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Government Still Trying to Force Private Prisons in Florida

10:47 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

(photo: anythreewords, flickr)

(photo: anythreewords, flickr)

Effing Florida

So before I go off on a tangent here, I apologize for the litany of links to come.  But the situation in Florida has quickly spiraled out of control and, seeing as I’m already weeks late on reporting this, I wanted to try to put together as much info here as possible.  Enjoy!

Florida’s politicians really just can’t take a hint.  After they failed to force widespread privatization on the state’s prison system, against the wishes of the director of their DOC (but at the behest of companies that spent a million dollars lobbying the legislature), the asshats in the state legislature are back at it, this time with a vengeance.  Even the fact that the GEO Group is under FBI investigation over a deal that brought a private prison to the state, and the state’s Circuit Court ruling the initial push unconstitutional, have failed to slow down the push to privatize.

The state Senate introduced a stand-alone bill that mirrors the one that previously failed.  On January 18th, the law that would force nearly 4,000 government employees out of jobs (of course, this comes from the Republicans, the party of “job creators,” or so we’re told) passed a rules committee and went before the full Senate for consideration.  A separate bill would even exempt the state from a requirement to perform a cost/benefit analysis of the proposed privatization until after a contract is signed.  In a state where the two biggest private prison companies have been found to have cheated the state out of almost $13 million within the past 7 years.  The state ought to perform a more thorough analysis of the potential risks and benefits of privatization before committing so many taxpayer dollars to such a risky venture.  Because otherwise, this is just about as blatant a handout to corporate special interests as I could conceive, a gateway to giving millions of taxpayer dollars to companies that, if they weren’t subsidized by desperate governments, would utterly fail on the free market.  Then again, Republicans don’t actually like free markets, they just like markets rigged in the favor of the wealthy, but that’s a different story altogether.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, the state seems to be assisting the industry that has failed to demonstrate any significant cost savings, ever, by removing the most costly prisoners from the facilities intended to be privatized. The industry is notorious for cherry-picking the cheapest inmates, but I can’t remember an instance in which a state preemptively took the most expensive prisoners for itself.  This whole thing reeks so badly of corruption that a conservative-leaning newspaper in Florida has opined that the state’s legislators “seem to be drawn to secrecy and backroom deal-making at the expense of good government and public trust.”  I’ll say. Read the rest of this entry →

FBI Investigates Blatant Corruption in Florida

1:19 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

FBI Investigates Blatant Corruption in Florida

As I’ve reported on before, the GEO Group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying the Florida legislature over the past few legislative sessions, culminating first in the state’s giving them $110 million to build a prison, then turning over the correctional services of 18 counties to private control in the biggest prison privatization scheme I’ve ever seen. Thankfully, the FBI has launched an investigation into the rampant and blatant corruption that engulfed the Florida legislature surrounding these actions.

Former Budget Chief and Speaker of the House Ray Sansom, who now sits in prison on corruption and fraud charges, is one of the primary targets of the investigation. While he was budget chief, GEO gave a presentation before the legislature on a proposal to expand their services within the state. A month later, Sansom visited the corporate home of the GEO Group, supposedly on “personal business” (though this was the only trip he took there in 4 years as a representative). The month after that, he introduced a very last-minute provision into the budget bill to provide for $110 million to be appropriated to the GEO Group for the construction of what became the Blackwater Correctional Facility.

The prison was built on prison population projections that anticipated the state system would continue to grow; rather, it shrank. But the new budget chief, JD Alexander, tried to come to the rescue of the GEO Group, introducing his own last-minute budget amendment in the 2010 session to try to force the state to depopulate state prisons to send prisoners to the private one. Of course, he had received generous donations from the industry as had Ray Sansom. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Anyhoo, as I said the FBI is currently investigating the circumstances that led the state to give a multiple hundred-million dollar handout to a company with a long track record of human rights abuses and contract noncompliance. And DBA press has just released hundreds of documents obtained through the investigation that chronicle some of this sordid history.

I’m just thankful that our FBI apparently has some shred of decency left