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Return of prison privatization sets off a furor

Rebuffed by a court, the Legislature is again pushing to privatize more than two dozen South Florida prisons, and the plan appears more controversial than ever because of a new layer of secrecy.

Before a standing-room-only crowd, the Senate Rules Committee voted Wednesday to introduce bills (now numbered SB 2036 and SB 2038) directing the prison system to hire a for-profit vendor to run prisons in 18 counties by July 1. A second bill (2036) would eliminate a requirement that the prison system do a cost benefit analysis and develop a "business case" to justify privatization. The new bill does not require those steps until after a contractor is hired. But the choice is subject to approval by a panel of legislators.

As Corrections Secretary Ken Tucker listened intently from one side of the room, current and former correctional officers testified in opposition to no avail. Reshae Cherry, 27, an officer at Charlotte Correctional on Florida's southwest coast, pleaded for senators not to jeopardize her future. "I want to keep food on my table. I want a good doctor for my children," she testified.

Prison privatization is once again being championed by Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, the powerful budget chairman who said the Legislature has no choice but to find ways to save money. Privatizing South Florida prisons will save from $22 to $45 million a year, he said. "These are real dollars. These are difficult decisions," Alexander told reporters.

Two Democratic senators voted against introducing the two bills: Sens. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale and Gwen Margolis of Aventura, who said the secrecy language was "very disturbing." A third Democrat, Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando, voted to introduce the bills.

--Steve Bousquet

Comments

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lmmd

Alexander? you are a puke and *only* looking to line your own pockets! How dare you waste taxpayer monies pursing something that is still in the courts? How can you possibly justify not requiring a financial analysis - is that how you run your personal life? I rather think not! so quit trying to impose stupidity on the taxpayers with your proposed bills!

Maria Lawson-Sheard

Will Republicans and Big Business stop at nothing to use and abuse the system. Their greed and corruption is at an all time high. They are stealing our country and its values right under our noses. Wake up people!!

Tim

I would legalize drugs before making prisons a for-profit rich man's game. And when these prisoners are used as labor to build whatever whoever owns them wants them to, we will have the world's newest caste of slaves.

April Kleinfeld

For Profit Prisons? Who's going to work there and take charge of care,custody and Control. Is this like working for fast food . WHY DON'T WE PRIVATIZE ALL GOVERNMENT SERVICES IN FLORIDA. INCLUDING THE GOVERNOR ANDTHE HOUSE POLICE FIREFIGHTERS MAKE IT ALL FOR PROFIT? WE WILL NOT JEOPARDIZE Public's trust of who is in control and what is the motivation, is it just about money, stocks, hob nobbig with the lobbyists who are paying for a vote from your districts local Senator or state representative. This great plan started about 6 years ago with many our fl.politicians behind closed doors.

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