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Thursday, April 1, 2010

“The Story Behind the Stories" on ACI

Will we ever know “The Rest of the Story”? Stay Tuned….
By Sid Riley
As with most major decisions made in government, the laws of governmental physics state clearly “Moves are accomplished through the application of tremendous pressures, combined with generous lubrication of greasy palms”. The manner in which the sudden move to close a number of existing state prisons for the benefit of a new state built, privately operated prison in Santa Rosa County has aroused suspicions of “back room deals” among many.
During all the decades of rapid growth, development, and being flushed with income, many of the more populated counties of Florida spurned the idea of locating prisons or state hospitals on their valuable landscapes. They felt these institutions were undesirable in their grand plans of development. Now, as the most severe downturn since the great depression has impacted these counties, they are exerting all possible political influences to take these once undesirable jobs away from the counties which initially welcomed them. Thus it is Liberty, Calhoun, Jackson, and perhaps others which are under attack in this effort.
The 2000 bed Blackwater River prison in Santa Rosa County was funded in 2008 by the State of Florida, to be leased to the GEO Group, who worked with the Bush family to privatize many prisons in Texas. They now have an office in Boca Raton, Florida. Part of the justification for building this new facility was that it would be designed to care for the most costly group of prisoners, those with physical, mental, and behavioral problems. However, it appears that GEO is now seeking to house the “cream of the crop” type of ordinary prisoners, who have a much lower maintenance cost per inmate.
The lower cost-per-bed figures are now being used to help measure the savings from closing existing state operated facilities. This process would leave the state prisons with the difficult to house, more costly, prison population. If these facts are true, then the proponents of the new prison pulled the old “bait and switch” trick on the state politicians. They justified the new prison on the promise of handling the sick and mean prisoners, and after it is built they instead plan to house the “easy care” portion of the prison population.
One aspect of this situation is that our legislators made a costly, $160 million dollar mistake by funding the unneeded new Blackwater River Prison due to the influence of Ron Sanson, who was Speaker of the House at that time. It should have never been built. There are not enough prisoners in the system to fill it. In order to fill this facility, it will be necessary to close some of the existing prisons. This is a waste of taxpayer dollars…. A waste created by scheming politicians working to help GEO, and Santa Rosa County at the expense of other counties.
How did all of this happen? It was reportedly planned and schemed at the highest levels. The story begins back in 2008 when Santa Rosa Representative Ron Sanson was Speaker of the House, and Jeb Bush was Governor. (Isn’t it interesting that both GEO and the Bush family are originally from Texas?) At that time Sanson was in his “hay-day” of power in state government, and as was later discovered was “wheeling and dealing” in many areas. It is apparent that the Blackwater Prison for Santa Rosa County deal with GEO evolved during that time. The funding proposal for the construction of this facility was introduce at the last minute in the exact same manner in which J. D. Alexander introduced the prison closing amendment this year. Another aspect of this situation is the involvement of Senator Don Gaetz who represents the interest of Santa Rosa County and his relationship with the current Senate President, Jeff Atwater who has announced his intention to seek the position of Insurance Commissioner. It has also come to our attention that the son of Senator Gaetz may soon be seeking the Representative position vacated by the disgraceful resignation of Ron Sanson.
Then the question arises as to why Senator J.D. Alexander, who has a reputation for being a “straight shooter” in Tallahassee was suddenly moved to introduce this amendment with such a clandestine, unethical approach. What pressures were exerted to make Alexander behave in this manner?
Some tacticians theorize that Gaetz has pledged support to Atwater as he seeks the Insurance Commissioner job. In return, Atwater could have agreed to encourage Budget Chairman, J.D. Alexander to introduce the amendment which is needed to provide prisoners for the about to be completed Blackwater River Prison in Gaetz’s Santa Rosa County. It can be safely assumed that money from GEO is interspersed through this entire process. These are the manners in which “deals” are made in Tallahassee. It is often a dirty, ugly process.
In the coming months it will be important to follow the money trail between these individuals, who provides support to whom, and what jobs people end up with. These facts will help reveal the “Rest of the Story” about Blackwater River.

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