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The GEO Group, Inc. Message Board

  • mcprison mcprison Sep 7, 2001 12:30 PM Flag

    Wall St, 6

    Spencer "Buddy" Medlin, told Sen. Huggins that CCA's prison in his district
    needed 930 inmates to break even, the senator recalls.

    Sens. Huggins and Gordon worried that the companies might pull out of the
    prisons, and neither man thought the state could run them more efficiently
    than the companies. In the future, Mississippi might need the extra beds.

    By March 24, a Saturday, Mr. Calabrese had left, but Mr. Sage was
    planted on the second floor of the statehouse. A conference committee of
    three representatives and three senators had convened to set the corrections
    budget and deal with the empty beds, which now numbered 2,600. Four of
    the six lawmakers had prisons in their districts.

    The conferees sat around a U-shaped group of tables in a high-ceilinged
    room hung with portraits of former appropriations chairmen, participants
    say. Cigar and cigarette smoke floated in the air. Mr. Johnson shuttled in
    and out to answer questions, while Mr. Weissinger, the regional prisons'
    attorney, waited with Mr. Sage outside.

    The conferees spent most of the weekend debating whether to solve the
    empty-bed problem by closing part of the state's massive century-old
    penitentiary at Parchman in northwest Mississippi. Rep. Coleman of Bolivar
    argued against the idea. Some of her constituents work at Parchman, which
    is near her district. She opposes companies being in the incarceration
    business in the first place, dealing with "human bodies as commodities," as
    she puts it.

    Sen. Huggins endorsed closing part of Parchman. "Jack [Gordon] and I
    went out to dinner with the private prisons, and they're hurting," he recalls
    telling the lawmakers. Wackenhut and CCA had bailed the state out of a
    tough spot in 1994 by helping get two new prisons up and running quickly,
    and they deserved help, he said.

    "I haven't had the privilege of going to dinner," Rep. Coleman remembers
    firing back, "but I don't think we should close the [Parchman] units." The
    debate got loud at times, but finally, the conferees agreed to leave Parchman
    intact for now.

    They turned to the county-owned regional prisons. The legislators were
    inclined to boost these prisons' guaranteed minimum to 230 inmates -- an
    idea Mr. Johnson says he didn't like, because it meant moving $8-a-day
    prisoners from state facilities to $25-a-day regional prisons. The conferees
    accused him of wanting to keep state prisons full, so their budget would look
    justified, participants recall. Guilty, he said.

    The committee emerged with a bill around noon on Monday, March 26, but
    its language was ambiguous. The measure seemed to set a 230-inmate
    minimum for the regional prisons, as well as what looked like a 900-inmate
    minimum for the Wackenhut and CCA prisons. The bill didn't, however,
    explicitly require Mr. Johnson to move any inmates. Rather, it directed his
    department merely to "make payments for housing" prisoners according to
    the stipulated minimums -- to pay the prisons whether they housed more
    inmates or not.

 
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