Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones was visiting Graceville Correctional Facility, the private prison in North Florida run by The Geo Group, when she spotted a paperweight with a picture of handcuffs imprinted on it and the words “Continuum of Care.”
She was startled, and a bit angry, to learn that the company had started branding an idea developed by a member of her staff, Abe Uccello, and was using it to promote a new line of business.
“I said, ‘You son-of-a-guns,’ ” Jones recalled of the meeting in late 2015. “They had taken a white paper of Abe’s and stolen the entire thing — the content — and claimed to have patented it.”
Jones was determined not to share anything again with the private prison vendor “because I don’t want them to profit off of what we’re trying to do,” she told the Herald/Times in an April 2017 interview. But Florida legislative leaders had a different idea.
In March 2016, legislators approved $330,000 for The Geo Group to operate a pilot program to be run at Blackwater Correctional, using the ideas Jones said Uccello had developed for Florida’s state-run prison system. This year, lawmakers expanded the program to $3 million, with the money going exclusively to four of The Geo Group’s five private prisons in Florida — Bay, Moore Haven, South Bay, and Blackwater — “for the provision of enhanced in-prison and post-release recidivism reduction programs.” Read more here.