Saturday, June 23, 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: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18