which they should be allowed to do without current government restrictions on prison industries. Big government has a double or triple monopoly over prison industries and labor — monopolies are always harmful. Please check out my website, Incarceration Reform, or read my book, “Prison & Slavery – A Surprising Comparison.”

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  2. INCARCERATING PEOPLE “FOR PROFIT” IS IN A WORD….WRONG!
    The mere presence of a private “for profit” driven prison business in our country undermines the U.S Constitution and subsequently the credibility of the American criminal justice system. In fact, until all private prisons in America have been abolished and outlawed, “the promise” of fairness and justice at every level of this country’s judicial system will remain unattainable. We must restore the principles and the vacant promise of our judicial system. Our government cannot continue to “job-out” its obligation and neglect its duty to the individuals confined in the correctional and rehabilitation facilities throughout this nation, nor can it ignore the will of the people that it was designed to serve and protect. Please support the National Public Service Council to Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) with a show of solidarity by signing “The Single Voice Petition”
    http://www.petitiononline.com/gufree2/petition.html

    Please visit our website for further information: http://www.npsctapp.blogspot.com

    –Ahma Daeus
    “Practicing Humanity Without A License”…

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