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State vs. Private Prisons

This is a discussion on State vs. Private Prisons within the General Corrections forums, part of the Philosophy of Custody & Corrections category; sun-sentinel.com/news/local/palmbeach/sfl-flpcell0208sbfeb08,0,4317571.story South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com Prison officials worry about cell phones smuggled to South Bay inmates February 8, 2009 Guards have ...

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    Question State vs. Private Prisons


    South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
    Prison officials worry about cell phones smuggled to South Bay inmates

    February 8, 2009

    Guards have confiscated more than 100 mobile phones at the privately run prison at South Bay since mid-2007, setting off alarm bells in the county court system and the state Department of Corrections.

    "Cell phones in the hands of inmates, that's a major breach of security," said Kevin Dean, the state Correction Department's canine supervisor. With a cell phone, an inmate can plot an escape, harass a witness, set up drug deals.

    Inmates charged with cell phone possession, a felony, are arriving in a steady stream at the West County Courthouse in this sugar country town, one or two cases every day that Judge Nelson Bailey's court is in session.

    They're coming from the South Bay Correctional Facility, court officials said. The state prison, with 1,800 inmates, is managed by The GEO Group Inc., formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corp., based in Boca Raton.

    "They seem to have some major security issues now," Paul Caruso, a public defender, said during a recent court session.

    South Bay's warden, Willie Norwood, referred all questions to the company. GEO spokesman Pablo Paez declined to comment.

    The cell phone confiscations at South Bay far outnumber those in other state prisons in the area. Court officials in Belle Glade have seen no cases from the nearby Glades Correctional Institution, for example.

    Statewide, officials confiscated 565 cell phones from inmates from July 2007 through June 2008, according to figures from the state Department of Corrections.

    Sixty-five of those were at South Bay during that span. They found none at Broward Correctional Institution. At state prisons in Miami-Dade County, they found 13 at Dade Correctional Institution, 10 at Everglades, four at the South Florida Reception Center and one at Homestead.

    It's unclear how South Bay inmates are getting the phones or whether the prison's private management is taking steps to find out, according to an internal Corrections Department memo.

    "It does not appear the institution is doing its own investigation in order to find out where the inmates got the phones from or what numbers are on the phone," the department's inspector supervisor, Vickie Yates, wrote in a Dec. 24 memo to the department's inspector general.

    She urged that inspectors question South Bay inmates to learn how the phones are getting in "visits, drop offs or staff."

    Inmates who appear in Bailey's courtroom won't say where they get the phones that they plead guilty to possessing. But some court officials think they know.

    "What I've heard from other clients is that basically, for a sum of a couple hundred dollars, they're allowed through the system," said Caruso, the public defender, in one recent case, according to court recordings:

    Bailey: "A couple of hundred to staff or something?"

    Caruso: "To staff, yes."

    Jo Ellyn Rackleff, the corrections spokeswoman, noted that prisoners may have their own reasons for pointing fingers.

    "Inmates often accuse officers because they want to protect friends and family that provide them," she said.

    South Bay Correctional is one of six prisons run by private companies under contract with the state. They hold about 8,000 of Florida's 99,000 state prison inmates.

    Cell phones have become easier to smuggle and hide as they have gotten smaller. Last year, lawmakers made the infraction a felony.

    In November, prison officials started training a dog named Razor to sniff out the phones. So far, the female Belgian Malinois has been to four prisons and has sniffed out five phones a "very good" batting average, said her handler, Freddie Long.

    Razor hasn't been to South Bay

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    Re: State vs. Private Prisons

    We recently sent some officers to Md. to see how they combat this problem, with K-9 units.



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