Humpday Hall of Shame: Is Corruption Clouding the Sunshine State?

Welcome to the Humpday Hall of Shame – every Wednesday we highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

What does almost $900,000 in political contributions buy in the Florida State legislature?

For private prison companies the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group, it may buy them the conversion of twenty-nine state correctional facilities to private prisons. Nearly 4,000 state employees and 16,000 inmates will be affected if SB7172 is passed.

Governor Scott’s inaugural fund received $25,000 from Florida-based The GEO Group and $5,000 from the Corrections Corporation of America. In 2010, The GEO Group and its staff made more than $700,000 in political contributions in the Sunshine State. CCA contributed $138,994. CCA and GEO are the world’s largest private incarceration corporations.

On Friday, January 13th, just before the MLK holiday weekend at 1:12 pm, SB7172 was submitted to be placed on the Senate Rules Committee agenda. Most folks first saw the language of the bill on Tuesday January 17th after the holiday. Its first hearing was scheduled in Rules Committee on January 18th in what seems to be the only place for public testimony.

As described in the Florida Senate website, SB7172:

Privatization of Correctional Facilities: “Requiring that the Department of Corrections privatize the management and operation of certain correctional facilities and assigned correctional units; requiring that the department determine the costs incurred for the 2010-2011 fiscal year for each correctional facility and assigned correctional unit according to a specified formula; limiting the costs to be incurred by the state in the second or subsequent contract years; repealing provisions relating to the adoption of rules by the Department of Corrections regarding contractual arrangements and standards for the operation of correctional facilities by private vendors, etc.”

A companion bill, SB 7170, will
 allow the Legislature to privatize any state service with no substantive review. That means that privatization in Florida could be considered with little transparency, benefit analysis or public inclusion. SB 7170 was also placed on the Rules Committee agenda on the afternoon of January 13th.

As described in the Florida Senate website, SB 7170:

Outsourcing or Privatization of Agency Functions: Providing that certain information relating to the outsourcing or privatization of an agency function that is expressly required by law is not required to be included in the agency’s legislative budget request until after the contract for such functions is executed; providing that procurements for outsourcing or privatizing agency functions that are expressly required by law are exempt from the requirement that they be evaluated for feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency, etc.

Public safety. State jobs. Justice. All seem to be in jeopardy as Florida moves to privatize its prisons and other state agencies and facilities. Is Florida really up for sale to the highest bidders?

Call your Florida State Legislators and let them know how you feel. Do it soon.

And pass this on. We need to shine a light on Florida!