Monday, July 25, 2011

Trouble at FL private prison

Here's a disturbing story from South Florida:

State corrections investigators couldn't get into a prison one night when they tried to conduct a drug sweep. Worse, there was no independent oversight of the private company that runs the prison. So it's unclear what actually happened that night.

The Palm Beach Post describes the incident at South Bay Correctional Institution.
No guard was stationed at the front gate, according to state Department of Corrections reports obtained by The Palm Beach Post. No one answered an alert button that the inspection team pressed twice. And no one responded after the team shined a flashlight at a security camera to try to get the attention of guards who were supposed to be in the privately run prison's control room.
After 20 minutes of waiting and a phone call to their supervisor, the drug interdiction team left without trying to call anyone in the prison, operated by Boca Raton-based GEO Group Inc.
...the corrections department did not officially investigate because it does not oversee the state's six private prisons.
That's handled by the state Department of Management Services, which relied on GEO to investigate its own staff...
Isn't that delightful? And now Florida wants to privatize more prisons, something the Teamsters have been fighting.

No doubt the state's lawmakers have been influenced by the corporate front group ALEC, of which GEO Group is a member. ALEC doesn't just promote prison privatization, it promotes policies to give prison companies more business -- in other words, locking up more prisoners.

(If you haven't been following ALEC, John Nichols at The Nation describes ALEC, the corporate front group that is

...a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that ... has evolved to shape American politics ... ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account. Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces.)
And here's a shock: GEO Group violated campaign finance law. Reports the Florida Independent,
The GEO Group Inc., a South Florida-based private prison firm, has scrapped its state-level political action committee after an audit by the Florida Department of State found it was taking in contributions that exceeded state limits.