Showing posts with label corruption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corruption. Show all posts

08 February 2015

A Death a Day

by Leigh Lundin

Imagine a prison system in which a person a day diesone man every day of the year. This unsurprisingly takes place in a land with the highest incarceration rate in the world.

This isn’t North Korea or Iran.

Florida DoC
Hearses waiting at Florida DoC © WFSU
We’re talking Florida, a state that incarcerates 75% more per capita than the next highest competitor… Cuba.

We’re talking Florida’s lucrative privatized prison system in a land that competes in executions with Texas and a couple of other states, but this isn’t about capital punishment…

We’re talking about ordinary prisoners who hoped one day to get out but died at the hands of other prisoners or … commonly… prison guards. Indeed, a Santa Rosa Correctional Institute inmate complained in letters to his family and in legal filings he’d been sexually assaulted by guards and his life had been threatened if he talked. He talked. He died. And so have others.

FDLE Gerald Bailey
Gerald Bailey © Bill Cotterell
State Archives of Florida
Inmates have written their families that if they’re found dead, it wouldn’t be by suicide but homicide by guards, guards who obscure their name tags to evade identification, who inmates could only identify as, for example, Sgt. Q. Many prisoners have complained about being sexually assaulted and ‘gassed’ into compliance with a noxious chemical agent. State inspectors have investigated and found for the prisoners. Florida's death statistics are so far off that the US Department of Justice is now investigating.

In September, more than thirty guards were fired for sexual assault, physical abuse, starving, poisoning, gassing, or beating inmates to death and in one case, killing a prisoner who'd soiled himself by steaming him alive. The Governor’s office and the Attorney General dismissed the allegations. Not one guard has been arrested or indicted.

Maybe you’re one of those people who thinks prisoners deserve all they get. They deserve rancid, moldy, vermin-infested food. They deserve rape. They deserve beatings. And damn it, if they get killed in prison, they deserve that too. Or perhaps you simply believe in the right of a company to protect the bottom line and not the general population.

Because Florida

I staunchly support free enterprise, but there’s a problem here. Traditional prisons were subject to oversight by its citizens. Not now. A corporation owes responsibility only to its stock holders… and perhaps the political cronies who landed them the contract.

Beatings, rapes, and killings are taking place in your name and mine. Not everyone approves. Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey thought that was a problem.

Florida Governor Rick Scott
Fl. Gov. Rick Scott © Miami New Times
Governor Rick Scott disagreed. Because Florida, because America. Because of a governor who committed the largest Medicare/Medicaid fraud in the country, who’s never seen the inside of a prison although he deserved to.

Remember that name, Commissioner Gerald Bailey, the head of Florida’s law enforcement. Because Rick Scott brought the private sector corruption he was infamous for into the public realm.

Good Cop, Bad SOP

Under Bailey, the FDLE was investigating those suspicious prison inmate deaths, assisted the search for juvenile remains at the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, and was looking into the destruction of emails following Scott’s transition into office in 2010. The Governor was not pleased.

“The most shocking thing was being ordered to target another individual without any justification. I don't know why this woman was in the cross hairs.”
FDLE's Gerald Bailey
The governor’s office, in an attempt to deflect criticism of the prison system under the governor’s control, instructed Bailey to frame an Orange County Clerk of Court, stating she was the target of criminal investigation who allowed inmates to use forged papers from her office. Bailey refused, saying she wasn’t a suspect at all: the forged papers came out of the prison complex. A governor’s press aide asked Bailey if he was refusing a direct order, to which Bailey replied in the affirmative. The Governor was not pleased.

The Governor’s office expressed concerns that State Representative Alan Williams of Tallahassee was fomenting student sit-ins at the state capitol and asked Bailey’s office to keep them posted about Williams’ activities in incidents reports. Williams complained he was politically targeted and singled out by name, and that the governor’s office was trying to shape the protests as being organized not by students but by his political opposition.

After the FDLE discovered a Los Angeles criminal investigation of a Scott campaign donor and Miami businessman suspected of money laundering, a man the governor wanted to groom for a political appointment, Rick Scott personally asked Bailey to help bring the investigation to a close. Bailey refused to get involved. The Governor was not pleased.

Bailey received solicitations to contribute to the governor’s campaign through the state’s email system. Bailey informed the governor’s legal counsel this was inappropriate, in fact, illegal. The governor’s office said “Then ignore it. Delete it.” Bailey pointed out to the governor’s lawyer that’s illegal too: You can’t lawfully delete official communications from state computers. The Governor was not pleased.

Florida Governor Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Scott © ABC News
In his first weeks in office, Governor Scott worked with the new legislature to pass a bill legalizing illegal campaign donations. At the time called a “Whore of Babylon” by a St. Petersburg Times reporter, they okayed payoffs, directing them into a political slush fund, a corrupt practice that had been banned two decades earlier.

The governor ordered Bailey to a summer conference for Scott’s election campaign. Bailey refused, saying it was inappropriate for a law officer to engage in partisan politics. The Governor was not pleased.

The governor continued to treat the FDLE as his own private security force. His campaign instructed the Department of Law Enforcement to provide transportation for campaign workers. Bailey’s office refused, saying their sole responsibility was the safety of the governor and first lady, not campaign staffers. Bailey also refused a $90 000 check from Scott’s campaign, saying it wasn’t appropriate for law enforcement to accept funds from a political party. The Governor was not pleased.

Governor Fires Chief Cop For Not Breaking The Law

Florida Governor Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Rick Scott © Politico
Scott calls the above incidents ‘petty’. So petty he fired the FDLE head, Gerald Bailey.

What hasn’t been mentioned here is that the FDLE reports not only to the governor, but also three cabinet members. Governor Jeb Bush and the three cabinet members unanimously voted Gerald Bailey into the post nineteen years ago and presumably only the cabinet can fire him. None of the cabinet apparently took part in Bailey’s termination as required by Florida law. Rick Scott merely says they didn’t object.

I’ll give the last word to former FDLE commissioner Jim York. He said the firing could create a lasting perception that politics has compromised the independence of the agency amid investigations of corruption.
“If it’s perceived that the agency is under the thumb of any politician, particularly this governor, it’s going to be devastating to the morale of the agents. They wouldn’t be interested in doing investigations where they felt that the governor was looking over their shoulder, looking out for his donor friends.”
Thus we have further corruption in the Governor’s office and prisoners dying at the rate of one a day.

What is your take?

21 June 2012

The Wild West Continues


by Eve Fisher

     For those of you who believe that fly-over country is the last bastion of American family values, boy, do you have a lot to learn.  South Dakota is ranked 49th in the nation for government honesty; i.e., it's 2nd in the nation for government corruption.  Only Georgia is worse.   
We get an “F” in everything from political financing to state budget process (always manufactured late the night before the legislature goes home) to ethics enforcement to…  it just goes on and on.  Basically, no accountability, no transparency, and no public access.  It’s the wild west, but with less gunfire. 
     And they get away with it for two main reasons:  
(1) this is a nice state, full of nice people, who would never do anything wrong; and 
(2) this is a nice state, full of nice people, who would never be so impolite as to raise a ruckus no matter what.  
A lot of people blame the Norwegian Lutheran Syndrome (there are whole books on this subject, not to mention Garrison Keillor), but people up here avoid conflict as if it were an unsedated colonoscopy.  The result is…   
      We get a lot of interesting businesses.  The national credit card industry, for example, is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota because, back in the day, SD passed a law that eliminated caps on interest rates right after the Supreme Court ruled that banks could charge interest based on where their credit-card operations were headquartered, even if the bank's main operations were somewhere else.  So everyone moved to Sioux Falls, and you’ve – we’ve – all had high interest rates ever since.  
      Another booming business in SD is selling South Dakota residency.  Check out: http://mydakotaaddress.com/  This is only one example of multiple little store-front operations that allow a person, in exchange for a yearly fee, to establish South Dakota residency and thus avoid paying state taxes in the state in which they actually live.  They provide a SD mailing address, and help people obtain “your new SD drivers license, SD vehicle registration and voters card.”  They collect the mail and send it on, send on absentee ballots for voting, and basically allow a lot of people to “live” in South Dakota, thereby avoiding property taxes in their home state and perhaps avoiding other things as well.  Who’s to say that the name they give is their real name?  
      Now, this is all fraudulent:  It’s mail fraud, voter fraud, tax fraud…  But, when I investigated it and brought it to the attention of all my state officials, I was told there was nothing illegal about it, and to contact them “when a crime had been committed.”  Well, at least one crime is going to be committed, at least on paper, because I can think of all kinds of reasons for people to use these, and some of them are going to show up in my mysteries.  
    And the latest hot businesses are shelf corporations.  These are entities that are created by lawyers incorporating a bunch of corporations that exist in name only—no assets, no employees, and no board members except the agent filling out the paperwork. (It’s sort of like the residency corporations, who have an owner and a person doing the mailings, and that’s it.)  Anyway, if you want to start a business, you pay a fee to the incorporator, and you’ve got a corporation.  And you the purchaser get complete anonymity.  The following is a pitch from Corp95.com:  http://www.corp95.com/
     “South Dakota is one of the best kept secrets in the corporate formation world.  The state has NO corporate income or franchise taxes.  Their annual fees are minimal ($50 per year) and they allow for the most privacy of ownership than in any other state. South Dakota is a low key environment and does not require that its businesses maintain any physical presence in the State.  Formation is fast and requires a minimum of personal information.  You will pay no more and sometimes less than some of those states that claim to offer privacy but do not actually do so. Why form your company in a state that claims to have no taxes, but then charges high fees to compensate for this. South Dakota truly does offer the most privacy at a very reasonable ongoing fee.  Call us at 800-859-6696 and let us provide you with the details for formation of your business entity in this friendly state.”
     Forty-ninth in the nation:  Georgia, look out.  We’re going to catch up with you.