Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: New prisons chief makes progress

Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones is right to rebid nearly $1.4 billion in contracts for health care providers in Florida's prisons. Her decision comes at a time when suspicious inmate deaths are inexplicably high and medical teams appear to be short-staffed in many prisons. It makes good business sense for the department to review the state's medical contracts to ensure that inmates are getting adequate care and taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.

Jones announced last week that she would call for bid proposals for medical services providers before the start of 2016. In its invitation to negotiate, the department will look for companies that can provide medical care and enhanced services such as delivering specialized care to inmates with mental health issues, improving the coordination of medical and mental health re-entry planning and implementing electronic health records.

The state privatized medical care in prisons at the behest of the Florida Legislature in 2011. Now the state pays Wexford Health Sources $48 million a year to service 15,000 inmates at nine South Florida prisons. Another contractor, Corizon Health, receives $229 million a year to provide care to 74,000 inmates in North, Central and parts of South Florida. Corizon's contract expires in 2018. Wexford's expires in 2017.

Jones' announcement comes at a dark time for Florida's Corrections Department. The Miami Herald has detailed multiple instances of inmate abuse and death at the hands of prison guards and repeated instances of misconduct among prison staff. The Legislature is considering a bill that would set up an independent oversight commission to increase accountability in prisons, and some legislators have been making surprise visits to inspect prisons. Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Greg Evers, R-Baker, called on Jones to rebid medical contracts after he visited several prisons where inmates were being underserved.

Jones' aggressive approach to reshaping Florida's prison system is exactly what is needed to turn around an agency rife with problems and accustomed to operating with little accountability. In renegotiating the agency's deals with medical providers, Jones expects to spend more money to pay for expanded services. This will be money well spent, particularly because new contracts should clearly define expectations of contractors and set penalties for failing to meet them.

Jones has occasionally veered off course. Earlier this month, she implemented an order forbidding investigators in the Office of the Inspector General from talking about cases, open or closed, or releasing agency records. Jones said that the move protects the integrity of casework. But it fosters the same type of cloistered environment that has provided cover for the department's wrongdoings. As she continues her good work, Jones should always lean toward transparency. Rebidding the department's medical contracts — and keeping the public updated throughout the process — is a good place to start.

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Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Florida’s clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

Donald Trump’s resounding victory in the 2016 presidential election came at least in part because the New York businessman grasped the disconnect between how millions of Americans and the political establishments of both parties felt about immigratio...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Voters who looked to Donald Trump to make America great might want to look at their wallets. The president escalated his global trade war this week, threatening new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports — everything from seafood, beef and ...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseball’s future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

For the second time in less than 18 months, President Donald Trump has nominated a well-qualified, conservative federal appeals court judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. That does not mean Judge Brett Kavanaugh should get an easy pass through Senate con...
Published: 07/10/18
Updated: 07/11/18
Editorial: Nobody uses fireworks to scare off birds

Editorial: Nobody uses fireworks to scare off birds

Americans are accustomed to celebrating the nation’s birthday by blowing up Chinese fireworks for days — a rite of recklessness that kills seven people a year and sends another 13,000 to hospital emergency rooms. The tragic toll struck close to home ...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Let local governments regulate short-term rentals

Editorial: Let local governments regulate short-term rentals

The Florida Legislature’s meddling in local issues has created another mess for neighborhoods across the state. No family should have to put up with a short-term rental next door that overwhelms their street with constant visitors, traffic and noise ...
Published: 07/09/18
Updated: 07/10/18