Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Revolving Door Between TDCJ and Private Prison Firm: Give a Contract, Get a Cushy Job

Perhaps it's all perfectly legal, but a recent hire by the Geo Group, a large private prison firm formerly known as "Wackenhut," raises questions, at least, about an appearance of serious conflicts of interest:

Former Texas Department of Criminal Justice chief Gary Johnson approved contracts to lease prisons from the Geo private prison group that he will now manage in his new position as Geo regional director, reports the Statesman's Mike Ward in a blog entry, via Texas Prison Bidness.

Johnson was executive director of TDCJ from 2001 through December 2004, when he retired after 27 years service. As E.D., he presided over draconian budget cuts from which the agency still has not recovered. "In 2003, TDCJ was forced to reduce its budget by approximately $240 million dollars and eliminate more than 1,700 positions during the fiscal year 2004-2005 cycle." Yet despite these cuts, the agency could still find money to lease new private prison space.

Pretty cozy, huh? Give Geo fat public contracts at the expense of public employees, then retire and get rewarded with a cushy administrative gig. Gives you a real warm fuzzy feeling about how well TDCJ exercises oversight over private prison contracts, doesn't it?

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Directors have learned from their bosses; politicians.
Just like a former House Corrections Committee Chair or two isn't it? Lobby for privatization while chairing the committee then take a lobbyist position working for private prisons. Take a position with UTMB Managed Care.

Who am I talking about? Both have the name of Allan; one is the first name and the other is the last name. These are only two of many.

And then we have the board members. Ooops! Sorry; I'm starting to "preach" again.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

Grits you just don't understand. The more I read your articles and those comments posted by your readers the more I see you have no interest in reporting the truth...Only put your twisted slant on things. It is perfectly legal to bring Gary Johnson on for GEO. They need stability in Texas. He has been gone from TDCJ long time ago. The contracts that he signed as Executive Director don't exist anymore. Current contracts have been handled through the new leadership. You know we do have a 2 year budget cycle in the state. You cannot commit/obligate beyond that 2 year cycle. But hey you don't care just want to post something here negative as usual.

Stay on TYC that is where the issues are.

Anonymous said...

To: Anon at 9:52 -- Just because it is legal doesn't make it right! Just because some time has passed doesn't mean "agreements" weren't made and honored!

Politics is and always has been all about who you know and what they can do for you.

The prison economy in Texas is enormous and rife with activities motivated by everything but justice and public safety. If you believe anything else, I suspect you are either naive or have hidden motives.

Anonymous said...

TDJC is the same as TYC. The only difference is the adult inmate population won't take any CRAP. They will write and write and write. If business is not taken care of then they do what they have to do. Criminal Justice in Texas is a corrupt as any and more so. TDJC has the same problems TYC has and had. A bunch of suck-ass politicians promoting each other for inside deals and future personal gain. J H C.

Most all of these contracting firms hire former state imbeciles or the regular staff type that can't or won't get hired anywhere else.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To 9:52, first, I said it was legal, second, I gave the dates of Johnson's service, and third, you're wrong, Mike Ward reported that "While Johnson was executive director, the agency signed five-year contracts with Geo to house state prisoners at several lockups. He will oversee the operation of those lockups in his new job at Geo."

So I acknowledged the information you say I left out, except for the point about which you were flat out wrong. I don't get your complaint, or how it would apply to my comments but not Mike Ward's blog post. As 10:11 said, just because it's legal doesn't make it right.

Anonymous said...

You just proved my point Grits. It is legal, So what is your beef?

You want the readers to believe that Mr. Johnson signed contracts with the promise that he would retire in subsequent years and GEO would hire him as thanks for signing contracts with them. To the simple minded readers yes. But you know better than that. Based upon your previous comments and articles on TDCJ and TYC they cannot think that far ahead. So one (myself) tends to wonder what is your beef. This is your blog but you should represent things fair. If you don't you are just a criminal a media thug trying to get something on the backs of someone else.

10:15 I'm certain you regular staff types can get high paying jobs also. Once you finish with the regular floor mopping at the state...come apply to mop the floor of companies like GEO. Oh but wait....can't do that cause that would make you just like Mr. Johnson. How bout the CO's who retire from the state and go work in private prisions.....Guess that wrong too.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I never said any such thing, 2:14, stop putting words in my mouth. Especially when you're going to make factually untrue claims - e.g., contracts only run two years, etc.. And for heavens sake, don't conflate "legal" and "illegal" with "right" and "wrong."

My beef: The arrangement creates at a minimum an appearance of conflict of interest. I never said Johnson "promised" anything. I just don't think it's right for an administrator who gave out a contract to then go manage the facilities for the company he contracted with - especially when 1,700 public employees lost their jobs during the same period he was farming out these contracts.

That's why it's news, and it's why the Statesman reported it. Any biases showing here, I'm afraid, are all yours.

Anonymous said...

Gary Johnson is a perfect match for GEO, CCA, or any other private sector corrections company that wants to hire ethical people and Gary Johnson's ethics are just fine. There are rules in TDCJ regarding such an arrangement and there is the statutory waiting period that Johnson has met. Everything's above board.

TJDO

Anonymous said...

Grits Once again. What is your beef? Mr. Johnson was not responsible for those employees loosing their jobs. There was something of a financial crisis for the entire state. A lot of dead weight was removed and they went else where.

The fact that you even comment on the mere appearence is an issue. Look back on your own career and dealings and think if there is a mere appearence of a conflict of interest.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I've explained my beef, there's no reason to keep repeating it. And anyway, to say staff cuts at TDCJ targeted "dead weight" tells me you're not discussing this in good faith, but as a CYA comment. Anyone who watched that agency at the time knows the cuts were a catastrophe that still harm the agency. TDCJ is still 4,000 guards short. If there was money for private contracts, there was money to cut fewer employees' jobs. That was a bad tradeoff, and the fact that the same company rewarded him career wise is a legitimate subject for discussion.

W. W Woodward said...

Sometimes the question isn't, "Is it legal?" The question becomes, "Is it ethical?"

I believe it was Josephson who said, "It's not enough to avoid wrong doing, one also has to avoid the appearance of wrong doing."

Anonymous said...

Johnson was not the sole decision-maker in the private prison contracts. The TBCJ signs off on them. Quit making the man look dirty, Henson. Don't deny it either.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

We get it. You don't want anyone saying anything negative about Mr. Johnson or the Geo contracts. Got it. Understood.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Grits. BTW, there is money for the 4,000 guards. Plenty of money. The problem is that no one wants to work in this industry anymore. Don't believe me...Ask TYC they are short as well. Always have been.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"The problem is that no one wants to work in this industry anymore"

That's certainly true. I would argue, instead, though, that the problem is that prisons have become an industry. Period. The goal of prisons should never be to maximize employment or profits, which is why the revolving door between TDCJ and private prisons is an issue in the first place.

Prisons should be built with regret, not with glee at the prospects of profiteering.

Anonymous said...

I remember Bob Bullock commenting during the 90's prison boom that a good day in the prison business would be when we're able to close one.

TJDO

Anonymous said...

Ethics and TDCJ is the second best example of an oxymoron; the first of course being ethics and politicians.

Terry: Gary's moral standards as compared to Andy's? I agree. Compared to Mr. Estelle I emphatically disagree!

Retired 2004