Alexander: Scott Prison Plan Worth Considering

By: Keith Laing, The News Service of Florida
By: Keith Laing, The News Service of Florida


The Senate’s chief budget writer said Tuesday it is worth considering Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to cut the Corrections Department by $82.4 million next year and close two prisons, despite criticism from the chairman of the committee that writes the criminal justice budget.

“I believe we need to look at cost saving efforts across all aspects (of the state budget),” said Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales after hearing a presentation on prison privatization plans Tuesday. “Ruling out any aspect at this point would be inappropriate. If we can save money so we can fund our schools and health care and pay for other critical needs, it’s worth looking at.”

However, Civil and Criminal Justice Budget Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Mike Fasano maintained on Tuesday his criticism of the plan to increase the number of prisoners in private facilities by 15,000.

“Is there any room in private prisons in the state of Florida?” asked Fasano, R-New Port Richey. “There’s no more room. We would have to give them additional money to take 15,000 prisoners when we have approximately 10,000 beds in the system that have already been paid for by taxpayers. I don’t get the rationale behind that.”

Particularly worrisome to Fasano is that Scott’s plan to increase the privatization of prisons calls for eliminating 1,690 jobs, including 619 corrections officers. During Scott’s campaign and transition, he promised to eventually slash $1 billion from the state's prison system, drawing the ire of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which ran campaign ads saying Scott would release prisoners if elected.

Tuesday, Fasano called Scott’s comments about maximizing the existing private prisons in Florida “deceitful” because he said they are already maxed out.

Alexander’s openness to the proposal followed a presentation from new Corrections Secretary Ed Buss, who spoke to the committee in his second day officially on the job. Buss told the Senate Budget Committee that privatization plans had worked well where he came from.

“Indiana probably has the most aggressive private-public (prison) partnerships in the country,” Buss said. “We saved hundreds of millions of dollars even in a smaller state like Indiana by having public-private partnerships.”

Buss noted that in Indiana, privatized prisons have a specific purpose: housing sex offenders, which he says allows the state to narrowly focus their missions.

Alexander said the new corrections secretary’s experience in Indiana with private prisons could be instructive to lawmakers in Florida grappling with a $3.6 billion budget shortfall this year with no promise of federal stimulus money, unlike the past three years.

“Looking around the nation, I’m not an expert, but there does seem to be some real savings (from privatization),” said Alexander, R-Lake Wales. “His experience is informative of what we maybe can do here. If we’re short $4 billion, we have a choice. We can cut programs in health and human services, reduce our support for education or we can look at efficiencies in prisons.”

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  • by Robbie Location: TN on Mar 4, 2011 at 11:26 AM
    I have heard a rumor that Gov. Paul Scott of FL plans to release some of the senior inmates that are costing the state funds for their medical care. Please advise me if this is a rumor or is going to happen.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 3, 2011 at 09:22 PM
    ya comment is so reticules... ya all want is money money money. what about happiness.. we are not perfect you know.. and when we die we ain't got to be burying with the money in the pocket dddduuuuuu. serious people you should a least see the one is doing a effort to be they kids. and come one talking about other country they don't do anything for real read ur food where is made your clothes serious ya don't know.. God be with ya cus ya need a heart ya don't have one .. ya look like the grinch cold heartless. WE JUST HAVE ONE LIFE AND BE THANKFUL AND KIND DON;T HURT.. GOD BE YA..
  • by donald Location: tallahassee on Feb 17, 2011 at 04:14 AM
    We need to worry about our borders, our elderly, our children,our poverty levels. bring back our industry to the united states, the he## with these 3rd world country's, what have they done for us or are going to do for us exept take our handouts and still hate us. We have let our gov. sell our jobs to other countries, which has made our economy weaker and put more people on the system ,( the if it's free why work system) that just makes us weaker in the eye's of these other countries.
  • by Rose Location: Tallahassee on Feb 16, 2011 at 08:28 PM
    Isn't it strange how when Crook Scott got in the first things he did was start to dismantle law enforcement and the DOC? Hmmmm...wonder why? Perhaps he doesn't like law enforcement for some reason... Hmmmmm....
  • by someone Location: florida on Feb 16, 2011 at 04:02 PM
    Really suspended license??? Learn to spell then realize ppl dont go to prison for that...its jail like in county. We need prisons because we will always have ppl that cant be a part of society, I agree that stiffer penalties may help and I love the death penalty but hate that it does not get used more. The ppl that support that Idiot(scott) have either been in prison or are there now..To the ppl in Fla that elected him, pls just go out and shoot yourself...and dont ever vote again. He wants to take away jobs and make it seem that he is helping Fla, get a clue he wants to run for president nd thats why he is here and why he spent his own money to get elected. Florida impeached Scott now before it is too late
  • by KC on Feb 16, 2011 at 01:47 PM
  • by anonmous Location: florida on Feb 16, 2011 at 01:41 PM
    watch the unemployment lines grow as Rick and Ed G. lay off hundreds of Corrections workers, Correctional Officers make about 31,000 a year, so make them pay 5% retirement and $600 in insurance premiums they will be way below the poverty level then your wonderful governor can support them instead of them taking of themselves and their families.
  • by smoke and mirrors Location: smoke land on Feb 16, 2011 at 01:06 PM
    it's the old bait and switch plan, you don't save any money, just make your friends rich !
  • by Truthtracker Location: N. Florida on Feb 16, 2011 at 01:04 PM
    Well now we know why Scott appointed Buss and Roneay, CAN YOU SAY PRIVATIZATION ADVOCATES! We are also 4 times larger than Indiana. You want to cut prison budgets, MAKE PRISON, PRISON NOT THE NEW WELFARE SYSTEM! Your right anonymous we spend more time and money training staff to deal with convicted felons than we require people to have to watch our most precious resource, our children, our future! We spend more money careing for convicted felons, than we spend on our law abiding senior's. You know I'm so sick of hearing about privatization-just do it. Hell they get paid better anyhow and the benefits are just as good. The down fall is they have no control over the inmate population, they get paid to keep the beds full period. If they try to tell you anything different their lying straight up. Let's see how long the crime rate stays down then. Privatization gives new meaning to career criminal.
  • by Rita Location: Steinhatchee, FL on Feb 16, 2011 at 12:51 PM
    Everytime I read a news article I find more and more jobs being done away with. I thought this Governor was going to provide jobs, jobs, jobs. So far he is handing out pink slips.
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