The largest proposed expansion of private prisons in the nation will not proceed after the Florida Senate voted down the proposal on Tuesday.
Though the GOP enjoys a 16-seat advantage in Florida’s upper chamber, nine Republicans joined twelve Democrats to defeat the massive prison privatization bill 21-19. The Miami Herald has more:
The state will not undertake what would have been the single greatest expansion of prison privatization in U.S. history, affecting 27 prisons and work camps in 18 counties and displacing more than 3,500 correctional officers.
Senators debated privatization for nearly three hours, and opponents’ floor speeches often showed more passion. Rather than talk about numbers, they talked about people, such as the treatment of correctional officers, whose starting salary is $34,000 a year and who have not received an across-the-board pay raise for the past six years.
“What’s wrong with state employees?” said Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole. “We should be taking care of them, rather than kicking them under the bus.”
As ThinkProgress reported last year, private prisons corporations have spent millions lobbying legislatures to put more people in jail. After all, leaving for-profit prison beds unfilled hurts their bottom line.
In Florida, the private prison industry wrote large checks to members of the Florida legislature. One such company, GEO Group, doled out $1.3 million in campaign contributions in the Sunshine State over the past 5 years. Gov. Rick Scott (R), a major recipient of private prison money, also attempted to privatize large swaths of the Florida penitentiary system last year, only to have the move declared unconstitutional by a state judge.
To learn more about the disastrous impact of companies that profit by incarcerating people, read this recent report from the ACLU.