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Florida Senate Reduces Prison Closure Plan

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The Florida Senate is backing off from a plan to close at least four prisons.

Senate President Wilton Simpson’s proposal earlier this week to consolidate prisons and demolish four facilities drew bipartisan pushback when it was released recently as lawmakers began to piece together next year’s state budget.

The body approved an amendment to its budget proposal Wednesday reducing the number of possible prison closures down to 1.

North Florida Democratic Senator Lorrane Ausley notes prisons are major economic contributors in the often small counties where they’re located. There are 11 prisons in her largely rural district.

“Closing any prison in a fiscally constrained county would be catastrophic.”

Republican Sen. Keith Perry notes the number of closures could have been higher, given the ongoing decline in prisoners.

The Florida Department of Corrections has also struggled to recruit and retain correctional officers and maintain aging buildings.

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.