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Judge rules prison privatization plan unconstitutional

by Dara Kam | September 30th, 2011

A Tallahassee circuit court judge has ruled that the prison privatization plan included by lawmakers in the state budget is unconstitutional.

Tallahassee Judge Jackie Fulford agreed with the Florida Police Benevolent Association, the union representing correctional workers that filed the lawsuit, that the way the legislature ordered the privatization violated state law.

The privatization of 29 prisons in the southern portion of the state from Manatee County to Indian River County to the Florida Keys should have been mandated in a separate bill and not in proviso language in the budget, as lawmakers did in the must-pass budget approved in May and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, Fulford ruled.

“This Court concludes that if it is the will of the Legislature to itself initiate privatization of Florida prisons, as opposed to DOC, the Legislature must do so by general law, rather than ‘using the hidden recesses of the General Appropriations Act,’” Fulford wrote in her order issued Friday morning.

Lawmakers ordered the Department of Corrections to request bids for a single contract for the 18-county region, requiring that the winning vendor spend 7 percent less than current costs to operate the prisons, an estimated $22 million annual savings.

But under existing law, Fulford wrote, lawmakers must include a specific amount of money for the contract “after a decision to outsource is made and evaluated by DOC for feasibility, cost effectiveness, and efficiency, before DOC proceeds with any outsourcing of services.”

Former DOC secretary Ed Buss testified that he had created no such plan and was relying on the proviso language in the budget to move the privatization forward before he was fired by Scott last month.

“As such, the Legislature has by-passed the very safeguards it built into the process that DOC is required to follow when DOC initiates privatization pursuant to substantive law,” Fulford wrote.

In the proviso language, lawmakers also ordered that a private vendor take over the prisons by Jan. 1.

“From the record, it appears that the rush to meet the deadlines in the proviso has resulted in many shortcomings in the evaluation of whether privatization is in the best public interest as it relates to cost savings and effective service,” Fulford wrote.

Fulford made it clear that the state – which already has six privately-run prisons, including one in Palm Beach County – can expand prison privatization.

But, she ruled, “the Legislature may not change existing substantive law by a proviso in an appropriations act.”

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25 Responses to “Judge rules prison privatization plan unconstitutional”

  1. Mike Says:

    overturned in 3…2….1.

  2. Michael Says:

    Oh darn, an opportunity missed for the gov and his buddies to make more money off the state.

  3. rusty Says:

    I’m sure that our greedy crook in state will find another judge to rule in his favor.

  4. Blue Collar Officer Says:

    GOD BLESS THIS JUDGE FULFORD FOR STANDING UP FOR THE COMMON MAN AND WORKING PRISON OFFICER.

    THE BALD-HEADED GOVERNOR IS A CROOK.

  5. RealAngst Says:

    Good, the “plan” is a bad one is proves only that Mr. Scott still is screwing the people in this state. First via making BILLIONS in Medicaid FRAUD and now his kickbacks from GEO will go unnoticed because it was just “State Employees” who have representation and NOT some lowlife that GEO can hire for half the money. Enough Gov Scott.. Plan your office exit NOW, we will find your replacement and vote for him or her.

  6. John B Says:

    these weasel tea-bags will find away around it.

  7. Downtown Danny Says:

    Where’s that “7%” going to come from? The backs of hard working CO’s and prison employees! They will be laid off, fired and then offered their jobs back at 20% less pay. The corporation running the prisons will pocket the difference they steal between cutting pay for American workers and cutting safety and security at the prison.
    This is another Tea bag right wing corporate takeover of public resources by Scott and his crook buddies.
    The Tea party & the right wing morons are destroying this state and this nation.

  8. david Says:

    job well done. election day all you bums will be out from rick scott to jd alexander

  9. Tea Lady Says:

    Goodness, this is a tough one!

    I am re reading the Constitution, I’ll get back to you all! :)

  10. DF Says:

    Tea Lady, you person of questionable intelligence, I hope it’s the state constitution your trying to understand, since this is a state issue.

  11. Bob Says:

    Remember come November!!!!!

  12. Koch Brother Says:

    Governor Dick Snot will do anything to break the union…Vote out everyone in November!!

  13. Thomas Says:

    This is typical of the present political powers that be. They want something done, and they do it without the slightest clue as to it’s legality. Turning everything into a corporation does nothing to increase jobs or reduce government. What we really need is a serious reduction in republicans.

  14. robo 3495 Says:

    I just can not understand how average people keep voting these clowns into office. People always voting against there own financial interests. Running our prisons should be run by the state govt. For profit for everything is sometimes not the right answer. They shoud see who has financial ties – donations from these corporations. Of course starting with this nimrod gov. we have.

  15. PG Says:

    As a ten year plus employee of GEO I was relieved to read of today’s court ruling. I think the privitization plan would have been a financial disaster for this company if they had won the bid. To all the GEO bashers out there I say this: why don’t you go back the past fifteen years and review all the atrocities committed in DOC prisons. Yes we may hire a pizza delivery kid but we train him or her to be a professional in custody, care and control. The former DOC officers that we hire are often times “old school” “give the inmate a good ass-kickin” mentality. GEO strictly prohibits this school-yard bully approach and these ex-DOC officers either shape up or get terminated. As far as salary I make significantly more than my counterparts in DOC facilites. Compared to DOC GEO offers better medical, mental health and educational/vocational programs by a long ways and we do it for less money. Until you’ve actually worked in a maximum security prison your opinions are naive and without merit. In conclusion I too think the T-party sucks but there is a place for the privates in providing corrections services.

  16. Socrates Says:

    A wise group of men once wrote:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

  17. Coffee Man Says:

    Tea Lady, wake up and smell the coffee. There is nothing tough about it. You can not create or ammend a general law via an appropriations bill. It is Civics 101.

  18. Tea4Me Says:

    Prvitization is the only way to go to avoid overpaid cronies who are simply trying to save their double dip jobs. In fact, we should outsource prisons to other countries…maybe Mexico or Haiti. Once there prisoners could be used by clothing companies to make clothes for import into the USA. This would give our state leaders extra income to make up for all that we are spending on welfare and fraud. Someone should introduce a Bill to send prisons out of the country, big money saver.

  19. Jimbo Says:

    Some of you are funny who slam the Tea Lady for being ignorant, when most of you are blaming Rick Scott. It was the LEGISLATURE that added this proviso to the budget, and Scott signed it.
    And the court didn’t overthrow privatization, the court recognized that the procedure used was not allowed. All of you ranting Scott haters can rest assured that come next session it will be done properly and the privatization will move forward.

  20. Treky Says:

    Jimbo, The legislature has already tried doing it the right way, but it didn’t get enough votes to pass, that is why JD Alexander slipped it in as a proviso. Now that more light has been shed on these for profit companies, and how they really don’t save the state money, I can only see it being even harder to get enough votes to pass the “legal” way.

  21. Pancho Says:

    Scott is doing the bidding of his backers, GEO Group and the Koch brothers.

    The legislative leadership pushed this privatization through after an avalanche of contributions from GEO.

    The CEO of GEO, George Zoley, makes $16 million a year. He does it by paying guards as little as $8 an hour.

    “P.G.” is either B.S., or some management stooge. GEO rarely if ever pays prevailing wage, unless they have a federal contract that requires it. In California, they lost a class action suit for failing to compensate workers for overtime, settling for $10 million.

    Hopefully, GEO’s Blackwater prison or this most recent privatization scheme will end in indictments. They were very fortunate to get off without prosecution for their deal with Nolin Renfrow, the Colorado Director of Prisons.

    Dozens of for-profit prison industry and elected officials have been prosecuted around the U.S.

    The rate of violence in for-profit prisons is far higher than in public prisons, even though they rarely get close or maximum security prisoners, the most dangerous. When those committing the assaults are convicted, the taxpayer winds up paying double for the lack of control.

    GEO’s guards have frequently actually aided prisoners in escapes. I’ve only heard of that ever happening in one instance, with public prison correctional officers.

  22. fake Says:

    fake tea pot lady @ 2:05 pm
    dude, give it up. the real tea pot lady is bad enuf.

  23. jackson Says:

    Governor Scott wanted this privatization as bad as he wanted the 300 million he got for ripping taxpapers off. For too long, a handful of powerful corrupt legislators use proviso language to sneak things in for special interests late in the game. This needs to stop. This is a good step in the right direction. Senator Alexander deserves all the shame on this. He has pushed the prison privatization more than any other legislator downtown. Cart off these bad politicians – stop voting for these horrible republicans they are destroying our country. They only care about corporate greed and padding their own wallets.

  24. David O. Says:

    I’m sure Speaker Dean Cannon was well aware of this issue being put into the budget. The court system was already under attack by Speaker Cannon for another ruling and now he’ll probably introduce legislation to privatize the courts.

  25. Toni Says:

    Score one for the good guys (temporarily) as we all know Scott will seek a higher courts ruling to overturn this ruling. How anyone with a mind can not see that Scott and the rest of the Republican’s only goal is to payback their financial supporters is beyond me. And frankly they don’t care if these private corporations save the taxpayers a dime. And when the cost run much higher – well opps!

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