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November 26, 2010

"State mulls private alternatives to public prisons"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable editorial in today's Orlando Sun-Sentinel. Here are excerpts:

Privatizing prisons may be "on the table" — as new Senate President Mike Haridopolus has said — but state leaders would be wise to avoid rushing to fast-track it.

Privatization fits in nicely with Gov.-elect Rick Scott's plans to slash almost half of the state's $2.4 billion prison budget. The $1 billion cut in penal costs is part of Scott's efforts to make up the estimated $2.4 billion state budget shortfall Scott will inherit when he is sworn in as governor in January.

Florida's crime rate as decreased over the past decade, and that's good news.  Except that, during that same time, the state's incarceration rate increased dramatically, thanks to tougher sentencing enacted to keep inmates behind bars longer.

Higher incarceration rates usually mean higher costs to operate prisons, which prompted some state leaders to begin mulling the private-prison alternative. It's not a new concept.  Florida already lists six privately run prisons, with another 2,000-plus-bed facility opening in 2011.

If tougher policies keep violent criminals locked up, it's a price Florida must pay, of course.  But there's evidence, too, that many being locked up for longer periods of time are those with non-violent, more minor drug offenses that might better be dealt with in other ways than prison cells....

Facing a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, state leaders are correct to consider trimming penal costs, but not by a quick substitution of a private facility whose profit margins depend on high incarceration rates and taxpayer subsidies.  State taxpayers would be better served if their leaders examined incarceration rate data to determine if the legal system can save money by tweaking current sentencing guidelines and release laws and evaluating decisions by courts and parole boards to see if all this leads to imprisoning non-violent offenders who could repay their debt to society in a more cost-effective way.

The state may well find it can save money by reducing the time and resources spent on housing minor offenders.  BOTTOM LINE: There are better options than relying on private prisons.

November 26, 2010 at 09:16 AM | Permalink

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Comments

I have a quick way to drop costs by a third. Today, a third of the beds are filled by mental patients. These acted up on the bus, have a bond of $100, but no one is getting them out for months or years. ARe family or friends callous or stupid? No. The patients are better off in prison than on the street.

At no cost, get a pledge to get treatment in exchange for freedom, with no bond. Follow up to insure they are taking medication and keeping treatment appointments. In the case of paranoid schizophrenics, one may insist they take long acting shots that remain in their bodies for weeks even after stopping compliance.

Bureau of Prisons reviewed the problem. Its numbers are too high to be real.

http://www.lsnj.org/keyRecentDevelopments/pdfs/ProblemsPrisonJailInmates.pdf

Those who do not get treatment or who re-offend may return to prison.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 26, 2010 9:43:14 AM

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