Sunday, August 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida should phase out private prisons

The women's prison in Gadsden County, where bathrooms flood and balance sheets don't add up, is the latest poster child for Florida's broken corrections system. The problems are also fresh evidence of how private prisons too often fail to serve inmates and taxpayers. Unfortunately, Florida is deeply invested in private prisons and the Trump administration plans to reverse an Obama-era directive that would have phased them out in the federal system.

At Gadsden Correctional, the inmates were regularly prohibited from using water, except to flush toilets, because of frequent backups in the septic system. They complained that staff refused to run the heat during the winter. The water heater, which had been broken since Thanksgiving, was just recently repaired. But it took multiple visits by a state lawmaker to see that the work got done.

For nearly two years, Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, has been visiting prison facilities around the state on a crusade to bring reforms. He learned about the water heater from inmates during a surprise visit last month, then followed the paper trail. He found that Management Training Corp., which runs the prison, requested nearly $10,000 to replace it. The state approved the money, but the warden never authorized the work. So much for efficiency being the best argument for privatization.

Richardson found many other issues. He walked into an electrical assistant class and discovered it had no supplies. Some inmates who had completed the textbook portion couldn't take the certification exam because they lacked supplies. That's an unacceptable waste of tax dollars that also ignores the principle that prison should rehabilitate people and get them ready to re-enter society.

There is plenty of blame for the state, too. The Department of Management Services, which oversees Florida's seven privately run prisons, had a full-time monitor working at Gadsden who failed to find any of what Richardson uncovered on his surprise visits. The monitor claimed not to know the water heater was broken even though he was copied on the repair order. Richardson also learned that 11 staff members at the prison were being paid by the state, yet their personnel costs were not subtracted from Management Training Corp.'s contract. Richardson, who sits on the House criminal justice subcommittee, has filed a bill (HB 893) removing the Department of Management Services from overseeing private prisons and shifting that authority to the Department of Corrections, which is more suited for it.

Better yet would be for Florida to phase out its contracts with for-profit prison companies and acknowledge privatization is not the answer. Fixing the state's prisons will take a serious commitment of public funding to restore aging facilities, add staff, increase salaries and improve living conditions. That burden belongs to Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature, not a single lawmaker who is acting as auditor, monitor and maintenance man.

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Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons — machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what we’d be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18