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Group wants private prisons to rehab Fla. inmates

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 15, 2013 at 5:42 pm •  Published: January 15, 2013

The former Democratic senator lobbies for the Teamsters union, which represents prison guards. Silver argued that private prison employees don't have the kind of training required for state prison guards, who are certified by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Doug Martin, a lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents other prison workers, said improperly supervised inmates in private work release programs have in the past killed or injured members of the public.

"When people have to be compensated that liability rests with the state," Martin said. "The state is not able to put that liability off to private providers."

Prison privatization has been a contentious issue in Florida. A judge struck down a budget provision that would have privatized about 30 South Florida prison facilities in fiscal year ending last June 30. Another judge approved a plan to privatize prison health care services in South Florida but blocked it elsewhere in the state. The Department of Corrections is appealing the latter ruling.

Committee Chairman Greg Evers, R-Baker, thanked both sides for the discussion but said any action would be up to a separate budget committee that oversees prison spending. Evers said he agreed with the idea of providing rehabilitation but that taxpayers should be compensated for building prisons operated by private companies.

The Legislature last year passed a bill that would have allowed a limited number of nonviolent felons to seek sentence reductions after obtaining substance abuse treatment in prison. It was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott, who said releasing inmates early would be an injustice to victims.

Bishop said he believed Scott will support the Smart Justice proposal because it would not reduce sentences.