Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Corrections Barometer Forecasts Foul Weather

In an earlier post here I said we ought to keep an eye on how Rick Scott handles the crises in the Department of Corrections to see whether we would be getting Happy Face Rick Scott, or the same old Tea Party Scott. After the hiring of reformer Julie Jones as head of corrections, it looked a lot like we'd be getting Happy Face Scott.

It didn't take long for Tea Party Rick Scott to come roaring back from the grave, though.

Jones clearly admitted before legislators something that had never been admitted so openly before: that private prison vendors (favored by Scott and his business cronies) pick and choose the best inmates. The next day, testifying again, Jones retracted that statement, apparently having been re-educated.

Then Scott submitted his budget for corrections. Jones had had a wish list which meant a much bigger corrections budget. How much came true? Well, Scott suggested about $51 million more for the budget, but here's where that went:

Money to investigate increasing inmate deaths - $0.

Money for filling staff vacancies - $17.5 million. Some, but nowhere near what Jones wanted.

Money for raises for correctional officers - $0.

Money for the private vendors that took over health services, and have been in the news lately for not doing it properly - $7.9 million.

Money for security cameras - $1.7 million.

Money for construction and repair costs - $15 million.

I think we get the picture. Tea Party Scott is back with a vengeance, giving away tax dollars to his corporate friends while continuing to neglect the safety and welfare of the human beings that serve us in their dangerous jobs behind bars, as well as the health and safety of the incarcerated.

So what's next, now that this barometer leans Tea Party Scott? Sadly, unless the Legislature changes any of this, we may see more violence, more inmate deaths, riots, gang takeovers in the prisons, and worse before anyone wakes up. The question is whether it will happen before or after the 2016 Presidential election. If it happens before, then Scott may well have just handed Democrats the White House in 2016.

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