Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rick Scott signs away good jobs

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will sneak off to The Villages, a retirement community in central Florida, today to sign what he calls "Florida's first jobs budget," a budget that will actually eliminate jobs. The bill includes language allowing the state to privatize prisons in 18 southern counties, also known as Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) Region 4. At risk are about 4,300 correctional officer positions.

Florida has the third largest state prison system in the country, a potential windfall for corporations. It should come as no surprise that the prison industry has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Scott and the GOP in Florida since 2003, but not everyone, even members of the Republican party, are happy about this privatization plan. ThinkProgress quotes Republican Sen. Mike Fasano:
"It's unprecedented in the United States,” said Fasano, who heads the Senate budget committee with oversight of prisons. “I’m a conservative Republican that believes in privatizing certain parts of government services but we should never privatize public safety."
Florida correctional, probation and parole officers couldn't agree more. They've been busy contacting their legislators and making their voices heard in public on this issue. Here are some great letters to the editor that have been published in recent weeks.

Glynn Reeder, a sergeant at Florida State Prison, writes in the Chipley Bugle:
"Times are tough for all of us. We’re all tightening our belts. But as a correctional officer and a member of this community, I am furious at the politicians in Tallahassee for passing a dangerous plan to privatize some of the prisons in the state. They claim that this plan saves us taxpayers’ money, but I wonder what our public safety is really worth."
As Reeder points out, it's not cheaper to privatize:
"The State pays $42.26 per inmate per day. You can find this information on the Department of Corrections’ web page. The state pays, as of this day, to the GEO group which has a correctional facility in South Florida and one in Milton, Florida, $45.80 per inmate per day."
Thomas Johnson, a correctional officer at Marion Correctional Institution in Lowell, writes in the Ocala Star-Banner:
"I see first-hand what the state’s most dangerous criminals are capable of. My fellow officers and I do our best to keep you and your families safe. Private, for-profit prisons refuse to deal with inmates who have extreme mental and medical issues. Instead, they simply send needy inmates back to the state-run institutions. Not only are these practices extremely dangerous to the community but they also create a smokescreen as to what is really going on in the private, for-profit prison industry. We’ve seen it happen before and I guarantee you that we will see these same problems in our own backyards."
New Hampshire, Texas, New Mexico and Ohio are all considering outsourcing their prison operations to corporations. Corporate stooge Ohio Gov. John Kasich went so far as to hire a prison industry official as his Director of Rehabiliation and Corrections.

Teamster retirees living at The Villages,  make sure you pay Rick Scott a visit today and let him know what you think of his job-killing, public safety-endangering bill.