The Florida legislature's push to privatize many more prisons, its most far-reaching cost-cutting plan in years, could open a lucrative door to politically connected vendors who stand to profit, reports the Miami Herald. Senate and House budgets require the state to privatize prisons in South Florida, home to one-fifth of the statewide inmate population of 101,000. The region is the home of the GEO Group, the nation's second-largest private prison operator, which currently runs two private prisons.
The Boca Raton company, a reliable contributor to the Republican party, employs 2,000 people and a stable of 16 lobbyists. It donated $25,000 to Gov. Rick Scott's inaugural celebration. A top transition budget adviser to Scott, Donna Arduin, is a former trustee of a GEO real estate company. The company's healthcare subsidiary, GEO Care, is led by Jorge Dominicis, a familiar figure in the Capitol from years of lobbying for the sugar industry. In recent testimony, Dominicis touted the advantages of privatization and said his firm achieves savings through higher staffing ratios — more inmates per staff member. Under two pending proposals, private vendors would have to run prisons for at least 7 percent less money than state-run prisons.