Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Political Favors Reveal Lack of Oversight

I wrote in the past about how the Secretary of Corrections for the state of New Mexico, Joe Williams, declined to enforce penalties against CCA and GEO for contract non-compliance in the form of ongoing staff vacancies.  Mr. Williams was employed by the GEO Group for years prior to joining Gov. Richardson's cabinet, and apparently decided that consistent failures to abide by the contracts they have with the state on the part of CCA and GEO didn't warrant fines.  Well it turns out that Mr. Williams probably cost his state close to $20 million in uncollected penalties (which would be awfully nice to receive in this era of fiscal restraint and tight budgets).  But what is even more troubling is that that amount can't be verified because the Department of Corrections isn't even sure about how long the positions were vacant.

That's right; the government agency charged with overseeing private prisons in New Mexico can't provide oversight because they don't have access to the information.  "We do not have adequate records to demonstrate how long some correctional officer positions remained vacant,” corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland said.  Aside from the public's inability to access information about private prisons, it is preposterous to think that the government agency charged with overseeing a private company's responsibility to incarcerate prisoners is incapable of doing so because it can't access the information. 

Private prisons must be subject to stricter oversight.

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