Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fallout from Florida's Budget Manipulations

The Blackwater Correctional Facility, built as a last-minute budget amendment by disgraced former Speaker of the Florida House, Ray Sansom, is at the center of a debate over inmate work programs in Florida.  The Florida DOC was conned into spending $24 million to bring this facility online, which was built on speculation and now isn't even needed.  More recent projections of the future prison population in the state came in much lower than those relied upon by Mr. Sansom when he pushed the facility for the GEO Group, who had donated a lot of money to his campaign, and now it turns out Florida doesn't even need the 2,200 beds in the prison.  So Florida now has spent millions of dollars to bring this prison online, and to help balance the DOC budget they cut 71 of 180 prison work squads (so nearly half of them).  While a couple of people recognize the short-term consequences of having less of a return on the investment that correctional dollars is (because there won't be as much inmate labor), the long-term consequences will likely be severe.  Keeping inmates busy is one of the best methods of helping to maintain order within the prison system (as they say, idle hands are the devil's plaything), and teaching prisoners the value of work is one of the most effective means of reducing recidivism.  I think the prisoners and the taxpayers of Florida got a raw deal on this prison due to some rather questionable legislative activity by a couple of well-placed friends of the GEO Group.

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