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Florida’s Plan to Privatize 30 Prisons Fast-Tracks to the Dismay of Guards and Others

| January 26, 2012

Nashville-based Corrections Cosporation of America is the nation's leading private-prison company, with 75,000 inmates in 60 facilities in 19 states, including five in Florida. (CCA)

A legislative proposal to privatize about 30 prisons in most of the southern part of the state is headed for the Senate floor after a vote in the Budget Committee that angered prison guards who feel they’re not being heard.

The proposal was put into law as part of last year’s budget, to be later thrown out by a court.

Senate backers say the issue has been thoroughly vetted, with several committee meetings last year in addition to three this year, including one where nearly 50 opponents – and no proponents – were heard on the matter. But corrections officers say the proposal (SB 2038) is moving too fast, and lawmakers should slow the process down.

The Budget Committee on Wednesday heard only from a representative of the Teamsters, which represents the corrections officers, and from TaxWatch, which supports the idea, before voting 14-4 to send it to the full Senate. About 30 corrections officers in the committee room yelled “shame, shame” after the vote – and the driving force behind the measure, Budget Chairman Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, later heard from several of them in a hastily-arranged meeting at the Capitol.

But Alexander and other backers say their minds aren’t swayed. The move makes sense financially, they say – some estimates say it could save more than $20 million in the first year – and lawmakers also are intent on asserting their authority to privatize state agency functions without needing the executive branch to give the OK.

There was some debate on the particulars of the bill on Wednesday, including intensive discussion of who would be responsible for the cost of tracking down escapees from private prisons. The bill now says that costs incurred for capturing any escapees during the first 48 hours would be borne by the private prison company. After that, anyone caught would likely be apprehended as part of normal day-to-day law enforcement activity, backers say.

The prison could still be liable for civil damages if an escapee harms someone, they also point out.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who has emerged as the leading Republican critic of a plan driven by his own party’s leadership, took exception to the limit on how long private companies would be responsible for capturing escapees.

“The private company … that’s going to make millions off this deal will not be held liable after 48 hours if a murderer or rapists escapes?” an incredulous Fasano said Wednesday. “It will be on the backs of the taxpayers?”

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, a backer of the proposal, pointed out that currently without privatization, the cost of finding escapees is entirely borne by the state.

Fasano also questioned the amount of savings the deal will bring to the state, and pressed Department of Corrections officials, particularly on the costs associated with privatization – mainly the paying out of due benefits to those officers who leave the employ of the state, either to go work for one of the private companies, or who simply quit or are laid off. They’d be due unpaid sick leave and vacation time and other benefits, but it’s not clear how much that cost would be.

Under an amendment added to the bill Wednesday, private contractors will have to reimburse the state for all accumulated leave paid out to such employees, up to a total of $8 million. Backers of the bill acknowledge that the total cost of such payouts could be as much as $15 million, but even that figure is disputed by opponents as possibly too low.

The Senate has no floor debates scheduled before next week and there’s no indication yet from Senate President Mike Haridopolos how quickly the matter could come up for a vote. The House is also working on its own similar plan.

–David Royce, News Service of Florida

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21 Responses for “Florida’s Plan to Privatize 30 Prisons Fast-Tracks to the Dismay of Guards and Others”

  1. CCA ~ “CCA spent more than $2.7 million from 2006 through September 2008 on lobbying
    for stricter laws..”

    Bill Maher says, “That’s why America has the world’s largest prison population — because actually rehabilitating people would have a negative impact on the bottom line…”
    “CCA spent $14.8 million lobbying the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Office of Management and Budget, the Bureau of Prisons, both houses of Congress, and others between 2003 and 2010.”

  2. roco says:

    The word is Teamsters. They have destroyed the industry in the USA. Civil workers such as city, county, state, police, firefighters, teachers etc. should not be allowed to organize and hold their employers and tax payers hostage when they demand things.

  3. rickg says:

    What a sweetheart deal for the private prison companies…. Now we can throw people in jail for the most insignificant offenses and they can make money… What a crock… This is just another attempt at lowering the boom on unions.. You know those organizations that gave us the 40 hour work week and holidays off… along with a living wage.

    • Begonia says:

      You notice this is happening at a time when the United States Senate has just passed an “indefinite hold” provision doing away with your rights under the Constitution? Perhaps the government intends to get out of the “justice” system altogether?

      No muss, no fuss, just lock you up

  4. Gia says:

    In today’s rules Union are for idiots & that why they are loosing their jobs.

  5. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    Do Florida’s politicians have some schizoid locked in a room somewhere whose only job is to come up with patently bad (if not downright nutso) ideas?

  6. Jojo says:

    No surprise here since the felon Gov. Rick Scott paid 74 million to become boss man. You get what you pay for and the republican dominated legislature don’t care because they won’t have to work until 67 when you retire and pass away 2 years later from working to retire with some form of decent retirement.

    Unfortunately, people are desperate for work to feed their family but what kind of message does this send to dedicated State workers who put their life on the line for a pension and it is all wiped out by legislators and a Gov who is out of touch with the average worker here in Florida.

    Personally, I feel these legislators have too many benefits and too much time on their hands. We should privatize them?

    • Doug Chozianin says:

      I just checked the mortality and morbidity tables and yes indolent workers die at 69. Everyone else who actually works for a living lives well into their 80s.

      Also, after prisons are privatized, education needs to be next on the agenda.

  7. John Boy says:

    I just love the fact that a criminal organization can come in and takeover several billion dollars worth of State assets and then run the business making a profit cheaper than the State could run it itself. I say if the State wants to do this sell the assets like would be done in a normal business sale. CCA was Scott’s largest campaign contributor, smells kind if fishy but that normal when the Fraudster is involved. I say investigate everything our criminal governor has done since day 1 and put his ignorant ass in jail.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    @Roco…I am sorry I gave you a check mark “for likes by error”…actually I meant a total dislike, so actually you have “2 likes” only with mine out! I think that you and Gia never been a real worker for the stand you take. An example of what corporations do to workers without unions nowadays; my son with a Bachelor’s has been moved from his regular schedule by his nationwide greedy medical prescriptions corporation, from his regular schedule of 8 to 4 Monday thru Friday, of 2.30 am to 10.30 am M thru F. After few months and under the threat to be laid off like many were, as they are hiring trainees for much less pay that actually he had to train for the last 2 years, now he has been moved to work from 4.30 am to 2.30 pm (10 hours a day) 4 days a week Friday Saturday Sunday and Monday, they done this with the hope he quits and can be replaced by one of the workers that he trained for less pay !! No increased pay for him working weekends! So my son now will never have “a real weekend off”. This disrupted my son’s life and also sports practice to stay in shape with his team on weekends and also the volunteer work he enjoys to do with friends, that includes to organize participation in our National Celebratory Days Parades. His wife working for the same health prescriptions mammoth corporation after 18 years on it has been overloaded with so much work, that she has to take work home, “long labor hours for no pay to keep her job”. In another case a friend of our family in Florida Law Enforcement responsibly saving in his retirement plan since he was a young deputy, thanks to these Tea Party Conservative Bozo Scott and his cronies has lost the 3% contribution to his pension. This is because not only they are doing away with union rights but these capitalist vultures want our workers to be paid slave wages like they do in Asia with those. So Roco and Gia wether you never been a real worker or you are seriously brainwashed as per your anti-labor crony capitalist comments and never needed, in your 1% position, the support and help of a union. Is this what you expect for your fellow Americans? Talking about social class wars and who generates those.

    • Begonia says:

      Many with massive unions and pensions lost them to union leaders. I cite the airlines as one example. Check those union pension funds. Many are gone. They have been mismanaged and used for personal gain.

      What if I come to you tomorrow, tell you that your business must raise wages to $20 hr. and you must provide full benefits to your employees which include healthcare and retirement? You must also give them double overtime and 6 weeks vacation per year. I also tell you that you must provide all their uniforms.

      And if you are unhappy with any of that, you must deal with me, the Union Leader. How long do you think you will stay in business?

      Are you a “capitalist vulture” because you fight that? Unions break companies with their demands palmcoaster. That is why companies have moved out of the United States.

  9. palmcoaster says:

    Next an example of what these greedy capitalist vulture corporations, that do not even pay 1% on the corporate taxes operations from our ports are doing:
    They hire slave wage earners that not knowing foreign languages can’t communicate to passengers and irresponsible professionals (like this captain) that won’t be hired by any other good maritime business, for a fraction of the pay and this is what the passengers get. One more stunt of Carnival owned by Micky Arison in Miami.

    • Begonia says:

      We can ban them here forever, cut our people off from all this, if you wish. Do you think that will help our job situation in this country, bring people here to spend money?

      Unfortunately, we cannot control all this. This has been going on for a very long time and nobody was complaining. I wonder why?

      These are foreign companies who do not have the same wage and tax laws we do. Do I agree with that? No. We need to redo our tax system. I think every thinking in this country knows that.

      Why do you suppose Congress is not doing it?

  10. roco says:

    Palmcoaster. I started my career in an industry which was a closed shop as a union member and worked my way up to vice presidentof the union. An opportunity came to to join the salary side of the business so I took it and proceeded from there. Don,t preach to me like I don,t know what I,m talking about when I come down on unions.. Unions have destroyed most manufactoring businesses in the U.S.A. and have since moved into the civil side such as city, county, fire, police, teachers etc. We can’t afford them anymore. Their pensions and intitlements alone are costing tax payers dearly. By the way, you cannot have back your like vote..

  11. palmcoaster says:

    @Roco…Sorry about my “like” vote in your comment…There are always some rotten apples (few bad unions) that spoil the luster of the others. Nothing is perfect in this world. But workers without rights are slaves. That I know.

    • Begonia says:

      Palmcoaster, in a republic you have the freedom to change jobs. You are in control of your working situation, your own life. I am sorry things are tough for your family right now. They are tough for all of us and much worse for others. But this has not always been the case.

      Most in this country have held union jobs at one time or another. And many have seen the reverse with unions. When they come into a company, THEY decide which workers benefit and you must pay them whether they represent you or not. This is force.

      I have seen both. Capitalism has given me the greater growth opportunity.

  12. roco says:

    Palmcoaster. You are right. The unions were formed back in the John L Lewis days due to poor managment. Since then things have changed and they have become a force which are desperate to maintain membership. I’m concerned with the civil sector of coming under cease.

  13. palmcoaster says:

    @Roco; Are the next working conditions what we want for our fellow Americans?;
    According to the New York Times, workers at a factory in Shenzhen, China, owned by Foxconn (a company that manufactures iPhones, iPads and other devices for Apple) regularly work sixteen-hour, seven-day work weeks.
    They stand until their legs swell and they can’t walk, and they perform repetitive motions on the production line for so long that some permanently lose the use of their hands. To cut costs, managers make workers use cheap chemicals that cause neurological damage. There has been a rash of suicides at the Foxconn plant, and 300 workers recently threatened to jump off the roof over a safety and pay dispute.
    In short, as one former Apple executive told the New York Times, “Most people would be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from.”
    Apple knows it can play an important role in ensuring safe and fair working conditions for the workers at its suppliers, like Foxconn. In 2005, the company released a supplier code of conduct, and it performs hundreds of audits each year in China and around the world to confirm its suppliers are meeting the code’s expectations.
    But that’s where Apple’s commitment falters: the number of supplier violations has held steady year to year and Apple hasn’t consistently publicly stated which suppliers have problems or dropped offending suppliers.
    The bottom line, Apple executives admit, is that they’re not being forced to change.
    One current executive told the New York Times that there’s a trade-off: “You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories,” he said, or you can “make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards. And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China.”
    I do not own, or would not buy an iPhone!

  14. palmcoaster says:

    @ Begonia and with al due my respects, but these American companies that moved their plants overseas didn’t do that over unions unreasonable demands, but actually because slavery is very profitable and their greed is unlimited. These same companies are the ones that get tax refunds and tax funds for expansion of their productions from us all….and they go and open factories overseas to make 10 times the profits with slaves ….but still sell the finish product here to us. Our Labor Laws are slowly disappearing in the last 10-15 years for the sake of greed and the result is the economy, that we all the 99% are enduring now.
    There are two statements that I recall in our country’s grandiose history from two of our past outstanding in many ways, Commanders in Chief’s. Their advise that we should go back and use often when it comes to our candidates promises as well as the needed economic recovery of our USA; “Trust but Verify” advise by Ronald Reagan and “Our problems are man-made — therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny as is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable — and we believe they can do it again.” JFK speech at American University, 1963.
    I still have faith because no matter conservatives or liberals, we will finally have to work together for the benefit of all, as you just said, this is the USA not some communist country!

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