Thursday, August 25, 2011

FL prisons chief ousted over privatization

Sacrificial lamb Ed Buss.
Talk about shooting the messenger.

Florida Gov. Pink Slip Rick Scott canned his corrections chief after only six months on the job. Ed Buss had warned him about the high cost of privatizing nearly a third of the state's prisons. Apparently that was something Pink Slip Rick didn't want to hear.

The Orlando Sentinel reported
Last week, Scott and the Legislature were embarrassed by reports that privatizing prisons in South Florida – which the Legislature ordered – would cost $24 million in benefits that would have to be paid to prison personnel who would lose their jobs; internal emails indicated Buss’ staff had warned legislators of this cost, but it was apparently disregarded.
Buss had an excellent reputation before he lost his mind and went to work for Scott. Again, according to the Sentinel,
He was praised as one of the nation's top prison administrators when Scott hired him away from his Indiana prisons chief job in December to head the nation's third-largest prison system. Buss had earned a reputation as a reformer and cost-cutter in Indiana but seemed to have problems handling the politics of the higher-profile Florida job and the scrutiny of legislators, the media and groups on both sides of the privatization effort...
State Sen. Mike Fasano said recently he would hold hearings on revelations that the privatization of 29 prisons in the southern part of the state would come with $25 million in costs related to the departure of agency employees, such as unused vacation and sick time.
There’s no doubt that Scott and some of the state’s lawmakers have been influenced by corporate front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a conduit between lawmakers and corporations to craft model legislation. Two gigundo prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group, sit on ALEC's board, which explains why ALEC aggressively promotes prison privatization along with locking up as many human beings as possible. This may be good for corporate interests, but it’s bad for Florida.

Teamsters, by the way, are fighting Pink Slip Rick and the Florida Legislature’s decision to privatize prisons in 18 southern counties. It's a move that could result in the loss of up to 4,000 correctional officer jobs within the Florida Department of Corrections, the third largest prison system in the nation.