Prison Privatization, What Next

The defeat of the prison privatization bill in the Florida Senate Tuesday night doesn’t end the conversation. Florida already has seven private prisons and there is talk of using existing law to privatize two more.

The future of Florida’s prisons is now in the hands of Governor Rick Scott, a major supporter of the failed privatization bill. It was a stunning defeat for supporters of privatizing Florida’s prisons... And a hard fought victory for correctional officers.

A plan to privatize more than two dozen South Florida prisons was narrowly defeated in the Senate Tuesday. Sen Mike Fasano agrees with the way the senate voted. “This is bad policy. We should not be moving in this direction.”

But the privatization battle is far from over. Florida already has seven private prisons and two more could be added.

The Department of Corrections is asking for business proposals to see if privatizing prisons in Homestead and the Everglades could save money.

Governor Rick Scott could take action without legislative approval. A spokesman for Scott, Lane Wright, says it’s not high on his to do list.

“This was not one of Governor Scott’s top priorities, but he did something where he thought we could find some significant savings. He’s disappointed to see it fail like this. However we don’t think its going impact the ability to get that one billion dollars in education.”

If the governor or future legislatures decided to privatize, they won’t have a comprehensive study on its effectiveness... at least not as it stands now. Opponents, like Senator Paula Dockery of Lakeland, fought for a study, but lost. “We really truly want some factual data before this topic comes up again.”

And how soon the topic returns is anybody’s guess. What is known is prison corporations pumped a million dollars into Florida campaign coffers last year, and they have the money to do it again.

One this is almost certain, if the governor does privatize prisons it won’t be nearly as many as were proposed in the legislation. The bill would have privatized 27 prisons, the biggest privatization proposal in the entire country.

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