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  • mcprison mcprison Sep 7, 2001 12:28 PM Flag

    Wall St, 5

    Wackenhut's state contract at Holly Springs was up for renewal. Mr.
    Calabrese said he couldn't renew if it meant Wackenhut would keep losing
    money. Mr. Johnson said he didn't have the budget to pay for the company
    to house more inmates, and only the legislature could change that. Mr.
    Calabrese perked up. What was the legislature's view? he asked. "They're
    meeting now," Mr. Johnson said, and the executive could go to the
    statehouse and find out.

    "I better get over there," Mr. Calabrese said. He hadn't planned to stay in
    Mississippi overnight, so he bought a fresh shirt for the next morning.

    Two blocks away at the statehouse, the part-time legislature was completing
    its three-month session. State tax revenues had come in short of projections
    because of the faltering economy, and Gov. Ronnie Musgrove was battling
    lawmakers for more money for the state's public schools. The legislature had
    made a one-year reduction of $30 million for classroom supplies and
    textbooks and ended a program that funneled 25% of any state budget
    surplus to the public schools.

    Messrs. Calabrese and Sage went door-to-door in
    the statehouse, a domed granite edifice that stands
    on the former site of Mississippi's first prison. In a
    corridor, they buttonholed Carl "Jack" Gordon,
    Democratic chairman of the Senate appropriations
    committee and one of Mississippi's most powerful
    legislators. They also chatted with Republican Sen.
    Robert "Bunky" Huggins, another political
    heavyweight whose district is home to a regional
    prison and CCA's Greenwood facility.

    In Sen. Huggins's office, Mr. Calabrese emphasized
    that Wackenhut was not an interloper. "We didn't
    build a prison on spec and start looking for prisoners," he recalls saying.
    "You invited us."

    He continued the discussion over dinner with Sens. Huggins and Gordon at
    the Parker House, a local restaurant. Mr. Calabrese, 50, made his case with
    the crispness and deference of the former courtroom attorney that he is. He
    told the senators it was "fair" and "commercially reasonable" that Wackenhut
    be restored to 90% capacity at Holly Springs -- 900 inmates -- because
    overall the state's prisons were 90% full. "We're willing to share the pain," he
    recalls saying, "but give us 90%." And he picked up the check for dinner.

    Unlike the regional prisons, Wackenhut and CCA had no inmate guarantees
    in their contracts. The contracts obliged Mississippi only to make its "best
    efforts" to keep the facilities filled. Weeks before, CCA's local lobbyist,

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