Senate, House at odds over $4m to pay for private prison operations
The GEO Group is a frequent donor to Florida Republicans.


Private-prison giant GEO Group wants $4 million in taxpayer money to pay for correctional officers’ salaries at seven of its state-contracted facilities — but the House won’t budge.

The House’s top criminal justice budget-writer, state Rep. Bill Hager, said his chamber has taken the stance to zero out the private prison’s request because the Florida-based company decided to enter into contracts and therefore, it should have that money in place.

For the Senate, however, it is a “fairness issue.”

“The issue here is that a couple of years ago we raised salaries for correctional officers in our public facilities, but we never extended that pay increase to correctional officers in private facilities,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, who is the Senate’s criminal justice budget chair.

The one-time payment request by the private prison falls under HB 3745, sponsored by state Rep. Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican. Because the allocation is non-recurring, the prison company would have to lobby for the money again next year.

According to the appropriations project request, The Geo Group will be seeking $10 million over the next three years for the project.

In 2016, the private prison group gave nearly $2 million in political contributions, most notably $40,000 to Senate President Joe Negron and $100,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Committee. The company also gave $43,000 to the failed congressional bid of his wife, Rebecca.

As the Legislature began final budget negotiations this week, the House and Senate are only $238,422 apart in the criminal justice arena as of Thursday, a big improvement from a day before when they were more than $20 million apart.

Ana Ceballos

Ana covers politics and policy Before joining the News Service of Florida she wrote for the Naples Daily News and was the legislative relief reporter for The Associated Press and covered policy issues impacting immigration, the environment, criminal justice and social welfare in Florida. She holds a B.A. in journalism from San Diego State University. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a criminal justice reporter for the Monterey Herald and the Monterey County Weekly. She has also freelanced for The Washington Post at the U.S.-Mexico border covering crime in the border city of Tijuana, where she grew up. Ana is fluent in Spanish and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese.


  • S McCullough

    March 2, 2018 at 7:21 am

    Totally against for profit prisons, and do not support using state money to support them and their personnel.

  • Frank

    March 2, 2018 at 9:39 am

    Sounds like a “quid pro quo.”

    Looks like a “quid pro quo.”

    Smells like a “quid pro quo.”

  • Officer Doe

    March 2, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    As a Correctional Officer (CO) who works for the aforementioned private prison company I can offer a little insight from the viewpoint of their everyday CO. Although the COs work for GEO we are all certified by the state of Florida, we all get the same inmates to supervise, the only difference is the pay and benefits. Working for a private prison we don’t get a pension like the state does, we can contribute to a 401(k) that the company matches up to 2.5%, but it’s not really the same thing. Currently the only thing stopping most of us from quitting GEO and going to the state for more money and better benefits is the facility location is closer to home, and the camaraderie among staff. Location and camaraderie is only going to quell our dwindling checkbook balances for so long. The efforts displayed by the company attempting to keep us content at our current rate of pay is another reason to stick around. They understand that the steady decline in staffing levels is due to the fact we could drive an extra thirty minutes down the road and make an additional $6k a year, plus benefits.

  • Deborah Joy Young

    March 2, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    Absolutely no tax payer money for private for profit prison business!! Lawsuits and deaths and abuse and neglect is rampant in private prisons. Also, as a private business….they should pay their own expenses and employees…just like any other private business ….or get out of the business…which would be a great thing too

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704