Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Corruption Catches Up With Georgia Corrections Chief

by Gary Hunter

Bobby Whitworth, former Corrections Commissioner and Parole Board Member, was booked into the Fulton County Jail on Friday, July 25, 2003. Charged with felony public corruption, Whitworth, 56, is the first such official ever to be indicted on corruption charges in connection with his duties. Whitworth's career with the Georgia DOC spanned nearly three decades. He started in the Farm Services Division in 1973, moved up to Corrections Commissioner in 1990 and was appointed to the Parole Board in 1993.

Neither was Whitworth a stranger to scandal. His move from Corrections Commissioner to parole board member resulted from his mishandling of a sex scandal at a women's prison. As a board member Whitworth went on to become one of the most influential figures in Georgia Corrections history. Whitworth, and then Parole Board Chairman Walter Ray, brokered multiple million-dollar deals between private businesses and Georgia Corrections for handsome "consultation" fees. Whitworth's influence-peddling is what led to his current troubles [PLN, Mar. 2003].

Chief witness for the prosecution is none other than Walter Ray, who was forced to resign his position along with Whitworth when the scandal broke. Ray turned state's evidence after special prosecutor Pete Skandalakis conveniently cleared him of any wrongdoing. Skandalakis took over as special prosecutor when Attorney General Thurbert Baker was forced to recuse himself after accusations that he attempted to destroy evidence related to the investigation.

Whitworth's problems began in 2001 when he convinced Lisa Thompson, then legislative liaison to the board, to lobby lawmakers into approving a contract between the state and Detention Management Services (DMS). Lansom Newsom, owner of DMS and a personal friend of Whitworth's, paid Whitworth $75,000 in consultation fees the day before the Senate ratified the bill approving the DMS contract. DMS realized a major profit and Newsom eventually sold the company for $8.2 million.

When Thompson learned of Newsom's payment to Whitworth she reported it to then Governor Roy Barnes. She was immediately fired for her efforts by Chairman-turned-witness Walter Ray, who had also accepted $24,500 from Newsom which led to him initially being investigated along with Whitworth. Investigators found that Whitworth had received not just the $75,000 from Newsom but also been paid $135,000 over five years from the Bobby Ross Group, a Texas company that specializes in juvenile prisons.

Prosecutors offered Whitworth a deal of 5 years probation and a $50,000 fine. Whitworth declined. His attorney Jack Martin said his client is "upset, confused, angry and ready to have his day in court." After less than three hours, Whitworth was released from jail on a $5,000 bond. If convicted he could get as much as five years in prison. One thing he can't lose, however, is his $104,400 annual pension. A Georgia law passed in 1985 terminates the pension of any employee convicted of a job related felony and hired after July 1st of that year. Whitworth started in 1973.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login