Georgia Republicans are attempting to transition the Peach State to a private prison system and targeting local communities such as Milledgeville.
The state’s Department of Corrections recently announced a partnership with The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO) to open a new 1,500-bed prison in 2012.
Milledgeville is a college town-home of Georgia College and State University-and is located about 40 miles northeast of Macon. Additionally, the town is known for operating some of Georgia’s state-run prisons.
However, the closures of state prisons and replacing them with private prisons may be a continuing plan to create jobs by Republicans.
The beneficiary of this gradual transition to private prisons in Georgia is a company called the GEO Group.
The GEO Group is a multi-national provider of government-outsourced services specializing in the management of correctional, detention and mental health and residential in North America, Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
GEO operates a broad range of correctional and detention facilities including maximum, medium and minimum security prisons, immigration detention centers, minimum security detention centers and mental health and residential treatment facilities.
The Georgia Department of Corrections had announced the closure of the 700-bed Bostick State Prison in Milledgeville back in early May which opened the proverbial door for GEO to set up shop in Baldwin County.
Under an agreement with the Georgia Department of Corrections, GEO will finance, develop and operate the $80 million facility that will house medium security inmates.
On the surface, it may appear as an economic boon for Baldwin County, however, if the private company has a history of problems including pending civil rights lawsuits, it should be a concern to the Milledgeville community.
GEO Group has been accused of civil rights violations in the past, so at some point very soon, the city of Milledgeville will have to address this situation before history repeats itself-again.
The state says the new jobs will include 176 correctional officer positions. But the prison’s employees will not be state employees.
In 2009, the Brownsville (TX) Herald had reported the following: .. “An appellate court is weighing claims against The GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corp., to determine if the private prison business lied when it claimed to have been exonerated of any responsibility in the beating death of an inmate and if it should be sanctioned”
The Georgia Department of Corrections had published a notice of intent last year to award a $19.2 million contract to The GEO Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., to build a 1,000-bed prison near Milledgeville, Ga.
“Private prisons are a savings,” said Bert Brantley, spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue. “Per-prisoner cost at a private prison is lower than state-owned facilities.”
How will this all play out politically in Milledgeville among its citizens?
Baldwin County and Milledgeville city voters will go to the polls this November and decide if they want to keep Johnny Grant and Rusty Kidd in office.
Each has a Democratic opponent, Floyd Griffin and Quentin T. Howell, respectively.
Howell and Kidd will vie for the George House District 141 seat and Former state senator Floyd Griffin is attempting to reclaim his seat from incumbent Republican Johnny Grant in the State Senate District 25 race.
Even though Milledgeville and Baldwin County have lost hundreds of jobs under the watch of term-limited Republican governor Sonny Perdue, a new private state prison may be used by the incumbent Milledgeville politicians as proof that they deserve to stay in office.
Estimates from state officials reveal that this new private prison could produce 300 jobs to Milledgeville, the state’s Department of Corrections says.
Milledgeville’s local newspaper, The Union-Recorder , describes this new private prison as a an economic boon for Baldwin County and… “welcomed news for Baldwin County, a shot of positive news in the wake of several closure announcements and others, such as Men’s and Bostick state prisons still hanging in the balance.” This was part of a February editorial and has the support of both incumbent conservative members of the Georgia Assembly-Johnny Grant and Rusty Kidd.
The Department of Corrections is the fifth largest prison system in the United States and is responsible for supervising nearly 60,000 state prisoners and over 150,000 probationers. It is the largest law enforcement agency in the state with approximately 13,000 employees.