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Data: Privately Run Prisons Can Provide Better Rehabilitation Programs

By: Release
By: Release

It’s been easy for opponents of privatization to alarm the public by conjuring up frightening images of privately operated prisons, with staffing cuts so deep that security becomes a challenge and rehabilitation an impossibility. Not only is this image overblown, it is also demonstrably incorrect.

Data Shows Privately Run Prisons Can Provide a Better Environment for Effective Inmate Rehabilitation Programs

Educational, Vocational and Life Skills Program Staff-to-Inmate Ratio in Two Large Private Facilities Better Than State-Run Region IV Facilities

 

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has a strong interest in ensuring that the rehabilitation function of Florida’s correctional system is effective at preparing inmates for a law-abiding life in our communities. As the Florida Senate debates establishing a public/private partnership in South Florida’s Region IV correctional facilities, we believe there is some important information related to better rehabilitation that has not yet been fully explored.

It’s been easy for opponents of privatization to alarm the public by conjuring up frightening images of privately operated prisons, with staffing cuts so deep that security becomes a challenge and rehabilitation an impossibility.  Not only is this image overblown, it is also demonstrably incorrect.

Data readily available makes it clear that private prisons can provide a better environment for education, vocational and life skills programs – without sacrificing a strong commitment to public safety – that will help inmates make a smoother transition to their communities when they are released.

The chart below compares data for facilities in Department of Corrections Region IV – the area affected by the proposed privatization pilot program – and the privately operated South Bay Correctional and Moore Haven Correctional Facilities. The comparison excludes the facilities the state has identified for closure (Broward, Glades and Indian River Correctional Institutions). The Region IV data comes from the state’s recent Region IV RFP, while the private-facility figures have been provided by Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group. 

 

Educational, Vocational and Life Skills Programs

Florida DOC Region IV vs. South Bay/Moore Haven Correctional Facilities

 

Florida DOC Region IV

South Bay/Moore Haven Correctional

Total Inmates

15,220

2,847

Total Programming Staff

56

75

Total Inmate Participants

3,247

2,259

Programs Staff-to-Inmate Ratio

1-to-272

1-to-38

% of Inmate Participants

21.3%

79.3%

 

This table tells a significantly different story than the one being told by the unions and other critics of privatization.

With far fewer inmates, privately run South Bay and Moore Haven still provide more overall programming staff than DOC’s Region IV institutions.  Perhaps the two most telling numbers in this comparison are staff-to-inmate ratio and inmate participation. At the privately run Moore Haven and South Bay facilities, one program staff member is available for every 38 inmates, a far superior level than the 1-to-272 ratio in Region IV.  This may well explain why 8 out of 10 inmates at the two privately run facilities participate in personal improvement programs, while barely more than one in five do so in the Region IV institutions.

The numbers prove that rehabilitation programs are better able to flourish in privately run facilities. That is why we believe the prison privatization proposal is in the best interests of all Floridians.

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