News Section: State Government
Florida Prison Privatization Dies on Senate Floor
|Senator Paula Dockery|
BRADENTON – After shouting from the mountain top for weeks, Senator Paula Dockery confidently predicted that opposition to the privatization of all prisons in south Florida had a solid 20 votes (enough for a deadlock), after the bill passed through committee. Tuesday, she and fellow lawmakers skeptical of claims that a switch to private management would save the state money, got one more as the bill was defeated 19-21 following hours of intense debate on the Senate floor.
Senate President Mike Haridopolis – along with budget chief J.D. Alexander and incoming President Don Gaetz – had made privatization a top priority in the 2012 session. But increasing opposition began to build after Senators like Dockery (R-Lakeland) and Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey), who'd been booted as committee chair by Haridopolos for his opposition, continued to draw attention to things like the $16.5 million in benefits that would have to be paid out to displaced state workers, the lack of accountability for long term savings guarantees, and studies that demonstrated how little savings had been realized from facilities already managed by private companies.
As more and more Senators from both sides of the aisle began to question whether it was a good idea to displace more middle-class Floridians from their jobs, especially when there seemed to be little to no evidence that it would have the budget-solving impacts that its proponents promised, a critical mass began to build, leading to Tuesday's negative vote. Both Manatee area Senators, Mike Bennett and Nancy Detert voted in favore of the bill (click here to see the complete vote record). GEO, one of the largest financial contributors to Florida Republicans, stood to gain millions of dollars from the privatization move, raising obvious questions about conflicts of interest.
Mere hours before the Senate took up the issue, it was reported that another large private corrections company and Florida political donor, CCA, was attempting a new tactic to sweeten the pot. Rather than just offering to manage the prisons, CCA has sent letters to 48 states, including Florida, offering a one-time cash payment to buy state-owned facilities before contracting to manage the prisoners in them (read full article).
by Dennis Maley