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Blackwater Prison Deal

March 30th, 2010 by flanews

Theres new evidence tonight linking Former House Speaker Ray Sansom to a deal to shutdown as many as five state prisons to fill a privately operated facility. Sansom filed an amendment in 2008 paving the way for the privatization plan that as Whitney Ray tell us, could cost hundreds of correctional officers their jobs and grant early release to 2-thousand inmates.

Welcome to Sneads a town with more prison inmates than taxpayers. The Apalachee Correctional Institute has been around for a hundred years and employees 640 people. Most of them shop here.

ACI, the state institution here, is the lifeblood of this community. If we do not have ACI, then we would not be here, said Cody McDaniel.

McDaniel owns the towns only grocery store. Hes worried about a legislative plan that close ACI and four other prisons to help fill beds at a privately run facility near the Blackwater River. If ACI closes, Sneads could become a ghost town.

You can trace whats happening at Sneads back to former House Speaker Ray Sansom and a budget amendment filed in 2008 paving the way for the Blackwater deal.

Sansom was ousted from his leadership position in 2009 and resigned his House seat earlier this year amid controversy surrounding a deal to use state money to build an airplane hanger for a political contributor.

His amendment to issue state bonds to build a 2000 bed prison and hire a private company to operate it was fought by former Representative Curtis Richardson.

I dont think there is any question at all that this can be tied back to Ray Sansom and the kind of back room, smoke filled room, dirty deals that hes become associated with, said Richardson.

Closing the prisons wouldnt just cost jobs, it could lead to the early release of inmates, a prospect Governor Charlie Crist has opposed in the past.

Legislative leaders say the driving force behind closing the prisons is money. They say using the private sector to guard inmates would save the state 20 million dollars. But the figure doesnt account for the economic impact of communities like Sneads and how the plan would affect businesses surrounding the prisons.

Posted in Business, Charlie Crist, Sansom, State Budget, State News, Unemployment | 5 Comments »

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