Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Privatization of FLA Prisons Failed Before & Will Again

A $66.5 billion budget proposal to privatize prisons is moving forward in the Florida House Appropriations Committee. Republicans have once claimed that privatization would be the gateway to taxpayers saving. These days, Republicans say government is evil and the private sector is righteous. Never-mind that these same Republicans receive a government paycheck.

It is hard for Republicans to say that privatization will either save money or work more effectually? The privatization mandate started by Gov. Jeb Bush yielded no examples of fiscal conservatism.

The Department of Children & Families found that privatization led to child abuse. Bush's former Corrections Secretary Jim Crosby pleaded guilty to receiving kickback money from contractors.

Crosby's downfall came after a particularly difficult 2005.

The rollout of Bush's most ambitious single contract, handing over all state personnel functions to private company Convergys, went terribly.

The company repeatedly stumbled in cutting paychecks for state employees or accurately providing employee benefits.

Compounding the controversy were allegations that a Convergys' subcontractor shipped state employees' personal information to India for data processing.

Is this what Republicans consider the virtues how how the free market work better than government. There is also Ray Samson inserting an earmark to award a prison contract to Xe Services LLC. The company was formerly known as Blackwater. Even Republicans aren't singing the praises of the company investigating for the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians.

Bush's own inspector general Bill Monroe could not find if privatization saved taxpayers. The Bush administration kept horrible records of private contracts. Former efficiency expert Ruth Sykes said Bush ruled by fear and would not heed warning about the contracts.

"As I told the governor, people have the answers, your employees have the answers," she told me at the time. "They know where the waste is; they know where the problems are. They will help you if you let them, if they have the motivation to help."

What state employees had under Bush was fear. "You feel like you can't voice your opinion and be critical," Sykes said back then. "I felt like I was exposing things - 'This is a different way, consider this' - and this is what I was brought here to do."

A state audit could not find any savings from privatization under Bush. It would seem prisons and other government departments did not work more efficiently under privatization. What was found that companies that awarded campaigns contributions to Republicans got Florida government contracts. It was also a nice way for Bush to make government union members lose their jobs.

I was once open to privatization. Anyone who has stood in line at the Department of Motor Vehicle or the post office knows government isn't perfect. The problem is Republicans have no interest in overseeing their own policies and place politics above governing. This is why the GOP's policy proposals always fail. There have been too many examples of incompetence and campaign-financing greed. Republicans don't deserve the benefit of the doubt on privatization.

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