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Deal struck on private prisons

by Dara Kam | March 31st, 2010

After intense opposition to a prison privatization plan linked to disgraced former House Speaker Ray Sansom and slipped into the budget late last week, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander has apparently backed off his proposal to shut down up to three prisons and outsource another.

Alexander’s plan drew allegations of foul play from the Police Benevolent Association, the powerful union that represents prison guards and frequently backs GOP candidates, and Gov. Charlie Crist’s Secretary of Corrections Walt McNeil.

The privatization plan would have shut down enough prisons to fill the Blackwater facility in the Panhandle that the state hired Boca Raton-based Geo Group Inc. to build and operate. But the prison population hasn’t grown as anticipated and there aren’t enough inmates to fill the 2,224-bed Blackwater without shutting down other state-run prisons and putting guards out of work.

McNeil said Friday he would have to shut down five prisons and let inmates out early to comply with a federal court order under the Senate’s proposal that would cut about $60 million in salaries.

Under the new plan, expected to be introduced as a budget amendment today by Democratic Leader Al Lawson, the department would gradually fill Blackwater by closing 17 dorms in other prisons, something McNeil favors.

Critics of the proposal also filed complaints with State Attorney Willie Meggs and U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirwin, both in Leon County, alleging that the Blackwater deal was done in secrecy and questioning Sansom’s association with it. Sansom put the original $110 million to the build the prison into the 2008 budget in a floor amendment and tried to guarantee that it would be built as an annex to the Graceville prison that Geo operates.

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4 Responses to “Deal struck on private prisons”

  1. whasup Says:

    Let’s see now.

    The teachers’ unions just cost Florida $1 billion in lost grant money from the feds.

    Now, the PBA and their union ilk are trying to prevent a private prison from opening.

    Gee, unions are great–if you’re a member–and lousy if you’re a taxpayer.

  2. JustMeee Says:

    Let’s see now.

    Idiot politicians and bureacrats just cost Florida $1 billion in lost grant money from the feds.

    Now, the PBA and their union ilk are trying to keep a politician from putting thousands of folks out of work and throwing good money after bad in order to line the pockets of his corrupt politican buddies and their friends.

    whasup does’t have a clue about life and deserves everything the corrupt politicians he and his non-thinking Florida buddies put in office can throw at them.

  3. hedlykarok Says:

    whassup really should research before they speak.
    private prisons are linked with judicial corruption, excessive abuse, Constitutional and human rights violations, corporate profiteering and are the main reason riduculously oppressive laws (like the drug war) continue to be expanded.

  4. Speedy Says:

    Senator Dockery’s Statement on Prison Cuts Proposal

    Tallahassee, FL –Senator Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland), is strongly opposed to the lengthy proviso language that was quietly inserted into the Senate’s proposed budget during last week’s Ways & Means Committee hearing. “The proposal to close unnamed existing correctional facilities resulting in the layoffs of over 1,000 state corrections officers to move inmates to private facilities is a policy decision that deserves to be vetted through a completely transparent process. As chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, I find it outrageous that major change in how we run our state correctional facilities was not reviewed by committees that were created for this explicit purpose,” said Senator Dockery. “Transparency cannot exist when there has been no opportunity for debate or testimony.”

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