Friday, March 11, 2011

Cutting Corners

CCA operated the jail in Hernando County, Florida, for about 22 years, from the time it was opened. Last year, Sheriff Richard Nugent took over operations of the jail from CCA, because his department could run it cheaper and more humanely. Once that process was initiated, Nugent inspected the jail to see what he was getting himself into.

Nugent's inspection uncovered myriad maintenance issues at the jail. CCA had been negligent in maintaining common areas, the kitchen, heating and ventilation systems, and security systems. Nugent estimated the facility had fallen into such disrepair over CCA's tenure that it would require nearly $2 million just to account for CCA's decades of negligence.

After some back-and-forth fighting, the county decided to withhold its final 2 payments to CCA (which CCA tried suing them for) to put towards the repairs. The county commission then granted another million dollars for repairs, bringing the total amount the county has had to put into maintenance at its jail to $3 million.

It turns out that even this wasn't enough. A consultant just notified the commission that "the needs at the facility are far greater than the money allotted." In fact, the jail has deteriorated so much "a facility that should have lasted 75 years might only make it to 25."

I often remark that governments that contract with private prison companies get what they pay for. In this case, Hernando County may not have even been that lucky.

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