(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — January 24, 2012 -
Florida correctional officers renewed their plea on Tuesday for lawmakers to consider the dangers of privatization. Officers traveled to Tallahassee to testify against a sweeping privatization proposal for Southern Florida that’s being rushed through the legislature.
Former Sen. Ron Silver, attorney for Teamster Local 2011 in Tampa, Fla., testified against the privatization proposal at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee.
“This proposal is being rushed through the process with blatant disregard to the public safety and economic hardships on the communities impacted,” Silver said.
“The proposals before the Florida Senate and House are extremely dangerous as they affect the safety of every Florida citizen and tourist,” Silver said. “Every aspect of corrections is being sought to be privatized including, but not limited to, parole and work release. A private-sector employee working for a big, private corporation will be determining who all is walking free in our communities. That is unconscionable, period.”
Ken Wood, acting President of Local 2011, said research shows for-profit prisons are more dangerous than public facilities.
“Private prisons had higher rates of escape and higher rates of inmate assaults on staff,” Wood said. “Correctional officers in private prisons are less well-trained, are paid less and have much higher turnover rates than in public facilities.”
Capt. Michael Riley from Marion Correctional Institute told the Senate committee Monday that the State of Florida is already lowering its training standards to pave the way for privatization. The state proposed that training hours for officers be reduced from 400 hours to 160 hours, he said.
“Why are they lowering the standards?” Riley said at yesterday’s hearing. “In 2005, private prisons overcharged the state $13 million. The majority of those overcharges were for positions that were not manned, but billed. Those are all security positions.
"I supervise 75 officers. When they go in that gate, I'm responsible to see they leave healthy,” Riley said to committee members. “I've had to go to three funerals in the past few years for officers who've been killed. Please rethink this. If you choose to privatize the facilities, the next time an officer is killed, I implore you to stand next to me at the funeral."
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.