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Private Prisons Cost Less, And Offer Taxpayers Relief | Lloyd Brown

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Private Prisons Cost Less, And Offer Taxpayers Relief | Lloyd Brown

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Private Prisons Cost Less, And Offer Taxpayers Relief
Monday, February 06, 2012 — Lloyd Brown

Privatization: It’s a word that causes a liberal’s gorge to rise.

What it means is allowing the private sector to do work now being done – more or less – by government workers.

So, an attempt by the Florida Legislature to go a bit further in that direction has the left wing in a dither.

Legislators were forced to address it because of a court ruling that said the Legislature made a boo-boo when it set out to privatize South Florida prisons by proviso language in last year’s general appropriations bill. It must do it by general law, and that is what SB 2038 would do.

Running the state prisons is one of the largest state expenses at more than $2 billion. It involves some 27,500 employees. There are 62 prison facilities, seven of which already are operated privately.

The private facilities contain about 10 percent of the prison population and cost less to operate. This is not unusual. Other states, such as Texas, have found the benefits of private prisons.

On a conservative basis, costs are about 10 percent less and one study found that savings up to 23 percent can be realized.

To Democrats whose mission in life is to “grow” government whenever possible this constitutes a threat.

The first claim was that the bill would allow “secret” privatization. Any privatization would have to be done by legislation and the bill would get the full public airing any bill does.

Another complaint is that it “may” not lower costs. The law requires privatized operations to save a substantial amount of money and calls for a review periodically to determine whether that requirement is met.

Typical savings found in those reviews have ranged from 7.5 to 28 percent.

But the bill would result in government employees losing jobs, opponents say. If that’s an argument against the bill, they aren’t going to get much sympathy from taxpayers who don’t view government as a jobs program.

In any case, most employees terminated probably would be hired by the contractor because of their experience.

The bill contains all sorts of safeguards, including allowing trial lawyers full rein to sue the private prison operators over any alleged torts. That takes care of one Democrat constituency.

Naturally, the bloatacracy doesn’t like the bill. The Department of Corrections has opposed efforts to reform prison operations, including the successful prison industries program. Thus, privatization is under the Department of Management Services, a wise move.

Even a few Republicans have balked. Republicans tend to think independently -- unlike members of another party we could name that is bound by groupthink (and doublethink). A few want to study the bill, which is merely a delaying move so opponents can regroup and try to conjure up a plausible reason to continue wasting money.

But government at all levels has swollen far beyond the ability of Americans to pay for it and sincere efforts to get it back under control are overdue. Florida taxpayers should demand passage of this bill.

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.

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