Monday, November 7, 2011

Responding to the Pro-privatization Fanatics in Florida

     This weekend saw the publication of new articles/editorials insisting the Florida should privatize its prisons, as Governor Scott wants (but the courts have thus far disallowed).  The Privatization Blog has covered the Florida prison privatization earlier here, and prison privatization more generally here.
     Journalist (but certainly no expert on this) Steve Bousquet has a piece at the Bradenton site entitled "Union Again Bests Florida," suggesting even by his title that this is merely a fight between 4,000 selfish prison guards and all the good taxpayers of Florida; he repeatedly talks about the guards being in a state of "panic."   Question for Mr. Bousquet: if any other single employer announced that it was cutting 4000 jobs (say, Disney), wouldn't that seem like a bad thing for the state?  Wouldn't you be talking about corporate greed and the staggering unemployment rate in Florida and the strain this would put on various state service agencies?  Why are 4000 suddenly-unemployed state prison guards less of a concern than, say, 4000 displaced workers from the tourism industry?    Second question: these newfangled, more-efficient private prisons - where do you think they might find a few thousand experienced prison guards for their private prisons?  Maybe they will hire a lot of the 4000 newly-unemployed prison guards from the state, right?  If many of the same individuals are going to end up running these prisons after the guv's privatization goes through, how are they magically going to be so much more efficient?  Click "read more" for the rest of the commentary and updated links...

Waiting for an answer like, "Because now those same prison guards are going to have the discipline of market forces working on them, threatening to sack the inefficient ones."  With whom are these individuals going to have to compete for more prisoners?  Once they've locked in this contract and the state no longer has the personnel to take the prisons back, they have no more incentive to be "efficient" than they did when they were on the state payroll.  They're still functionally ON THE STATE PAYROLL, in fact, except that we've introduced a middle-man who bid on the contract.  In the free market, cutting out the middleman is usually perceived as a way to cut costs.  For privatization fanatics, it seems the opposite is true: they propose cutting costs by ADDING a middleman.

UPDATE:  News article: Judge Again Blocks Prison Privatization


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