Senate Rules Committee gives OK to prison plan

Orlando Sentinel reports:

A panel of Florida lawmakers passed a controversial prison privatization plan Monday afternoon by a 9-5 vote over the objection of correctional workers across the state.

The plan would hand over the operations of 29 correctional facilities in an 18-county region of South Florida to private companies. It’s the Legislature’s second attempt to do so. Last summer, a Tallahassee circuit judge struck down a similar privatization plan because the Legislature violated technical requirements.

The move has drawn criticism from correctional officers both in the region, who want to save their jobs, and officers in the north, who argue that the worst prisoners will be sent north because the private companies won’t pay for them.

Glynn Reeder
, a Teamsters representative from Florida State Prison in Raiford, came to testify on behalf of his colleagues across the state, even though his prison isn’t being targeted for privatization.

Reeder told lawmakers that they needed to consider how the privatization would affect the rest of the state because private prisons would “cherry pick” the best prisoners because they cost the least.

Those prisoners would not have had any health or behavioral problems.

“They basically have not been in any trouble since they’ve been incarcerated,” he said.

Jennifer Sagle
 , a mental health care specialist at Union Correctional echoed Reeder’s comment and said she feared all of the worst prisoners would be sent to Union CI because they don’t reject any prisoners for behavioral issues.

“What you are doing is taking all the worst inmates in the south and putting them in the north,” she said.

Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, the architect of the plan, has said the privatization plan could save the public millions of tax dollars to put toward other areas of the budget and also help reduce recidivism.

“I would tell you I think there is a real promise that we cannot only save money but through more competition create better outcomes for these folks,” he said.

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