The Florida Senate Rules Committee has proposed a bill that would require the state's Department of Corrections to privatize all prisons and other correctional facilities in 18 counties, according to the News Service of Florida.
The state legislature passed nearly the same measure last year, but the law was ruled unconstitutional in court because it didn't go through the committee process, violating the Florida Constitution.
The second largest private prison company in the world, GEO Group, has donated $822,000 to political campaigns in Florida, according to the nonpartisan National Institute on Money in Politics. The company also spent $25,000 for Florida Gov. Rick Scott's (R) inauguration party.
"We've been saying all along that these proposed prison closures are about turning Florida's prisons over to for-profit corporations," Ken Wood, Acting President of Teamsters Local 2011, said. "This is payback to the powerful prison corporations that spend millions on lobbyists and political donations."
"Both the privatization bill and these closures are being rushed through without any public input and zero transparency. We have no evidence that privatizing prisons would save money and plenty of evidence that it won't. Closing and privatizing prisons would devastate the dedicated correctional officers, their families and nearby small businesses.
For-profit prisons are associated with heightened levels of violence toward prisoners and have limited incentives to reduce future crime, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The perverse incentives to maximize profits and cut corners — even at the expense of safety and decent conditions — may contribute to an unacceptable level of danger in private prisons,” the report stated.
After spending a month in solitary confinement in a GEO Group operated Texas prison, 32-year-old Jesus Manuel Galindo allegedly died of an epileptic seizure in December 2008. The cell lacked an operational intercom, which would have allowed Galindo — who needed regular medical attention — to call for help. The neurologist who reviewed Galindo’s autopsy said he was “set up to die.”
In another incident, former GEO Group employees working for the Texas Youth Commission failed to report horrid conditions at a GEO-operated prison in Texas. An independent report found the bug-infested prison smelled of feces and urine, had numerous water leaks and racially segregated the young inmates.
Photo credit: Dylan Oliphant