March 24, 2011- About 75 union members and supporters protested on the Capitol steps Thursday against Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to sell and privatize some state prisons as part of his budget-balancing strategy.
Shouting "save our prison" and "we are not for sale," the protesters said the governor's plan would kill much-needed jobs in their areas, while others questioned whether the plan would end up saving as much money in the long run as state officials are projecting.
Jindal's 2011-12 budget includes $85 million for health-care services that would come from the sale of state-owned prisons in Avoyelles, Winn and Allen parishes.
While the Winn and Allen correctional centers already are under private management, Jindal is proposing to privatize operations at Avoyelles Correctional Center. He also wants to convert the 580-bed Dabadie Correctional Center in Pineville into a privately run 300-bed facility.
The privatization would eliminate 325 jobs at Avoyelles and 149 positions at Dabadie for a total savings of about $5.5 million next year, Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc said.
The sale and privatization would require separate legislation that will be debated during the two-month regular session that starts April 25.
Organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public employee labor union, the rally came after the House Appropriations Committee reviewed the Department of Corrections budget.
LeBlanc told legislators that his agency's budget would eliminate 918 jobs and includes belt-tightening throughout the state prison system, including increased use of telemedecine to cut down on transportation costs, high-tech cameras to replace guard towers and the elimination of some middle-management positions.