Florida Looks for the Lowest Bidder as It Privatizes 30 State Prisons

Florida is seeking bids from private companies to take over management of 30 state prisons in an 18-country area in South Florida. The “fastest privatization venture ever undertaken by the state of Florida” is an effort by Gov. Rick Scott (R) to save the state money by outsourcing prison oversight to the lowest bidder:

In an effort to cut costs, Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature set a January 1, 2012, deadline to privatize 30 state prisons, road camps and work release centers. […]

The state will hire only one company to run all those prisons, which sets up a high-stakes competitive battle between the nation's two biggest private prison operators: Corrections Corp. of America, based in Nashville, and the GEO Group of Boca Raton. Both companies already operate prisons in Florida. […]

The bidding process is moving ahead despite a lawsuit filed by the Florida Police Benevolent Association, the bargaining agent for unionized correctional officers.

PBA Executive Director Matt Puckett said he had not thoroughly analyzed the bid documents and could not comment on them in detail. But the union leader said many PBA members in South Florida are “devastated” at the prospects of having to find new jobs or move upstate to keep their prison jobs.

As ThinkProgress previously reported, Scott has long advocated privatizing prisons which “could open a lucrative door to politically connected vendors who stand to profit.” GEO Group already manages two of the state's seven private prisons and is a “prime financier of the Republican Party” that gave more than $400,000 to GOP in the 2010 election cycle alone and gave the maximum $25,000 to Scott's inaugural fund.

The Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest corrections company, also has close connections to GOP statehouses across the country. The company has spent $373,000 in political contributions in Florida since 2003, over 60 percent of which have gone to Republicans.

And the private prison industry isn't just lobbying to take over state prisons; it's also “working to make money through harsh policies and longer sentences.” According to a report by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), private prisons spend millions on lobbying to put more people in jail, which translates to more profits for them. Last year, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group made over $2.9 billion in revenue.