Understanding Correctional Privatization in Florida

In a recent piece Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post ominously warns:

The specter of privatizing more (Florida) state prisons makes many uncomfortable. For-profit companies would want more inmates in prison, despite bipartisan calls for sentencing reform. Then there are questions about security and accountability.

However, Marra’s piece misses the mark in several important ways. I submitted a letter to the editor that was not published in print, but is available online here. In short, my piece explains that correctional outcomes in Florida are improving, in part because of privatization.

First, these improvements can be measured in cost savings:

The Florida Department of Management Services recently reported that privately operated facilities cost taxpayers 10-27 percent less to operate than comparable state prisons.

Second, they can be measured in improved quality:

A Florida Chamber of Commerce evaluation of private and public facilities in south Florida finds private partners have four times as many inmates participating in educational, vocational and life skills programming (79.3 percent versus 21.3 percent).

My piece concludes:

(Privatization) is an effective policy tool that has been thoughtfully integrated into the system over decades; making all Floridians—not only taxpayers and inmates—better off.

For related work, see Reason Foundation’s Prisons and Corrections Research Archive.