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Appeals Court Sides With DOC In Prison Health Privatization Case, But Is The Fight Over?

A Florida appeals court has reversed a lower court decision, and has given the Florida Department of Corrections the go-ahead to privatize prison health care services throughout the state. But, one union representing thousands of employees who don’t want to lose their state jobs says the fight may not be over.

Last December, a Circuit Judge essentially backed American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, one of the unions that filed the health care privatization challenge.

Judge John Cooper said that plan was valid in South Florida, but not in the other regions of the state because it wasn’t approved by the full state Legislature. But, Wednesday, three judges of the 1st District Court of Appeal disagreed. And, AFSCME lawyer Alma Gonzalez says while she’s disappointed in the ruling, she says the decision is unnecessary.

“Because the legislature based on the lawsuit we filed and won at the lower court level went back and corrected its action so that it complied with the state’s constitution. Had the Governor not insisted on going forward and doing unlawful action in violation of the state constitution, we would have never gotten to the point where we got,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez says now, the union is looking into how next to proceed.

“We have been reviewing that decision and we will make that decision once we have that opportunity to discuss it with our membership, and our current focus right now is to make sure those folks who will be working for Corizon are going to be given respect in the workplace and they’re going to have a voice in the future and a future for their families,” added Gonzalez.

Meanwhile, Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Ann Howard says the department appreciates the ruling.

"It will help save taxpayer money as we move forward, per the Legislature and now, the court," Howard said in an e-mailed statement.

The state's prison agency expects to allow Corizon, the private company, to start privatizing the prison health care services in the north and central Florida regions, after the new budget takes effect July 1st.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.