Prison closures remain on table

“The problem is there's complexity in that. All prisons are not the same.”

The House and Senate remained in disagreement on Saturday over plans to consolidate state prisons.

The Senate is calling for the closure of one 1,500-bed prison in Florida by the end of the year, noting the state’s shrinking inmate population.

Under the plan, the closure would be based on several factors including prison age and maintenance needs, staffing, and the impact of a closure on a local community’s economy

The House, meanwhile, remains uneasy with the pitch.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry noted the Senate proposal’s intricacies. Perry serves as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Conference Committee on Criminal and Civil Justices.

“Theoretically, we could close 10 prisons based on just numbers,” Perry said. “The problem is there’s complexity in that. All prisons are not the same.”

Notably, both sides are looking to Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch on the matter.

Scott Plakon, chairman of the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, noted that the Secretary is “looking very strongly” at consolidations.

Plakon emphasized that the House position is to work together with Inch.

“The idea is if you can find some savings there that can be used for increase pay to correction officers,” Plakon said. “So, it puts a little more of the burden on him to make the choice and in the Senate position, I’m glad that they’ve come our way, quite a bit from where it started.”

While the issue remains at-large, the Senate Saturday withdrew a roughly $140 million budget reduction associated with the closure.

“We’ve got to look at it,” Perry said. “Crime is at a 40-year low but we know there’s going be an uptick now that trials have started back up…. We’re going to be working through that in the next few days to make sure we get that right.”

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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