Effort to save Panhandle prison fails in House vote
A plan by Gov. Rick Scott's administration to close seven prisons survived an attack Wednesday as members of the House Appropriations Committee voted down an attempt to keep open Jefferson Correctional Institution in Monticello near Tallahassee. Jefferson is one of seven state prisons marked for elimination in a consolidation plan the state says is needed because of a declining inmate population.
Nearly 100 residents of the close-knit county packed a Capitol hearing room to show support for the 23-year-old prison. Lawmakers heard one plea after another, including from a county commissioner, clerk of court and school superintendent. All said the closing of JCI and the loss of nearly 200 prison jobs would devastate the economy of the sixth smallest county in the state.
But on a party-line vote, Republicans defeated a Democratic attempt to save the prison. Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, who's in charge of prison spending in the House, objected to plans to divert $10.2 million from private prison operations to keep Jefferson open. "It would throw my budget completely out of whack," Glorioso told lawmakers.
Never mentioned, however, was that Glorioso has already allocated another $10 million to keep open a women's prison in his county that also was marked for closure by the state: Hillsborough C.I. in Riverview. Jefferson residents, many wearing forlorn expressions, filed out of a hearing room silently after the vote. On a second-party line vote, the panel then approved a $69.2 billion budget for next year.