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Private Prisons Gain New Foes

February 7th, 2012 by Mike Vasilinda

There is new opposition tonight to a legislative plan to privatize more than two dozen south Florida prisons. The Florida ACLU is criticizing the profit motive as several studies fail to document that private prisons are cheaper or more effective.

Studies of private prison costs and effectiveness are few and far between. One benchmark study by researcher Bill Bales at Florida State University examined a claim that privately held prisoners are less likely to reoffend.

“Private prisons don’t effect recidivism” says Bales.

The prison privatizing plan is now drawing opposition from the ACLU. Attorney David Shapiro argues private prisons put p[ublic safety at risk. “Private prisons have every incentive to maximize their profits but cutting corners even at the expense of decent conditions and public safety,” says Shapiro.

The plan to privatize prisons remains stalled in the state Senate. President Mike Haridopolus says 20 million dollar savings are at stake. “If it doesn’t pass this session, we’ll have to take it from other parts of the budget. says Haridopolus.”

Governor Rick Scott, who has been pushing the idea, isn’t conceding defeat…yet, but adds “I think it will be a mistake if we don’t get prison privatization done.”

But the prison system appears to have a plan B

As further evidence the prison privatization plan is stalled, the Department of Corrections is moving forward statutorily with a request for proposals to privatize two prisons.”

Chief critic Mike Fasano says if the state wants to save the seven percent required of private prisons…”Then tell the Department of Corrections to save seven percent,” says Fasano.

But when asked about cutting the state budget instead, Rick Scott says he was hoping for even more than a seven percent savings. There are no conclusive studies that private prisons are cheaper when inmates of similar backgrounds are compared. Amendments to require such a study are what halted the prison privatizing plan in the State Senate.

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