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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 →

Pay to Play

8:41 am in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Please Pay Here

Please Pay Here by stevendepolo on flickr

Two interesting pieces here regarding the influence the private prison industry wield in its political affiliations and activities.  Most of the reason the industry has been so successful in securing contracts despite decades of failing to perform is the cozy relationship it has cultivated with state and federal officials who control the disbursement of public funds and criminal justice sentencing.  They cultivate these relationships through donating to individual politicians and various campaigns they embark upon, but also through hiring professional lobbyists to promote their will while the legislature is in session.

Lobbyists often have great access to politicians, and in many cases either come directly from government or head there after leaving the lobbying business. By utilizing lobbyists to advocate for their interests, the private prison industry is able to simultaneously amplify their voice within the legislature, and to some extent prevent the public from knowing just exactly who and what is influencing political decisions.

In Arizona, for example, I have reported extensively on the ties between Governor Brewer’s office and a huge lobbying firm that works for CCA, Highground Consulting.  Highground’s manager, Chuck Coughlin, is the governor’s chief of staff, and one of its principal lobbyists used to work for CCA (and his wife still does).  To make the situation worse, the chair of the state’s appropriations committee (that would be the committee that controls public funds), John Kavanagh, looks to be quite close with the GEO Group, the country’s second-biggest private prison company.  Public Policy Partners, an Arizona lobbying firm that GEO employs, donated at least 6 times to Kavanagh in the last election.

Is it any wonder this is the same state that passed an immigration bill that’s essentially a handout to private prison companies, or that they’re looking to privatize an additional 5,000 prison beds?

Meanwhile, over in Tennessee, state Republican representatives are coming under fire for participating in a fundraiser while the legislature was in session, that featured some of the biggest industries with a financial stake in Tennessee’s politics (fundraisers during the legislative session are supposed to be illegal).  Among the businesses represented was CCA, which is headquartered in Nashville.  They were so willing to help raise funds for state Republicans because the new Republican governor recently used the budget as an excuse to reverse a decision to close a CCA prison.

 

crossposted from Pay to Play