Earlier this week, David Allen Fields was awarded 1.2 million dollars because the private health care provider at the Lee County Jail failed to properly treat a spider bite. Fields was left paralyzed. Now the same company will get a contract to provide health care to tens of thousands of prison inmates. Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker told lawmakers he has confidence in the company.
"The agency is very comfortable with their overall proven track record," said Tucker.
Contracts to treat inmates are worth 350 million a year to two companies. Opponents voiced concerns that the only way to save a predicted 50 million a year is on the backs of employees.
"We have 850 plus members of our association who will basically lose their jobs upon implementation of this privatization," said Chris Snow with Florida Nurses Association.
The committee voted six to four along party lines. Afterwards, the Corrections Secretary said the 50 million in an estimated savings will come from technology enhancements; not inmate care.
"I don't think we compromised the health care of inmates. I wouldn't condone that," said Tucker.
But Critics don’t buy the argument.
"If they can't run a county jail, then how are they going to run three quarters of the prisons in Florida?" asked Doug Martin, an employee union representative.
Questions remain over the legality of the health care transfer, which is sure to send the privatization plan to court.
The move will put two thousand people now working for the state looking for work. They will be offered a chance to interview with the private providers.