Florida Gov. Rick Scott Takes Steps to Privatize Prisons
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled legislature are moving fast to privatize all 29 prison facilities in 18 counties in southern Florida.
Last year, the GOP prison privatization proposal was ruled unconstitutional because it was wrapped into a budget proposal, a violation of Florida laws that requires policy changes be in separate laws. Tallahassee Judge Jackie Fulford ruled that the lawmakers rushed the process.
The privatizers aren’t making the same mistake this time. Not only are they proposing to privatize the prisons but they are changing the law to be able to privatize any service as fast, as easily and as secretly as possible. Under the latest proposals, an agency would not have to report its privatization of a program or service until after the contract is signed. And they also would eliminate a current legal requirement to do a cost-benefit analysis before privatizing any government function.
In other words, don’t let the public know what you’re doing and don’t bother to find out the costs.
Scott, former CEO of hospital giant Columbia/HCA, came into office on a mission to privatize Florida government. Scott left HCA as the company was being investigated for the “biggest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history.” Columbia/HCA ultimately paid a record $1.7 billion in fines, penalties and damages.
Scott has already proposed privatizing the state’s Medicaid system, state park campgrounds, the state’s three remaining public mental hospitals, three centers for the developmentally disabled and six veterans’ homes.
The two largest prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut), are poised to strike, in what Judith Greene, director of Justice Strategies calls, “an unprecedented” expansion of the use of private prisons that no other state has undertaken.
GEO has been a consistent force within Florida politics. GEO Group alone gave more than $400,000 to the party in the past election cycle. Geo Group‘s lobbyist, Brian Ballard, hosted Scott at his Tallahassee home to watch the Super Bowl. GEO Group and CCA donated nearly $1 million toward the Scott’s inauguration celebrations.