MONTICELLO, Fl. -- Late in the 1980s, crime was rising, prisons were filling up and Florida needed new places to build prisons. But a grim penitentiary full of criminals was a gift that few counties wanted back then.
Jefferson County, just east of Tallahassee, was different. Then, as now, under populated and desperately poor, it saw an opportunity and it did something unusual.
State senators decided by two votes last night to kill a massive privatization program designed to reduce state prison costs by seven percent a year. Nine Republicans joined the Democratic minority to kill the bill, which had divided the Senate and called into question the leadership of Senate President Mike Haridopolos.
The privatization scheme called for turning 28 southern Florida institutions over to private contractors, eliminating thousands of jobs and reducing the state prison budget by an estimated seven percent.