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Barbs Fly in FL Private Prison Conflict

January 31, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida correctional officers say a proposal to privatize some prisons amounts to the government picking winners and losers. They claim the losers will be correctional officers who would be unemployed or displaced, along with their families and communities. Proponents, including private prison operator GEO Group, counter that privately-managed prisons are money-savers for the state.

Captain Mike Riley, a corrections officer in Ocala, says private operators may throw current officers out the main prison gate.

"One of the things that the senators have said they'll put in the bill is they're recommending that they hire current employees, but there is nothing that makes it mandatory that they hire them."

Captain Riley points out that private prison operators typically cut staff to save money. He predicts the higher unemployment that would result will devastate local communities and businesses. He also claims the private companies choose staff members who were fired by the State Department of Corrections.

"I do know that the current prisons here in Florida that are private, a lot of the employees that are working for them are employees that have been fired from the Department of Corrections for, usually, discipline reasons."

The state Senate Budget Committee voted 13 to five for a massive expansion of prison privatization in south Florida. The bill is set to go to the full Senate today.

The plans include closing correctional facilities in Gainesville, Jefferson, Monticello, Polk City, Raiford and Vero Beach, and women's prisons in Fort Lauderdale and near Tampa.

Information about GEO Group is online at

Les Coleman, Public News Service - FL