Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Largest U.S. Private-Prison Deal Defeated in Florida’s Senate 

TALLAHASSEE , FL - By a two-vote margin Tuesday, Florida lawmakers killed a bill that would have privatized 26 prisons in the state.

Corrections officers, backed by unions including the AFL-CIO and Teamsters, fought the legislation. The private-prison move was supported by the Republican majority and Gov. Rick Scott, who claimed it was a big money-saver.

Moral issues over profiting from locking people up were raised by representatives of civil-rights groups including Florida NAACP President Dale Landry. 

"The stand is actually a national NAACP stand, which is against the privatization of prisons because it continues to further industrialize the business of locking up and feeding off of those that can't do anything for themselves."

Corrections officers had claimed the privatization proposal would have put thousands of Florida Department of Corrections employees out of work, and seriously harmed small communities dependent on those state jobs. Backers of privatization say it would have saved the state more than $16 million.

One issue revealed late in the debate was that private prison companies - including south Florida-based Geo Group and Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America - had hired staff who had been let go for misconduct by state corrections departments around the nation. Landry says it seemed to have an impact on the senators.

"That really does concern me. It'd be interesting to find out what misconduct they had."

The Senate vote against expanding the number of private prisons was unexpected, although private companies still operate seven Florida prisons. 

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