Prison Privatization

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Inmates should be reformed…not recycled…”

(C) 2006 Bob Sloan


- PRISON PRIVATIZATION - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly… And The Corrupt

September 12, 2006

            The current state of affairs in Florida indicate we should all take a hard look at the movement under the current Administration to privatize more and more aspects of the state’s Prison System that falls under the control of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC).

Since the mid 1990’s Florida politicians and legislators have pushed for laws allowing the privatization of more and more state operated agencies and departments as well as critical services within those agencies and departments. In the DOC the services affected are: health care, canteens, private run prisons, inmate banking, prison industries and food service. In addition to these state service contracts many jails have also gone the way of privatization on health care and canteen services.

In the past half-decade Florida has experienced the poor results of such privatization through the behavior of both the personnel involved in oversight of the individual departmental privatizations as well as the private corporations and corporate executives themselves. The inappropriate and illegal criminal acts committed by those associated with the Florida privatization movement are well documented:

·         Florida Private Prison Commissioner/Director guilty of embezzlement from Commission funds ($200K+)

·         Bush appointed PRIDE CEO Pam Davis to Florida Council of 100. In 2005 PRIDE of Florida found to be operating spin-off corporations owned by board and executive administrators illegally. CEO Davis and President John Bruels forced to resign and PRIDE ordered to terminate contracts with the spin-offs ($13 Million+)[1]

·         Aramark continually under attack for bouts of food poisoning and illnesses attributed to food preparation and products. Inmates assigned to work in the Aramark kitchens without compensation for their labor[2]

·         Prison Health Services continually under attack for poor, inadequate or inefficient inmate health care services, treatment(s) resulting in PHS recently announcing it will not renew its contract with FDOC, citing higher operational costs due to outside medical services necessary for some treatments. (Award of this contract allowed PHS to start charging fees – or co-pays - to the inmates for medical appointments, treatments or other services)[3]

·         In 2004 the FDOC under Crosby awarded a contract to a banking institution to take over the operation and handling of inmate bank accounting. This resulted in monthly fees being charged to the inmates for maintaining their accounts, regardless of whether they received, spent or transferred money into or out of their accounts ($4.00 monthly banking fees to inmates + $.50 fee for processing each money orders and other incidental expenses)

·         Ex-Secretary James Crosby and FDOC Regional Director A.C. Clark indicted for corruption and conspiracy involving privatized prison canteen services (admitted to more than $135,00 in illegal kickbacks)[4]

·         Keefe Commissary accused of involvement in the conspiracy with Crosby. Inmate and visitor food products prices increased many times causing outrageous prices to both the inmates and their visitors.

·         Sub contract to American Institutional Services (AIS) in ’04 to handle the visiting park canteen operations under the existing Keefe contract (kickback monies paid to Crosby and Clark from the cash profits of this contract)[5]

·         MCI Contract deemed “usurious” by new FDOC Secretary, who reduced costs associated with collect calls by inmates. MCI was giving 53% of their earned profits to the FDOC under the contract (percentage reduced by $10 million by the 30% reduction in fees).

·         Award of a lucrative contract to an outside service to “split pills” and repackage them for issuance to prison inmates. Contract voided by Secretary McDonough in ‘06 ($11 million+)

·         Bush appointment of A.C. Clark (Crosby’s co-defendant) to the Judicial Qualifications Committee of the Florida 8th Circuit – that was responsible for selection of Judges for that Circuit – in the absence of Mr. Clark possessing even a high school diploma.

With money being the basis for the desire to provide privatized services to state agencies, corporations have seen that huge profits can be had by providing private services to operations historically operated strictly by state agencies or departments. They quickly realized oversight and careful supervision of the contract(s) would be necessary by state officials to ensure compliance with the contracts. State agencies and officials are known to be weak in this area. Corporations know that even when allegations are made that they are not abiding by the contract agreement, the allegations will have to be presented to agencies such as the Inspector General’s office or the Auditor General’s office for investigation and reviews. After the reports are made, the corporations are given an opportunity to respond and negotiate the findings and lack of compliance. In some instances this takes a considerable amount of time during which they’re free to continue operations as they see fit.

In the prison arena it used to be the duty and responsibility of the courts to fairly sentence offenders according to their crimes. It was the duty and responsibility of the department of corrections to confine the sentenced offenders and oversee “care, custody and control” of said offenders during the length of a court imposed sentences.

With the advent of “mandatory minimum” sentences, demands that inmates serve 85% of their sentence, the “Three Strike” law(s) and increased mandatory terms for drug offenses, and the abolishment of the Parole Board, the prison system has begun to bulge at the seams. The cost of maintaining prisons and caring for those housed within has risen exponentially over the past two decades. In an effort to offset or defray the costs associated with prison, Florida sought to alleviate some of the financial burden placed upon the FDOC through privatization. In 1983 the PRIDE Corporation took over the prison industries. In the 90’s and early ‘00’s Florida allowed the building of private, corporate owned and operated prison facilities; privatized the health care system by granting a contract to the likes of PHS; the food service duties were handed over to Aramark and more recently it looked the other way while the ex-Secretary of the FDOC granted a no-bid contract to Keefe Commissary network to take over the inmate, staff and ultimately the visiting park canteen services.

All providers of contractual services to the FDOC have come under attack time and time again. Governor Bush has steadfastly asserted that privatization is good for the state economy and helps to reduce spending that was on the rise for the services contracted. Today opponents to such privatization argue that there is no genuine savings by such privatization…that these programs do nothing more than allow private corporations to amass huge profits at the expense of the inmates within the system and their families on the outside.

I support those arguments and offer another: the privatization scheme allows the corporations involved to pass along some of the costs associated with incarceration to the inmate’s families. They in effect are allowed to charge inmate’s for necessary services. These costs are passed along to inmate’s families and friends who support them. This is done to reduce the Contractor’s overhead and increase the profits under their state contracts.

This argument is demonstrated by the exorbitant long distance charges assessed on collect calls from inmates to home (as much as $23.00 for a 15 minute out of state call, where normal rates – station to station collect are under $6.00 for the same services); the charging of medical related fees to inmates for necessary treatment or examinations on a day to day basis; increased costs of canteen prices both in the inmate and Visitors canteens and vending machines; banking “fees” charged for handling inmate funds. In most instances all of the foregoing “charges”, “fees” and “rates” are paid by inmate’s families and friends who provide money to incarcerated inmates.

In the 70’s and 80’s inmate visitors were allowed to bring in food, cigarettes and money on visits. They ate with their inmate family member and canteen purchases were mostly drinks and desert snacks. In addition families were allowed to send in up to 4 packages during the year to inmates in FDOC. They could send in approved clothing, tennis shoes, dress shoes, toiletries, cookies and candy products, hygiene and special items during the holiday season. In this manner they controlled what was spent for the inmate’s needs that weren’t provided by the state.

Additionally inmates were allowed to participate in hobby craft programs within the prisons. They made paintings, built wagon lamps, picture frames, furniture and other items. They bought tools and materials out of their accounts. The finished items were sent home for sale or distribution. Inmates without families on the outside were able to send their work to a prison Hobby Craft shop located outside the prison compounds. These hobby craft shops were open to the public and visitors alike. Purchases of items in the shops were credited to the inmate’s accounts. In this manner they were able to help support themselves and thereby reduce independence upon their families for financial support.

The Hobby Craft programs, family packages and food items brought in on visits was outlawed by the FDOC over a decade ago. Families found that the only way to support their loved ones in FDOC was to provide cash money for them to spend on prison supplied canteen and catalogue items. Those items were usually priced higher in the prison stores than they were at home or even in the local communities. There was no going to the 7-11 to buy a sandwich and cup of coffee because the prices were less than those found at the Circle K. No, the prison had one store available to the inmates with the same limited number of products and prices were now set by the FDOC. Canteen goods are now priced according to the cost of the same or similar items found in the immediate locality of the prison. Most canteen item prices are set according to “convenience store” costs.

Thus the ability to earn funds was taken away from the inmates, the ability to help support an inmate by packages from home and inexpensive home cooked meals on visits were taken away…all in the name of security. FDOC feared that contraband could be sent into the prison in the packages (though thoroughly inspected by staff) that contraband could find it’s way in through the food brought on visits (again thoroughly inspected at the prison gates). Similarly they feared the introduction of prohibited items coming in via the hobby craft supplies (also thoroughly inspected).

In the wake of the removal of all of the foregoing abilities, the private corporations entered the prison environment and were allowed to do what the state could not: charge families for the incarceration costs associated with keeping their loved ones. A rebellion would have ensued if the state or the FDOC tried implementing this kind of family compensation on their own, thus the “new” dependence upon private corporations and a passing off of those responsibilities the State bore with regard to most services. They found corporations were willing to pay for the opportunity to provide medical care, phone service, canteen and banking as well as food services – as long as they could realize a substantial profit for such services. The FDOC entered into contracts with these corporations and the contracts were written in such a way as to allow the private companies to realize the most money from the state contracts. In most instances this resulted in a clause or two that allowed the contractor to pass part of the associated costs and fees for their services along to inmates and families.

Inmates and their families are the silent class who are most affected by such privatizations; silent because pleas of high costs, exorbitant fees and lack of proper and necessary medical care fall upon deaf ears. The state refers complaints to the private contractor for resolution and that’s usually as far as such complaints get. Many go unanswered or unaddressed and the complained of procedures or operations continue unabated without resolution.

Inmates and their families are not benefited by such privatized programs so we have to evaluate if the tax payers are really benefiting from the privatization that has been implemented under Governor Bush’s tenure. Taxes have not been reduced and are holding steady, the FDOC’s annual budget increases every year – even with the ever increasing privatization. The only benefits to be found in the Prison privatization arena are made by the corporations themselves.

Let’s take a look at what some of the professionals in the prison industrial complex have to say. We’ll examine the various types of privatization – from entire facilities to piecemeal contracts for individual services…

Private Prison Facilities

The movement towards the privatization of corrections in the United States is a result of the convergence of two factors: the unprecedented growth of the US prison population since 1970 and the emergence out of the Reagan era of a political environment favorable to free-market solutions.

Today, the privatization of prisons refers both to the takeover of existing public facilities by private operators and to the building and operation of new prisons by for-profit prison companies. (Many of the new prisons, additionally, are built to house out-of-state inmates.) Depending on the jurisdiction, the local, state, or federal government is then charged a per diem or monthly rate for each prisoner.

The modern private prison business first emerged and established itself publicly in 1984 when the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) was awarded a contract to take over a facility in Hamilton County, Tennessee. This marked the first time that any government in the country had contracted out the complete operation of a jail to a private operator. The following year, CCA gained further public attention when it offered to take over the entire state prison system of Tennessee for $200 million. The bid was ultimately defeated due to strong opposition from public employees and the skepticism of the state legislature. Despite that initial defeat, CCA since then has successfully expanded, as have other for-profit prison companies.

Private prisons have proliferated mostly under the argument of cost containment. Advocates for privatization maintain that private sector management and operation of prisons can cut costs by as much as 20%.[6] Central to the argument in favor of privatization is the perceived inefficiency of labor costs in the operation of prisons. In using mostly nonunion labor and by controlling wages and fringe benefits, private prison companies maintain that they can efficiently reduce the costs of labor and thereby net substantial savings for the government.[7]

A study by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) released in 2001 found otherwise, stating that “rather than the projected 20-percent savings, the average saving from privatization was only 1 percent[8] and “the promises of 20 percent savings in operational costs have simply not materialized.”[9] These modest savings, furthermore, “will not revolutionize modern correctional practices.”[10]

The BJA study acknowledged “no definitive research evidence would lead to the conclusion that inmate services and the quality of confinement are significantly improved in privately operated facilities.”[11] More problematic is the BJA study’s further assertion that “the rate of major incidents is higher at private facilities than at public facilities.”[12] A survey of the prison industry conducted by analyst James Austin also found 49% more inmate on staff assaults and 65% more inmate on inmate assaults occurred in private minimum and medium security facilities than in comparable publicly run facilities.[13]

Evidence has shown that private prisons are neither demonstrably more cost-effective, nor efficient than public prisons. Prison privatization, moreover, has several serious implications for the pursuit of rational sentencing policies and sentencing reform.

Motives and Profits- The Bad –  

As an industry, private prison companies are beholden to the bottom line and maximization of profits. In a March 1997 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, CCA acknowledged that “the rate of construction of new facilities and the Company’s potential for growth will depend on a number of factors, including crime rates and sentencing patterns in the United States.[14] Thus, higher profits require more inmates. And because most private prisons operate on a per diem rate for each bed filled, there is a financial incentive not only to detain more inmates but also to detain them for a longer period of time. The profit motive of private prison companies inherently creates a problematic entanglement between interest in profit and public policy.

The profit motive distorts the function of prisons towards incapacitation and away from the provision of rehabilitative services that would help prisoners rejoin society productively, and curb recidivism. Corrections firms have no incentive, they say, to provide costly rehabilitative treatment and services. Industry analysts respond that it all depends on the contract. There is a serious potential for contracts to be structured in ways that provide incentives to firms to provide services such as drug treatment (Lissner, et al, 1998.). Indeed, in Puerto Rico and Australia, pilot programs are being conducted with so called “outcome-based contracting”, wherein fees are tied to the impact and measured outcomes of incarceration (Cornell et al, 1998).

Private prison companies deny that they are motivated to take proactive steps in pursuing legislation to keep their private facilities filled. Yet, both CCA and Wackenhut are major contributors to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington, D.C. based public policy organization that supports conservative legislators. ALEC’s members include over 40% of all state legislators—representing a serious force in state politics. One of ALEC’s primary functions is the development of model legislation that advances conservative principles, such as privatization. Under their Criminal Justice Task Force, ALEC has developed and helped to successfully implement in many states “tough on crime” initiatives including “Truth in Sentencing” and “Three Strike” laws.

Corporations provide most of the funding for ALEC’s operating budget and influence its political agenda through participation in policy task forces. ALEC’s corporate financial supporters include CCA and Wackenhut. In 1999, CCA made the President’s List for contributions to ALEC’s States and National Policy Summit; Wackenhut also sponsored the conference. Also, past co-chairs of the Criminal Justice Task Force have included Brad Wiggins, then Director of Business Development at CCA and now a Director of Customer Relations, and John Rees, a CCA vice president.[15] By funding and participating in ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Forces, private prison companies can directly influence legislation related to sentencing; in this case, harsh sentencing laws sending more people to prison for longer periods.

State prisons and local jails have traditionally been financed through tax-exempt general-obligation bonds backed by tax revenues of the issuing governmental body. These bonds require voter approval. For-profit prison companies, however, can finance the construction and maintenance of their organizations from private revenue, thereby circumventing the need for voter approval on bond issues. Taxpayers are denied the opportunity to approve or disapprove the building of new facilities while remaining liable for the expenses incurred by the government through their contracts with private prison companies. This results in taxation without real representation – a factor that has always drawn criticism in the U.S.

Bottom line is money: private prison corporations need to keep their beds filled in order to realize the maximum profit from operating private facilities. Maximum profits are necessary to keep investors and stock holders happy. These corporations have found that in order to keep beds full they must fund and support those legislators and politicians who favor harsher and longer prison sentences. To them this human warehousing is just good business.

Privatized Prison Health Care 

“When the doors shut behind them, the care prisoners get is shuttered from public view. Deaths behind bars provoke scant outcry. But if the public has little information about inmates, and not much inclination to care, it may have even less sympathy for the notion that they should die for want of medical attention.”[16]

A key component of the high cost of incarceration is inmate health care. Throughout the 1990s, for each dollar spent on corrections in America, an average of eleven cents went towards health care, which includes physical, mental and dental services. With the growing number of physically and mentally ill people entering the criminal justice system and the increasing focus on treatment and rehabilitation for substance abusers that number is likely to grow. A recent Bureau of Justice Statistics found that as many as 64% of all state prisoners are suffering from some form of mental health problems.[17]

A modern prison system must provide adequate medical care to inmates. Elected leaders and prison officials must now decide the best way to provide that medical care. Changing state law to let prison manager’s contract with full-service private hospitals, clinics and doctors lower costs and can improve the quality of inmate care. Many other states are using private contractors to trim costs and improve flexibility and performance, and the existence of a vibrant and prestigious local health care market offers a unique and promising opportunity for achieving similar results. In some instances health care is anything but ”vibrant and prestigious” as witnessed in Florida.

Inmate health care in Florida is provided by Prison Health Services (PHS) under a FDOC contract. About 40 percent of all inmate medical care in America is now contracted to Prison Health Services, its closest rival, Correctional Medical Services, and four or five others. The remaining 60 percent of inmate care is still supplied by governments, most often by their State Health Departments. PHS is the top player in the prison health care game. ''It's almost like a game of attrition, where the companies will take bids for amounts that you just can't do it,'' said Dr. Michael Puisis, a national expert and editor of ''Clinical Practice in Correctional Medicine,'' an anthology of articles by doctors. ''They figure out how to make money after they get the contract.''[18]

Businesses with the most dubious track records can survive, and thrive. When cost-trimming cuts into the quality of care, harming inmates and prompting lawsuits and investigations, governments often see no alternatives but to keep the company, or hire another, then another when that one fails -- a revolving-door process that sometimes ends with governments rehiring the company they fired years earlier.

Prison Health has mastered the game. When its mistakes have become public, the company has quietly settled lawsuits and nimbly brokered its exits by quickly resigning, thus preserving its marketable claim that it has never been let go for cause.[19]

Let’s look at some of the facts that have come to light about the care provided to inmates by the same company that currently cares for the thousands in FDOC and state jail custody:

PHS- The Ugly – 

A yearlong examination of Prison Health by The New York Times revealed repeated instances of medical care that has been flawed and sometimes lethal. The company's performance around the nation has provoked criticism from judges and sheriffs, lawsuits from inmates' families and whistle-blowers, and condemnations by federal, state and local authorities. The company has paid millions of dollars in fines and settlements.

In two deaths, and eight others across upstate New York, state investigators say they kept discovering the same failings: medical staffs trimmed to the bone, doctors under-qualified or out of reach, nurses doing tasks beyond their training, prescription drugs withheld, patient records unread and employee misconduct unpunished.

Not surprisingly, Prison Health, which is based outside Nashville, is no longer working in most of those upstate NY jails. But it is hardly out of work. Despite a tarnished record, Prison Health has sold its promise of lower costs and better care, and become the biggest for-profit company providing medical care in jails and prisons. It has amassed 86 contracts in 28 states, and now cares for 237,000 inmates, or about one in every 10 people behind bars

Since 1992, at least 15 inmates have died in 11 Florida jails in cases where PHS appears to have provided inadequate care, according to documents and state and county officials.[20]

As it grows, Prison Health proves adept at ingratiating itself with local politicians, hiring lobbyists and contributing to campaigns for sheriff. Under a promise of immunity from prosecution, the nurse who founded PHS, Mr. Moore, testified at a 1993 Florida corruption trial that he had paid the Broward County Republican chairman $5,000 a month -- ''basically extortion,'' he said -- to keep the contract there and in neighboring Palm Beach County.[21]

In addition to payoffs as shown above the company actively supports politicians and legislators who endorse stiffer prison sentences and the three strikes, minimum mandatory sentences and long-term mandatory drug laws. More laws equate to more prisoners and more beds filled with inmates who need health care for longer and longer terms of incarceration. A morbid form of job security…

Important Cases -

Brian Tetrault was 44 when he was led into a dim county jail cell in upstate New York in 2001, charged with taking some skis and other items from his ex-wife's home. A former nuclear scientist who had struggled with Parkinson's disease, he began to die almost immediately, and state investigators would later discover why: The jail's medical director had cut off all but a few of the 32 pills he needed each day to quell his tremors.[22]

Over the next 10 days, Mr. Tetrault slid into a stupor, soaked in his own sweat and urine. But he never saw the jail doctor again, and the nurses dismissed him as a faker. After his heart finally stopped, investigators said, correction officers at the Schenectady jail doctored records to make it appear he had been released before he died.

Two months later, Victoria Williams Smith, the mother of a teenage boy, was booked into another upstate jail, in Dutchess County, charged with smuggling drugs to her husband in prison. She, too, had only 10 days to live after she began complaining of chest pains. She phoned friends in desperation: The medical director would not prescribe anything more potent than Bengay or the arthritis medicine she had brought with her, investigators said. A nurse scorned her pleas to be hospitalized as a ploy to get drugs. When at last an ambulance was called, Ms. Smith was on the floor of her cell, shaking from a heart attack that would kill her within the hour. She was 35.

In these two harrowing deaths, state investigators concluded, the culprit was a for-profit corporation, Prison Health Services, that had moved aggressively into New York State in the last decade, winning jail contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars with an enticing sales pitch: Take the messy and expensive job of providing medical care from overmatched government officials, and give it to an experienced nationwide outfit that could recruit doctors, battle lawsuits and keep costs down.

The examination of PHS also reveals a company that is very much a creature of a growing phenomenon: the privatization of jail and prison health care. As governments try to shed the burden of soaring medical costs -- driven by the exploding problems of AIDS and mental illness among inmates -- this field has become a $2 billion-a-year industry.

Before Prison Health even started in Georgia, there had been several inmate deaths in Florida that cost the company three county contracts, millions of dollars in settlements -- and an apology for its part in the 1994 death of 46-year-old Diane Nelson. Jailed in Pinellas County on charges that she had slapped her teenage daughter, Ms. Nelson suffered a heart attack after nurses failed for two days to order the heart medication her private doctor had prescribed. As she collapsed, a nurse told her, ''Stop the theatrics.''

The same nurse, in a deposition, also admitted that she had joked to the jail staff, ''We save money because we skip the ambulance and bring them right to the morgue.''

If Schenectady County (Brian Tetrault case) was learning hard lessons about Prison Health, it was old news in South Florida, where several counties had fought, and re-fought, with PHS years before.

By the time Pinellas County hired Prison Health in 1992, the company was hitting its stride. Fourteen years after its founding, it had established a wide beachhead in the state, and had just begun a nationwide push that by the end of the decade would put it in the three biggest cities of the Northeast and the prison systems of entire states. A year earlier, the company began selling stock under the name of a holding company, America Service Group.

Everett S. Rice, who was sheriff then, said that PHS understaffed the county jail in Clearwater. The company seemed reluctant, he said, to send seriously ill inmates to hospitals, which could cost it thousands of dollars a day. Inmates were regularly showing up in court incompetent to stand trial, said Bob Dillinger, the county public defender, because they were not getting their psychiatric medicines.[23]

Once officials turn jail medicine over to an outside enterprise, governments rarely go back to providing it themselves. ''It's like an article of faith that private is better,'' Dr. Shansky[24] said, even though a 1997 study comparing government and for-profit prison care, commissioned by the Michigan Department of Corrections, found little difference in cost or quality.

There are those supporters of PHS who generally feel that the inmates are cry babies about their health care – or lack of it -  as witnessed by the statements of Hillsborough County, Florida Jail commander, a Colonel Parrish. He said that: “Mistakes, and second-guessing, are part of the job, no matter who does it. Anybody who is in the health care business for inmates is going to get blasted because inmates have nothing better to do than complain and sue and find somebody who is going to make a big stink about nothing,'' he said.

Colonel Parrish’s statement reflects the feelings of most Florida citizens who don’t want to believe inmates are treated unfairly by prisons or their health care providers. Instead they, like Parrish believe inmates simply wish to find something to complain about, apparently to pass the time. Personally I believe such statements belittle the value of human life - when the life in question belongs to a state jail or prison inmate. All too often this form of “denial” by those in positions of oversight of companies like PHS results in the unnecessary pain, suffering and even deaths of inmates entrusted to the custody of jails and prisons.

Privatized Inmate Canteen Services

Prior to late 2003 the FDOC operated canteens to provide convenience items and other items to supplement what the Department supplied for inmates’ basic needs. Canteens were operated in institutions, annexes, road prisons, forestry and work camps. For fiscal year ending June 2003 the annual net proceeds from Department canteen operations totaled approximately $15 million.[25]

In 2003 then FDOC Secretary James Crosby made the decision to privatize the FDOC prisoner canteen system(s). He sent letters asking for a “best and final” offer to Keefe Commissary Network (part of the Centric Group, LLC.), Trinity Canteen Services and Aramark. Keefe responded that they would pay $.82 cents per diem per inmate to FDOC for the contract. Without any negotiation or dialogue with the other two prospective providers, Crosby accepted the Keefe offer. This resulted in complaints from both Aramark and Trinity. One was voluntarily withdrawn while the other complaint was dismissed by the FDOC as ineffectual. The formal contract was agreed upon and became effective in October, 2003.[26] Crosby expected to increase the FDOC net proceeds of the canteen operations by such privatization but the Auditor General’s report of 2004 found that the revenue generated under the contract by the Keefe contract totaled only $10.9 million ($4.1 million less than the previous year under FDOC operations).[27]

Keefe became popular with prisons by maintaining memberships in national, state and county law enforcement associations. Some of these memberships include: American Correctional Association, Buckeye State Sheriff's Association, Georgia Wardens' Association, Mississippi Jail Association, Oregon Criminal Justice Association and West Virginia Association of Correctional Employees, to name a small handful. In other words, Keefe does business by shaking hands and slapping backs with the personnel and legislators who oversee and work in the U.S. criminal justice system.[28]

 Keefe Commissary Network (KCN)- The Corrupt -

The Keefe/FDOC contract allowed them to take over all inmate and staff canteen operations in the FDOC (did not include private prison facilities). It further provided clauses allowing Keefe to initiate price increases of up to 10% every 6 months to a maximum until the statutory limit (fair market price) was reached.[29]

Crosby allowed three (3) amendments to the contract that worried the Auditor General when reporting on the contract.[30] In response to the amendments to the contract Keefe increased the payment to the FDOC from $.82 per diem per inmate to $.827. In the report from the AG’s office the FDOC argued that income generating contracts that did not cause expenditure in State funds were exempt from the normal bid process and therefore the Department was able to enter into the Keefe contract absent the normal process of soliciting bids.[31]

Immediately upon implementing the contract with Keefe, Crosby raised the inmate weekly draw from $65.00 to $90.00 per week. This resulted in an increase in weekly sales and obviously profits to Keefe. The AG’s report found this modification was not considered by FDOC when issuing the contract and computing the expected profits to the private contractor under the contract.

Under the original FDOC/Keefe contract, Keefe was not awarded the Visiting Park cash business as Keefe was not interested in handling cash transaction. In early 2004 Crosby approached Keefe and proposed allowing another business, American Institutional Services (AIS) to sub-contract the Visiting Park canteen sales. Representative for AIS and Keefe met with Crosby and Clark in June of 2004 on the subject. At that meeting they agreed to a conspiracy whereby Keefe would assume the VP sales under its FDOC contract and sub-contract the operations of the cash VP sales to AIS. AIS would in turn kick back 40% of the profits to Crosby and Clark personally.[32]

The effects of privatizing the FDOC canteen services caused a devastating ripple effect that resulted in harm to everyone involved: the inmates, Crosby, Clark, Keefe and AIS as well as inmate’s families. Crosby and Clark have pleaded guilty to the kick-back and corruption charges and both face federal prison for their acts. AIS is still being investigated and has been disallowed from doing further business with the FDOC and are not allowed back onto prison grounds. Inmates suffered due to constantly rising costs of items available to them in the canteens and Keefe is having difficulty obtaining new contracts with other states.[33] Their families and friends who provided the money the inmates spent in the canteens, were forced to increase their deposits to inmate accounts to keep up with the exorbitant prices, and any of them who visited inmates in prison, were harmed by being charged as much as two and three times the normal cost(s) for vending machine food and drink products supplied by Keefe and AIS.

The purpose given for privatizing the canteen operations stated by Crosby back in ’03 was to increase profits to the Department. We now know from the federal indictment documents, the AG report in ’04 and court records that instead the contract was issued as a way for Crosby and others to realize personal gain(s) in exchange for the contract over the entire term of the contract – at the expense of the inmates and their visitors. Obviously all parties to the conspiracy knew or were aware that it was unlikely their manipulations affecting prison inmates would receive much in the way of a public outcry, as historically prison matters are not of interest to the general public or the media. Cries of foul and help by this class of individuals and their families would literally fall on deaf ears or be considered the rants of convicted felons “because inmates have nothing better to do than complain and sue and find somebody who is going to make a big stink about nothing,'' to quote Hillsborough Jail Colonel, Parrish...

Recently KCN was awarded a similar contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC). At the first opportunity to raise prices – again limited by contractual agreement to no more than 10% per 6 months – they did so with increases of between 30 and 125%. In addition they began selling out of date, moldy and stale products to the inmates through the canteens. They just posted a notice on the inmate bulletin boards that the price increases were a result of rising fuel costs. When inmates made complaints to the Arizona Attorney General’s office, KCN’s response was that all price increases were approved by the ADC. This excuse is nothing more than an attempt to pass off the usurious increases as approved by the ADC, and does not address the actual issues.

The Keefe/FDOC contract expires next month – October, ’06. The Department has indicated it wishes to offer the privatization contract for re-bidding – exactly opposite what the department did in ’03 under Crosby. As of this date it is unknown whether the FDOC will allow Keefe to re-bid for the contract or accept their bid if it is the best submitted. Obviously there are other variables involved: the software and hardware used to operate the canteen system (proprietary ownership bestowed to Keefe under one of Crosby’s three amendments in ’04), difficulties of transition between Keefe and whoever gets the new contract without interrupting operations, and other procedural issues affecting overall operations.

Food Service

In 2001 the FDOC decided to privatize the Food Service operations within the Department’s facilities state wide. The Department expected it could save money by such privatization. Of the bidders who accepted the challenge, Aramark Corporation responded with a bid providing the FDOC the most projected savings ($8 million the first year).

Aramark- Equally Bad -

Aramark Corporation was among the bidders for the lucrative contract and eventually received it. During the bid process FDOC was made aware of existing problems Aramark had under a similar contract with the Ohio prison system[34] and it ignored the significance and implications raised by an Ohio investigation that concluded: “an inspection team in 1999 found "inexcusable" sanitation problems and "observed a near riot during breakfast as a result of (Aramark's) strict compliance with portion size(s)." The team suggested Aramark "should be liable for damages as a result of the lack of training, cleaning and maintenance."[35]

When informed by others of the breaking news of the cancellation of the Ohio contract, the FDOC spokesperson, Debbie Buchanan responded: "Whatever might have happened in another state is not our concern. We have all of our mechanisms in place to oversee the contract. If there are any problems, we'll certainly find them.''[36]When giving consideration to the privatization of the prison food services, many alleged Governor Bush was moving too hastily and advised caution. The cautions and advice by his own staff went without notice by Bush, who moved ahead regardless of the concerns of his staff members. The governor's insistence on moving quickly even caused Bush’s efficiency czar to resign. Ruth Sykes, a 20-year Air Force veteran, quit after a few months on the job because she felt the governor was moving incautiously on the Aramark contract.[37]A year after the contract was let the FDOC began to find that issues similar to those that caused Ohio to cancel their contract with Aramark were happening in Florida. Sanitation, food portions and failure to feed the same scheduled meal to all inmates at the same facility, late meals and maggots in some food served, resulted in huge fines being assessed against Aramark by the Department ($110,000).[38]

Complaints by inmates, prison activist groups, family members and even media were brushed off by the Department. Elizabeth Hirst, a spokeswoman for Gov. Bush, was quoted as saying: “"[T]here have been no security incidents whatsoever. There have not been any riots or lives in jeopardy. The inmates are not always pleased with the food, but that's going to happen from time to time. . . . No one's going hungry.” This assertion begs us to believe that as long as riots don’t take place, or lives lost due to the Aramark operations, everything is simply hunky-dory. Food service is an important function in a facility setting. This is especially true in the prison environment.

"With a savings of $8-million in the first year," Hirst added, "this is operating in the manner that the governor and the corrections secretary (Michael W. Moore) had hoped. We are off to a good start with the program."

These statements by the Governor’s staff gave the appearance of a serious: failure of having “all of our mechanisms in place to oversee the contract,” and a lack of actual oversight of food service operations and compliance with the contract. When forced to address the numerous serious inmate and family food service complaints: lack of sanitation, cleanliness, small portions, spoiled food, maggots in food prep areas, (see: the Governor’s office attempted to trivialize the complaints in order to get to the $8 million in contract payments from Keefe.

Even though Bush’s office downplayed the complaints of inmates in the media and stated they were satisfied with the operations of Aramark, the state authorized $110,000 in fines against them for the incidents complained of above. The state received money for the violations of the contract, but that didn’t impact the men and women who were forced to eat food prepared under those unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Incidentally, those fines were for violations reported by FDOC staff…not those lodged by inmates and their families.

In 2003 there was an outbreak of food poisoning at the UCI main unit on Christmas day. 300 to 400 inmates reported stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and other illnesses following the Christmas dinner served by Aramark. The medical department was overwhelmed by the outbreak and began issuing antacids, kaopectate and other over the counter remedies to the inmates while prison officials attempted to determine the cause of the food poisoning. A State Health inspector was dispatched to the prison and interviewed all inmates about what they had eaten on Christmas day. Inmates were held back from their assigned jobs all through the day and forced to line up and await their individual interviews. It was finally found that Aramark had thawed out too many turkeys for the Thanksgiving meal and in order to save costs, supervisors ordered that the thawed Turkeys be re-frozen and saved for the Christmas meal. When these “saved” turkeys were again thawed out and used for the Christmas meal, the meat was spoiled. Aramark mixed the tainted meat in with other turkeys that weren’t spoiled. The overall effect was a spoiling of the entire meal.

One Aramark supervisor remarked; “We fix the inmates good holiday meals. Now that they’ve complained so much the health department is involved, let’s see how much they like the canned turkey we’ll feed ‘em next year.”

I believe that when a contracted service provider violates the terms of their contract to the extent that human beings become sick, ill or otherwise harmed by those services, the responsible state authorities need to step in and take a harder look at the compliance issues. Small fines – compared to the millions garnered from the contracts – is nothing more than a slap on the wrist of a corporation. To believe a fine will enforce compliance by corporate contractors and eliminate problems, is irrational. This is especially true in Florida where so many violations, corruption and outright gouging have been documented…and corporate business goes on as usual with the violations continuing until the next fine(s).


In the wake of the serious corruption charges and investigations of FDOC by the FBI and the FDLE and Crosby’s termination, Governor Bush appointed James McDonough to head up the privatization-heavy state agency. This is one of the few successful appointments made during his 2 terms in office.

Upon taking the helm of the beleaguered Department Mr. McDonough had his hands full with the numerous contracts Crosby had issued on behalf of the FDOC in the 3 short years of his administration. In addition to the privatization issues, McDonough had to deal with declining Department morale, nepotism and labor issues while fielding complaints from inmates and their families. Which brings us to…

- The Good –

I stated in the sub-title “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and the Corrupt”. The “Good” is what has come out of the Crosby/Clark Indictments and guilty pleas by both: the appointment of James McDonough to the vacated Secretary’s position.

Secretary McDonough arrived with no prison or corrections experience on his resume. He had previously been the state Drug Czar appointed by Governor Bush and by all accounts excelled in that position. McDonough took the reins of the agency and quickly tugged, pulling the FDOC back in the direction of its stated mission and goals. He fired or asked for the resignations or retirement of two dozen or more tenured top level FDOC personnel and moved and reassigned many others, putting them in positions where they could best address issues they were qualified to handle while maintaining the integrity of the Department. Others were demoted in rank, McDonough having found they won promotions through nepotism and favoritism rather than effort or work ethics. In those cases where employees had been suspended with pay during ongoing investigations, he stopped their pay.

McDonough has been receptive to issues and matters brought to his attention by activist, concerned family members and from inmates as well. He has initiated changes across the board, some of which included terminating several FDOC contracts and sub-contracts that had been issued by FDOC contract holders. He froze the canteen prices, refusing to allow pricing increases, even if called for by contract provisions and replaced the Visiting Park vending machines with actual canteens to sell items to the visitors and inmates. In addition, he froze then moved separate Staff Canteen Fund accounts to a central account where transactions could be overseen and the funds used for intended and approved purposes. McDonough reduced the inmate bank account fees and waived those fees entirely for inmates who were veterans of the Armed Forces.

In addition he negotiated a contract change in the Department’s phone service contract with MCI that resulted in a 30% reduction in prison initiated calls in an effort to make it less expensive for families to stay in touch with – and supportive of – inmates within the system.

In a time when everyone – including Governor Bush – was looking for ways to deny, justify or excuse the actions of Crosby, the Department and other personnel, McDonough chose the harder route and faced every issue – one at a time – head on in a business-like manner.  He dealt with each in turn and once one was resolved, he moved on to the next, and the next. He has demanded FDOC employees go back to demonstrating professionalism in their duties and interaction(s) with other staff members and inmates.

Prison Industries

In the late ‘70’s the Florida Legislature had to address the issue of the states prison industries. Each year that facet of the FDOC system was losing money. The industries were limited to small factories producing items which were only marginal in quality and the processes were inefficient and costly. These industries were operated not as a business, but as another means of providing work stations for occupying inmate’s time. Most saw the factory jobs as another means of punishment – not rehabilitative training. Whether the industries were profitable was of secondary importance to eliminating idleness in the prison setting. In 1981 Florida enacted PEER to address inmate industry within the prisons. That program was short lived

The Legislature responded to the suggestion of an innovative program from Jack Eckerd, the drugstore magnate and philanthropist. Eckerd proposed privatizing the prison industries and by doing so train inmates in technology and work techniques and ethics to serve them upon release from prison. In 1981 the Florida Legislature enacted §946.006 – a Prison Industries law that identified Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (P.R.I.D.E. of Florida) as the private non-profit corporation to run the state’s prison industries. PRIDE took over the industries in 1981 and by 1984 had taken over or assumed all industries within the FDOC.

 PRIDE Enterprises- The Worst – 

In 1982 PRIDE began operations under the watchful eyes of Jack Eckerd (first Chairman of the PRIDE Board) and F. Floyd Glisson (PRIDE’s first President). They began absorbing the facilities, equipment and product development(s) of the prison industries. The first industry to open its doors under PRIDE was the Graphic Arts and Printing plant at Zephyrhills. By 1984 PRIDE had assumed operation of all prison industries, a full year ahead of schedule. By then PRIDE had begun paying inmates for their work – an innovative program that guaranteed voluntary inmate participation.

During this early period in the company’s history, training and quality products were critical and everything else took a back seat to those two objectives. Within a couple of years PRIDE had turned the prison industries completely around causing the change from operating in the red to a profitable status.

When operational conflicts arose, the mission statement was looked to for guidance and in the end, training and job placement took preference in each instance where corporate choices had to be made. In 1990 Eckerd and Glisson retired from their positions as Chairman and President – Eckerd retiring to devote more time to his youthful offender programs and Glisson moving on to employment in another governmental position.

Pamela Jo Davis succeeded Glisson as President in September of 1990. Almost immediately Davis began revamping PRIDE to encourage greater sales, adherence to delivery schedules and away from the company’s mission statements and goals. By 1996 the PRIDE profile had undergone a complete change. Inmate training and placement upon release had taken a back seat to the corporate bottom line.

In 1995 FDOC joined other prison industries and became a Certificate holder in the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP)[39]. This program allows prison industries to manufacture products for sale and distribution in the private sector markets inside and outside the borders of the member states. The PIECP program relaxes both the federal Ashurst-Sumners and Walsh-Healey Acts that govern interstate transport and commerce of prison made goods and services and allows prison industries to partner with private companies to manufacture their products using prison labor.

The FDOC certified to the BJA that they were in compliance with the mandatory requirement and received Certification in 1995. Subsequently in 1999 the Florida Legislature enacted §946.523 -Prison industry enhancement (PIE) programs. This statute allowed the FDOC to transfer the PIECP Certificate to PRIDE who would then be responsible for operations and compliances with the PIECP program.[40]

Thus in the late 90’s PRIDE began offering their prison made products and services to private companies and businesses on the open market. In order to do this PRIDE was required to meet several (9) mandatory requirements of the PIECP program.[41] One mandatory requirement is that PRIDE pays their inmate workers the “prevailing wage” scale. Prevailing wages are determined by the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI) and rates established for each job skill and occupation through out Florida. These rates are fluctuating based upon geographical locales.

In 1999 Governor Bush appointed Davis to the Florida Council of 100. Also in 1999 PRIDE began forming spin-off corporations. These corporations were owned and operated by PRIDE executives and Board members and family members of both. Pam Davis was CEO of PRIDE and Founder and President of Inmate Training Corporation (ITC). She drew salaries from both. PRIDE loaned the spin-offs more than $13million with no requirement(s) or schedule for repaying the loans. In 2004 these spin-offs drew the attention of the Florida Auditor General’s office[42]. The AG’s office found the spin-offs violated state laws and Davis and PRIDE President John Bruells were asked to resign in mid 2005 and PRIDE told to sever all ties with the spin-offs.

From 1999 through present PRIDE has been solely responsible for operations and compliance under the PIECP program. During that entire time frame they have worked diligently to avoid compliance with several of the key requirements: 1) they have never paid the prevailing wage to any of their inmate workers, 2) they operate facilities that transform raw bulk meats into processed meat products for human consumption and have failed to notice the BJA of this operation, 3) they manufacture products to complete PIE orders listing themselves as “customers” (this allows them to pay inmates the typical $20-$.50 per hour wage), place the products in inventory and later take them from inventory and ship them as PIECP products, 4) they continue to interpret the PIECP guidelines to mean they are exempt from paying prevailing wages to inmates on products made under the PIECP partnership that is sold or distributed within the state. There are other circumventions they utilize to avoid paying the proper wages and increase corporate profits, but these methods would take an entire article to explain properly. Suffice to say that PRIDE has changed its path from the stated mission goals of the company, diverting to a path of corporate profits and greed.

Complaints to the BJA about the PRIDE operations and continuous violations of the PIECP guidelines have gone without investigation by them. I was puzzled why a federal agency like the BJA would be so reluctant to investigate allegations against a state certificate holder and researched the procedure for ensuring compliance and investigations into purported violations. My research disclosed that the same theme of inappropriate involvement between corporations and businesses that contract with prison systems was also found in the PRIDE situation.

The BJA utilizes the services of the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA) to oversee PIECP operations and compliance with the guidelines by all state certificate holders. I learned for example that the NCIA is an association comprised a staff drawn from the PIECP certificate holder membership. In other words, the NCIA is charged with overseeing complaints and investigations concerning their companies and corporations. They oversee themselves. Under those circumstances, it’s now obvious why nothing is accomplished in the way of forcing compliance or termination of certification due to violations. Currently PRIDE says their PIE Coordinator, Brian Connett is a member of the NCIA, representing PRIDE.

Recently PRIDE has become embroiled in a huge lawsuit with one of their PIECP partners, ATL Industries out of Atlanta, Georgia. In 2002 PRIDE solicited ATL to utilize their food processing facility located at the UCI prison to process their products and distribute them nationwide under the PIECP program. ATL provided the bulk meat products, spices, breading, ingredients, packing materials and recipes to PRIDE. PRIDE was to process the meats into patties and ship them under the ATL label to their customers. In 2004 ATL alleges they discovered the bookkeeping records maintained by PRIDE were being maintained in such a manner as to dilute the money owed to ATL for the operations. In short ATL had been over-billed. In response to the questions from ATL and their accountants, PRIDE seized all of ATL’s equipment and denied them access to the prison facility.

PRIDE continued the UCI Food Industry operations, continued using the ATL labels and ATL customer lists to make and distribute the processed foods without partnership or agreement with ATL. When a Court ordered PRIDE to allow ATL representatives onto the UCI property for inspection and recovery of their equipment they found the equipment had been sabotaged and rendered useless. In addition they discovered a rat infested warehouse used for storing the dry ingredients and packaging materials. Rat feces and urine were found contaminating everything in the warehouse and a trailer used as a holding facility. ATL reported the violations and contamination to the USDA and other governmental agencies as they were concerned with the contaminated meats finding their way into the human food chain (PRIDE distributes the food products from that plant to schools, institutions, prisons, hospitals and grocery chains). To date the USDA has resisted all efforts to force a recall of the meat products[43] and the operations continue. In the absence of ATL supervision or participation the PRIDE Union Foods Industry Manager - son-in-law of PRIDE’s new President, Jack Edgemon - opened two new for-profit corporations in Florida: Century Meats and Circle A Brands. He put these corporations in the name of a partner and ex-ATL employee, Jay Javetz. These corporations replaced ATL and began doing business with PRIDE, providing bulk meats to PRIDE and receiving the processed finished products from PRIDE which they distribute nationwide.

Does this entire set of circumstances seem to emulate those of 2004-2005 that were found illegal by the Florida Auditor General? Wasn’t Davis and Bruels asked to resign over this same issue? Wasn’t PRIDE told to sever relationships with the spin-offs? Weren’t the spin-offs formed by PRIDE owned and operated by staff, administrators and Board members?

PRIDE considers their Union Foods industry operations as a “service” industry that is exempt from the PIECP guidelines and thus do not pay the inmates even the State minimum wage of $6.40 per hour. Instead the inmates receive from $.20 to $.50 per hour in wages. The ATL and non-payment of wages under the PIECP partnership program have been presented to PRIDE on numerous occasions by myself: in letters, emails, phone conversations and by presentations at the past two PRIDE Board meetings. PRIDE continues to say that they are in litigation with ATL and cannot discuss issues contained within that lawsuit. They refuse to even address issues of wages that are not a part of the litigation. As of today, PRIDE would rather litigate the PIECP issues than resolve them through compliance. They recently had their attorney contact me and inform that any further communication on the subject would be responded to by that counsel. The BJA fails to respond or acquiesce to requests for an investigation and the FDOC is without authority to investigate on their own, as they no longer hold the certificate.

As this is written thousands of inmate workers in Florida and other states are working hard to put products on the shelves for consumers to purchase. They are supposed to be paid prevailing wages and instead are subjected to nothing more than slave labor. All in the name of privatization…


As the foregoing rant demonstrates, prison is an area of privatization that doesn’t always work. Inmate needs and state requirements are pushed aside by corporations in their quest for more and more profits. Huge corporations such as CCA, Keefe and PRIDE should be well able to reduce costs and keep corporate profits stable by utilizing their quantitative buying powers. Their services to the state prison system was originally obtained in an effort to save the state money while providing equal or better health care, vocational training, food, canteen operations and banking needs to state prisoners. The state hoped to save taxpayer money by such privatization.

Instead the department has become caught up in a myriad assortment of problems due to the privatizations. Private corporations have demonstrated a willingness to be corrupted and in turn to corrupt long time state employees in the quest for personal gain. Medical needs are often ignored, with contractors preferring to fight battles of litigation rather than do the right thing…as long as in the end whatever fines they have to pay, or damages assessed are less than the money made by their deceptive practices or improper operations. That’s why it’s called a business.

In the midst of the fallout over the Keefe/Crosby corruption investigation, the FDOC under new Secretary McDonough has been forced to examine closely all other contracts issued during Crosby’s tenure. This examination resulted in the termination of some contracts and a renegotiation of others. Due to his position as Secretary, McDonough holds a seat on the PRIDE Board of Directors. On that Board he is a single vote though PRIDE is solely dependent upon his agency for the inmates utilized in their work force. Since the certificate was transferred to PRIDE, the FDOC Secretary has no authority of oversight or to force compliance with state and federal laws pertaining to PRIDE and the PIECP program. McDonough now has to deal with the push for more private prisons and privatization of even more prison programs and facilities.

Unfortunately society still has a need for more prisons. Due to more and more laws, longer sentences and in an effort to protect society and reform those who violate their laws, our public chooses incarceration as a means to punish those who offend. Inherent in such incarceration is the hope that by such punishments the offenders will learn from their experiences behind bars and return to their communities a better person who is less willing to commit crimes.

This process is expensive. Each inmate costs the state thousands of dollars a year to keep them behind bars. This expense is out of necessity and borne by our society, community by community. Incarceration is a social issue and responsibility - not corporate ones. If a person violates the law, humanity dictates we as a society resolve the matter and if incarceration is required or necessary we act accordingly. This presupposes the laws that are being violated are laws put in place by our society due to actual needs. It also presupposes that while incarcerated an offender will learn by becoming better educated and will receive vocational training to allow them to come home and become a functional member of their communities. If we felt otherwise, there would be no need for training, rehabilitation, education or other similar programs…for once a person broke the law, we would consider them lost to our society and expendable, bereft of the ability to ever change and become a benefit to us. In that circumstance, there would be no reason to ever return that individual back into society, merely keep him or her behind bars for life.

Once we become dependent upon private corporations to handle incarceration for us on a for profit basis, we surrender many necessary and important controls regarding that process to profit oriented businesses. The transition from necessary incarceration as a means to punish, to prison for profit allows society to lose sight of the necessity for incarceration and forfeits much of their oversight of the manner in which inmates are treated and cared for.

History has now shown us that once we allow corporations to handle our law violators in place of state agencies or departments, rehabilitation and other equally important aspects of incarceration fall to the wayside. Corporations do not look at an incoming inmate as a potential for them to turn him/her into a productive member of society upon release…they look at them as a commodity with a given shelf life. The inmate will be there for a given period of time and if possible, the corporation’s best interest can best be served by each inmate staying the maximum period of time possible. An empty bed results in a yearly loss of revenue of over $20,000 and such losses cannot be tolerated by corporations. Their stockholders and investors will disappear if losses continue to climb while profits decline.

To keep the beds full corporate lobbyists contribute to campaigns of legislators, politicians and others who support more laws, stricter laws, longer sentences and legislation that require an offender to serve larger percentages of their sentences. These contributions and “investments” are considered good business by corporations involved in prisons – job security, if you will.

To demonstrate the inherent differences between privatized prisons and programs, let me provide a hypothetical situation that really isn’t too far in the future in the direction society is heading:

If a state had a program whereby every time a person was sentenced to prison, you and every citizen in the community received a check from the state in the amount of $10.00. For every ten offenders sent off to prison you receive one hundred dollars from the state sponsored private prison corporation. It would not take long for you to realize that the more people sent to prison by your community the more financial reward you would receive. Realizing this you would you argue for more laws, stiffer penalties and mandatory prison sentences for those who offend? New laws and mandatory sentences would be profitable to you and any attempt by the state or the corporation to reduce sentencing terms or repeal laws would be met with resistance by you and others who depend upon the income as a means to better living for you and your families.

Hard to believe? I think many would rejoice at the opportunity of making money off each person sentenced to prison and argue for more and more laws and mandatory prison terms for less serious offenses in an effort to imprison more people. That is the nature of the beast – money – and a “what’s in it for me?” attitude.

Corporations are no different. Their interests lie in the profit garnered from inmates rather than the rehabilitation of those under their care and control. It is not in their best financial interests to quickly rehabilitate and return an offender to the street. Nor is it in their best interests to eliminate mandatory sentences for drugs and gun possession or other criminal acts.

At some point all of us need to reevaluate our perceptions of prisons and the need for them. Do we have them to correct the behavior of those who offend with the intention that by sending them there a person will learn to behave and fit into our society? Or do we send them there to suffer whatever fate awaits them at the hands of those awaiting their arrival to profit from their misfortune – and accept the consequences of no training, rehabilitation or counseling? In either situation a human being goes to prison. In the first case they go with the hope of their family and community of being returned to them a better individual prepared to work for a living and refrain from re-offending. In the latter case they return home embittered, having learned nothing and provided no appreciable skills to use to secure and keep gainful employment. Having received no real education or training and having been used as slave labor tools, denied needed and necessary medical treatments, underfed and overcharged for necessary items by profit minded private corporations when released…how can we expect them to act when released?

In the end we now know the FDOC is faced with the dilemma of continuing privatization as Governor Bush wants, or to take back the food service, food, medical, canteen and banking operations and do away with the private corporations and the problems associated with contracts with them. I’m hopeful that Secretary McDonough will give this issue as much intense attention and consideration as he has to other important issues. If he does I believe he and the FDOC will reach the right decision and if that is to allow privatization to continue, that he and the department will provide the necessary oversight to eliminate or lessen the problems encountered to date under corporate contracted privatization.


[5] Saturday, July 8, 2006 “Troubles With DOC Outsourcing Are Nothing New.

[6] Bill Carey, “Prison Plan: Is it Practical or Political,” The Tennessean, April 21, 1997.


[7] Bureau of Justice Assistance, “Emerging Issues on Privatized Prisons,” February 2001, p. 16.

[8] Bureau of Justice Assistance, “Emerging Issues on Privatized Prisons,” February 2001, iii.

[9] Ibid, p. 59.

[10] Ibid

[11] Bureau of Justice Assistance, “Emerging Issues on Privatized Prisons,” February 2001, p. 36.

[12] Ibid, p. 52.

[13] Judith Greene, “Bailing Out Private Jails,” American Prospect, September 10, 2001.

[14] Securities & Exchange Commission, Corrections Corporation of America 10-k, March 31, 1997

[15] Western Prison Project, “The Prison Payoff,” Nov. 2000, p. 4.

[17] BJS U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics Office of Justice Programs seal"STUDY FINDS MORE THAN HALF OF ALL PRISON AND JAIL INMATES HAVE MENTAL


19: ibid. PHS just noticed FDOC they don’t intend to renew the contract in October of this year.
[20] ibid
[24] a former medical director for the Illinois prison system.
[25] of Corrections Outsourcing of Canteen Operations” operational audit by Fl. Auditor General, October 2004
[26] Ibid, pg. 2.
[27] Ibid, pg. 2.
[29] Section 945.215(1)(e), Florida Statutes
[30] of Corrections Outsourcing of Canteen Operations” operational audit by Fl. Auditor General, October 2004, pg. 5.
[31] Ibid, pg. 10.

[33], “Blunt Administration Manipulates Contracting Process To Benefit Major Donor

[34] A Lesson In Ohio Is Risky Policy For Florida.”
[36] Ibid. A Lesson In Ohio Is Risky Policy For Florida.”
[37] Ibid. A Lesson In Ohio Is Risky Policy For Florida.”


[41] Ibid, pg. 2
[42] PRIDE Audit Report-2005 Audit # 2004-4, Florida Auditor General