In what could signal a massive private takeover of public prisons, the Florida Senate quietly slipped language into its newly proposed budget Monday that seeks to give corporations the chance to run correctional facilities and probation services in 18 counties
The move — which could shift nearly $600 million to private firms — surprised prison guards, their unions and even the head of the Senate’s Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee, Mike Fasano, who said his committee was opposed to the idea of privatizing prisons when it was proposed by Gov. Rick Scott’s aides . “We made it clear that we weren’t interested. We moved on without doing it,” said Fasano, R-New Port Richey. “And now it appears in the budget. I’m not pleased. It is a huge, substantive issue. It’s a major policy change and it should have at least been discussed publicly.”
The plan’s architect, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, said the proposal was all about doing more with less and reducing the size of government. “We looked at the work of the subcommittee and realized we needed more savings,” Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said. He estimated the privatization initiatives yielded a 7 percent savings.
In all, the contracts are worth a least $588 million.