Thursday, June 23, 2011

FBI Investigates Blatant Corruption in Florida

As I've reported on before, the GEO Group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying the Florida legislature over the past few legislative sessions, culminating first in the state's giving them $110 million to build a prison, then turning over the correctional services of 18 counties to private control in the biggest prison privatization scheme I've ever seen. Thankfully, the FBI has launched an investigation into the rampant and blatant corruption that engulfed the Florida legislature surrounding these actions.

Former Budget Chief and Speaker of the House Ray Sansom, who now sits in prison on corruption and fraud charges, is one of the primary targets of the investigation. While he was budget chief, GEO gave a presentation before the legislature on a proposal to expand their services within the state. A month later, Sansom visited the corporate home of the GEO Grop, suposedly on "personal business" (though this was the only trip he took there in 4 years as a representative). The month after that, he introduced a very last-minute provision into the budget bill to provide for $110 million to be appropriated to the GEO Group for the construction of what became the Blackwater Correctional Facility.

The prison was built on prison population projections that anticipated the state system would continue to grow; rather, it shrank. But the new budget chief, JD Alexander, tried to come to the rescue of the GEO Group, introducing his own last-minute budget amendment in the 2010 session to try to force the state to depopulate state prisons to send prisoners to the private one. Of course, he had received generous donations from the industry as had Ray Sansom. You just can't make this stuff up.

Anyhoo, as I said the FBI is currently investigating the circumstances that led the state to give a multiple hundred-million dollar handout to a company with a long track record of human rights abuses and contract noncompliance. And DBA press has just released hundreds of documents obtained through the investigation that chronicle some of this sordid history.

I'm just thankful that our FBI apparently has some shred of decency left.


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