With drug crimes pushing Florida’s inmate population to capacity, legislators voted yesterday to spend $66-million for 4,000 new beds without competitive bids, the St. Petersburg Times reports. Experts attributes much of the population growth to drug offenses, mainly cocaine possession, not violent crime. The Criminal Justice Estimating Conference said prisons took in 2,823 new inmates in June, the largest one-month total in 11 years. The number of prisoners sentenced on drug offenses has grown 13.4 percent in the past year, compared with a 4 percent rise in the number sentenced for murder.
Corrections Secretary James Crosby said he needs to be able to award contracts without bids in order to block challenges by losing bidders, which can delay construction for months.
“Unfortunately, I have to vote for this,” said Sen. Walter “Skip” Campbell, D-Fort Lauderdale. “I don’t want to put someone out on the streets to commit more crimes.” Democrats’ efforts to divert the money to schools, probation officers, or youth anticrime programs were defeated or ruled out of order by the Republican majority.