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Senate budget chief Alexander holds emotional meeting with prison workers

by Dara Kam | January 25th, 2012

As promised, Senate budget chief JD Alexander met with more than two dozen prison workers who’d traveled to the Capitol to protest a prison privatization bill approved by his committee late Wednesday afternoon.

Alexander met with the workers after the committee approved the measure by a 14-4 vote and sent it on its way to the Senate floor to a full vote. They pleaded with him to reconsider the proposal that would privatize an 18-county region in the southern portion of the state and affect nearly 3,800 state workers, objecting that Alexander’s estimated $22 million savings are questionable because of “cherry-picking” by the private prison operators currently running seven Florida prisons.

“I don’t do this to hurt people. You all may not believe that but I don’t. I’m trying to figure out how to make all this stuff work,” said Alexander, R-Lake Wales, overseeing his chamber’s version of the state’s nearly $69 billion spending plan.

Private prison guards also do not have to undergo the same training as workers at the state-run prisons, union leaders representing the prison workers said.

The emotionally-charged meeting took place in a large conference room manned by the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Donald Severance and at least two of his aides. Alexander remained calm throughout the 45-minute meeting as the workers tried to persuade him with comparisons about per diem rates and then anecdotes about the fear they have about losing their jobs.

“The privatization has added stress on us,” Martin Correctional Institutional guard Sarah Babineaux said. “I lay awake at night…just thinking about what am I going to do.”

Babineaux has two children and custody of two nieces, she said, one of whom is a 17-year-old senior looking for a high school ring. “And I don’t know where to purchase it, what county, what high school.”

Private prisons cost less because they are able to “cherry-pick” inmates that are cheaper to supervise, the workers said. Alexander said he believed the inmates have been assigned appropriately and later said he would look into the issue.

“I don’t work for anybody but the people of Florida. You might believe that but I don’t. I’m not running for anything. I’m not ever going to work for these folks. I haven’t raised money in years. I have no interest in making money. I have an interest in trying to make a budget work,” Alexander told the group, led by Teamsters lobbyist Ron Silver, a former state lawmaker. “Everything…is to get as clean and unfudgeable a set of contracts as possible because I don’t believe we should contract for one and give them easier stuff. If that’s what they contract for, that’s what they get.”

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7 Responses to “Senate budget chief Alexander holds emotional meeting with prison workers”

  1. Downtown Danny Says:

    This will not save a dime! It’s nothing but private Republicans using government to steal public assets and line their pockets – ala the Soviet Union.

  2. Fed Up Says:

    Mr. Alexander is slow about immigration issues because he worries about his guest workers that pick his crops. Republicans only care about themselves.

  3. soontobeoutofworkstemployee Says:

    My wife and I traveled 2 hrs to give our opinion on the privatization , we were not allowed to speak and the issue was voted on with no public input, I thought we lived in a state and country that valued the publics opinion, I am saddened of this states unethical representation at the capitol

  4. The Rock Says:

    The prison workers are afraid of the unknown. That is definitely understandable.

    What they do not need to do is present false information in their debate.

    Most private prisons have segregation units for troublesome inmates. Does anyone actually believe that the Privates handpick inmates that must be housed in segregation? Sorry but that argument is false.

    Concerning training, ALL Privates follow the requirements set out by the American Correctional Association. They are the standard . . . PERIOD. To present that the Privates provide inadequate training is also false.

    For these “professionals” to target only the ignorant in their debate, is always a dumb tactic. To believe everyone is ignorant is ignorant. The non-ignorant are actually the majority, and they do not respect your tactics.

  5. MocoLoco Says:

    To “The Rock”..then please explain how the private Blackwater facility is free of high risk and medical needs offenders, when the surrounding state CI’s are not.

  6. Searcher Says:

    I hope they vote Alexander and the pro-CORPORATE Repubbies out of office. Enough is Enough!

  7. laisefaire Says:

    For all the “business” people out there here are a few “business” facts.

    1. If you have the skill, knowledge and capability to do a job, then you can ALWAYS do it yourself cheaper than paying someone else.

    2. The state having the above condition met, PAYS ALMOST $5.00 more per inmate per day to the private companies for the same type inmates(adult male) $47.30 private verses $42.46 state facility with like inmate populations

    3. Under “CURRENT” contracts the state gets the sick, violent or otherwise costlier inmates while the private companies do not.(state still runs cheaper).

    4. Under the “CURRENT” contracts the state is still responsible for medical care other than minor injuries.

    5. Under “CURRENT” contracts the state is responsible for transporting inmates anywhere outside the facility, i.e court hearings, exit transport, transfer to another facility etc.
    SO the state is pays more and still maintains ALL responsibility and liability. Do you think giving more will be cheaper?

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