There are some things only government should do: FL Senate ends prison privatization

There are just some things that only government should do. And jailing for profit is not the public good. That’s what the Florida Senate decided Tuesday, ending an attempt to legislate privatization of prisons.

David Royse in yesterday, Florida Senate Kills Prison Privatization,

A bipartisan coalition of senators bucked the chamber’s Republican leadership Tuesday and rejected a proposal to privatize several prisons, but got warnings from leaders that it will have a cost in further budget cuts.

In a dramatic showdown with Senate President Mike Haridopolos and three other top leaders one of whom controls the Senate’s budget, one who controls the calendar and one who will be the next president opponents of the bill managed to kill it on a 19-21 vote.

The odd coalition that lined up against the bill included Republican populists who have become occasional mavericks, Democrats and some members of the GOP caucus that almost always vote with their party, but come from areas laden with corrections officers who opposed the idea.

Private prison proponents tried to sell it as cost savings. If prison privatization really does save money, why did the legislature previously try to hide it in a general budget bill, which was thrown out by a judge back in September?

This time, senators weren’t buying that baloney.

But senator after senator rose on the floor to raise objections some said the savings wouldn’t materialize, others argued the state could just as easily find 7 percent savings if pressed. Some said the companies that would bid couldn’t be trusted to run them well or would skimp on safety, all arguments that backers rejected.
And it wasn’t just corrections officers opposing the bill. Others with law enforcement experience opposed it, too.
Two Republican opponents who don’t usually bolt their own party, but who vocally opposed the privatization measure were Sens. Steve Oelrich of Cross Creek and Charlie Dean of Inverness. Both are former sheriffs, and have run jails. Both also live in areas with huge numbers of corrections officers and other state workers.

Oelrich said that there are just some things that only government should do.

“I’m scared about the whole idea of private companies taking away someone’s freedom with the primary notion that we expect them to spend less dollars, to save dollars,” said Oelrich. “I know there is a chance we could save some money..If the governor wants to cut 7 percent out of the corrections budget then lo and behold let him to do that, he’s the chief executive.”

Dean agreed, saying savings should be found “on the back of the DOC employees.

“Jailing for profit is not the public good,” Dean said.

And that’s why, as CBS News put it,
nine Senate Republicans joined the chamber’s Democrats
That story added:
Nan Rich of Sunrise, the Senate’s Democratic leader, told her fellow senators that corrections officers’ starting salary is $34,000 and they haven’t had a raise in six years.

“They are loyal and valuable state employees who do a job that not many of us would do,” she said.

So do we want a private prison company paying even less for fewer guards and risking public safety? I think not.

Not here in Georgia, either. Georgia started following Florida down the private prison path. Now maybe Georgia can follow Florida back from that dead end. But we don’t have to wait for Georgia as a whole to come back to sanity. Private prison company CCA has acknowledged that community opposition makes it harder to site a private prison. Here’s a petition for the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority to stop the CCA private prison in Lowndes County, Georgia.