A decade after Florida hired private companies to run some state prisons, lawmakers aren’t convinced the deal saves tax money, the St. Petersburg Times reports. “What are the real costs and what are the real savings?” Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee, asked yesterday. “We’ve got to find that out.” The discussion was part of a long dispute between the companies and the Police Benevolent Association, which represents prison guards.
Guard lobbyist Ken Kopczynski told the panel private prisons never produced the 7 percent savings required under state law. The private prisons pay corrections officers $3,000 less than state prisons, leading to higher turnover rates. “If the Legislature wants private prisons for “privatization’s sake’ it should just say so,” Kopczynski said. Lobbyists for private prison operators said the five prisons under their supervision have never had a riot, escape, or other incident. They argued they saved the state millions of dollars. “It is very difficult to compare facilities,” said Matt Bryan, lobbyist for Corrections Corp. of America of Nashville. The other private prison company is the GEO Group of Boca Raton.