I say "Almost," because this story at its heart really deals with human lives and suffering, as impacted by the private prison industry (of course), but the blatant handout from New Jersey to CEC is just ridiculous.
So the state was looking for someone to operate a private prison with approximately 450 beds. CEC, whose vice president is a close friend and confidant of anti-government governor Chris Christie (you know, the fiscal conservative who flies in a state-owned helicopter to little league games), seems to have had the proposal tailor-made for it. So much so in fact, that they were literally the only company that could possibly comply with all the restrictions of the request, among them "that the facility be located within a two-hour drive of
Newark, New York and Philadelphia and within a 10-mile radius of the Essex
County Jail on Doremus Avenue in Newark; that the successful bidder have a
facility already being used for correctional purposes; and that it be within 20
miles of a major airport."
Anyhoo, as part of the request, Essex County said it was seeking an open and competitive bidding process "so [it] can obtain the most professionally delivered and cost effective services." CEC's parent company has already been the beneficiary of more than $500 million in contracts from the state, but apparently NJ thinks that a company that can wrongfully release half a dozen prisoners, including a convicted murderer, in the course of a year can do that. Because CEC was the only bidder, and - surprise - they won the contract for nearly $10 million. It seems sometimes as though the more we privatize government services, the more willing governments are to overlook complete breakdowns in contract compliance and delivery of services. I tend to think CEC's close (aforementioned) ties with the Governor, and the tens of thousands of dollars it donated to an influential county executive might have helped. CEC was so darn confident about its chances that it even posted announcements for openings at the facility before it had been announced that they won the contract. As an immigrant advocate, Karina Wilkinson, said, "Essex County has shown that profits come before human rights."
Thankfully though, that wasn't the last word on these shenanigans - ICE and county officials have decided to re-evaluate the contract awarded to CEC. Amy Gottlieb, of the American Friends Service Committee, hit the nail on the head when she said "The exposure of the unorthodox bidding process, the non-transparency of the bidding process, has maybe raised some questions." I'll say. Of course this hasn't stopped that influential county executive, Mr. Devincenzo, from defending the bidding process, which lasted all of 23 days (yep, because you can find a suitable partner for a multi-million dollar contract in 3 weeks), as "fair and open."
"Fair and Open." And the Pope's a Muslim.