"Rick Scott Head Shot" by Governor Rick Scott on flickr

"Rick Scott Head Shot" by Governor Rick Scott on flickr

Why I Hate Florida Today

Florida is currently in the midst of the biggest prison privatization push in history – the state is looking to privatize 29 correctional facilities, basically the entire bottom half of the state’s prison system.  This comes after the GEO Group, based in Boca Raton, along with other private prison interests, spent record amounts in campaign contributions and lobbying in the last election cycle, so you wouldn’t be alone in thinking this sounds a bit like a handout from Florida’s Republican leadership to wealthy donors. 

As this move to privatize has developed, a few groups in the community have started to fight back against the outsourcing of an inherently governmental function.   The union that represents Corrections Officers (The PBA) has filed a lawsuit, seeking to block the privatization, and the Teamsters union has filed an ethics complaint against Governor Scottbecause he accepted campaign contributions from the two largest private prison companies in the country, both of which are bidding on the proposed privatization.

The lawsuit by the PBA has limped its way through the court system.  After a lower court ordered ousted Corrections Secretary Edward Buss (ousted because he, as the EFFING SECRETARY OF CORRECTIONS, thought the plan was a horrible idea) to be deposed in the matter, a higher court affirmed the ruling, only to have Governor “I Love Privatization” Scott appeal.  Well, Scott lost, whining about how state officials are not to be deposed under Florida law (I guess he forgot the part where he forced Buss to resign because Buss disagreed with him). The PBA has had trouble getting information out of the Corrections Department through discovery, which is why Buss was called to testify in the first place.  It appears as though Buss, the aforementioned secretary of corrections, was never really consulted about the push to privatize nearly 30 prisons.  The state seems pretty scared to let Buss testify; the Scott administration has already appealed the ruling numerous times, and isconsidering challenging Buss’ testimony in the Florida Supreme Court.  In fact, his lawyers at one point even let a little Freudian Slip pass, remarking that allowing Buss to testify might do “irreparable harm” to state government.

They’re probably right.  Buss’s testimony was released, and in it he gives details about his remarkable lack of insight and knowledge about the privatization scheme before it was forced upon him.  Buss testified that, during hearings with legislators near the beginning of his term, he was not informed of the privatization plan until after it had been introduced.  He also said that no one came to talk to him (do I need to insert his title again) about the privatization.  In maybe the most telling portion of his testimony, in response to a question as to whether or not he would have liked to have been contacted before the plan was introduced, Buss said, “It’s a different state, and I just got here.”  Sorry Mr. Buss, but you were definitely not in Kansas anymore.  Buss says the privatization plan was not part of the corrections budget he saw when he took the job, and that he had virtually no input when it was made part of the budget.  More details have emerged about the plan, including the fact that the original “business plan” for the awarding a contract to operate 29 prisons was only four pages long.  Four fucking measly pages.  I guess Florida’s politicians all like to read as much as their heralded presidential candidate.

But even in the face of a lawsuit and an ethics complaint, the state’s political leaders blindly push forward in their bullheaded plan to turn over government services to an inefficient and abusive industry.  And they’re not above utilizing sly political maneuverings to get their way.  The president of the state Senate has reorganized a few legislative committees, including removing the only state senator who seems to have any sense, Mike Fasano, from the Government Oversight Committee.  This is a way of neutering the influence of Fasano, anoutspoken critic of the privatization push and the $25 million the Administration failed to inform legislators that the state would be on the hook for.  So now the last defense Florida taxpayers had against this onslaught of privatization has no official power to challenge it.

Fuck you, Florida.