Tuesday, July 27, 2010

State Senator Johnny Grant, Sonny Perdue & GEO, Inc.


Last Week, The Georgia Department of Corrections announced a new private prison is slated to open in Baldwin County, Georgia in 2012 that will provide 300 new jobs.

The 1,500-bed prison will house medium security inmates and will be built in partnership with The GEO Group, Inc., which manages and/or owns 63 correctional and residential treatment facilities worldwide. The facility will cost $80 million.

State Senator Johnny Grant says it's a project that's been two years in the making.

"We knew that some of the prison facilities we had in Baldwin County were classified as non-enduring and that they would be closing up," he says.


There are questions that need to be answered & no one's not getting them.

I got this from a very reliabe source who's name I will not reveal:

During the session a bill by State Sen. Johnny Grant (the usual property conveyance bill that the legislators do every year) says that Sonny Perdue transferred 71 acres from DHR to DOC by executive order, something I never heard a governor in this state do. It goes on to say that DOC will put out an RFP for a private prison, and the winner of the RFP will have a "40-year" ground lease with the state of Georgia.


Never heard anything like this! The Bill was introduced on 2-17-10, and signed by Gov. Perdue on 6-4-10 & then pooof.....The Geo Group, Inc. based in Florida made a huge public announcement that they were "Partnering with the State of Georgia" and planned to build a 1500 bed prison on the property with the 40-year ground lease.

Now the Group, GEO Group, Inc, (formerly know as Wackenhut Corrections) has a serious Rap Sheet that the people of Baldwin County better pay attention to, here are a few:

May 9, 2007 Greeley Tribune

Plans for a private prison in Ault came to a halt recently when Colorado Department of Corrections rescinded its offer to GEO Group. Ault Mayor Brad Bayne said board members haven't discussed the prison for months. "Until there was some sort of guarantee, we'd just rather not talk about it," he said. "There is probably some disappointment from me and a few board members who believe we still could have made it work for the town." Talk of the 1,500-bed medium-security prison proposed last spring has bought some uproar in the town of fewer than 1,500 residents. Some said a prison coming to town would boost the town's economy, but others said it would be too dangerous because of its proximity to the town. The plan was to build on 40 acres in the southeast part of town. Last spring, the GEO Group entered into a tentative agreement with the town, which approved the prison in concept only, so it could secure state approval to build there. Months later, the town board passed an ordinance requiring resident approval before any prison could be built. Town officials haven't heard from a GEO Group representative since September, when GEO hosted a public forum answering questions from residents, he said. But DOC Executive Director Ari Zavaras put a stop to all discussions with the private prison contractor. He sent a letter April 24 to representatives of GEO Group, stating they would no longer discuss the plans for the Ault prison or GEO's request for a guaranteed bed count. "We had continued to have a very open and productive conversations with GEO," said Allison Morgan, spokesperson for the DOC. "But we did not agree with a bed guarantee." GEO requested a guarantee on the number of beds that would be filled by prisoners at any given time, since the state pays private prison contractors a daily rate per inmate. Phillip Tidwell, a member of the Citizens Against Ault Prison, said the decision to rescind the DOC offer to GEO Group made him happy. "We're definitely feeling this is a responsible act from both parties," Tidwell said. "The contract should have never been fulfilled by the state because of GEO making the specifications with the state for a guaranteed bed count." In the letter to rescind, Zavaras stated that in June 2006, the DOC offered a contract with GEO Group with the exception to GEO's request for a bed guarantee. On July 7, the DOC asked for GEO group to sign and complete the proposed implementation agreement. After a few meetings, GEO Group still requested a bed guarantee, which the DOC could not grant. The two entities have gone back and forth on the bed guarantee issue since August. According to the letter, Zavaras gave GEO a new deadline of April 2 to sign the Implementation Agreement or provide a reason for not signing in writing to the DOC no later than that date. "It was apparent the Department and GEO could not come to an agreement," Morgan said.

Here's another:

Feb. 10, 2003, AP

Guards at the largest immigrant detention facility in Texas, (South Texas Detention Complex) readied to strike Tuesday in a dispute with the same private contractor running a West Texas prison disrupted by two inmate riots in as many months. Unionized workers at the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall say that unless The GEO Group Inc. agrees to better wages and working conditions Tuesday, more than 300 employees could walk off the job as early as this week. Negotiations began in August, and union officials said the meeting with GEO in San Antonio was the last chance to hammer out a deal. About 1,400 detainees are being held at the facility because of their immigration status. "I'm hoping (GEO) will be serious this time," said Ricardo Luna, 50, a detention officer at the facility and the union president. "But I don't know. It could go either way." GEO spokesman Pablo Paez did not immediately return an e-mail Tuesday morning seeking comment. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which contracted GEO to run the facility, has previously said the agency is "prepared to respond appropriately" no matter the outcome but did not elaborate. A strike would be the latest problem in Texas for GEO, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based private contractor that is still sorting out two inmate riots since December at a federal prison the company manages in Reeves County. The latest riot began Jan. 31 and ended Thursday in the remote West Texas town of Pecos. The disturbance left buildings heavily damaged, sent smoke billowing from the facility, and SWAT teams driving inside and out. Inmates and relatives have told news media the riot was prompted by poor treatment, including medical services. Another riot in December left one housing unit damages and cost the county at least $320,000 in repairs. In San Antonio, union workers arrived to the bargaining table prepared with 100 red picketing posters that read, "ON STRIKE AGAINST GEO GROUP INC. — UNFAIR." Luna said the safety of detention officers has been compromised by poor equipment and new guards who he says have not received the proper training. Located about 60 miles south of San Antonio, the Pearsall detention center is the only unionized GEO facility in the nation, union officials say. Workers are seeking increased wages, more affordable health benefits and improved working conditions. The standard wage there is $14.37 an hour, according to union officials. Negotiations last broke off in January.

May 16, 2008 WOAI

Startling allegations of sexual assault are coming out about a facility that holds illegal immigrants. It’s said to be happening in Pearsall, just about an hour outside of San Antonio. News 4 Trouble Shooter Brian Collister is uncovering how some guards may be victimizing the women they are supposed to be protecting. Many of the immigrants held here are women. Some have fled abuse in their home country, only to be reportedly abused again behind these bars. A former detainee, who asked us not to identify her told us, “It was going on a lot. It was going on almost all the time, the sexual abuse.” She claims sexual abuse came from the guards. She said while she was there she rejected advances by one of the guards, but said other girls were too scared to put up a fight. “Some of the guards actually tried to force themselves on the girls and that they’ve told them that if they ever said anything about it, that they have the power with ICE to deport them,” explained this former detainee. The guards work for a private company called GEO, hired by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to run the prison. Sexual contact with detainees is not allowed. In fact, it’s a crime. The former detainee said, “Some of the girls ended up pregnant by some of the officers there.” She added one of those who got pregnant was a girl from Guatemala, named Marley. Marley’s case is mentioned in an incident report obtained by the News 4 Trouble Shooters. It details how last may a guard reported being told by another guard that he’d had sex with a Marley, who has already been deported back home. That guard accused of having sex with Marley was Joseph Canales. The Trouble Shooters tracked him down, but he told us he didn’t get anyone pregnant, then added: “Whatever happened, happened a long time ago.” After the incident report, Canales was fired, but ICE will not tell us if they referred the case for prosecution. The US Attorneys Office told us it has no case against Canales. Still, there are other sexual assaults we’ve uncovered. We obtained an email sent by an ICE officer to his supervisors notifying them that a detainee had told him about a GEO sergeant who was having sex with one of the female detainees. The ICE officer who wrote that e-mail sat down with us, but asked us not to identify him. He said some of the GEO guards prey on the female detainees by lying to them and promising they can help them stay in the United States. “If they had the opportunity,” he explained, “some of the guards were just touching, groping, but if they had the opportunity they had sex with them. The female detainees, a lot of them, were willing because they thought it was…somehow their chances of staying were going to increase. That’s not the case whatsoever. If ICE can keep it under wraps, they will keep it under wraps.” To keep it under wraps, he said he was fired for reporting what was going on. And he is not alone. We’ve also talked to a former GEO guard who said she, too, was fired after reporting sexual abuse. While ICE would not provide a spokesperson to speak with us on camera, the man in charge did recently speak to News 4 for another story on how they deport illegals and said this about how detainees are treated. Marc J. Moore, ICE Field Office Director said recently, “I think ICE has a clear commitment to not only safe detention but also humane detention.” A spokesman for GEO told us they didn’t know of any sexual assault cases, but when Trouble Shooter Collister asked about the incident in this report, we got no response. The people who run this prison may not want to talk about it, but we’re not done digging. We’ll follow up with more in the coming days and week.

Texas Legislature
April 27, 2009 Texas Watchdog

Two state lawmakers from South Texas have financial ties to a private prison firm that runs facilities for the Texas state prison system — at a time when lawmakers are debating sweeping new measures to clamp down on corrections companies. State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and state Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, have financial links to the GEO Group, a Florida-based firm that runs 19 correctional facilities in Texas, including nine under contract for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Zaffirini’s husband, Carlos, is a lawyer and advocate for the firm, formerly known as Wackenhut. In December 2007, the Zaffirinis’ hometown commissioners in rural Webb County considered whether to stop supplying water and sewer lines to a local GEO-owned prison after residents voiced concerns about the company’s track record. The Laredo Morning Times reported that Zaffirini put on a spirited defense of the firm, claiming the complaints against his client were “steeped in emotion and void of logic.” Oliveira, meanwhile, also has a cozy relationship with the prison company. His Brownsville law firm serves as its local defense counsel. The House member’s cousin David Oliveira, a partner at the firm, has represented the company on a lawsuit alleging misconduct that one judge described as “reprehensible.” The lawmakers’ ties to the company raise all sorts of messy questions: Can either one of them vote on any legislation that would place tough regulations on how the GEO Group does business?

Why haven’t they disclosed their interest in the firm on their personal financial statements? And should any lawmaker have a financial interest in a company that feeds out of the public trough? “The private prison industry is dependent on taxpayer dollars,” says Alex Friedmann, the associate editor of Prison Legal News, a newsletter dedicated to protecting inmates’ legal rights. “So, yes, I believe Zaffirini and Oliveira have a conflict of interest, or at least a perceived conflict of interest.” Oliveira did not return repeated phone calls for comment left beginning March 24. Zaffirini, meanwhile, says that she is largely unfamiliar with the company’s recent struggles, even though her husband works for the firm. “I quite frankly have not given private prisons a lot of thought,” she says. “I spend most of the time focusing on the issues of the poor, the elderly and people who can’t represent themselves.” Lawmakers could vote this spring to get tough with private prison companies, including the GEO Group, after the company’s missteps have brought Texas prisons national attention for poor, unstable conditions. Critics say Zaffirini and Oliveira, because of their personal ties to the company, should recuse themselves from prison-related votes. But Zaffirini says she would vote on the private-prison measures, and that her legislative aides have no knowledge of her husband’s work.

Two years ago, the Texas Youth Commission slammed the GEO Group’s Coke County Juvenile Justice Center, discovering illegal contraband and filthy cells that “smelled of feces and urine.” Other findings included racially segregated cells and a limited education program that consisted of one daily worksheet slipped into the juvenile’s cell. The agency later pulled 197 of its inmates out of the facility and canceled its contract with the firm. Then, earlier this month, the Court of Appeals in the 13th district in Corpus Christi upheld a massive judgment against the GEO Group, then known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., after an inmate was beaten to death at one of its facilities. The court concluded that the company tried to cover up the attack and that its conduct “constituted a disgusting display of disrespect.” “The GEO Group is an appalling company to represent,” says Bob Libal, the Texas campaigns coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, a social justice organization that opposes private prisons. “It’s staggering to think about how many problems the GEO group has had in Texas.” The GEO Group last year earned $59 million in fees from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for managing nine state facilities. More notably the GEO Group has endured a rash of problems in Texas that have garnered the attention of their colleagues in Austin, as well as media outlets across the country.

In 2007 State Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and chairman of the criminal justice committee, called for a special hearing on GEO’s state contracts after the Texas Youth Commission issued the devastating report on the company’s youth facility. He then lashed out at the firm when he felt like its lobbyists were attempting to downplay its troubles. The corrections outfit also generated headlines when two prison riots broke out at the GEO-operated Reeves County Detention Center, which houses inmates detained on federal immigration violations. The first rash of violence came last December after inmates complained about a lack of health care, followed by more rioting two months later in which the West Texas facility was engulfed in flames. Both riots cost Reeves County, which owns the detention center, more than $1 million to repair the damages. Zaffirini’s husband, Oliveira’s firm defended GEO Group in 2001 prison beating case -- But despite the GEO Group’s recent bout of bad publicity, it was a brutal prison beating nearly a decade ago that may raise the most questions about Zaffirini and Oliveira’s financial interest in the company. On April 26, 2001, two inmates at a GEO Group-operated facility in Willacy County stuffed prison-issued padlocks into socks and beat Gregorio de la Rosa on his head, neck, ribs and back, striking him dead just four days before his intended release. The family of de la Rosa, an honorably discharged National Guardsman who was incarcerated on a drug charge, would later file a wrongful death lawsuit against the GEO Group. They claimed that the beating was no isolated incident.

Rather, de la Rosa’s attorney, Ronald Rodriguez, alleged that facility’s guards allowed inmates to enforce their own brand of order that included rape and extortion. The Laredo attorney put on quite a case. He introduced evidence of assaults in which inmates were also attacked with padlocks wrapped inside socks — just like de la Rosa had been. Rodriguez showed that the guards didn’t follow policy when they failed to pat down inmates who entered the area where the deadly beating took place. Finally, in order to point to a wider culture of dysfunction, Rodriguez introduced into evidence a prison training videotape in which a guard tells an inmate that if he didn’t want to be raped, he shouldn’t have come to prison. $47.5 million judgment -- A jury would later award the de la Rosa family $47.5 million, one of the top 10 jury verdicts in 2006. The judge and jury also found that the company destroyed the videotape of the beating. The GEO Group appealed the case, but earlier month the court of appeals in the 13th district of Texas upheld the ruling. The court noted testimony that the prison’s warden and officers “smirked and laughed” as the inmates attacked de la Rosa. Judge Gina Benavides, who wrote the opinion, also concluded that Warden David Forrest intentionally disposed of incriminating evidence and that “these cover-up attempts show intentional malice, trickery, and deceit.” “We hold that nearly all the indicators of reprehensible conduct exists in this record,” the judge said. In October 2007, Zulema de la Rosa Salazar, the older sister of the late inmate, wrote a letter to Whitmire, who had recently called for a hearing on the GEO Group’s track record in Texas.

In her letter, Salazar says that she tried to warn officials in Webb County when the company proposed building a prison there. But no one would ever meet with her. “They will not listen,” she writes, her anger nearly crystallizing on the page. “Why? I’ll tell you why. One of the GEO Group’s attorneys, Mr. Zaffirini, is married to Senator Judith Zaffirini. Is this not a conflict of interest?” Of course, it wasn’t just Zaffirini’s ties to the company that came under scrutiny. Oliveira’s 15-member law firm, Roerig Oliveira & Fisher, has represented the GEO Group in the post-verdict hearings of the De La Rosa’s wrongful death suit after the firm’s original attorney, Bruce Garcia, went to work for the Texas attorney general’s office. In the 2007 legislative session, Oliveira sat on the House Corrections Committee, which considers legislation that regulates private corrections companies like the GEO Group. The committee, like its Senate counterpart, can also probe into the conduct of corrections companies. “Oliveira should have been conducting investigations into these very disturbing facts surrounding de la Rosa’s death at the hands of the GEO Group in his capacity as a member of the Texas House Corrections Committee,” says Rodriguez, the attorney. “Incredibly, instead Oliveira’s law firm was and is representing GEO Group in the de la Rosa litigation.” Rodriguez is just as critical of the Laredo Democrat. “Senator Zaffirini is supposed to be looking out after the state’s interest and the interest of her constituents like the de la Rosas, and not after her own self-interest by getting her community property estate paid by representing one of Texas’ major private prison providers,” he says. “The de la Rosas reside in Zaffirini’s district but cannot go to her for help in her official capacity as their state senator because such pleas will only fall on deaf ears.” Zaffirini: Wife would not be compromised; Webb County official: Recusal from prison debate necessary -- Carlos Zaffirini scoffs at the claim that his lawyering for the GEO Group has compromised his wife’s responsibilities as a state senator.

“From the sound of it, he would like to have my wife influence the judicial process in favor of his clients,” he says, referring to the continuing litigation in the De la Rosa case. “She’s not going to do that for him or anyone.” Rodriguez says that he has no need for Zaffirini to influence what happens in court; afterall, his record judgment was just upheld. He’s just questioning whether her husband’s legal work has cast a pall over her stature as an elected official. In any case, he is not the only one concerned about her loyalties. Webb County Commissioner Sergio “Keko” Martinez, a Democrat, also doubts whether Zaffirini can vote objectively on anti-private prison legislation. “Ethically, I would expect my wife to disqualify herself on any deliberations that would have to do with a company I have represented in the past or would be representing,” he says, speaking hypothetically. “Whatever money I would make, she would have an interest in half of it.” A loophole for lawyers in the state’s disclosure requirements -- Neither Oliveira nor Zaffirini listed their ties to the GEO Group on their 2008 personal financial statements (Zaffirini statement here/Oliveira statement here), which are supposed to alert voters to instances when lawmakers’ fiscal interests might shape votes. The law does not require it, and the exemption extends to lawmakers whose spouses are lawyers. But there’s nothing preventing state elected officials from disclosing more than what the law allows, a practice that could allay questions about their votes and positions. In fact, Oliveira apparently did just that. In an addendum to his 29-page financial statement, the House member writes that his firm represents many banks, insurance companies and government associations.

Oliveira explains that some of them may employ lobbyists who have contacted him, but it would not be related to his legal work. Overall, he lists nearly a dozen of his firm’s clients, including Geico, State Farm Insurance Companies and the Texas Municipal League, but not the GEO Group, which arguably has just as much at stake in the 2009 legislative session as any company doing business in the state. Lawmakers have proposed stiffer regulations for private prisons following the Youth Commission’s closure of the GEO Group’s Coke County facility. House and Senate Democrats crafted every single measure. Here is a listing of the main bills that were proposed–the first two of which never made it out of committee. HB 1714: The most severe of the anti-private prison bills, this bill, authored by Rep. Harold Dutton, would prohibit counties from contracting with private prisons. HB 3247: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez’s bill would not allow counties to contract with private prison corporations if the corporation’s employees do not have collective bargaining rights. HB 3903: This bill, sponsored by Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr. requires more accountability for private prisons including a mandatory public hearing in each commissioner’s precinct before a county enters into a contract with a private prison firm. SB 1680: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa’s bill requires that voters approve any county contracts with private prison operators. SB 1690: This bill, also sponsored by Hinojosa, allows for stronger state oversight of county-owned (and usually privately-operated) jails with federal and out-of-state prisoners. Sen. Zaffirini: Husband ‘doesn’t influence me’ -- In a lengthy interview with Texas Watchdog, Zaffirini said she would vote on

Typically, she said, her aides carefully research new bills and recommend how she should vote, and “99 percent of the time,” she follows their recommendation. In regard to her husband’s work for the GEO Group, Zaffirini said her staff doesn’t really know about his ties to the company. “I have a system for deciding how to vote, and my staff is totally unaware of my husband’s clients,” says the state senator. “They are in Austin, and he is in in Laredo.” Throughout the interview, Zaffirini was amiable and composed. She never sounded a defensive note. Still, the Laredo Democrat’s defense of her unusual situation assumes that spouses can draw an indelible line between their professional and personal lives. “My husband and I never, ever discuss his clients because they have standards of confidentiality,” she says. “He doesn’t influence me on legislation that impacts them; nor does he even talk about it.” Carlos Zaffirini echoed his wife’s remark while adding that as an attorney he works for many clients who come under the jurisdiction of the state. “She doesn’t know half of what I do or 10 percent of what I do,” he said. “I represent a lot of clients. I represent GEO and oil-and-gas producers. I represent land owners and developers and people in international trade.” Rene Oliveira’s firm is representing the GEO Group in an effort to overturn the record judgment in the de la Rosa case. Meanwhile, the Brownsville lawmaker may be asked to vote on bills that would severely restrict how his client does business. Rodriguez, the de la Rosa attorney who has become an impassioned critic of the private prison company, questions how Oliveira will approach any bills that come up for a vote. “How can he be objective when his law firm is on the GEO Group’s payroll?”

These are just the tip of the Ice Berg. What in the Hell is going on with this. These people GEO INC are Bad News & Baldwin County better wake up & this is one reason why Johnny Grant needs to be kicked out of office in November


Anonymous said...

uh-oh! the folks of baldwin county have been sold out by grant, perdue and possibly others. how long was grant working with these shysters? ge and perdue had to know about these troubling findings. oh yeah its time for grant to go!

Anonymous said...

I worked with GEO in Texas for 17 years. The company became corrupt after the death of the founder. George Zoley is a liar and a crook. The prisons are ran like a daycare and the workers lack experience. And, yes I worked for them, but when they started covering up several incidents at the Lockhart Texas Facility; I quit. I found a better job, turned in 2 weeks notice and left with honor. KEEP GEO OUT OF YOUR TOWN...THEY ARE BAD NEWS.......RAPES, MURDERS, THEFTS, RACE CRIMES, ESCAPES....ETC.....LOOK THEM UP FOR YOURSELF THEY ARE BAD NEWS.

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