Judge rules against Florida prison privatization

Judge Jackie Fulford ruled yesterday for the Second Circuit Court of Florida
that the prison privatization plan the Florida legislature added to the state budget is unconstitutional on a key point of all prison privatization schemes. Her ruling agreed with the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which is a union of correctional workers.

Judge rules prison privatization plan unconstitutional Dara Kam wrote for Post on Politics yesterday, Judge Rules Florida Prison Privatization Unconstitutional,

The privatization of 29 prisons in the southern portion of the state from Manatee County to Indian River County to the Florida Keys should have been mandated in a separate bill and not in proviso language in the budget, as lawmakers did in the must-pass budget approved in May and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, Fulford ruled.

“This Court concludes that if it is the will of the Legislature to itself initiate privatization of Florida prisons, as opposed to DOC, the Legislature must do so by general law, rather than ‘using the hidden recesses of the General Appropriations Act,’” Fulford wrote in her order issued Friday morning.

The order doesn’t say Florida can’t privatize prisons, rather that it can’t do it by hiding it in the budget process. But alleged budget savings are the only reason privatization backers are willing to admit to, so that’s no small matter.

And if prison privatization is such a money-saver, why did the prison companies’ cronies in the statehouse try to do it like this:

Lawmakers ordered the Department of Corrections to request bids for a single contract for the 18-county region, requiring that the winning vendor spend 7 percent less than current costs to operate the prisons, an estimated $22 million annual savings.

But under existing law, Fulford wrote, lawmakers must include a specific amount of money for the contract “after a decision to outsource is made and evaluated by DOC for feasibility, cost effectiveness, and efficiency, before DOC proceeds with any outsourcing of services.”

Former DOC secretary Ed Buss testified that he had created no such plan and was relying on the proviso language in the budget to move the privatization forward before he was fired by Scott last month.

“As such, the Legislature has by-passed the very safeguards it built into the process that DOC is required to follow when DOC initiates privatization pursuant to substantive law,” Fulford wrote.

So instead of following the law, the Florida legislature insisted a private vendor take over by January 1st, and Gov. Scott fired the whistleblower.

Tell me, if private prisons really save money, why did the Florida legislature feel compelled to require a specific percentage of savings and try to force privatization through before anybody noticed?

Prison privatization is a bad idea in Florida, and it’s a bad idea in Georgia. It doesn’t save money, it compromises prisoner and public safety, it doesn’t decrease unemployment, and it competes with local labor.

We don’t need a private prison in Lowndes County, Georgia. Spend those tax dollars on rehabilitation and education instead.