Could Century Correctional Institution Be Privatized? Or Closed?

March 30, 2010


Big changes could be coming to some Florida prisons if one state senator’s plans are approved — resulting in a large number of prison guard layoffs.

The Florida Police Benevolent Association has gone to war with Senate Ways and Means Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, over his proposal to save what he says is about $20 million annually by closing at least two existing state prisons and privatizing more than 5,000 prison beds. The move could result in more than 1,000 correctional officer layoffs, state and union officials said.

Alexander is looking to open 2,224 privately-run beds at the newly completed Blackwater River Correctional Institution in Milton by closing two state-run prisons and laying off 639 prison guards. He also would privatize a now-unidentified 1,350-bed prison and turn over another 1,463 work-release beds to private interests at Orlando’s Central Florida Reception Center, the South Florida Reception Center, and other facilities in Columbia County and in Gainesville – saving $8.2 million, according to budget documents.

The prisons that would be closed, and the 1,350-bed prison to be privatized have not been named. Century Correctional Institution has a maximum capacity of 1,345 prisoners, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. Century CI was over capacity with 1,435 inmates as of January 31. Century is not the only prison facility in the state with an approximate capacity of 1,350.

All told, Alexander’s prison overhaul would eliminate 2,449 correctional officer positions, including more than 1,000 direct layoffs.

“We have no idea which prisons are slated for closure or privatization, so that means everyone’s job is in jeopardy. This act is one of the most aggressive actions against correctional officers taken by the Legislature in over a decade,” the  Florida Police Benevolent Association stated in their “State Correctional Officers Chapter Hotsheet” released last week.

Alexander said that while the state spends $65-a-day for inmates in existing prisons, Geo Group has said it would charge $41 per-inmate daily, an immediate savings for the state on the 2,224 inmates it would house at Blackwater, which was included in the state budget when Rubio was speaker of the House.

“Closing an entire prison devastates already economically strapped communities,” the Florida Department of Corrections said in agency analysis, pointing out that the layoffs anticipated by Alexander could result in a $59 million loss in the prison communities targeted.

Alexander said that with a $3.2 billion budget shortfall looming, the state has to take dramatic steps to find savings wherever it can.

“The reality is, we’ve got a brand-new prison that the state directed to use taxpayer money to build,” Alexander said of Blackwater. “I think putting that prison online, saving the money and saving the maintenance costs is something that makes financial sense.”

“Politically, you’d think Republicans are big on public safety and we certainly didn’t expect to see this type of thing coming at us this year,” Florida PBA President Jim Baiardi said Monday. “We’ve got to see how this plays out.”

While the Florida Education Association, the big teachers’ union, has been reduced to merely howling at a measure looking almost certain to win legislative approval – tying teacher pay to student performance on standardized tests — the PBA looks more likely to win its fight with the Senate.

David Murrell, a veteran PBA lobbyist, called Alexander’s budget squeeze a “low blow.” And while the privatization move has not been embraced by the House, Murrell said the organization is still working to have the measure stripped from the Senate’s roughly $69 billion spending plan.

prisonpeople.jpgThe PBA also may have a not-so-secret weapon in its fight with Alexander – Gov. Charlie Crist, already endorsed by the corrections union in his U.S. Senate Republican primary battle with Marco Rubio.

In a sign of how serious the governor’s office is taking the Senate move, DOC Secretary Walt McNeil spent much of Monday huddling with the governor’s office and Senate staff, preparing the department’s opposition to Alexander’s privatization effort.

DOC maintains that the Senate’s proposed staff cuts would leave the state with 2,519 inmates more than system-capacity – forcing a court-ordered early release of inmates. Florida has avoided using early release to control the state’s now 100,000-inmate prison population since the mid-1990s, when legislation was approved requiring those behind bars to serve a minimum 85 percent of their sentences.

A co-sponsor of that bill: then state Sen. Charlie Crist.

While the governor’s office is pushing back hard this week, Alexander has defended the move – which clearly helps private prison giant, Geo Group – saying it is driven by dollars and cents, not politics.

“It’s a substantial savings,” Alexander. State workers “don’t necessarily have to lose their jobs. With 300 something vacancies a month, there’s lots of opportunities to take another position.”

John Kennedy, News Service Florida, contributed to this story.


23 Responses to “Could Century Correctional Institution Be Privatized? Or Closed?”

  1. Carlota Tyson on June 24th, 2010 8:48 pm

    I have a son serving 10 years under the 10/20/life law. He was a young executive with a bright and promising future. He went through a divorce which turned his life upside down. Got involved in drugs, held up a porno shop in Sarasota, his first offense. The DA said she was going to make an example of him and sentenced him to 10 years although we wanted a trial by jury, she offered him 10 yrs and threathened to give him life if he didn’t take it, although we wanted a trial, his attorney, a crook worked out a plea without our consent or my son’s with the DA. We lived 3 hrs away from Sarasota and on Friday he was taken to court unbeknowns to us and offered the deal with the threat, terrified that he would get life he was forced to accept. He is serving time at Graceville Correctional. We drive 5 hours to go see him and wait 2 hours just to go in because the staff is so inept and indolent.

    We have spent over $60,000 in attorneys, who have taken our money and done nothing. I send my son about $100 a month for his canteen. I know my son has learned his lesson.

    I would like to see the politicans and some attorneys doing time. These are the real criminals and we are their victims.

  2. bigjon on April 25th, 2010 11:01 am

    century is a horrible place to work.

  3. Joyce on April 6th, 2010 5:44 am

    I think Gov. Crist and the rest of the politicans in Florida need to not only re-think this 85% of sentence but, also the way some of the laws of Florida are interpreted. My son is in prison under a law that really should not have been applied to him, “Felon in posession of a firearm”. He found this gun in the bedroom that he shared with his fiance, was walking towards the kitchen with the gun to ask her if she knew where it had come from, when the gun went off, the bullet entered his left-side, came out and then entered his left arm. He had been trying to lock the safety when this happened. Now mind you that there were 2 small children in the house and he was trying to do something thaty would protect them. It turns out that my now daughter-in-law brought the gun home from the place she was working taking care of an elderly Alzheimer’s patient. My daughter-in-law had feared for her safety and didn’t know what else to do at that time. She had planned on calling the woman’s daughter, that lived in Ga., but my son found the gun first. The State of Florida sentenced him to seven (7) years in prison for shooting himself. His children will have graduated high school before he is released, my daughter-in-law has had to suffer through breast cancer and a masectomy, she has no financial support except for SSI because her doctors will not allow her to work right now. She and my grandchildren live with me and my husband but that is all of the financial support we can give them. We have pleaded with the judge to commute his sentence back to the original plea bargain of three (3) years but to no avail. I have contacted the govenor’s office and recieved an email back that said the Govenor could do NOTHING about this, which we all know is a crock, because he has the power to release anyone from prison if he cares to. My son spending seven years in prison for this crime is in its self a crime.

  4. Employee on April 3rd, 2010 10:37 pm

    and i totally agree with the whole re-entry thing come in and go back they have it made who else is gonna feed them.

  5. Employee on April 3rd, 2010 10:35 pm

    The 2nd largest prison by population is run by GEO and where do you think the scum gets shipped to when doc wants to unload them? Im not trying to start a bs comment section. More than 1/2 of the inmates at the prison i work at are 9999 trd inmates. look them up on dc website dont just take my word for it. now blackwater and furthermore most of the people that work there are from doc with many years in. everyone talks about how bad crosby was look at where his top 2 boys from when he was warden at fsp ended up. tallahassee. the system stays the same.

  6. co sgt on April 3rd, 2010 12:56 pm

    politicians think that private run prisons are the anser i dont think it is im sure they are not gona take some scum bag who has a life sentance for raping some kid or who has killed so many people u cant even imagine all they want is the person who is in prison for some petty crime where we have to deal with the killers and rapers and scum of the earth surei bet geo is really great im sure it is i would think it was too if i only dealt with minor crimes everyday we as state correctional officers go to work everyday to protect the lifes of the general public not knowing is the day that we have a riot and not ever go home agin i agree the food really sucks but it isnt our fault it is some stupid politician who forces the soybean products on the department to supposedly save money and i agree with some people not all inmates are bad people some jus made a mistake or was screwed by the system but the big majority of inmates deserve to spend the rest of there lifes behind those fences and never leave agin. I know sinse i have worked for the department i have seen ppl cum and go and the sad thing is that over 50 to 60 % mabe even more inmates who get out within a yr sumtimes less come back most of the time for the exact same crime and this iis not at fault of the department but rather the inmate does wana change his surroundings or his lifestyle

  7. Employee on April 3rd, 2010 9:04 am

    I always love reading what people say that really have no clue. I worked for DOC for 6 years and have worked for Geo for 2 and can tell you that both are secure. They both have pros/cons. As anywhere would, I don’t want anyone in Doc to lose their job alot of my fam, friends still work there, and yes GEO does pay the power and maintenance Doc pays for the inmate that’s it so before some of you go out and bash what you don’t know educate yourself with facts.

  8. The voice of common sense on April 1st, 2010 10:53 am

    A correctional officer,
    Are you trying to say that EVERY single person in there is guilty? I know they have been found guilty in a court of law, but did they all actually commit the crime. If so, you, sir, are a liar. The facts are that many are not there because they did something illegal.
    Really, CO? Really!?! My son is in prison now (and he wasn’t even in town when the crime occurred but he was convicted anyway). I have to pay $10 per doctor visit and $5 per prescription. Since he has some serious medical issues, that can run to a little over $100 a month! And once he is prescribed a medically necessary medication, it may be two or three WEEKS before he even GETS it!
    I have to pay for his underwear, tshirts, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc. He costs me a heck of a lot MORE in prison than he did living at home! Not to mention when other inmates steal his stuff and COs who don’t want to be bothered refuse to do anything about it. Then I have to pay for all of it all over again.
    You seem to have a problem with tarring everyone with the same brush. Life isn’t like that, sir. Many of these inmates HAD jobs and worked everyday before being arrested. And yet you say that ” do you think that most of these inmates would have a job if they were not in prison….NO!!! if that were the case they would have been at work or with their families instead of committing crimes” Interesting… son was with me in another state visiting family members when the crime he was convicted of was committed and yet he is still a guest of the state. And he DID work, 70-85 hours every single week. After six years on the job, he took his very first vacation and came home to being arrested and sent to prison for something he could not possibly have done.
    You say that if inmates cared about their families, they wouldn’t NEED any of these things? Ok, I’ll grant you the cigarette point, but how can you say they wouldn’t need to go to the doctor, receive life-saving medications, have underwear on their rears, have deodorant and shampoo and toothpaste and a toothbrush and all the other things we pay for? Are you serious? Don’t tell me they get those things free because I’ll challenge you to use the products that are free. See how you like having a rash under your arms from deodorant so bad that you can’t put your arms down, or trying to brush your teeth with a brush that the bristles are falling out of (in your mouth) and toothpaste that doesn’t even “suds up”. Or soap that leaves a nasty residue on your body so that you’d rather shower without and never get clean than have to deal with that horrible nasty feeling all day long. Or shampoo that makes your hair so dry and brittle that it falls out. I could go on all day about the problems with that school of thought.

    Dude, you have no idea what you’re talking about. I understand that you have a job to do, but let me tell you……prison is very expensive for the families of inmates.

  9. a correctional officer on March 31st, 2010 9:20 pm

    to the voice of the common sense……you have lost your mind…….it is the inmates choice to be where they are. who pays for the electric to give them heat, light, hot water……..who pays for the water for their showers they get every day. their clothes they wear….their soap, toothbrushes, toilet paper… get the point! the tax payer pays it! and as far as their health care…they get yearly exams and a dr visit for a problem they may be having is only $4.00…wow what a rip off right. the correctional officers co pay is 20 dollars for a dr visit and 25 co pay for prescriptions plus we have to pay a monthly charge. do you honestly think that most of these inmates would even go to the doctor if they were out on the street…NO! do you think that most of these inmates would have a job if they were not in prison….NO!!! if that were the case they would have been at work or with their families instead of committing crimes. do you think that most of these inmates care about their families….no or they would not need cigarettes, etc……in some countries the families have to bring the inmates food daily, they have no hot water, no heat… it seems your family members have it pretty good considering most have taken something from someone else….property, money, life, innocence. we have American soldiers at war risking their lives everyday living in unbearable weather conditions while they sleep in tents and eat mre meals and they all have family that they miss….its funny how they don’t whine and complain….and they protect my freedom as well as yours….and the inmates…who by the way chose to disregard the laws that our men and women have fought for!!!!!

  10. Privatizing WORKS! on March 31st, 2010 5:30 pm

    I work for a defense contractor who took over a small sector that was previously operated by government civil service employees. The government used 9 employees to do what we now do with 5 employees, a 40% reduction. The savings alone from employee salaries is significant by itself, but once you add in the money saved on insurance, paid time off, mandatory govt. paid holidays, liberal leave policies, etc, the overall cost reduction was closer to 50%. If the public only knew how much tax money is being wasted on government civil service type run business, they would be quick to move towards privitisings these businesses.

  11. The voice of common sense on March 31st, 2010 2:50 pm

    Glad to see that I am not the only one who sees the real truth here.
    Everybody out in the “real world” fusses and complains about how well the inmates are treated but tell me……have any of you ever been there yourselves or known someone who was? If so, tell me honestly, do you think they are being treated better than those of us out here in the “real world”?
    The cost of supporting the inmates tends to fall on the families of the incarcerated, NOT the taxpayers. The inmate is charged for all doctor visits, prescriptions, all phone calls, any food to supplement what they are given (which is NOT much for a fully grown man), things to keep them occupied such as a a deck of cards or a radio, and almost anything else you can think of. They are charged for each day they are in jail. Now, since they are sitting in jail and obviously not working, WHO do you think has to pay for this? Answer: their families.
    Don’t be so quick to fuss about how YOU are paying for all these things when YOU are not doing it.

  12. Joyce Larae on March 31st, 2010 12:05 pm

    Everyone has their on opion… But speaking from myself a wife of a FL DOC inmate yes inmate. The state officials sit back making big bucks cutting money from two sources….EDUCATION And Dept. Of Corrections. Well, there are alot of inmates that sit in prison for a crime not of a violent nature, nor a sexual offense nor a drug crime for long periods of time 15 years manatory… while sex offenders are getting 5 yr or less sometimes in prison…. this 85% that Gov. Crist is so proud of is now in my opion biting him and others in the butts because FL DOC is not over populated with inmates doing manatory sentences, long term sentences that Florida loves to give out like candy. I personally have to have my cell phone so my 81 year old mother can get in touch with me 24/7, and a land line so my husband can call home If I want to talk to him…. then to help feed my husband I was sending 20 dollars a week so he could eat something other than SOY based foods DOC feeds them daily. We are Jewish and he does not get special foods IE Kosher… the canteen prices in all institutions were raised on Monday 3/29/2010 now that 20.00 a wk will have to be 30 a week or more.. Yes I made the decision to stand by my man while we do this sentence. But I feel that the State officials need to step back take a look at their own salaries and cut that instead of taking away from our CHILDREN pay the teachers that TEACH them…. The higher ups get their raises but the men and women who work in the state prisons go with out and they are the ones going into work everyday not knowing if an inmate will go off the wall and kill them the men and women of DOC put their lives on the line just like the men and women of the local sheriffs departments which are KEEPING THE STATE SAFE WHILE LAW MAKERS PROFIT….

  13. How-Much? on March 31st, 2010 11:33 am

    Geo says that they can do it for $41 per inmate, pay everyone and make a profit. Well let’s see. FDOC’s current cost is $65 per inmate per day. With that, FDOC pays the officers salaries, pays for the utilities, prison maintenance, outside medical costs, OIT costs, transportation costs, and the list goes on, and of course, FDOC does not make any profit. Folks, something doesn’t add up here. Will FDOC still pay for the utilities, prison maintenance, maintenance, outside medical, etc? You bet the Department will and Geo will not accept and “problem” inmates either. That’s how Geo will make a profit at $41 . . . and if it goes like so many other privatization efforts, within a year or so, Geo will be crying the blues on how they can’t make it at $41 and the Department will need to pony up more money to make it work. Remember, Geo’s $41 per inmate cost is just to get them into the door. If privatization happens here, this effort will probably end up like the Armark food service privatization nightmare, or maybe like the Canteen privatization effort where corruption landed Secretary Crosby in the Federal pen with an eight-year sentence.

    Privatization of Blackwater CI and it’s fallout is not good for the Department, not good for the officers, but most of all, it’s not good for the citizens of Florida.

  14. DO WHAT ? on March 30th, 2010 9:01 pm


  15. Parentwithabrain on March 30th, 2010 6:58 pm

    Say NO to private prisons! Lobbyists go in and encourage harsher laws and sentences for the citizens so they can make money off those incarcerated! Twisted, thoroughly corrupt and twisted thinking! I get building a newer facility and closing those that are costing more in upkeep, but let the DOC run them and not a private firm. Look at those private firms and the corruption in Iraq! Going in and making tons more money than our hard working soldiers and not having to follow the same guidelines. Abuse!

  16. huh on March 30th, 2010 5:49 pm

    Private prisons always lead to corruption and people forced to fill them to keep them full of government funds.

    Say no to private prisons!

  17. EMD on March 30th, 2010 1:16 pm

    Time to quit looking to the republicans or the democrats and the rest. It is not one against the other. It is the government against the people. Someone…..anyone, tell me with a straight face, “Ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I dare you. We need to start over, and put everything back to the beginning, and go from there with some ordinary people, not hard-hearted, money lusting puppets and predators. “The love of money is the root of all evil.” We sure have an abundance of that in government and banking, and industry. I know there must be “some’ good guys in DC, but what can they do? They need to come out from among the party crowd and run on their own platforms, one that reflects the will of the people. And, not lie to get elected. We may not get the chance to facilitate such, before we are under a total dictatorship. We need to wake up to many things, including our own personal condition. People are voting that know nothing about government. We need to teach things in school that matter, not all of this PC nonsense.

  18. anydaynow on March 30th, 2010 1:07 pm

    I don’t believe a word of what Alexander says. Merely suggesting that privatizing prisons would save taxpayers money is insulting to our intelligence. Let’s see, we’ll add profits to the costs of prisons and of course taxpayers will have more to pay. No wonder they want to cut back on education, the politicians need more stupid voters so they can get by with stuff like this. Not only would it cost more to add profits to the formula, privatizing prisons adds a profit motive to putting people in prison. If this is going to be approved, we voters should demand that the names and occupations of every single investor and individual that profits from the prisons be made public. More nonsense from Tallahassee.

  19. peeved on March 30th, 2010 11:44 am

    well i hope to heck its not century because my husband works there and we have a family and he is the only one that works and he needs his job!!!!!! this is bull !!!!!

  20. David Huie Green on March 30th, 2010 10:54 am

    “By the way, because they were a private company, an employee found in violation was not fired. ”

    But if they were breaking the law, they could be given an upclose view of the facilities for a long time

  21. Mike on March 30th, 2010 8:20 am

    Privatizing at Century C. I. and other Institutions in Florida has such a good record. Several years ago the food preperation at north Florida prisons was taken over by Arrmark Inc. They promised to save the state hundreds of thousands of dollors. They didn’t even want to provide salt for meals until they were forced to. Two years later, it was costing the state more for meals than ever. Then the excuse was that it freed the officers that worked in food service to work in the housing units. This was better for security. However, so many Armark employees were let go for bringing in contraband & having relationships with inmates, security spent more time watching Armark than watching inmates. By the way, because they were a private company, an employee found in violation was not fired. Century C. I. could bar them from the institution, but Armark could send them to another institution until they violated there. After 7 years of this, Armark left and the state took over again. Imagine this for the entire system, not just food.

  22. Mac on March 30th, 2010 7:58 am

    Hate to be the bad guy in this story, but the rumor on the block (Tallahassee contact) is that Charlotte CI is the “now-unidentified 1,350-bed prison” that will be shut down or rather turned over to Geo to be privatized. I find it funny how Geo won the construction build contract, won the prison security contract and won the and the medical mental/physical heath contract. Three contracts and ONLY one company wins, do you not smell something fishy here?

    PLUS, this was secretly placed in a bill at the very last minute by a politician who is now in trouble for theft, not to include that this prison is being built in their home county. Where the heck is the FBI, because someone needs to conduct a federal investigation on this, because our tax money is filling someone’s pocket!

    Here’s a final thought for all you readers, could we not use the 170 million dollars it took to build this new prison on something more important like our children’s EDUCATION… God only knows that the three perfectly working facilities that they plan to close needed to be replaced by a brand new one!

  23. Oversight on March 30th, 2010 6:19 am

    Ok, let me get this straight; in order to save $20 million annually, the area in which each prison that will be closed will loose $59 million, and how many prisons do they want to close – about 3 for the 5,000 beds? Now that would be a $177 million total loss to save $20 million. 20,000,000 is only 1.6% of 3,200,000,000; a mere drop in the proverbial bucket, so I’m sure there really is some other agenda other than cost savings. They have made a disclaimer; however, this smells worse than the Cantonment paper mill and it appears that those who support this will get their pockets lined by Geo Group.

Have a comment on this story?

We welcome your comments on this story, but there are some rules to follow::

(1) Be Nice. No comments that slander another, no racism, no sexism, no personal attacks.

(2) No Harrassing Comments. If someone says something bad about you, don't respond. That's childish.

(3) No Libel. That's saying something is not true about someone. Don't do it.

(4) Keep it clean. Nothing vulgar, obscene or sexually related. No profanity or obvious substitutions. Period.

(5) reserves the right to remove any comments that violate our rules or we think to be inappropriate. We are not responsible for what is posted. Comments may not appear right away until they are approved by a moderator.

(6) Limit your comments to the subject in this story only, and limit comments to 300 words or less. Do not post copyrighted material. Comments will not be added to stories that are over 30 days old.

(7) No posts may advertise a commercial business or political group, or link to another commercial web site or political site of any kind.