Florida, as you know if you've heard anything about private prisons in the past month, is in the midst of a huge, subversive campaign to force private prisons on its residents, despite widespread opposition. The state should take a look at the situation in Hernando County for an example of the things that can all go terribly wrong when a prison is privatized.
After operating the local jail there for 22 years, CCA was found to have ignored myriad maintenance issues totaling millions of dollars. The sheriff took over the facility after CCA bailed on the contract rather than repair the facility, which they had been operating since it opened. After taking over the facility, he saved local taxpayers more than a million dollars in operating costs in the first year, even after taking into account all the maintenance that needed to be done.
So after the government assumed responsibility for its jail and trimmed its expenses by more than a million dollars, there was still the issue of back-pay that the county had withheld from CCA to cover the maintenance they had consistently failed to perform. The dispute was over $1.8 million worth of payments; CCA sued the county to try to recoup the money they shouldn't have gotten in the first place. Unfortunately for Hernando County, CCA's well-paid attorneys did their job quite effectively, and CCA has been ordered to pay only $100,000 of the money owed to the county. In other words, 5%. And, even more unfortunately, this precludes the county from releasing an accounting of just how CCA could have let millions of dollars worth of maintenance needs go unchecked. But, according to the editorial board at the Tampa Bay Times, "ending the privatization of the jail will produce long-term dividends for the citizens of Hernando County."