The Miami Herald says that as Florida lawmakers consider a massive expansion of prison privatization, one number dominates the debate: 7 percent. That's how much savings the legislation requires of private prison operators compared to state-run prisons. “I believe in it,” says Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island. “It's incumbent upon me to find the best deal for the taxpayer.” But the state's own analysts warn against comparing prison costs because no two prisons are alike and it's difficult to make precise cost comparisons between public and private prisons.
Privatization has polarized the Legislature into two camps: one sees outsourcing as a proven way to cut costs; the other views it as a risky undertaking riddled with hidden costs. Senate Bill 2038 would privatize 27 prisons and work camps in 18 counties. More than 4,300 state workers would lose their jobs, though many likely would be offered them back, at less pay and benefits, working for a private vendor. Seven Florida prisons currently are run by private, for-profit companies.