Tallahassee, FL - Here in Florida, life behind bars can be lonely, depressing, and expensive. With more than 100- thousand people locked up, the state's spending almost two-and-a-half billion dollars a year on prisons.
If Governor-Elect Rick Scott has his way, they'll have to get by with a billion dollars less.
Scott says, "We'll measure it every day, and we'll come up with things - we'll eliminate ineffective programs, we'll eliminate inefficiencies."
Not surprisingly, the former health care executive wants to privatize inmate clinics. He's also calling for 'market-based salaries' in the prison system, but Matt Puckett with the state's law enforcement union says realistically there's no way to cut a billion dollars without jeopardizing security.
Puckett. Florida PBA, says, "Where are you going to get the other money that it's going to require to take that cut? We think that it's going to be closing facilities and letting inmates go, and that's a prescription for disaster, and we don't agree with that and we will fight it."
Attempting to save money through privatization is nothing new, but, this is. The Governor-Elect wants prisoners to grow their own food, potentially cutting the state's grocery bill by tens of millions of dollars.
Rob Weissert with Florida Taxwatch calls Scott's plan an innovative way to bring a bloated bureaucracy down to size.
In fact, he says the state can save even more money by letting would-be prisoners join work-release and drug court programs.
Weissert says, "The idea that we need to maintain prisons in order to maintain public safety is a myth; we don't. There are many programs that are actually more effective, that actually enhance public safety."
There's no question the Scott plan would *unshackle* big money, but the question is whether it would mean a hidden cost when it comes to your safety.