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Turning prison facilities over to for-profit companies will not save Florida taxpayers any money and will probably cost them more, said Teamster correctional officers, their families, their neighbors, and union officials who came to the Statehouse on Monday.
Former Sen. Ron Silver, attorney for Teamsters Local 2011 in Tampa, testified against the privatization proposal at a hearing of the Senate Rules Committee.
“This is yet another proposal based on empty promises of savings to the state,” Silver said. “The thousands of families and hundreds of local communities impacted by this proposal deserve better from their state officials. What recourse do they have after they lose their jobs and the promised savings are never realized? This is about real people, real families, and real communities facing irreparable harm.”
Ken Wood, Acting President of Local 2011, said the rush to privatize correctional facilities has nothing to do with cost savings. “After many conversations with our members and a great deal of research, I’m convinced that privatization is about political payback, not saving money,” said Wood. “This is just politics as usual.”
There is almost no evidence that Florida’s for-profit prisons have saved money, according to a 2010 Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy report. The report noted that prisoners who are most costly to handle, such as high-security risks, are usually housed in public prisons.
Wood said the proposed closing of 11 facilities is directly related to privatization. “Whether it’s a closure or a privatization, these reckless proposals will hurt thousands of Florida’s working families,” he said.
Capt. Mark Prevatt, a correctional officer at Jefferson C.I., said closing the institution will have a major impact on the staff and on the community, which is a rural area of critical economic concern. “There are no jobs for this county, this is it,” he said. “Closing the facility will put the small businesses under because there will be no one there to support them.
“None of the private facilities was subject to the same criteria as the public facilities, and non-specified, non-weighted factors were used. It isn’t right, and it isn’t fair.”
The plans include closures of the New River Correctional in Raiford, Jefferson Correctional in Monticello, Demilly Correctional Institute in Polk City, Gainesville C.I., Indian River C.I. in Vero Beach, and the women’s prisons Broward C.I. in Fort Lauderdale and Hillsborough C.I. in Riverview near Tampa.
The department also plans to close work camps in Gadsden, Washington, and Hendry counties and the Levy forestry camp.