Private Prison Plan Is Flawed, Judge Rules

Dec 4, 2012

The Florida Legislature has struck out again with an attempt to privatize some or all of the state prison system.

FAIL: A judge rules Legislature must pass a law, not use a committee, to privatize prisons.
Credit Kate Ter Haar/Fickr

A Tallahassee judge ruled today that lawmakers chose an unconstitutional method to turn prison health care services over to private contractors. As Mary Ellen Klas reported for The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times:

The lawsuit was filed by the unions that represent prison employees, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Alliance of Health Care Employees, who argued that the state was not authorized to make the change through the 14-member Legislative Budget Commission but instead needed to make the shift through a full vote of the Legislature.

(Leon County Circuit Judge John) Cooper agreed and ruled that the $229 million contract the budget commission approved for Nashville-based Corizon Correctional Healthcare, a for-profit company, was illegal.

The ruling will keep about 1,900 prison workers on the job, instead of requiring them to apply for work with the new contractor. Early this year, under pressure from the prison guard union and dissident Republicans, the state Senate defeated a bill to privatize most of the prisons in the southern part of the state.

A privatization plan in the 2011 Legislature succeeded briefly before it, too, was struck down as unconstitutionally designed.