"Shame! Shame!" frustrated correctional officers shouted at senators Wednesday after the Senate Budget Committee voted 13-5 for a massive expansion of prison privatization in Florida. The vote followed a two-hour hearing at which public testimony was limited to about three minutes.
Emotions are intensifying in the Capitol, where prison workers fear the loss of their jobs when private vendors take control of 28 state-operated prisons in 18 counties later this year. The next step for the privatization plan (SB 2038) is the full Senate.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman JD Alexander said lawmakers have taken extensive public testimony on prison privatization, and he said of a hearing on Monday: "Much of it was redundant, and a lot of it was not on point." Alexander later met with dozens of officers and listened to their concerns, and sought to reassure them that he had no ulterior motive to help private prison vendors.
"I'm not running for anything," Alexander told the group. "I'm interested in one thing -- making the budget work."