Analysis of Impact on County, Municipalities, FRS, Is Needed
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Jan. 25, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Florida correctional officers asked lawmakers to conduct a thorough, nonpartisan cost-benefit analysis of the proposal to turn public prisons over to for-profit corporations. Officers traveled to Tallahassee for the third consecutive day to testify against a privatization proposal for Southern Florida that's being rushed through the legislature.
The proponents' claim of potential savings fails to include the additional cost of replacing work squads with public employees; the costs that for-profit prison operators shift to public facilities; accelerated depreciation of the physical plant; and vacation, sick leave and holiday payouts for the thousands of correctional officers who will leave the system.
According to an initial analysis conducted by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, these costs could run as high as $126.1 million.
Former Florida state Sen. Ron Silver, attorney for Teamsters Local Union 2011, testified against the privatization proposal at a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee.
"This proposal amounts to the government picking winners and losers," Silver said. "The losers are the correctional officers who will be unemployed or displaced, their families and their communities.
"We simply do not have all the facts to know the total economic impact this could have. It would be reckless to run into what would be the biggest prison privatization in the country's history without a thorough, non-partisan analysis of the facts."
Ken Wood, acting President of Local 2011, said privatizing correctional facilities will devastate local communities as higher unemployment will hurt local businesses.
"Privatizing prisons will shift costs onto counties," Wood said. "For-profit institutions don't provide work squads to the community. In Jefferson County, the loss of inmate work squads to run the recycling program, grounds-keeping and other maintenance functions will cost more than $250,000.
"Throughout Florida, work squads have cleared roads, parks and schools in the wake of hurricane damage and cleaned beaches after oil spills – something for-profit prisons won't do," Wood said.
Sarah Babineaux, an eight-year correctional officer with Martin Correctional Institution, said Wednesday that privatizing will have a huge impact on the staff.
"There's so much stress on the officers, knowing we may not have a job, that some of us are getting sick," Babineaux said. "Some of our staff can't leave because they have elderly, sick parents they're taking care of. Others have kids that are graduating high school."
Babineauxsaid she would try to relocate and stay with the state, but that would be emotionally difficult for her four children, especially since she has two young nieces in her home who are finally feeling secure since she took custody of them three years ago.
"If the entire state goes private, I'm going to pull my money out of FRS (Florida Retirement System)," Babineaux said. "I'll take the penalties and I'll do what I have to do. A number of us won't work for private companies because of the difference between the way private and state facilities are regulated. It's a thankless job."
The plans include closures of the New River Correctional in Raiford, Jefferson Correctional in Monticello, Demilly Correctional Institute in Polk City, Gainesville C.I., Indian River C.I. in Vero Beach, and the women's prisons Broward C.I. in Fort Lauderdale and Hillsborough C.I. in Riverview near Tampa. The department also plans to close work camps in Gadsden, Washington and Hendry counties and the Levy forestry camp.
Founded in 1903, the Teamsters Union represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. For more information, go to www.teamster.org or follow us on Twitter @TeamsterPower.