Reviewed by David M. Reutter
As the prison industrial complex has expanded, the privatization of prisons has increased. The pages of PLN have chronicled the mental and physical abuse, as well as medical neglect, suffered by those warehoused in privatized prisons. Private Capitol Punishment: The Florida Model provides a view of the other side of the coin: It details the escapades of officials employed by the State of Florida to oversee and monitor the state's private prisons.
Private Capitol Punishment is the true story of Ken Kopczynski's experiences in exposing the corruption and politics of Florida's private prison industry. While the officials Kopczynski exposed oversaw Florida's private prisons, he uncovered that they were players profiting from the worldwide push to privatize prisons.
The author, Ken Kopczynski, is a Legislative and Political Affairs Assistant for the Florida Police Benevolent Association (FPBA), the union which represents guards working for the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC). He also is the Executive Director of the Private Corrections Institute (PCI), established to educate the public about the for-profit private prison industry (www.CorrectionsInstitute.org). All profits from Private Capitol Punishment go to PCI.
While acting as a lobbyist for the FPBA tracking criminal justice legislation, Kopczynski attended a meeting of the Florida House Corrections Committee on January 8, 1997. The testimony of the Executive Director of the Correctional Privatization Commission (CPC), Mark Hodges, caused Kopczynski to fall into the "black hole" of prison privatization. Hodge's testimony raised red flags after Kopczynski learned Dr. Charles Thomas supported CPC's existence and private prisons in general.
Kopczynski's subsequent research and tenacity led to the Florida Commission on Ethics imposing its largest ever civil penalty, at the time, against Dr. Thomas, who was the academic "guru" and Wall Street darling of prison privatization. Thomas was a University of Florida (UF) professor who directed the UF's Private Corrections Project. Thomas became discredited after Kopczynski revealed the project was funded by the private prison industry and that Thomas had a personal financial stake in the industry. Not only did Thomas own stock in the industry, but he was on the Board of Directors of the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) Realty Trust. CCA paid Thomas $3 million to be a consultant on mergers. Thomas was ultimately forced to resign from UF.
Once Thomas was removed from Florida's private prison scene, Kopczynski began an investigation that ultimately revealed the corruption reached the top of the CDC. Hodges had created a consulting business and operated that business out of his State office. He used state resources and research to personally profit in that consulting business. He partnered with another CDC employee, Ronald Jones, who now works for CCA. When these facts came to light, Hodges and CDC chairman Joel Freedman created false documents to cover their tracks.
While the events Kopczynski details are intriguing, the thrust of the book is that the "Florida Model" for prison privatization DOES NOT work. Florida is the only state that has two departments of corrections. First, there was the FDOC. In 1993, the Florida Legislature created the CPC, using Dr. Thomas to draft the law and CPC's rules. The CPC was administratively set up under the Department of Management Services.
Kopczynski believes the "Florida Model" does not work because the CPC's past and present staff equates to the fox watching the henhouse, as its top officials all have ties to the private prison industry. Moreover, Kopczynski believes that profiting from the incarceration of human beings is immoral. Finally, he says that research proves that private prisons do not save taxpayers money or create good paying jobs because private prisons provide its employees less pay and benefits than public prisons.
This book should be required reading for any public official considering prison privatization. For prison activists, it is first-hand evidence of the corruption the private prison industry breeds to support its expansion. Private Capitol Punishment is available for $3.95 in electronic format and paperback is $11.50. It can be ordered online from www.authorhouse.com.
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