01/04/2013 03:14 pm ET Updated Jan 04, 2013

Florida Outsources 400 Prison Employees' Jobs To Wexford As Health Care Privatized

Hundreds of Miami-Dade state corrections employees will soon be without jobs as the state finalized a contract to outsource health care in South Florida prisons.

Thursday Department of Correction's Ann Howard announced that Florida signed a five-year, $48 million annual contract with Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Sources, the Associated Press reports.

As a result, 400 South Florida employees received an emailed pink slip this week. Howard says the workers will also receive a formal mailed letter that details how they can apply for employment under Wexford, according to The Florida Current.

"It's a decision that's best for the taxpayers," former corrections department secretary Ken Tucker said in a release prior to his resignation. "This step will allow us to provide the same services we currently have, which meet state and federal standards, while saving money for the taxpayers."

Howard said the privatization will save taxpayers about $1 million a month.

The outsourcing affects staff in South Florida Reception Center as well as Everglades, Dade, and Homestead correctional facilities. In neighboring counties, it involves lay-offs at prisons in Hardee, DeSoto, Charlotte, Okeechobee, and Martin.

Whereas the Wexford contract was approved in the 2011 legislative session, the move to outsource the same jobs in the rest of the state to another private company is being challenged.

Last month circuit court Judge John Cooper of Leon County struck down a $239 million budget amendment to outsource prison medical services in the Panhandle, North and Central Florida to Corizon, Inc., according to The Florida Current. Judge Cooper found the deal in violation of state law, as it was not included in the state budget nor brought before the state houses for debate. The state filed an appeal.

The Miami Herald reports that the Wexford contract includes a 90-day transition period, meaning the outsourcing won't take full effect in South Florida until March.