Florida’s Ongoing Privatization Saga- Call in the Clergy?

Via Grassroots Leadership Florida’s Ongoing Privatization Saga- Call in the Clergy?

During the temporary postponement of SB 2038 Privatization of Correctional Facilities we see a once smug Senate President, Haridopolos, scrambling for support.  After trying to fast-track a vote on what would become the largest prison privatization move in the nation, its supporters are scrounging for the 21 senate votes it needs to deliver to the multi-million-dollar private prison corporations what they had promised.

The senate president fired Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, from his chairmanship of the budget panel in charge of prisons because Fasano dared to suggest an amendment that would require real study and real thought. Oh, and he publicly stated that privatizing was a payback to GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America.  And, he called Haridopolos a bully.

Now the beleaguered Haridopolos has announced he will make even more drastic cuts in education, health care and state employee benefits if Florida does not embrace privatized prisons. Yet, still he cannot seem to move the more moderate Republicans.  This petulant, pouting Senate President, and his profiteering cronies are getting nervous as they continue to be questioned, lampooned, spoofed and criticized by the public, faith leaders, journalists and their own colleagues.

Claudio M PerezClaudio M Perez

And so, they bring in Claudio M. Perez and his clergy team from South Florida Jail Ministries.  Do they talk about the dignity and worth of every person?  Do they explore an industry whose ‘product’ is human beings?  No, they talk business.  Perez admits that he has spoken to some of the multi-million dollar prison groups about hiring his company to provide services.  Yesterday Perez and his associates delivered a letter to the Governor, the Senate President and House Speaker Dean Cannon calling for the state to move forward on the bill.  (this is where we begin to connect the dots)

He believes that he can work with private prisons because he said that he believes the private prison industry has more of an incentive to save money and reduce recidivism, more of an incentive than the Department of Corrections. (This is where we scratch our heads.)

Hailed by the media as a clergy leader, Perez was awarded a 2010 honorary Doctor of Divinity from Jacksonville Baptist Theological Seminary. An honorary degree or a degree honoris causa  is an academic degree for which the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, study, and the passing of examinations, are waived  In addition to picking up his Hon. D. D., he attended a short program within the Harvard Business School Executive Education program.  We only mention the honorary degree and the short (less than a week) Harvard program because, on a number of sites, these are his credentials.

Dr. Perez is a very busy man.  According to information gleaned from South Florida Jail Ministries’ 990’s, he worked twenty hours a week as the organization’s Executive Director for which he was paid $65,000.  He is also listed as a forty-hour a week President and CEO, for which he was paid another $85,000.  Add to that his executive positions as President at Universal Investors Network Inc., Director of Home Automation International Inc.  and Chairman, CEO and President at Universal Investors Association Corp., one wonders where he finds the time. (head scratch and connect the dots?)  And, to add to his already busy schedule, we understand that he sits on the Health Choice Network.  Their lobbyist is Ron Book who also lobbies for the private prison profiteer from Florida, the GEO Group.  And, a number of years ago he was the lobbyist for South Florida Ministries. (connect the dots, please!)

As we scratch our heads and connect the dots, let us remember that the passage of this bill will affect the lives of thousands of prisoners and state workers.  It will send a message that, at least in Florida, human beings are indeed a commodity to be bought and sold.  It is time that we stand up to these bullies and expose them for who they are.

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