NEW YORK TIMES: The conviction that private prisons save money helped drive more than 30 states to turn to them for housing inmates. But Arizona shows that popular wisdom might be wrong: Data there suggest that privately operated prisons can cost more to operate than state-run prisons — even though they often steer clear of the sickest, costliest inmates. The state’s experience has particular relevance now, as many politicians have promised to ease budget problems by trimming state agencies. Florida and Ohio are planning major shifts toward private prisons, and Arizona is expected to sign deals doubling its private-inmate population. The measures would be a shot in the arm for an industry that has struggled, in some places, to fill prison beds as the number of inmates nationwide has leveled off. But hopes of big taxpayer benefits might end in disappointment, independent experts say. “There’s a perception that the private sector is always going to do it more efficiently and less costly,” said Russ Van Vleet, a former co-director of the University of Utah Criminal Justice Center. “But there really isn’t much out there that says that’s correct.” MORE
RELATED: “Prison–industrial complex” (PIC) is a term used to attribute the rapid expansion of the US inmate population owing to the political influence of private prison companies and businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies. The term is analogous to the military–industrial complex that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of in his famous 1961 farewell address. Such groups include corporations that contract prison labor, construction companies, surveillance technology vendors, lawyers, and lobby groups that represent them. Activists have described the prison industrial complex as perpetuating a belief that imprisonment is a quick fix to underlying social problems such as homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy. The promotion of prison building as a job creator and the use of inmate labor are also cited as elements of the prison industrial complex. The term often implies a network of actors who are motivated by making profit rather than solely by punishing or rehabilitating criminals or reducing crime rates. Proponents of this view believe that the desire for monetary gain has led to the growth of the prison industry and the number of incarcerated individuals. These views are often shared by people who fear or condemn excessive use of power by government, particularly when related to law enforcement and military affairs. MORE
INQUIRER: Standing next to pictures of the three men accused in the killing of Police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, State Rep. John M. Perzel today issued this message: Violent offender – no parole. “We’ve had enough of repeat violent criminals murdering and terrorizing our loved ones and our neighborhoods,” said Perzel, announcing legislation aimed at making violent offenders serve their maximum sentences. Liczbinski’s murder, Perzel said, was “the last straw.” He was joined by Reps. John Taylor and George T. Kenney Jr. All are Philadelphia Republicans. Taylor noted that the men accused in Liczbinski’s shooting death – Eric Floyd, Levon Warner and Howard Cain – all had long criminal records and were on parole. “In the event that the Board of Probation and Parole did what the system provided,” Taylor said in reference to their cases, “the very system of parole no longer works, and we have to make drastic changes to the system.” The proposed legislation would eliminate parole and early-release programs for any offender convicted of rape, robbery, murder, aggravated assault, or any crime with a gun. Currently, parole can be granted by a two-member panel. According to state Department of Corrections data, 16,832 inmates were released last year from Pennsylvania prisons. Of them, 23 percent were considered violent offenders. Between 2001 and 2007, the state’s inmate population has increased 21 percent, from 37,995 to 46,028, with nonviolent offenders making up most of the population. The Corrections Department estimates that bed space inside prisons could run out by 2010. MORE
PHILLY FUTURE: The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Perzel enjoyed free hospitality at the luxurious Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida. While staying in a room which normally costs between $259 to $400 a night, the Republican from Philadephia made about $5,000 attending the annual shareholders meeting of GEO Group Inc. Perzel, 55, has been on the company’s board of directors since last year. Never heard of GEO? Me neither. So I did a little research. GEO primarily builds and operates prisons. Last year, its 10,000 employees ran 61 jails around the world – including the 1,785 men, women and kids serving time at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Thorton, Pa., which GEO expanded in the late 90s when the company was known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp. The Delaware County medium-security jail is the only privately run prison in Pennsylvania. In 2002, the Philadelphia Prison System started sending hundreds of its inmates there whenever Philly’s slams are filled. MORE
WHAT IS GEO GROUP INC.: The GEO Group, Inc. (”GEO”) is a world leader in the delivery of correctional, detention, and residential treatment services to federal, state, and local government agencies around the globe. GEO offers a turnkey approach that includes design, construction, financing, and operations. GEO represents government clients in the United States, Australia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. GEO’s worldwide operations include the management and/or ownership of 68 correctional and residential treatment facilities with a total design capacity of approximately 59,000 beds, including projects under development. MORE
GEO GROUP PROXY STATEMENT: The Honorable John M. Perzel has served as a director of GEO since 2005.
GEO GROUP PRESS RELEASE: –Nov. 27, 2007–The GEO Group, Inc. (NYSE:GEO) (”GEO”) announced today that it has been awarded a two-year extension of its contract to provide operating services at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility (the “Facility”) located in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. GEO has managed the Facility since 1995. Under the two-year contract extension, the Facility is expected to generate approximately $39 million in annual operating revenues in 2008 and approximately $40.5 million in annual operating revenues in 2009. GEO’s contract can be successively extended for two-year option periods under mutual agreement. MORE
INQUIRER: Kenneth Keith Kallenbach’s mother said the staff at [George W. Hill Correctional Facility] – which in 2005 was the subject of at least two inquiries into the deaths of five inmates in as many months – failed to properly treat Kallenbach’s cystic fibrosis, a congenital disease that affects the lungs and other vital organs and can lead to chronic infections and premature death. Pablo Paez, a spokesman for The GEO Group Inc., the Boca Raton-based company that runs the prison, would only provide information on when Kallenbach was first incarcerated on March 27 and when he was transferred to Riddle. Last year, the family of a 38-year-old mentally ill Aston woman filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia alleging her death resulted in part from the prison’s failure to give her medication for a thyroid condition. Cassandra “Sandy” Morgan died in Riddle Memorial Hospital on March 29, 2006, four days after lapsing into a coma at the prison, where she had been held for six weeks on shoplifting charges. Her death resulted from complications caused by hypothyroidism. MORE
ASSOCIATED PRESS: The charges of theft, conspiracy, conflict of interest and obstruction of justice, and an elaborately detailed grand jury report, were released one day before the defendants were scheduled to turn themselves in at a Dauphin County district judge’s office. The most prominent defendant is state Rep. John M. Perzel, R-Philadelphia, who served as speaker for about four years and as majority leader for nearly a decade before that. Corbett described Perzel as “aggressive in the acquisition and retention of power” and accused him of punishing fellow Republicans who voted against him on legislation with “dirty tricks” that included anonymous, taxpayer-paid robocalls to tarnish their image among voters in their districts. Perzel, charged with 82 counts, has been among his party’s most prolific fundraisers and key campaign strategists for more than a decade. He relinquished the speakership in 2007 after Democrats regained control of the House, and he is currently the ranking Republican on the Urban Affairs Committee. MORE
INQUIRER: The indictment yesterday of Rep. John M. Perzel (R., Phila.) and nine other Harrisburg Republican insiders brings a pathetic bipartisanship to the legislature’s cesspool of corruption. Attorney General Tom Corbett announced the charges 16 months after he indicted a dozen Democratic House officials in the wide-ranging “Bonusgate” probe. Critics had accused Republican Corbett, a candidate for governor, of ignoring the GOP in his investigation. But the new round of charges has finally produced an ugly symmetry. As Philadelphians know, Perzel isn’t any old minnow in the political pond. He was speaker for nearly four years, and has served 30 years in the state House. The former maitre d’ from the Northeast was for a time one of the most powerful legislators in Harrisburg. Now he is a criminal defendant, indicted by a grand jury for allegedly masterminding a sophisticated scheme to spend $9 million in public money on computer technology to enhance GOP campaign operations. It’s illegal to use taxpayer dollars for campaign purposes. Part of the alleged scheme included a data collection system that sounds like something from the Nixon White House. MORE
UPDATE: Rep. John M. Perzel, the former speaker of the state House, was led in handcuffs this morning into a district magistrate’s office where he was ordered to turn over his passport before being released on $100,000 bond for 82 counts of corruption leveled yesterday by the Attorney General’s Office.