The Underlying (and Scary) Implications of Florida’s Attempt to Privatize Prison System

January 20, 2012

While the Old Man tends to focus on national issues, I occasionally react to what some state governments are doing; especially if I see a national implication. And the state of Florida has recently given new cause for one of those concerns.

Republican Florida legislators, under the leadership of Republican Governor Rick Scott, are again attempting to privatize Florida’s prison system. This is the second attempt within the past year. The first was ruled unconstitutional by a Florida judge last September, which lawmakers fought. But the new efforts underway today have a sinister twist to it.

The Senate rules committee introduced the first bill (PCB 7170), which essentially means that an agency would not have to report its privatization of a program or service until after the contract is signed. [bold added]

The opponents say “the bills would keep the public in the dark about the costs of outsourcing any government service, not just prisons.” And that’s certainly true. While Scott has said that it would save the state government $40 million per year, he has yet to say how much it would cost to privatize the system. But if history is any indicator, it would be considerably more than the current cost.

Now if you don’t see the implication here, let me explain.

This opens the door for the Florida government to pass any law it desires in secret and the public would have no idea, and certainly no input, until after the dirty deed was done.

Now we know why Governor Scott wants this; it will benefit his donors. But it will also allow the current Republican-controlled government to secretly enact other laws; for example, laws which would disenfranchise Democratic voters.

Being nearly 70 years old, I seem to recall several countries that became a harsh dictatorship using similar methods: Hitler’s Germany, North Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, just to name a few. They all got started by enacting government policies in secret without the public knowing anything about it until it was too late.

It has become painfully obvious now that states are being used as testing grounds for what could be done at a national level. And this latest effort by Florida is simply a next step.

When most legitimate governments want to quietly become a dictator, they accept that it will be a long-term process; therefore they take baby steps. But in the end, if allowed to get away with any one of those baby steps, they’ll succeed.


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