A prison is a place where law breakers are confined or interned by concerned authority. Prisons are denied the freedom of movement and free interaction with other people. In many countries, prisons are governed by the government. Nevertheless, increased prisoners population and an attempt to cut costs has led to privatization of some prisons. This has brought about mixed reactions with some parties arguing against the privatization move whilst others arguing in favour of privatization of prisons. Privatization of prisons is an arrangement in which prisoners are confined by third parties which are normally contracted by the ruling government. The attempt to privatize prison is dated back after American Revolution. This marked the placement of prisoners in English Ports by The Great Britain since they lacked the ability to ship offenders back to their respective colonies. In addition, prison privatization revived again during the reconstruction period which emerged immediately after the civil war in the South. This paper seeks to review Florida`s Gov. Scott`s attempt to privatize prisons. In addition, it discusses about the pros and cons of privatizing prisons. Further, this paper talks about Florida`s Department of Corrections` (DOC`s) proposal on privatization of prisons and judges recent ruling against Floridas` legislature.
Florida Governor Scott's push to privatize prisons
The move to privatize prisons in Florida by Gov. Scott was aimed at saving expenses and reverting government funds to other uses such as provision of education and health services. During the gubernatorial campaigns, Governor Rick Scott promised to cut on unnecessary expenses. He considered privatization of prisons as one of the objectives that he would realize. According to Governor Scott, privatization of prisons would reduce government expenses by a large amount. The funds would then be diverted to other sectors including education, and health sector. Governor Scott posed as a threat to prison employees. This is because prison staff could easily become unemployed in case prisons were privatized. As such, Police Benevolent Association, prison employees union, became a strong oppose of privatization of prisons. The union campaigned vigorously against Rick Scott. However, Public Benevolent Association lost faith when Rick Scott was declared winner and Governor. Immediately after his inauraguation into office, Governor Scott advocated for the privatization of prisons. The Senate Bill Number 2000 required Floridas` Department of Correction to privatize twenty nine prisons, annexes, work release centres, and work camps. 16,000 prisoners were hosted by these institutions. However, in case this bill came into effect, about 3,800 prison employees would become unemployed. This was unreasonable since prison employees would then become devastated due to lack of survival means as a result of unemployment. Privatization of prisons plan was supposed to be effected from 1st January, 2012. The Police Benevolent Association filed a suit in the state court. This was aimed at challenging the bill that proposed the privatization of prisons. In addition, there were protests against prison privatization from various groups including the acting president of Teamsters, Ken Wood, American Civil Liberties Union, and Senator Mike Fasano. Senator Mike was a Republican just like Governor Scott. Nevertheless, he argued against privatization of prisons citing unemployment as his main fear. Unemployment would devastate prison employees and their families at large. This is because correctional officers would be rendered jobless and hence lacks a means of living. On the other hand, Teamsters argued that the privatization Bill was made through backdoor without going through a cost benefit analysis. Further, Teamsters through Ken Wood did not appreciate the privatization Bill since it lacked any public input. Therefore, the bill was not transparent. There was no sufficient evidence that privatization of prisons would act as a cost cutting measure. Further, the prison privatization bill was opposed by American Civil Liberties Union. The union argued against the bill since they had evidence of poor treatment of prisoners in private prisons. Prisoners were treated harshly and violently in private prisons. In addition, private prisons did not offer any incentive for future character improvement. This is because unlike public prisons which offered training on short courses such as carpentry and tailoring, Private prisons did not do so. As such, private prisons did not educate prisoners on better means of survival other than committing crimes. Therefore, private prisons posed limited chances of reducing crime in future.
On 29th September, 2011, Judge Fulford heard various parties who were concerned with privatization of prisons in Florida. She finally made a ruling in favour of parties against privatization. As such, a break had to put on any plan attempting to privatize prisons. She argued that a decision to privatize prisons had to be evaluated by Floridas` Department of Correction. Evaluation was a necessary step so as to not only determine privatization feasibility, but to also verify whether privatization was efficient and cost effective. Judge Fulford also noted that as much as the legislature had power and authority to initiate privatization on its own, it was only allowed to do so under the general law. This requirement was not met by Governor Scott who attempted to privatize prisons through hidden recesses by making a backdoor budget provision. It was also held that that the subject of the bill which was reduction of Floridas` Department of Corrections` budget was unconstitutional. Moreover, Governor Scott rushed through the privatization process so as to meet the provisions` deadline. Therefore, the legislature at large failed to meet the requirements it set itself whenever privatization of prisons was to be done. Rushing through the bill to meet the deadline resulted in failure to evaluate whether privatization was being initiated in light with public`s interest. This was because the legislature argued that privatization could result to effective service and cost saving.
Floridas` Department of Correction has further continued to propose the need to privatize prisons in order to reduce operational costs. The Department of Correction has always argued that privatization of prisons will save the state money.
Apart from privatization of prisons, the Department of Corrections also made other proposals. The Department of Corrections also proposes for the installation of camera surveillance. This will reduce chances of sexual assault which is very common in prisons. In addition, there is a significant need to provide emotional support to prisoners who are sexually assaulted by fellow inmates.
Pros and Cons of Privatization of Prisons
There are various advantages of privatizing prisons. Firstly, private prisons have better facilities than public prisons. Existence of better facilities such as toilets enhances health safety. This reduces the chances of contracting hygiene related diseases. Secondly, privatization of prisons makes a country to regulate the number of people confined as prisoners. This in turn makes work easier as it reduces overcrowding in public prisons. Overcrowding can cause diseases and make prisoners become unruly. Prisoners are dangerous people and pose as threats to fellow inmates. If not controlled, prisoners can bully and at times kill each other. In private prisons, bullying is rare due to confinement of a few individuals who can be controlled. Thirdly, private prisons have well instituted communication system. In addition, there exists separation of authority and power. This is significant as it enhances flexibility and efficiency in decision making. This is because effective communication mechanism and separation of power reduces beauracracy and red tapism. Thirdly, privatization of prisons makes public prisons to reduce their operational costs. This in turn enables saving of taxes which are used to operate public prisons. Public prisons are forced to cut on costs as a result of competition posed by Private prisons. Private prisons aim at maximizing profits through cost reduction. This is unlike public prisons which are non-profit oriented. Therefore, public prisons do not work hard to reduce operational costs. In case prisons are privatized, public prisons would face stiff competition. This will ensure they struggle to cut and save on costs or risks being privatized hence save a lot of tax payers` funds. As such, they end up incurring fewer costs as compared to public prisons.
Fourthly, privatization of prisons is essential as it contributes greatly to reducing suicidal cases. Private prisons are known to provide better health care services and accord more attention to prisons. This controls prisoners` fighting and bullying each other. Fifthly, privatization of prisons ensures accountability. Employees in private institutions are normally held responsible for all their actions. Moreover, private institutions reward their employees based on their contribution and performance at large. This is unlike public institutions whose employees are not regularly monitored. As such, they do not take maximum care and responsibility. In most cases, all they do is to form strong unions through which they lobby for higher wages. Unions have made wages become too high for governments.
Cons of Privatization of Prisons
Any system has its advantages and disadvantages. Privatization of prisons is not an exception to this assumption. Firstly, private prisons are not an incentive to reduced crimes in future. This is because private prisons do not equip prisoners with skills and knowledge which they can use to earn a living in future. In most cases, prisoners are confined as a result of theft related cases such as robbery with violence and so forth. Public prisons offer short courses on carpentry, tailoring, and weaving to prisoners. These programs are aimed at reforming prisoners by equipping them with adequate knowledge and skills. Therefore, prisoners are expected to use the acquired skills in future to earn a decent living. Nevertheless, private prisons fail to do so. The main aim of private prisons is to maximize on profits and save on costs. As such, private prisons do not offer any course as this is considered as a cost. Secondly, privatization of prisons may lead to loss of a governments` sovereignty. Government can suffer severely in terms of increased expenditure in case private prisons increase operational costs. Therefore, it is advisable for governments not to depend too much on private prisons as they may suffer severely as a result of overdependence. Thirdly, privatization of prisons can compromise a country’s security. Prisoners easily escape from private prisons as compared to public prisons. This is because of existence of a relaxed culture and lack of strict supervision of visitors. Fifthly, private prisons give prisoners a lot of duties. This is with an aim of cutting operational costs such as hiring cleaners, and cooks. This arrangement may be harmful to prisoners’ health due to too much work. Prisoners are forced to do all the duties which are at times too much. They act as a source of cheap labor since they are either not paid at all or paid in peanuts.
All in all, Governor Scott`s push to privatize Floridas` prison has not been realized. This is due to what has been consider rushing through the privatization bill with an aim of meeting the deadline. Further, Governor Scott has received serious opposition from Police Benevolent Association. Police Benevolent Association is the prisoners staff union whose main concern has been the risk of unemployment of its members in case prisons are privatized. Further opposition to privatization has been received from Teamsters through its acting president. Teamsters has opposed privatization proposal as it was suggested through backdoor. In addition, Teamsters argue that claims that privatization would lead to reduced costs lack substantial evidence. To sum it all, judges have made rulings that do not favour the privatization bill. Judge Fulford held that privatization of prisons was not evaluated. As such, no attempt was made to determine its feasibility, efficiency, and cost effectiveness. Further, Judge Fulford argued that legislatures do not have the power to come up with provisions through backdoor. Therefore, actions taken in relation to privatization of prisons are considered illegal and unconstitutional.
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