For sale: Florida prisons
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08/05/11 Lisa Marzilli
Last Call Friday | Listen to this entire show:

During the last legislative session, under Gov. Rick Scott, GOP lawmakers devised a plan that has opened the doors to one of the biggest prison privatization programs in U.S. history. Florida ranks third in the number of people behind bars at over 100,000, and according to our new Department of Corrections secretary Edwin Buss, almost two-thirds of them are there for crimes linked to substance abuse or addiction.

The current plan calls for 30 state prisons, road camps, juvenile correction facilities and work release centers spanning across 18 counties – mostly in south Florida - to be handed over to a private corporation which will be contracted to run the facilities at a 7% cost savings. The three main players in the game are Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), GEO Group and Management and Training Corporation (MTC).

The handover could come as early as January and the bidding process is already underway despite two lawsuits filed by the Florida Police Benevolent Association (FLPBA), the bargaining agent for the state’s unionized correctional officers.

On today's Last Call we are joined by two members of a group working to stop prison privatization. Ken Kopczynszki is Executive Director of the Private Corrections Institute, a non-profit watchdog opposed to prison privatization. Kopczynszki has also served as a Legislative Assistant for the Florida PBA and is author of a book about his experience exposing corruption in the for-profit prison industry in Florida called “Private Capital Punishment”.

Alex Friedmann is Associate Editor for Prison Legal News, an independent monthly magazine focused on prison issues and prisoner rights. He also serves as President of the Private Corrections Institute. He experienced prison privatization first hand, as an inmate who served six years at the South Central Correctional Facility in Wayne County, Tennessee, which is operated by Corrections Corp. of America.

Prior to the show I spoke with Matt Puckett, Executive Director of the FL Police Benevolent Association, who explained that the PBA’s lawsuit against Florida’s prison privatization plan targets the language that was used to write the bill as unconstitutional. You can hear that interview, as well as the entire show here.

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