In its recommendations for saving money on the state’s prison system, Gov.-elect Rick Scott’s transition team seizes on a national trend taking hold among conservatives: maintaining their image as being “tough on crime,” while also getting tough on prison spending.
That’s the idea behind “Right on Crime,” an initiative launched this month in Texas with the backing of some national conservative figures. The group’s home page features a map of states that are coming up with ways to save money on prisons and maintain their tough-on-crime credentials. Florida is not featured on the map at all, and that’s a problem, according to Scott’s advisers.
The main thrust of their ideas involves cutting wasteful programs within the Department of Corrections and backing initiatives that will keep prison populations low by focusing on rehabilitating prisoners and making it easier for them to get jobs and return to normal lives, which reduces recidivism. That reduces the cost of caring for prisoners, and the need to build new prisons. The advisers endorse recent recommendations (.pdf) along these lines from Florida Tax Watch.
“Florida should pledge to stop bond financing prisons and prison expansions,” the report recommends, describing such financing as a way to keep building new prisons instead of tackling more fundamental problems fueling prison growth (which has been curbed in recent years, as another transition report notes).
The recommendations also zero in on the department’s contract with the Police Benevolent Association, a union representing many corrections workers, finding that “they not only cost the state way too much money but undermine the mission and thus warrant review and renegotiation.” The contract is up for renewal next summer. The union and Scott’s camp have been clashing over prison spending since the campaign, in which the PBA endorsed Alex Sink, his Democratic rival.