Friday, January 27, 2012

Shame! FL lawmakers deny citizens their right to be heard

Florida lawmakers just can't wait to turn over half the state's prisons to the private companies that have filled their pockets with campaign cash. On Wednesday, several dozen Teamster correctional officers traveled a long way -- and at their own expense -- to testify against a bill to privatize Florida's prisons. 

Were they allowed to tell the Senate Budget Committee that private prisons are more expensive than government correctional facilities because they add a profit to existing costs? No.

Were they allowed to describe how private companies cut corners, putting profit above public safety? No.

Were they allowed to tell lawmakers that private prisons can't coordinate with with other law enforcement agencies when prisoners escape? No.

After almost two hours of longwinded debate, the committee announced there were only a few minutes left for testimony. Only paid lobbyists were allowed to speak. Then the committee passed the bill.

Cries of "Shame" filled the hearing room (you can hear it on the video above). Teamster attorney Ron Silver, who'd been a lawmaker for 24 years, said he'd never heard anything like it.

Here's something else: three out of four Floridians say they are very concerned that the state Legislature is trying to change state law to give private companies and donors billions of dollars in secret contracts -- with no cost-benefit analysis and no public review.

Think the Senate Budget Committee shut down the public because a backroom deal was made to give a contract to a private company? We do. Think maybe Pink Slip Rick Scott had something to do with it? We do. And here's the reason why: Scott's administration has already emptied hard-core prisoners out of Region IV -- the area set to be privatized. According to the Miami Herald,
Prison guards are incensed that over the past year the Department of Corrections has quietly moved the most troublesome and costly inmates from South Florida prisons to prisons upstate, making the southern prisons more attractive to profit-minded prison vendors. A spokesman for the system, Ann Howard, said 79 inmates in the south are classified as “close management,” out of a total of 10,000.
Something's definitely rotten in the state of Florida.