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Wisconsin “Boondoggled” Into Buying Broken Down New Private Prison

Wisconsin "Boondoggled" Into Buying Broken Down New Private Prison

After buying a private prison for $87.1 million, the Wisconsin Legislature is crying foul upon discovering the Stanley prison violates electrical, plumbing, and safety codes that will cost $5 million to repair. It's turning out that the entire situation, from the building of the prison to its purchase by taxpayers, was influenced by political lobbyists who had legislators on the take.

The Stanley prison, which confines 1,511 prisoners, was built by Dominion Asset Services in Edmond, Oklahoma. To build a prison in Wisconsin, the Legislature and Governor must agree with what is needed and the Building Commission must formally approve the plan. That process was circumvented to build the Stanley prison.

After the prison was built Attorney General, now Governor, Jim Doyle advised legislators that no prisoners could be housed at the prison unless the state leased or bought it. Dominion went into action after that opinion was issued in 2001.

Dominion hired lobbyists to push the Legislature to buy the prison. To help grease that wheel, Dominion gave $125,000 to Independent Citizens for Democracy, a campaign group illegally controlled by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala (D-Madison). That changed Chvala's position on the state purchasing the prison. Then-Governor Scott McCallum agreed to purchase the prison. Dominion employees donated $4,000 to his re-election campaign.

The state purchased the prison in 2002 for $87.1 million, which allowed Dominion to make "a nice profit," said Sen. Fred Risser. A subsequent inspection has revealed code violations in the heating and cooling systems. Also, the prison requires installation of smoke controls in housing units, grounding of electrical wires, rebuild electric conductors, and move metal stairs. The cost is at least $5 million.

"We're wasting $5 million on this," said Sen. Carol Ruessler, "This company totally did not follow (code) requirements," While that may be true, the bigger question is how did state inspectors approve the building with so many violations of the code requirements"

State officials are now trying to determine if they can sue Dominion. "This was a serious mistake, and a boondoggle of the nth degree," said Sen. Fred Risser. Perhaps, the bigger mistake is allowing private companies to enter the public arena to build and run prisons in the first place.

Source: Journal Sentinel

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