Florida’s Private Prisons Short on Proof of Recidivism Cuts

Florida’s lawmakers privatized 6 of the state’s 62 prisons, both with hopes of saving taxpayers money and to reap a promised reduction in recidivicm rates, in comparison with public prisons. According to a just-released fiscal and policy report, over a decade of experience shows no firm evidence that the latter goal is being achieved.

Over the past 20 years, various states started contracting with private companies to operate adult prisons. Florida joined in during the mid ’90’s when the state’s lawmakers, in direct opposition to public employee unions, followed advice from the private prison industry, and enacted supporting legislation. Four contracts for the construction and operation of private prisons were awarded in 1995.

Privatization was expected to operated at lower costs and to produce lower recidivism. While some cost savings have apparently been achieved, well over a decade of exerience has shown no evidence to substantiate that the state is getting the recidivism impact that it exected.

The statutes now on the books state that the private prisons must have programs “designed to reduce recidivism, and include opportunities to participate in such work programs as authorized ….” Although the private prisons are thus required to provide such services, the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy maintains that “the contracts and contract monitoring are focused on inputs (e.g. inmate program participation requirements) and do not include any provisions to ensure the desired outcomes of reduced recidivism.”

In one report that compared the recidivism rates of inmates from comparable public and private prisons, the FCFEP discovered that “no statistically significant differences in recidivism rates were found between public and private inmate groups ….” and that there was “…no empirical justification for the policy argument that pivate prisons reduce recidivism better than public prisons.”

For Full Report, and references cited, click here.

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