Florida has been on a prison-building binge.
And despite the state's avowed fiscal conservatism, the binge has been financed with what amounts to a $1 billion credit card.
Things are so out of hand that prisons continue to be filled while crime declines. So where are the new prisoners coming from? Too often, from first-time offenders and nonviolent drug offenders.
Other states, most notably Texas, have responded by finding alternatives to prison that save money and still protect the public.
Florida, unfortunately, has responded by simply transferring more prisons to private companies. That doesn't necessarily save money. In fact, after more than a decade of prison privatization, the savings are still vague.
- There is no hard evidence that private prisons save money or have better outcomes than public ones, reported the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy last year.
- A 2008 report from the Legislature's accountability office concluded that there was no good assurance that private prisons had comparable levels of health and mental health care as public ones.