Model legislation for tough-on-crime laws such as Three Strikes, which swelled prisons nationwide, were written by an organization of legislators and big business executives. Prison firms and Florida lawmakers were both part of that group.
The Post dug deep into the privatization debate to see whether taxpayer money is being spent wisely. We explored how the private companies gain clout and lock in profit. Our comprehensive look at Florida’s handoff to the private sector and whether it’s working.
Patterns of rape, riots and squalor are found in lockups. Some incidents are tied to too few and often inexperienced guards. Some examples: An inmate left alone in horticulture class attacks another with a chunk of concrete. One inmate was so poorly fed, he ate crumbs off the floor.
In Idaho, CCA admits manipulating documents to make it appear enough officers were on hand to safely operate the prison. A judge finds the company in contempt for understaffing its prison, infamously known as ‘The Gladiator School.’ Both Florida prison companies have been penalized for staffing problems.
The Post found guards at a local private prison were arrested themselves on charges from welfare fraud to grand-theft auto. A hard-boiled former Corrections chief in Florida recalls a special request he had of private prison operators: stop hiring the people he had fired. "I was firing them for a reason."
Prison operators dominate behind the scenes: They spend big campaign and lobbying money. Employees and board members move back and forth between jobs at prisons and key posts in government. Legislators who oppose key measures face intense pressure. One, suffering from a heart ailment before a key vote, said a circle of escorts to the Senate floor protected her from constant arm-twisting.