Monday, April 25, 2011

Florida Considers Sell-Off of Prisons to Private Contractors

Florida has been experimenting with private prisons for 16 years, with almost 10 percent of the state’s 102,000 inmates now held in seven private facilities.

Now, Florida is going to take the plunge. The state is thinking of selling-off 14 prisons to private companies. The state agency that oversees prisons says they will save taxpayers almost $90 million over the next three years, according to the Miami Herald. State financial analysts say they cannot show with any certainty how much money they save over state-run prisons.

According to the Herald, while the benefits of prison privatization may be hard to see, the problems have been obvious: Over the years, the arrangement has been marred by mismanagement by state monitors , lax contracts, overbilling by prison contractors, a corruption investigation, and a legal loophole that allowed sexual misconduct in private facilities to go unpunished.

Critics also say the plan to expand prison privatization is aimed at rewarding an industry that donates generously to the state Republican Party. Since 2001, the Florida GOP has received more than $1.5 million from the two largest prison contractors and their affiliates, records show. More than $1 million of that has come from The GEO Group of Boca Raton – formerly known as Wackenhut – which manages two of the state’s private prisons, reported the Herald.

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