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Jim Greer, now inmate, emerges as prison civics teacher

Jim Greer in prison@SteveBousquet

He once controlled the Republican Party of Florida, flying on chartered jets, drinking top-shelf bourbon and mingling with the rich and powerful.

Now Jim Greer lives at Gulf Forestry Camp, a low-security prison in a remote patch of the Florida Panhandle and a world away from the life he lived as a confidant of former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Near the halfway point of his 18-month sentence for grand theft and money laundering, Greer agreed to speak exclusively with the Times/Herald about his old life and his new one.

The man who use to answer to "Chairman" has a new title: Inmate No. C07705.

On the surface, prison has been good to the 51-year-old Greer.

Seated at a conference table at nearby Gulf Correctional Institution, where prison officials arranged an interview, Greer looks noticeably thinner. He says he has lost 40 pounds.

He's also tanner than when Floridians last saw him in an Orlando courthouse in February. The tan is the result of six-hour days on a work crew, pulling weeds and picking up trash in nearby Port St. Joe.

He says he wakes up each morning at 4 a.m., attends church services on Tuesdays and Sundays, and teaches inmates studying for their GEDs about the three branches of government.

"I teach social studies and civics," he said, "believe it or not."

He is eligible for a work release transfer, has a spotless disciplinary record and has few complaints about prison life.

"When you're down in a ditch, it's 100 degrees and you have a Weed Eater, it's not the most pleasant thing," Greer said. "But it's not North Korea. We're not being beaten every day."

During a 75-minute visit, Greer talked about life in prison, the friends he thought he had and the people (he seldom gets specific) that he blames for his downfall. He tantalizes about a possible tell-all book.

"I have a lot of knowledge of a lot of things," he said. "Maybe someday I'll tell them and maybe someday I won't." Story here. 

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain, Tampa Bay Times 

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Can't take anymore

Why would I suspect that Rick Scott and the RPOF will see that Greer's release from prison and the release of his tell-all book will coincide with Charlie Crist's finally formally announcing his candidacy for governor? Greer will be an active part of the big-smear campaign they plan to unleash on Charlie.

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