Commentary

Sheriff Seeks Outside Contractor for Jail Nurses

The Solano County Sheriff’s office is looking to hire private sector nurses to staff their county jail. They figure that the arrangement will save between $300,000 and $500,000 a year. Beyond cost savings, they also expect to get better service, since the county had a serious staffing shortage in the jails — inmates with non-emergencies were often left waiting to receive health care — bringing up potential legal liability too. Despite the shortage and savings, the local union still can’t get behind the deal. In fact, in a rather strange twist, the local Service Employees International Union (SEIU) which is usually against offshore outsourcing or contracting with foreign firms, said that the sheriff’s office “never tried to bring in nurses from the Philippines” thus they hadn’t exhausted all of their resources. I suppose that the difference here is that the nurses would be flown in and become members of the local SEIU, raising their ranks of paying members. By contracting with a very experienced firm the SEIU will actually see their numbers go down slightly. This certainly seems to be a case of putting union politics over the delivery of effective and efficient services to taxpayers. Fortunately, it seems that the County and the Sheriff aren’t going to fall for it.

Geoffrey Segal is the director of privatization and government reform at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. He is also editor of Reason's Privatization Watch.