edwin_buss.jpgTALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ A union representing correctional officers has sued to block the implementation of a state budget provision that would privatize 18 prison facilities in South Florida, warning of job losses. About 3,800 prison guards work at the facilities targeted for privatization according to state figures.

Florida Police Benevolent Association lawyer Hal Johnson said Tuesday that the measure won't save the state money as claimed by its supporters in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Sponsors say turning the prisons over to private companies will cut operating costs by at least 7 percent.

“All it is going to do is just put a bunch of correctional officers out of work for no good reason,'' Johnson said.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said the agency was still reviewing the suit. It was filed last week in state Circuit Court in Tallahassee against the department and its leader, Corrections Secretary Edwin Buss.

“We are in the final stages of preparing the RFP (request for proposals) as directed by the Legislature,'' Plessinger wrote in an email. “We have every intention of meeting the deadlines set forth by the Legislature.''

Besides the PBA, the suit names three individual corrections officers as plaintiffs

It alleges that a 23-page provision detailing the privatization plan is unconstitutional because it should been passed as a substantive law instead of being put in the budget.

That tactic “frustrated public debate on the merits of whether and how to proceed with any privatization of existing state correctional facilities,'' the suit contends.

It also says the budget provision conflicts with an existing law on prison privatization.

The Police Benevolent Association backed now-Gov. Rick Scott's Democratic opponent, Alex Sink, in last year's election largely because of the Republican's support of prison privatization.