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An effort to privatize a chunk of Florida’s prisons also met stiff opposition from lawmakers in February. They blocked what would have been the largest prison privatization in the U.S.

Some critics of CCA’s bid said their concerns extend beyond the financial costs of a deal. About two dozen religious groups signed a letter saying that accepting the proposal would be “costly to the moral strength of your state.”

“Mr. Lappin’s proposal is an invitation to deepening state debt, increased costs to people of color who are disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration as well as their families and communities, and decreased public safety,” said the letter, sent by groups including The Episcopal Church and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

Follow Bluestein at http://www.twitter.com/bluestein. Associated Press writer Travis Loller contributed to this report from Nashville, Tenn.