Private Prisons Contribute nearly $1 million to Florida Campaigns

Via Cuentame The for-profit prison industry has not only a strong physical presence in Florida but also a significant amount of political power. The National Institute on Money has released records that show that donors from the private prison industry made nearly $1 million in contributions to Florida campaigns in 2010—the most the industry has given over the last decade. The majority of the money came from five companies–Geo Group, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Global Tel* Link, Armor Correctional Health Services, and LCS Corrections Services, Inc. How do you think the for-profit prison industry’s money power has influenced Florida’s politics? 

Via SunSentinel.com

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TALLAHASSEE — The National Institute on Money in State Politics is highlighting the contributions of private prison companies to Florida politicians in its latest report, just as the Senate prepares to take up a massive prison privatization plan this week.

According to the group, the private prison industry has gave nearly $1 million in campaign contributions during the 2010 election cycle, the most the industry has given over the last decade, with the donations largely coming from five companies: GeoGroup, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Global Tel* Link, Armor Correctional Health Services, and LCS Corrections Services, Inc.

The full Senate this week will take up a plan to privatize 29 prisons in South Florida, which Senate budget chairman JD Alexander has predicted could save the state up to $45 million. The move is opposed by correctional workers though, who have turned out in large numbers at committee hearings to protest the proposal.

An identical proposal was approved by the Legislature last year, but shot down by the courts on technical grounds because the plan was written into the budget, rather than debated and passed in separate legislation.

Florida is home to the nation’s third-largest penal system, a fact likely not lost on the state’s lawmakers when they finalized the state’s $69.7 billion budget last May. Taking aim at $4 billion in government spending, last year’s budget included a plan to privatize prisons in the southern third of the state that would have nearly quadrupled the number of Florida prisons run by private firms.

The Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the correctional officers’ union, sued the state over the original privatization plan and was successful in halting its implementation. The PBA argued that lawmakers should have used separate legislation — not the budget bill — to authorize the private prisons. Jackie Fulford, a Florida Circuit Court Judge, agreed with the union. Undeterred, privatization proponents recently introduced two new pieces of legislation for the 2012 session, SB 2036 and 2038, that would turn over 29 correctional facilities in an 18-county region to private companies.

On January 18, reports the Herald Tribune, lawmakers on the Senate Rules Committee voted to introduce the two bills. Now, the bills are now waiting action in the Senate Budget Committee before going on to the full Senate.

Institute records show that donors from the private prison industry made nearly $1 million in contributions to Florida campaigns in 2010—the most the industry has given over the last decade, as illustrated by the Institute’s Industry Influence tool. The majority of the money came from five companies–Geo Group, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Global Tel* Link, Armor Correctional Health Services, and LCS Corrections Services, Inc.

Major Private Prison Contributors to Florida State Elections, 2010

Company Total
GEO Group & GEO Care* $829,665
Corrections Corporation of America $138,994
Global Tel* Link $15,000
Armor Correctional Health Services $9,500
LCS Corrections Services, Inc. $5,000
Total $998,159

*This total also includes donations made by GEO Group employees: $4,000 George and Donna Zoley,  $2,250 Wayne Calabrese, $1,500 Jorge Dominicis, and $500 from Brian R Evans.

  • GEO Group, headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, operates 20 federal prisons and 24 state prisons in 13 states, including Florida.
  • Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), based in Nashville, Tennessee, operates 66 prisons in 19 states and the District of Columbia, including five in Florida, according to their most recently disclosed 10-K report.
  • Global Tel* Link, based in Mobile, Alabama, is a telecommunications and software company that exclusively works in prisons. The company provides software and services related to prison management and communications systems.
  • Armor Correctional Health Services, based in Miami, Florida, is a health care company that exclusively operates in prisons, providing inmates with medical, dental, and mental health treatment.
  • LCS Corrections Services, Inc., based in Lafayette, Louisiana, is a privately held company focusing on private corrections. The primary business activity is the management and operation of detention and correctional facilities.

Since the state’s contribution limits cap corporate donations at $500 per candidate per election, these private prison firms gave most of their money to the state Democratic and Republican parties, which can receive unlimited amounts from corporations. The private prison industry demonstrated a signal preference for the Florida Republican Party, giving $783,494 compared to just $143,000 to the Florida Democratic Party.

The Police Benevolent Association (PBA) was also an active contributor in Florida’s 2010 elections, contributing just over $1 million to state candidates and state political parties. Much like the prisons, the unions gave generously to the political parties, but heavily favored the Democratic Party. The Florida Democratic Party received $597,000 from the police unions, while the Florida Republican Party received just $30,000.

The PBA and its local affiliates also contributed $415,750 to 139 different candidates. Interestingly, the PBA gave $229,000 to Republican candidates and $186,750 to Democratic candidates.

Contributions From the Police Benevolent Association to Florida State Elections, 2010

PBA Contributor Total
Florida Police Benevolent Association $741,500
Florida State Correctional Officers/PBA $92,500
Local PBA Affiliates’ Total $208,750
PBA Grand Total $1,042,750
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