General Criminal Defense
Many people are unaware that not all Florida prisons are government-run entities. Seven Florida prisons are actually run by private companies at a profit. These private prisons are located in Santa Rosa, Palm Beach, Jackson, Glades, Gadsden, Columbia, and Bay counties. Despite that these private prisons operate for a profit, they actually cost 7 to 28 percent less to operate than state-run prisons. Currently, Florida state law makers in Tallahassee are debating a large expansion of prison privatization.
Under the proposed Senate Bill 2038, 27 prisons and work camps in 18 counties would be privatized. Over 4,300 state workers would lose their jobs, although a large number would likely be offered employment at a lower pay and less benefits. The argument in favor of the privatization of prison is clearly the cost savings. Opponents to the bill claim that the financial benefit is not so clear, arguing that private and public prisons are impossible to compare. They differ by size, location, prison age, prison design, inmate mental and health status, inmate custody level, and programs they offer to inmates. Opponents to privatization claim that although the figures look good on paper, privatization does not save any money.
There are other factors to take into consideration. Should privatization of prisons increase, the private vendors will need to repay $8 million in costs to reimburse for payouts for vacation and sick leave time to South Florida employees that totaled $19 million. Also, hundreds of felons considered to be “close management” prisoners have been transferred to North Florida. Privatization vendors may be drawn to South Florida prisons because it could lower their security costs and result in savings. Finally, outsourced officers are allowed to replace officers with less seniority under correctional officer’s union contracts. This could have a huge impact state-wide.
Do you think prisons should remain a public sector affair or that private vendors should step in? Or, is this a “threat to democracy” as opponents to Senate Bill 2038 allege? It will be interesting to see what the legislature decides to do in this regard as the privatization of prisons will undoubtedly effect Florida prison employees and Florida prison inmates across the state.