Friday, May 6, 2011

Corporate greed seeps its way into FL's prison system

A vote Friday by Florida’s extremist Republican Legislature is expected to secure what working people there have been fighting against for months: a state budget that allows for the privatization of the state’s prison system.

By privatizing the southern portion of the Florida State Prison System, the state has offered the old, lame excuse that it will save money. But at what cost?

Reports show that private-run prisons do not reduce recidivism. Profit motivates private prisons to increase the number of prisoners behind bars. And a new study shows that private prisons have a much higher rate of escapes compared with public prisons.

Finally, private prisons aren't as accountable as public prisons. They aren't accountable to the public, and correctional officers aren't held to the same high standards as their counterparts at state-run facilities.

Florida's governor, Slick Rick Scott, said he’ll sign the budget into law as soon as it crosses his desk. His signature, though, will potentially put hundreds of people out of work and endanger thousands more. It's another example of corporate-backed politicians catering to greed and jeopardizing workers, families and communities.

The process that will ultimately transger prisons in Southern Florida to privately run facilities will be long, complicated and ugly. Once the budget is signed, the Department of Corrections will put out a request for proposals from private companies. The bids will then be submitted to the Joint Legislative Budget Commission (JLBC), which is made up of representatives and senators. They'll approve the bids and award the final contract.

State correctional officers and concerned citizens in Florida will be fighting this issue every step of the way. Their fight will be difficult, though, thanks to a loaded deck stacked against working families.

As with any privatization plan, those who stand to profit are few and they are already wealthy. Among those pushing for the privatization of Florida’s prison system is Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart). Negron is a member of the JLBC. He also works for a law firm that represents Geo Group, a private prison operator.

So much for a government run by the people. In Florida, it’s clearly run by corporate America.