Guards’ union sues over Fla. prison privatization by Bill Kaczor

Posted: July 26, 2011 in News and politics

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A union representing correctional officers has sued
to block the implementation of a state budget provision that would privatize 18
prison facilities in South Florida, warning of job losses.

About 3,800 prison guards work at the facilities targeted for privatization
according to state figures.

Florida Police Benevolent Association lawyer Hal Johnson said Tuesday that
the measure won’t save the state money as claimed by its supporters in the
Republican-controlled Legislature. Sponsors say turning the prisons over to
private companies will cut operating costs by at least 7 percent.

“All it is going to do is just put a bunch of correctional officers out of
work for no good reason,” Johnson said.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said the agency was
still reviewing the suit. It was filed last week in state Circuit Court in
Tallahassee against the department and its leader, Corrections Secretary Edwin
Buss.

“We are in the final stages of preparing the RFP (request for proposals) as
directed by the Legislature,” Plessinger wrote in an email. “We have every
intention of meeting the deadlines set forth by the Legislature.”

Besides the PBA, the suit names three individual corrections officers as
plaintiffs

It alleges that a 23-page provision detailing the privatization plan is
unconstitutional because it should been passed as a substantive law instead of
being put in the budget.

That tactic “frustrated public debate on the merits of whether and how to
proceed with any privatization of existing state correctional facilities,” the
suit contends.

It also says the budget provision conflicts with an existing law on prison
privatization.

The Police Benevolent Association backed now-Gov. Rick Scott’s Democratic
opponent, Alex Sink, in last year’s election largely because of the Republican’s
support of prison privatization.

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