Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More on the Battle Over Privatizing Florida's Prisons

A particularly unreasonable editorial appeared on the Daytona Beach News-Journal site: Prison Privatization Offers Major Savings for the State.  It claims that the private prison bids must save the state 7%, and 7 percent is 7 percent savings for the taxpayer, plain and simple - reasoning reminiscent of a jr-high home-economics class from the 1980s.  What if we have only one or two firms bid on the contract(s), and they fall short of the seven percent mark?  Will we bend the rules on the percentage once the commitment to privatization has been made?  Even if we get a 7% savings in year one, there is no way to guarantee that the costs will not increase dramatically once they have the contract locked in and the state no longer has the prison personnel to end the contract and take back the prisons; the state becomes dependent, a hostage to the contract.  There is nothing to keep the firms from low-balling to get the contract and then enjoying the prison budget increases as they roll in year after year.  And even if the state saves 7% the first year on prison operation costs, it will have to spend more money elsewhere in the budget for contract management personnel - these are complex contracts that require experienced procurement managers, which offsets the proposed (illusory) savings.  Numerous laws regarding government transparency, accountability, and procedural safeguards do not apply to private contractors, and additional offset to that imaginary 7%.  Moreover, the private firms running the prison will now have a powerful incentive to lobby for longer prison sentences for criminals and for more behavior to be criminalized, as has happened elsewhere - because more inmates serving longer sentences is money in their pocket.
    The Privatization Blog has previously covered the Florida prison privatization here, and prison privatization more generally here.

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