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Legislature rewards Geo Group with $3 million deal to provide rehabilitation programming at its private prisons

DMS  private prisons mapDepartment 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.