Florida has just 5,000 empty prison cells and expects to need 19,000 thousand more in coming years. In February the state’s largest business lobby called for the release of some nonviolent offenders to save construction costs and tax dollars.
“We were looking at about 100 million dollars per facility. There were three that were planned,” said Jose Gonzalez a spokesman with the Associated Industries of Florida.
Lawmakers decided not to spend money on new prisons, but they also didn’t release any prisoners. Instead, they approved shipping inmates out of state or paying private prisons to lighten the load.
The Corrections Corporation of American is the country’s largest private prison company, they also stand to make the most money off the deal. A spokesman for the company refused our request for an on camera interview.
The Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents corrections officers, says private prisons aren’t reliable.
“They’re for profit. Their staff is not the most well trained. They cut corners in the programs that they say that they offer,” said Matt Puckett with the Florida Police Benevolent Association.
And DOC fears inmates wouldn’t be rehabilitated as well if they were sent out of Florida.
“Secretary McNeil has concerns about placing prisoners out of state. He believes removing inmates further from their communities and families undermines the goal of reducing recidivism,” said Jo Ellyn Rackleff, a spokeswoman with the Department of Corrections.
DOC says it will only move prisoners out of state as a last resort or if a major storm forces inmates to evacuate. By contracting with other states or private companies, Florida will pay housing and operations costs, but avoids spending money on construction.