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State, prisons company settle
Corrections Corporations of America will refund $1.5-million for a claim of excessive charges.
Published December 13, 2007
TALLAHASSEE - A company that runs three of Florida's private prisons has agreed to refund $1.5-million to settle a state claim of $3.6-million in excessive charges for staffing and equipment expenses.
The agreement with Corrections Corporations of America, based in Nashville, Tenn., gives the state 42 percent of the money it sought, but it avoids the cost and risk of taking the case to court, said Department of Management Services Secretary Linda South. The company operates prisons at Lake City, Panama City and Quincy.
The state last year settled a similar claim against a second private prison company, GEO Group of Boca Raton, for $402,501. GEO runs prisons at Moore Haven in Glades County, South Bay in Palm Beach County and Graceville in the Panhandle.
Gov. Charlie Crist asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the alleged overpayments but the agency in June reported it found no evidence of fraud, bribery or other criminal wrongdoing.
The contracts were issued by the now-defunct Corrections Privatization Commission. A 2005 audit indicated the state had paid for vacant jobs and other questionable expenses. By then the commission had been abolished and South's department inherited the contracts.
Ken Kopczynski, a lobbyist for the Police Benevolent Associations, which represents guards at state-operated prisons, said the department let both companies off too lightly.
"It's a shame that CCA and GEO are so entrenched with state government that they can get away with this," he said, noting the audit alleged the overpayments totaled $12.7-million.