Prison business to repay $402,501

Published January 24, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - A private prison contractor that was one of two companies the state overpaid by nearly $13-million has agreed to pay back a small amount.

The GEO Group of Boca Raton will pay $402,501 under a deal settled this month by the state Department of Management Services. The company also will cover half of the legal fees to defend local governments' challenges to its tax-exempt status.

A state audit in 2005 found that over an eight-year period, Florida overpaid GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, based in Nashvhille, $4.5-million for unfilled jobs.

The now-defunct Correctional Privatization Commission, which was supposed to oversee the private prisons, also authorized $5-million in cost-of-living salary adjustments at GEO's South Bay Correctional facility.

At a facility in Quincy, Corrections Corporation got $2.9-million more for facility maintenance than it spent.

The state is still working on a settlement with Corrections Corporation.

A GEO spokesman was not working Tuesday and a woman who answered the phone said no one else was available.

DMS Secretary Linda H. South, asked about the large disparity in what GEO Group was overpaid and what it will pay back, said if the agency had not done its "due diligence there would be no money to recover."