Florida on Track for Largest Expansion of Private Prisons in AmericaJanuary 31, 2012
Lawmakers there are fast tracking a bill to privatize 26 Florida prisons to become “for profit,” which means that they’ll benefit financially from stricter drug laws.
Growing Florida’s private prison population would be a windfall for these companies. 10% of the state’s inmates already housed in similar private facilities, and the new legislation would add another 16,000 inmates to the private prison roles, making it the largest expansion of private prisons in America.
To add insult to injury, Florida doesn’t actually need new prisons. They actually have the opposite problem (if you want to call it a problem) prison undercrowding. As crime rates have been steadily declining in Florida, there are not even enough prisoners to fill up the available beds in that state. 10,000 beds have sat empty during the past three years as the number of arrests statewide has plummeted 11%.
Instead of consolidating prisons and prisoners to save cash, Florida is looking to expand private-sector control of prisons. So who is setting themselves up to gain from this? As the story is dripping with “Greedy Bastardism,” and we take a look at the issue with State Sen. Mike Fasano of Florida.
RUSH TRANSCRIPT FROM MSNBC
SEN. FASANO: dylan, you make a good point. our inmate population continues to drop. there's no reason why we should be privatizing or expanding the prisons statewide as we see the inmate population drop in florida.
DYLAN: it's hard not to look at a situation like this and even if cynical in connecting the dots from the campaign donations to those making policies in florida. and then the decision not only to privatize them, but also the decision defend some of the three strikes laws and some of the other minor drug offense laws that put a huge percentage of people in prison. are the people that watch this show, are we being too cynical?
SEN. FASANO: not at all. this is all about the ability or the legislation that's being pushed to give more profits to two companies. one, you mention ed gee owe. another company that runs private prisons. i have never seen in my 17 years as a legislator in the florida legislature a bill being pushed so quickly in lightning speed, in if you will, to get it passed and to the governor's desk. we have been only in session for three weeks. we have several weeks to go. but this bill moves quickly without, in my opinion, getting adequate hearings and public testimony.
DYLAN: as you know, we're in the middle of this winter. and i suspect all year and a few years to come, of advocating for all sorts of solutions for 30 million jobs. prerequisite being a culture of investment in entrepreneurialism. really the coalition of compassion that is teaching and nursing and health professionals. how is it that we have fallen so far that we view job creation through the lens of putting people in jail?
SEN. FASANO: well, i mean, people do break the law. they go into jail. the problem that it i have is when you privatize public safety. i'm not against privatizing some entities within government, but you can't privatize public safety. this piece of legislation, if passed and becomes law, would privatize 27 state prisons in 18 counties. it would put 4,000 correctional officers and their families at risk of not having a job by the end of this year. florida has an unemployment rate of up to 10%. we should be encouraging people to create jobs. we should not be putting people out of work just to allow two major companies to privatize prisons. not only that, dylan, the prisons that geo will be privatizing have been paid for by the taxpayers of the state of florida. hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid with tax-payer dollars to build these correctional facilities. now this legislation returned those facilities to continue to make a profit.
DYLAN: i have to tell you, senator. i was inspired when i saw the gerrymandering legislation that was passed in florida with the amendments that basically -- i think it puts florida in a leadership position in this country on the issue of electoral reform. clearly, florida is ready to come to play by addressing something like gerrymandering. the other issue is money in politics. this is a classic example of that. do you think you could -- you're a republican. this is not a republican or democratic issue. this is a justice issue in america. these issues go to the justice of who we are as americans. do you think that the same coalition that's addressing gerrymandering could provide leadership on money in politics?
SEN. FASANO: absolutely. you spelled it out early. the amount of money that was contributed by these two companies to the campaigns and political parties sadly shows what money can buy in tallahassee at times. this is a bad policy at the wrong time. and i'm hoping that many of my colleagues, and as you pointed out, this is not a republican or democratic issue, although our governor is pushing this issue big time. i'm hoping republicans will join me over the next 48 hours and kill this proposal and move on with more important issues that the state has to deal with.
DYLAN: if you had friends that controlled the internet, i would tell you to shut the internet off. that worked well with sopa. that's the best legislative tool i have seen in this country. if only every piece of legislation was so easy to address. senator fasano, thank you very much.