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Alachua County Jail
Gainesville, Florida
First Correctional Medical

January 13, 2005 WCJB TV20
An Alachua County inmate was still warm to the touch Wednesday when Alachua County Sheriff's deputies found him dead in his cell. Investigators say it was an apparent suicide raising questions about mental health care at the jail.

American Corrective Counseling Services
November 2, 2007 Public Citizen
In a ruling that could have widespread implications for the accountability of private government contractors, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled Thursday that a private, for-profit debt collector that operates as a contractor for local prosecutors cannot claim sovereign immunity from lawsuits. The company, American Corrective Counseling Services, Inc. (ACCS), is a so-called “check diversion” company, meaning that it uses its contract with local prosecutors to threaten consumers who have written bad checks with criminal prosecution or jail unless they pay the company exorbitant collection fees. The company then gives the prosecutors a share of the profits. In the suit, Rosario v. ACCS, Florida consumers claimed that ACCS’s threats of prosecution violated their rights under state and federal consumer protection laws. In November 2006, a federal district court ruled that ACCS had the same sovereign immunity as does the state, because ACCS is a state contractor. Public Citizen represents the Florida consumer plaintiffs. The appellate court on Thursday disagreed with the district court, concluding that giving the private company sovereign immunity would contradict precedent and create an extensive new immunity defense for private government contractors in all sectors. The court noted that attorneys in prosecutors’ offices do not review the cases before ACCS threatens consumers with prosecution, and that the prosecutors exercise virtually no control over ACCS. Sovereign immunity, the court said, “has never been held to apply simply because an independent contractor performs some government function.” “This decision has broad implications for government-employed contractors of all stripes,” said Deepak Gupta, the Public Citizen attorney who argued the case. “From debt collectors and private prisons to Blackwater in Iraq, the court made clear that private contractors will remain responsible for their actions and can’t hide behind the cloak of sovereign immunity.” The case will now go back to the district level so the court can decide the merits of the suit.

Apalachicola Forest Youth Camp
Liberty County, Florida
Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc

March 14, 2007 AP
Four state agencies are looking into reports of abuse at a Department of Children & Families contracted facility that holds mentally ill and disabled juvenile delinquents who aren't competent to stand trial. It's believed an employee used excess force Feb. 28 while grabbing a child and transferring him to a "time out" room, but he was not severely injured, said Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Andrew Agwunobi. Another boy's arm was broken during a conflict with employees March 6 at the Liberty County facility managed by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey. Both boys are 14 years old, said Department of Children & Families Secretary Bob Butterworth. The first boy is from Broward County and the boy who broke his arm is from Indian River County. Phillpe Davidson was fired after the first event and Anthony Vowell and John Davis were placed on leave after the second, according to DCF. The Apalachicola Forest Youth Camp was almost shut down after the Agency for Health Care Administration, which licenses the facility, reviewed the cases. The agency agreed to keep it open after DCF assigned staff to monitor the facility 24 hours each day, Agwunobi said.

Avon Park Youth Academy
Polk County, Florida
Securicor New Century
Mar 2, 2014 Tampa Tribune

AVON PARK — A report detailing how and why 11 dozen juveniles rioted at Avon Park Youth Academy will be released soon. “We’re still working on the IG’s investigation,” said Meghan Speakes Collins, communications director for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The Inspector General’s report “is in the final stages. It is to be released shortly, and it will outline the high points.” On the night of Aug. 17, two rival gangs bet on a basketball game. At the Avon Park Bombing Range, 10 miles northeast of the city, DJJ contracted with G4S Youth Services of Tampa to teach job skills and treat mental health and substance abuse to 16-19 year-old males at the 144-bed moderate-risk prison. One group — Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd labeled them the St. Pete gang — challenged the Orlando group to a basketball game. St. Pete lost but reneged on a bet of three packages of soup, and a fight broke out. When a G4S staffer tried to stop a juvenile from walking into a restricted area, inmate Zayroux Graham hit him in the mouth with a fist and knocked down the adult, Judd said. Other inmates enticed the players to fight, which Avon Park Youth Academy G4S staffers were unable to break up. More juveniles became rebellious, and the melee was on. G4S staffers retreated into a structure near the gate. A few minutes later, the Polk County 911 center received a “frantic call” that a “full-blown riot” was in progress. Lt. Curtis Ludden said a dozen Highlands County deputies responded to Avon Park Youth Academy, along with 140 Polk County deputies, SWAT and K-9 teams, corrections officers, Fish & Wildlife, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, state troopers, Sebring police officers and EMS. G4S staffers were ushered out. “They were terrified, and with good reason,” Judd said. One staffer fell during the riot and injured a knee; she was taken to the hospital, treated and released. No other staffers or law enforcement were injured. Seven juveniles were transported to Florida Hospital Heartland in Sebring: one had a broken leg, others had bruises, lower back pain, lacerations and one concussion. “They weren’t trying to escape. They were inside the compound. Some of them were riding around on golf carts and bicycles,” Ludden said. “We took about 120 of them into custody,” Ludden said. Most were handcuffed and wound up in Polk County Jail. The 64 (DJJ counts 62) youths charged weren’t misguided children, Judd said, they were hard-core thugs. G4S (formerly Wackenhut Corp.), a worldwide corporation with 50,000 employees, “acted appropriately,” DJJ Deputy Communications Director Heather DiGiacomo said. G4S also had the appropriate number of staff on site. At a press conference in September, Judd didn’t blame the G4S staff for letting the 138 juveniles get out of control, but blamed DJJ for not equipping the staff with the proper tools, which could have been as simple as pepper spray and flexible handcuffs. “We will not be equipping them with pepper spray. That will not change,” DiGiacomo said. “They do have plastic handcuffs. “There was no contingency for this event,” said Judd. “The Department of Juvenile Justice needs to understand that there is a difference between a ... child and a hard-core thug.” Some of the rioters were just kids who had made serious mistakes, Judd conceded, and he can’t be certain how many of the 138 inmates participated in the riot. But the 64 had been charged with more than 900 previous crimes, an average of 15 each. Many were gang members, he added. “The sad truth of this riot is that it was 100 percent preventable. By DJJ rule, the G4S employees are not allowed to have any specialty equipment.” “The sheriff stands by his original statements,” Carrie Eleazer, the public information officer for Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday. Since there was no video at the prison, Polk County deputies prepared charges by relying on DJJ and G4S staffers, who recognized voices over stolen staff radios, noted which juveniles were throwing punches, and which were riding on staff golf carts. G4S Maintenance director Mark Frederick Magrini estimated $350,000 in damage to the facility. All 64 were charged with rioting and felony criminal mischief. Others were charged with burglary, petit theft, breaking into a vending machine, contraband and theft of a fire extinguisher. Three were to be charged with arson. None were from Highlands County. They were from Alachua, Broward, Charlotte, Columbia, Duval, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lee, Leon, Marion, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Oklaloosa, Orange, Polk, Palm Beach, Pinnelas, Sarasota, Seminole and Volusia counties. “Everyone accepted a plea deal to either misdemeanor affray or misdemeanor criminal mischief,” Eleazer emailed Thursday. DiGiacomo disagreed. “Per the state attorney, seven were ‘no bills; 44 pled guilty, and 11 cases are pending. The majority were charged with misdemeanors. About half returned to Avon Park; the rest were transferred to another facility or remained in adult jail.” If this riot happened again, what would be different? Video cameras have been installed, DiGiacomo said. The 144 beds were reduced to 80 beds. “We have learned from this experience,” DiGiacomo said. DJJ will wait for the IG’s report before considering other changes, but the size of its 47 residential facilities have already gotten smaller. “This was an anomaly. It is not something that happens in DJJ programs, And we don’t want anything like this to ever happen again.”

Mar 2, 2014 Tampa Tribune

AVON PARK — A report detailing how and why 11 dozen juveniles rioted at Avon Park Youth Academy will be released soon. “We’re still working on the IG’s investigation,” said Meghan Speakes Collins, communications director for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The Inspector General’s report “is in the final stages. It is to be released shortly, and it will outline the high points.” On the night of Aug. 17, two rival gangs bet on a basketball game. At the Avon Park Bombing Range, 10 miles northeast of the city, DJJ contracted with G4S Youth Services of Tampa to teach job skills and treat mental health and substance abuse to 16-19 year-old males at the 144-bed moderate-risk prison. One group — Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd labeled them the St. Pete gang — challenged the Orlando group to a basketball game. St. Pete lost but reneged on a bet of three packages of soup, and a fight broke out. When a G4S staffer tried to stop a juvenile from walking into a restricted area, inmate Zayroux Graham hit him in the mouth with a fist and knocked down the adult, Judd said. Other inmates enticed the players to fight, which Avon Park Youth Academy G4S staffers were unable to break up. More juveniles became rebellious, and the melee was on. G4S staffers retreated into a structure near the gate. A few minutes later, the Polk County 911 center received a “frantic call” that a “full-blown riot” was in progress. Lt. Curtis Ludden said a dozen Highlands County deputies responded to Avon Park Youth Academy, along with 140 Polk County deputies, SWAT and K-9 teams, corrections officers, Fish & Wildlife, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, state troopers, Sebring police officers and EMS. G4S staffers were ushered out. “They were terrified, and with good reason,” Judd said. One staffer fell during the riot and injured a knee; she was taken to the hospital, treated and released. No other staffers or law enforcement were injured. Seven juveniles were transported to Florida Hospital Heartland in Sebring: one had a broken leg, others had bruises, lower back pain, lacerations and one concussion. “They weren’t trying to escape. They were inside the compound. Some of them were riding around on golf carts and bicycles,” Ludden said. “We took about 120 of them into custody,” Ludden said. Most were handcuffed and wound up in Polk County Jail. The 64 (DJJ counts 62) youths charged weren’t misguided children, Judd said, they were hard-core thugs. G4S (formerly Wackenhut Corp.), a worldwide corporation with 50,000 employees, “acted appropriately,” DJJ Deputy Communications Director Heather DiGiacomo said. G4S also had the appropriate number of staff on site. At a press conference in September, Judd didn’t blame the G4S staff for letting the 138 juveniles get out of control, but blamed DJJ for not equipping the staff with the proper tools, which could have been as simple as pepper spray and flexible handcuffs. “We will not be equipping them with pepper spray. That will not change,” DiGiacomo said. “They do have plastic handcuffs. “There was no contingency for this event,” said Judd. “The Department of Juvenile Justice needs to understand that there is a difference between a ... child and a hard-core thug.” Some of the rioters were just kids who had made serious mistakes, Judd conceded, and he can’t be certain how many of the 138 inmates participated in the riot. But the 64 had been charged with more than 900 previous crimes, an average of 15 each. Many were gang members, he added. “The sad truth of this riot is that it was 100 percent preventable. By DJJ rule, the G4S employees are not allowed to have any specialty equipment.” “The sheriff stands by his original statements,” Carrie Eleazer, the public information officer for Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday. Since there was no video at the prison, Polk County deputies prepared charges by relying on DJJ and G4S staffers, who recognized voices over stolen staff radios, noted which juveniles were throwing punches, and which were riding on staff golf carts. G4S Maintenance director Mark Frederick Magrini estimated $350,000 in damage to the facility. All 64 were charged with rioting and felony criminal mischief. Others were charged with burglary, petit theft, breaking into a vending machine, contraband and theft of a fire extinguisher. Three were to be charged with arson. None were from Highlands County. They were from Alachua, Broward, Charlotte, Columbia, Duval, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lee, Leon, Marion, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Oklaloosa, Orange, Polk, Palm Beach, Pinnelas, Sarasota, Seminole and Volusia counties. “Everyone accepted a plea deal to either misdemeanor affray or misdemeanor criminal mischief,” Eleazer emailed Thursday. DiGiacomo disagreed. “Per the state attorney, seven were ‘no bills; 44 pled guilty, and 11 cases are pending. The majority were charged with misdemeanors. About half returned to Avon Park; the rest were transferred to another facility or remained in adult jail.” If this riot happened again, what would be different? Video cameras have been installed, DiGiacomo said. The 144 beds were reduced to 80 beds. “We have learned from this experience,” DiGiacomo said. DJJ will wait for the IG’s report before considering other changes, but the size of its 47 residential facilities have already gotten smaller. “This was an anomaly. It is not something that happens in DJJ programs, And we don’t want anything like this to ever happen again.”

August 18, 2013 The Tampa Tribune

Three Cup O' Noodle soup servings were at the heart of a riot that destroyed 18 buildings, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage at a Highlands County juvenile detention facility Saturday night. The melee needed 150 law enforcement officers from several state and local agencies to quell. Seven juveniles were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Polk County sheriff's deputies said 18 of the 20 buildings at the Avon Park Youth Academy were destroyed and nearly half the juveniles had to be taken to a jail. Rioters confiscated a guard's radio and all of the staff golf carts and set fire to a building containing the teens' records and a trash bin, deputies said. The riot started about 8:30 p.m. after a fight on a basketball court. A team of five juveniles from St. Petersburg was playing a team of five from Orlando and had wagered three Cup O' Noodles soups on the outcome. The losing team, from St. Petersburg, refused to pay and the two teams started fighting. Juveniles who weren't playing joined in, deputies said. Staff are forbidden from using specialty equipment, including pepper spray, which would have allowed them to deal with the fight before it escalated, authorities said. The security company called 911 and sheriff's deputies arrived to form a perimeter around the facility, assisted by officers from three state agencies and other emergency responders, including SWAT team, K-9 units and air support. Every juvenile in the riot area was secured and handcuffed before being removed, deputies said. No staff members or law enforcement officers were injured. Seven youths were taken to Florida Hospital in Sebring with minor injuries, the most serious of which was a broken leg. Other injuries included bruises, lacerations and one concussion. The youth were injured while fighting, breaking glass, being hit by flying objects or rammed by golf carts, said Carrie Eleazer. spokeswoman for the Polk County Sheriff's Office. No one was injured while being taken into custody, Eleazer said. During the riot, none of the juveniles escaped from the secured compound. Sixty-four juveniles were removed from the academy and taken to the sheriff's South County Jail in Frostproof, where they were being kept in a location away from the adult inmates. The rest remained at the academy, deputies said. Damage to the academy was extensive, with all but two of the buildings destroyed, deputies said. Deputies plan to file charges against those juveniles who participated in the riot. Some could face multiple felony counts. There are no security cameras at the facility, so authorities don't have surveillance video of the riots. Avon Park Youth Academy is a 144-bed, moderate-risk program for males in the juvenile justice system between the ages of 16 and 19 years old. It's a non-secure facility, meaning youth are not confined to their rooms during the day. They are allowed to move about without handcuffs or shackles for activities, while accompanied by staff at all times. Teens are taught job skills and receive mental health and substance abuse treatment, according to a spokeswoman from the Department of Juvenile Justice. The Department of Juvenile Justice contracts with the private company G4S to provide security guards and staff. “Once law enforcement officials have completed their investigation, DJJ will conduct a thorough internal review to enhance safeguards that provide for the safety of youth and staff in Florida's juvenile justice facilities,” DJJ spokeswoman Meghan Speakes Collins said in a statement. She said this was the first incident of this magnitude at the facility. The facility has three shifts, with the night shift having the lowest staff-to-juvenile ratio. DJJ officials said 21 employees were at the facility when the riot started.

March 2, 2001 AP
Two teenage boys escaped from the Avon Park Youth Academy early Thursday morning, but were captured when they became disoriented while sailing a skiff on Lake Butler and landed on a shore where authorities just happened to be looking for them. Polk county sheriff's spokeswoman Michael Shanley said the pair walked away from the facility around 4:30 a.m. and climbed a fence to get to freedom. The academy, a Florida department of Juvenile Justice program operated by a private juvenile corrections firm, has 212 beds and houses moderate-risk male offenders ages 16-18.

Bartow Boot Camp
Bartow, Florida
EMSA Correctional Care Inc.

July 16, 2003 The Ledger
The three teens who escaped from the Bartow Youth Training Center on Thursday afternoon were caught about 12 hours later five miles away, the Polk County Sheriff's Office reported Friday.  Terry Walker, 14, of Apopka, Gerald Rouse, 14, of Clearwater, and Anthony Schwebel, 17, of Titusville, were caught about 12 a.m. Friday on Snell and Alturas Babson Park Cutoff roads, said Michal Shanley, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office.  The teens had been on the run since about 12:40 p.m. Thursday, when they climbed over a fence and then ran into woods that surround the facility.  The Sheriff's Office called off the search about 5 p.m. But a resident called to report seeing the teens late Thursday, and the search resumed.  Deputies used a helicopter and dogs to search through the area's citrus groves.  All three teens were taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center, where minors are taken when arrested.  Shanley said Walker, Rouse and Schwebel each face a felony escape charge.  The Bartow Youth Training Center is on 240 acres just east of Homeland on Homeland-Garfield Road.  The residential, 50-bed facility houses high-risk and serious habitual offender juveniles.  It was not known why or for how long the teens were at the detention facility.  In February, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice awarded a contract to Ramsay Youth Services Inc. to operate the center.  The three-year contract is expected to generate more than $2 million in annual revenue, the company said. 

October 8, 2001 Tallahassee Democrat
By all accounts, Chad Franza was a troubled boy, but he didn't deserve to die the way he did.  The 16-year-old, confined to a juvenile boot camp in Bartow for a series of run-ins with the law, hanged himself with his boot laces.  Just 24 days after he entered the boot camp, Chad decided he could no longer endure the isolation from his family and the tough conditions.  His suicide more than three years ago still haunts his parents, Joseph and Mylinda Franza of Avon Park.  "It was the worst day of my life," his father said.  Hours before Chad took his life, his parents stopped at the boot camp to see their son. "They wouldn't let us," Joseph Franza said.  Chad's parents have sued the state Department of Juvenile Justice, Polk County Sheriff Lawrence Crow and EMSA Correctional Care Inc., which had a contract to provide physical and mental health care services for the boot camp. 

Bay County Correctional Facility
Panama City, Florida
Oct 28, 2022 mypanhandle.com

Florida agency releases few details on inmate’s murder

Ed. Note: After posting our initial story we received a statement from Florida’s Department of Corrections. We have posted that statement at the bottom of this story.


PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The Florida agency that oversees private prisons has confirmed an inmate died, but almost nothing else, following a week of questioning about the situation. News 13 learned this week that an inmate was killed last week at the Bay Correctional Facility. The facility is run by a private corporation, Management, and Training Corporation. Especially concerning, were reports that the facility is understaffed and that contributed in some way to the death. We called the warden about the situation who did not return our call. We then emailed Florida’s Department of Corrections and got a response from Florida’s Department of Management Services. The agency said they would release no information about the death because of an exemption in Florida’s Public Records Law. After we persisted Debbie Hall, the communications director with the Department of Management Services issued this statement: “We can confirm that an inmate died at Bay Correctional Facility, which is managed by Management and Training Corporation on behalf of the state. The Florida Department of Corrections is the lead investigative agency. Due to the open and active investigation, we are unable to provide names or any additional information at this time.” It remains unclear whether or not the conditions at the prison are unsafe because of understaffing or other issues. After posting our initial story Florida’s Department of Corrections sent us a statement.

“The incident you are referring to is currently under investigation by the Office of the Inspector General,” wrote Paul Walker, the press secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections. “Due to the open, active investigation information is limited at this time. Once the investigation is complete, more information will be available to the public. Feel free to check back periodically for updates.” This new statement does not answer our questions about the staffing and safety issues at the facility.

Jul 25, 2018 newsherald.com
Hazmat, bomb squad called to Bay Correctional Facility
PANAMA CITY —The mailroom of the Bay Correctional Facility on Bayline Drive was locked down Tuesday morning and afternoon as a precaution after an employee reported a skin rash and difficulty breathing. According to a statement from the GEO Group, who manages the Bay Correctional & Rehabilitation Facility, the employee was taken to Bay Medical Center, where she is in stable condition and is under observation. Joby Smith, Emergency Management Division Chief for Bay County, said they responded to the facility around 10:30 a.m. and began taking samples from the mailroom. They finished at about 2:00 p.m. and did not find anything. “There’s no connection that we have right now with anything that happened here and her reaction,” said Smith, adding that they were responding as part of an abundance of caution. “It’s better for us to come in and clear the building before they go back to normal operations.” As part of their testing, Hazmat collected air samples and physical samples with equipment that can analyze the chemical makeup of substances, Smith said. The incident was isolated to the mailroom, and no inmates or other staff were moved. The Bay County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad also assisted as a precaution, along with about half a dozen EMS ambulances to assist the Hazmat team.

December 1, 2010 The Times
Joseph Mixon, the man responsible for igniting the Nov. 2008 fire that destroyed the Apalachicola State Bank building downtown, has died. According to a media statement issued Monday by the Corrections Corporation of America, Mixon, an inmate at the Bay Correctional Facility in Panama City, was pronounced dead by emergency medical technicians at 2:19 p.m. on Nov. 24. “At this time the death appears to be of unnatural causes and does not appear to involve foul play,” read the statement. Bay County Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Hunter has the task of determining the cause of death. “Corrections Corporation of America is working in full cooperation with local and state law enforcement officials as they investigate,” the statement read.

May 7, 2009 News Herald
Corrections Corporation of America is cutting 52 positions from the Bay Correctional Facility, officials said Thursday. "While some of these positions are currently vacant, there are 29 employees who will be affected by this staff restructuring," Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA management said in a news release. The layoffs primarily will affect instructors and counselors at the facility but also will impact some correctional officers and support staff, officials said. The cuts are expected to take place May 24. Prison officials added they are assessing which programs will be axed because of the layoffs. Officials said safety at the medium-security prison will not be affected by the cuts. "This reduction in force is a painful but necessary action in response to the state's ongoing fiscal challenges and the budgetary actions taken to date," Warden Bill Spivey said in a news release. "We will work closely with our affected employees who wish to continue their careers with CCA to identify transfer opportunities at one of the company's other 63 facilities operated nationwide. "It is our sincere hope that the economic health of the state will improve such that these employees and the important programs and services they provide can be restored," Spivey said.

April 2, 2009 News-Herald
A prison corrections officer was arrested Thursday after she allegedly smuggled contraband in to an inmate she had established a relationship with. Sonja Ann Powell, of Bonifay, was arrested on charges of smuggling contraband into a correctional facility, according to Bay County Sheriff's Office officials. Authorities said Powell, 35, a corrections officer at the privately run Bay Correctional Facility, reportedly smuggled a cell phone to Francis Marshall and Frank Gomez, two inmates at Bay Correctional Facility. Officials said investigators discovered information indicating Powell and Marshall had become involved. "Messages that we were able to get from them would indicate they had a very strong friendship with an emotional attachment," Bay County Spokeswoman Ruth Corley said. Officials said Marshall and Gomez are members of a gang called the Latin Mafia and used the cell phone to talk with a former guard at the institution and a woman with whom Gomez had established a relationship. The phone was allegedly used to send nude photos of the inmates and to receive nude photos of others. Officials said Marshall will face an additional charge of possession of contraband in a state correctional facility. Gomez will face two counts of the same charge.

November 25, 2008 WMBB TV13
Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen announces the arrest of a prison guard, Kennedy Eugene Patterson, B/M, 08/14/1970, of 734 Redwood Avenue, Panama City; FL. Patterson was employed by Corrections Corporation of America. Investigators arrested Patterson today for Trafficking in Hydrocodone and Attempted Introduction of Contraband in a Correctional Facility. Also arrested was Patterson’s girlfriend, Latisha Lanetta Ward, B/F, 06/04/1979, 607 East 7th Street, Panama City, FL. Investigators received information from a CCA staff member that Patterson was involved in smuggling contraband into the prison to inmates. Investigators out of the Special Investigations Division were working in an undercover capacity. Along with an informant, they were able to set up a meeting with Patterson where he agreed to smuggle several ounces of Marijuana into an inmate along with Hydrocodone for an exchange of $800.00. Patterson and Ward were booked into the Bay County Jail today and will make first appearance on the charges tomorrow.

November 15, 2008 Courier-Journal
A judge has ordered McDonald's Corp. to pay $2.4 million in attorney fees and costs to Louise Ogborn, the Bullitt County woman who last year won a $6.1 million verdict in her strip-search hoax lawsuit against the company. Citing Ogborn's lawyers' "incredible success," Senior Judge Tom McDonald approved fees of $934,325 for the lead trial lawyer, Ann Oldfather, and $311,250 to Kirsten Daniel, her co-counsel, as well as $25,000 in sanctions against McDonald's for misconduct in the litigation. Daniel said yesterday that she and Oldfather were ecstatic about the award. "We got everything we asked for," she said. Margaret Keane, a partner at Greenebaum Doll & McDonald, which defended the restaurant company, declined to comment, and a spokesman for McDonald's didn't respond to a request for comment. The fees were awarded to Ogborn on top of the October 2007 verdict, under a provision of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act designed to promote vigorous advocacy for plaintiffs. She now can use that money to satisfy all or some of what she owes to her lawyers under their employment contracts. Specifics about those contracts have not been made public. McDonald's had vigorously protested the fee request, saying Ogborn's lawyers couldn't have possibly worked the hours they claimed. But Judge McDonald, who oversaw the trial in Bullitt Circuit Court, said that if the plaintiff's lawyers worked long hours, it was because the company forced them to, by fiercely contesting every motion and delving so deeply into Ogborn's private life. "McDonald's should not be heard to complain now that the plaintiff's counsel worked too hard, when, to a large degree, those decisions were driven by McDonald's," the judge said. Oldfather has said that McDonald's disclosed that it spent about $3.6 million on fees defending itself. The judge also rejected the company's motion to stipulate that a portion of the fees and costs be paid by the person who made the hoax calls, noting that the jury did not return a verdict against him. Ogborn, a teenager who worked for $6.35 an hour at McDonald's Mount Washington store, was detained, stripped and sexually assaulted on April 9, 2004, at the behest of a caller who pretended he was a police officer and accused her of stealing a customer's purse. She sued the company, saying it failed to protect her, though company officials knew of dozens of similar episodes at its stores and other fast-food restaurants. After a four-week trial, a Bullitt Circuit Court jury returned a verdict that included $5 million in punitive damages. McDonald's has appealed, and the case is pending at the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Keane argued for the company that Ogborn's lawyers achieved only limited success at trial because they had asked the jury for $100 million in damages. But Judge McDonald said "the jury placed the blame squarely at McDonald's corporate feet," and that the $1 million awarded to Ogborn in compensatory damages was five times higher than a Bullitt County jury had ever returned in a similar case. The judge also said that if Oldfather hadn't asked for $100 million, "who can say that without that large an amount the jury may not have ended up where it did?" The court's order included $212,000 to two lawyers who formerly worked with Oldfather -- Lea Player and Doug Morris -- and $173,000 to Bill Boone and Steve Yater, two lawyers who originally filed the suit but were later fired by Ogborn. McDonald also ordered the fast-food company to reimburse Ogborn's lawyers for $495,000 in expenses. The sensational hoax case captured national attention. Stripped of her clothes and able to cover herself only with a store apron, Ogborn was forced to spend hours in the restaurant office, as a security camera recorded her humiliation. Ogborn was detained by an assistant manager, Donna Jean Summers, who said a man claiming to be a police officer had called and accused an employee resembling Ogborn of theft. Summers subsequently called her then-fiancé, Walter Wes Nix Jr., who sexually abused Ogborn at the caller's direction. McDonald's claimed it bore no responsibility for what happened to Ogborn and that the blame lay with others, including the caller, Nix, Summers and Ogborn herself. She was one of dozens of victims of a hoax caller who over more than a decade duped managers at as many as 160 fast-food restaurants and other stores into strip-searching and sexually humiliating employees. Many of those workers sued their employers, but Ogborn's suit was the first whose case went to trial. Nix was later convicted of sexual abuse and other crimes and sentenced to five years in prison. Summers entered an Alford plea to misdemeanor unlawful imprisonment, meaning she asserted her innocence while acknowledging there was enough evidence to convict her. She was placed on probation. Summers joined in Ogborn's suit against McDonald's, saying she was tarnished with a criminal conviction because the company had failed to warn her and other employees about the hoax calls. The jury awarded Summers $1.1 million. The caller was never brought to justice. A Bullitt County jury in 2006 acquitted David R. Stewart, a former private prison guard from the Florida panhandle, in the case. He'd been charged with impersonating an officer and soliciting sexual abuse for calling the Mount Washington store. Law enforcement officers said at the time that they suspected him of making the other calls as well.

February 2, 2007 AP
Private prisons operating under lease-purchase agreements with the state will remain exempt from paying millions of dollars in local property taxes after the Florida Supreme Court reversed course Thursday and let stand an appellate decision. The justices earlier had agreed to consider an appeal by Bay County, but wrote in a unanimous, three-sentence opinion that they had changed their minds “because the circumstances of this case are fact-specific.” “What does that mean?” Bay County Property Appraiser Rick Barnett asked after consulting with his lawyer. “We can’t figure that out.” One thing it will mean is that Bay County cannot collect $2.27 million in taxes dating back to 1996. Officials had sought the money from Corrections Corporation of America, based in Nashville-Tenn., which runs the Bay County Correctional Facility under a contract with the state. The case was being closely watched by officials in other jurisdictions with private state prisons. CCA also operates correctional facilities in Lake City and Quincy. Another company, GEO Group of Boca Raton, runs the Moore Haven and Southbay correctional facilities and has a contract for a new one at Graceville. “Why would they not have to pay and all the other private corporations do?” Barnett asked. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal unanimously answered that question last year by ruling lease-purchase prison property is exempt from taxes because “the state is the equitable owner.” The appellate judges, though, agreed to certify the issue to the Supreme Court as a question of great public importance, but the justices now have declined to accept the case. Barnett and Bay County Tax Collector Peggy Brannon had sued the Department of Management Services, which inherited private prison contracts from the now-defunct Correctional Privatization Commission. “The Department is encouraged by the Supreme Court’s apparent action,” Department Secretary Linda South said in a statement. “We have always maintained that state’s prison properties, like all other state property, are immune from ad valorem taxation.” In a related case, the Supreme Court in November reinstated a suit by the department seeking to overturn the auctioning of the Lake City Correctional Facility for failure to pay property taxes in Columbia County. A trial judge had upheld the tax deed sale because the state missed a filing deadline, but the Supreme Court reversed. The justices ruled the state is exempt from a law that requires “taxpayers” to challenge assessments within 60 days after they are certified. A couple and their two daughters had paid $132,313 for a tax deed to the multi-million-dollar prison.

November 1, 2006 AP
Prosecutors couldn’t convince a central Kentucky jury to convict a Bay County man accused of making a hoax phone call that lasted 3½ hours and ended in a bizarre sexual assault of a teenage McDonald’s worker. The jury on Tuesday acquitted David R. Stewart, 38, of Fountain, on charges of impersonating a police officer, soliciting sodomy and soliciting sexual abuse relating to a phone call made to the Mount Washington, Ky., restaurant in which former employees testified that the caller told them to conduct a strip-search of a worker in April 2004. Steve Romines, Stewart’s lawyer, said the jury’s verdict showed the weakness of the prosecution’s case. “There are a lot of questions unanswered in this case,” he said. “The only thing I knew for sure was my client didn’t do it.”

October 31, 2006 The Courier-Journal
Bullitt County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Mann implored jurors Tuesday to “follow the evidence” and convict a Florida man charged with being the mastermind behind an elaborate hoax that led to a McDonald’s worker being strip-searched and sexually humiliated. “It’s so obvious,” Mann told jurors in his closing arguments this morning. “There is more than enough evidence to find the defendant guilty.” An hour earlier, defense attorney Steve Romines said his client, David R. Stewart, was the “fall guy” for a botched police investigation. “They came to a conclusion then went about looking for facts to support it,” said Romines, who also told jurors that there was more evidence that this hoax was itself a “scam.” “There’s not even proof beyond a reasonable doubt that this is real,” he said. Stewart is accused of calling the restaurant on April 9, 2004, and directing an assistant manager to search and detain Louise Ogborn, who the caller said was accused of stealing a purse. During a 3½ ordeal after that, Ogborn was sexually abused by the manager’s then-fiancé, who later pled guilty but said he’d been acting on the orders of a caller posing as an officer. Stewart, charged with impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy, faces up to 15 years in prison on the two felony charges.

October 22, 2006 News Herald
The 19-year-old woman stripped naked in front of her boss in the manager’s room at the Winn-Dixie on 23rd Street more than three years ago because a voice on the phone said so. The teenager posed. She exposed. She did jumping jacks nude. For nearly two hours, a man who said he was a police officer orchestrated her humiliation over the phone. The voice told the girl’s boss, assistant manager James Marvin Pate, that she stole a purse. Police believe the man on the phone was David R. Stewart, of Fountain, said Sgt. Kevin Miller, of the Panama City Police Department. Authorities said Stewart, 39, made dozens of calls like this across the country for several years. The phone hoaxes sparked lawsuits against restaurant franchisees and chains like McDonald’s, Burger King and Applebee’s. Stewart’s first trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Mount Washington, Ky. In the Kentucky case, Stewart is accused of calling a McDonald’s on April 9, 2004, and posing as a police officer. Police said he told McDonald’s assistant manager Donna Summers a story similar to what the voice told the manager at the Panama City Winn-Dixie: He said a teenage female employee, Louise Ogborn, had stolen a purse and that she needed to be strip-searched. Summers and her ex-boyfriend, Walter Nix Jr., strip-searched Ogborn for about four hours, police said. Nix also had Ogborn perform sexual acts on him — all at the request of the caller. Mount Washington authorities charged Stewart with three counts of solicitation to commit sexual abuse, first degree; solicitation to commit sodomy, first degree; impersonating a police officer; and solicitation unlawful imprisonment, second degree. Incidents since the ’90s: Authorities said Stewart has peppered the country with calls dating back to the mid-1990s, mostly to chain restaurants. Usually, the man calls, identifies himself as a police officer, and says a female employee has drugs or has stolen something and must be strip-searched. In Panama City, the nightmare for a 19-year-old cashier began on July 12, 2003, at Winn-Dixie, when a fellow employee told her to report to the manager’s office, according to a PCPD incident report. According to the police report, which blacked out the name of the victim, what happened next lasted nearly two hours: Assistant manager Pate, 39, was waiting and handed her the phone. On the line was a man who said he was Officer Tim Peterson with the Panama City Police Department. The voice said she stole a purse and gave her two choices: Either strip naked in front of Pate or be brought down to the jail, where she’d be strip-searched in front of a lot more people. The voice also said Pate had the authority to keep her there and strip-search her, while the voice verified everything over the phone. The cashier agreed. Pate told her what to take off, and she complied out of fear of being taken to jail. She placed each item of clothing in a plastic bag. Pate described the cashier’s naked body in intimate detail to the voice on the phone, according to the police report. The voice commanded the cashier to pose in various positions that exposed her breasts, anal and vaginal areas to Pate. Toward the end of the woman’s ordeal, grocery manager Thomas Moton, 49, entered the office looking for a a key to unload a truck at the store’s rear dock. When he entered, the cashier was doing jumping jacks, and Pate had the receiver to his ear. “Pate said the boss is on the phone,” Moton said. “I thought the store manager was on the phone.” Moton said he thought something wasn’t right. He wanted to get the other assistant manager, but Pate said the voice on the phone told him to stay. The cashier went through several poses, Moton said. “She was bending over, sitting in a chair and doing jumping jacks,” he said. When the woman finally was allowed to leave, she put her clothes on and rushed out the door. Moton mentioned to Pate that “if this ain’t what it’s supposed to be, then you are out of here.” A short time later, police tore into the parking lot and hauled off Pate in handcuffs. Police charged Pate with lewd and lascivious behavior and false imprisonment. The charges eventually were dropped, Miller said. Moton said he never saw the cashier again after that night. “I didn’t even want to look her in face,” he said. “It was so embarrassing.” Police track the caller: The caller contacted several Wendy’s restaurants on Feb. 20, 2004, in the West Bridgewater, Mass., area, said Detective Sgt. Victor Flaherty of the West Bridgewater Police Department. West Bridge water is a suburb of Boston. “We had four incidents in one night,” Flaherty said. “Some conversations lasted more than an hour and a half.” Like the others, calls involved strip-searches of female employees, Flaherty said. By this time, however, the trail was leading back to Stewart, authorities said. After a story appeared in a restaurant industry magazine about what happened in West Bridgewater, Flaherty was flooded with calls from police agencies across the country. Detective Buddy Stump of the Mount Washington Police Department called Flaherty. Stump was looking for help tracing the call to the McDonald’s where Ogborn was strip-searched. Flaherty traced the calls made to West Bridgewater back to the Panama City area. He called the Panama City Police Department and asked for help, Miller said. Andrea McKenzie, a former detective with the PCPD and now an investigator with the state attorney’s office, helped link Stewart to the calls. McKenzie said she fielded calls from police agencies all over the country. “It was kind of shocking,” she said. “People said the phone number was coming from the Panama City area.” When the investigation uncovered that some of the calls were made using a phone card, authorities got the break they needed. “Nothing in this world is untraceable, if you put the time into it,” Flaherty said. McKenzie tracked the date and time of when the phone cards were bought to the Wal-Mart on 23rd Street. She pulled security video. On the video was a man wearing a uniform from the local jail run by Corrections Corporation of America, McKenzie said. Stewart was identified as the jail guard shown on the video, authorities said, and police brought him to the PCPD to be interrogated by Flaherty, who flew in from Massachusetts. When police arrested Stewart, they found numerous police magazines and applications to police departments, Miller said. “This guy wanted to be a cop in the worst way,” Flaherty said. Stewart’s attorney, Steve Romines, said there is no way his client could have been the voice on the phone. “To talk someone into this — it is someone more eloquent than David (Stewart),” Romines said. “He’s not dumb, but this was very sophisticated.” Flaherty disagreed with Romines’ assessment. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and there is no doubt in my mind” that Stewart did it, Flaherty said. Authorities eventually extradited Stewart in the fall 2004 from Bay County to Mount Washington to stand trial. Panama City police didn’t go after Stewart because they couldn’t link him to the call to the Winn-Dixie, Miller said. Other states, meanwhile, are awaiting the outcome of the Kentucky trial before pursuing legal action against Stewart, Flaherty said. “Oregon is still interested in him,” Flaherty said. “In Massachusetts, I consider it a rape by him.”

August 25, 2006 The Courier-Journal
Nearly half of Bullitt County residents think that David Stewart is guilty of masterminding the telephone hoax at the Mount Washington McDonald’s in which a teenage employee was strip-searched and sexually humiliated in April 2004, according to survey conducted to support Stewart’s motion to move his trial. But Bullitt Circuit Judge Thomas Waller indicated Friday he will deny the motion and try to empanel an impartial jury on Oct. 24, when the case is set for trial. Stewart is charged with impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy for allegedly calling the restaurant and pretending to be a police officer investigating a theft. As a result of the call, employee Louise Ogborn, then 18, was forced to take off her clothes and sodomize a man that Stewart allegedly asked to watch her. Stewart’s lawyer, Steve Romines, asked for a change of venue, citing numerous newspaper and TV stories that have mentioned Stewart is suspected of making calls to as many as 70 other restaurants and stores in 30 states. He hasn’t been charged in any of those incidents, and Romines said evidence concerning them would be inadmissible at Stewart’s trial. Stewart, a former corrections officer at a private prison near Panama City, Fla., attended a hearing before Waller yesterday but did not speak in court. Romines declined to let him answer questions from reporters.

June 17, 2006 AP
Detective Buddy Stump couldn't believe the story being told. A teenage worker at the local McDonald's had been strip-searched and sexually assaulted by co-workers. The co-workers said a policeman called the restaurant, described the girl and directed them about what to do. "I'm thinking, 'They told you to do what?'" said Stump, one of 16 police officers in Mount Washington and the department's only detective. The investigation that grew from that night would lead to a plea by a former employee of McDonald's, and the arrest of a Florida man on charges of impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy. The trial of David R. Stewart, 38, of Florida, was previously scheduled to begin this week but has been postponed to Sept. 5. In handwritten court filings, Stewart denies being the hoax caller. He is free on $50,000 cash bond. Mailings to the Bullitt Circuit Court indicate he is still living in Florida. "I had nothing to do with any of this," Stewart said. "I did not do this." A judge has ordered the attorneys involved in the case not to discuss it publicly before the trial. Stump and other investigators in states from Maine to Wyoming to Arizona say they believe their investigation stopped a cruel and bizarre series of hoaxes. Private investigator R.A. Dawson of Rapid City, S.D., who investigated a similar incident, said he had found 70 other cases resembling the one in Kentucky. "The M-O's were all similar," Dawson said. "And, they seemed to get increasingly worse." In court filings, McDonald's has denied any wrongdoing, but has declined to comment on the case, citing a pending civil case.

February 22, 2006 Courier-Journal
The assistant manager who led the April 2004 strip-search of a teenager at a Bullitt County McDonald's received probation yesterday after the victim said she thought the manager was duped and was herself a victim. Over the prosecutor's objection, Donna Jean Summers was placed on one year's probation by Bullitt District Court Judge Rebecca Ward. The county attorney's office had asked that Summers be jailed for a year. Summers entered an Alford plea to misdemeanor unlawful imprisonment, meaning she maintained her innocence while acknowledging there was enough evidence to convict her. Ward said a jury, which was scheduled to hear the case today, probably would have convicted Summers and recommended that she be incarcerated. But the judge said she accepted victim Louise Ogborn's recommendation for leniency to spare Ogborn from testifying, saying "she's already gone though a lot." Summers detained Ogborn, then 18, and took away her clothes after a man pretending to be a police officer called the Mount Washington fast-food restaurant and said an employee resembling Ogborn had taken a customer's purse. Despite the disposition, Summers left the courthouse in tears, saying she still holds McDonald's responsible for failing to warn employees of strip-search hoaxes at its other restaurants. She has said she never would have detained Ogborn had she known of previous hoaxes. Ward said she was imposing probation in part because Ogborn still must testify against the man charged with making the phone call, David N. Stewart, a former private prison guard from Fountain, Fla. Stewart is scheduled to be tried April 18 in Bullitt County on charges of impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy. Law-enforcement officials have said they suspect Stewart was behind at least 69 other hoaxes at businesses in 32 states from 1995 through 2004. He has been charged only in Bullitt County and has pleaded not guilty. Ogborn was detained for nearly four hours and was slapped on the buttocks, humiliated and forced to sodomize Summers' then-fiancé, Walter Nix Jr. Nix pleaded guilty Feb. 2 to sexual abuse, sexual misconduct and unlawful imprisonment and agreed to a five-year prison sentence. Summers called off their engagement after she reviewed a store surveillance video showing what Nix did to Ogborn. Nix also said he was following the orders of a man he thought was a police officer.

February 4, 2006 Oregonian
A former fast-food worker is suing the owners of a Gresham Burger King franchise because she claims her supervisor ordered her to undress after accusing her of theft two years ago. The supervisor told police he was following the instructions of a caller who claimed he was a police officer investigating theft. In fact, the caller is suspected of pulling a similar scam on dozens of workers at restaurants and other stores across the country for a decade. Last year, police arrested David R. Stewart, a former private corrections officer from Florida. Stewart faces charges in Kentucky, although he is suspected of making calls around the country, according to an article in the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Officer Grant McCormick, spokesman for the Gresham Police Department, said there was no active investigation since the arrest. The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court, describes a typical version of the scam: The plaintiff, who was a minor, finished her shift at the Burger King at 990 N.W. Eastman Parkway about 8:45 p.m. in February 2004. She was with her mother in the parking lot when the manager approached and told her to return to the restaurant. The manager told the girl's mother to wait outside. Then he brought the plaintiff into his office where he accused her of stealing $50 from a customer and said a police officer was on the phone and needed to speak with her. The plaintiff "spoke with the caller . . . and then was instructed to hand the phone back to (the manager, who) then instructed (the plaintiff) to begin disrobing and gave her a bag in which to place her clothing. The caller instructed (the plaintiff) to remove all her clothing, including her bra and panties, and she complied while (the manager) stood by. After she was completely undressed and all her clothes were in the bag, (the manager) again spoke with the caller and described how (the plaintiff) was sitting and further advised the caller that her legs were closed. The caller instructed (the plaintiff) to open her legs so that (the manager) could see between them, but (the plaintiff) refused to do this," according to the suit. After 45 minutes, the plaintiff's mother came in and told her daughter to get dressed and leave.

February 2, 2006 Courier-Journal
The Bullitt County man who claimed he thought he was following a police officer’s orders when he sexually humiliated a teenaged McDonald’s worker in April 2004 pleaded guilty this morning to sexual abuse, sexual misconduct and unlawful imprisonment. A charge of sodomy, which could have sent Walter W. Nix Jr., to prison for 20 years, was dropped as part of a plea bargain to which he agreed to a five-year prison term. Nix, who will be formally sentenced on March 15, agreed not to seek probation at sentencing, and Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Mann agreed to take no position on shock probation, which could be granted later. Nix is the first person to be convicted in the 2004 hoax at the Mount Washington McDonald’s in which Louise Ogborn, a $6.35 hour counter worker, was strip-searched and sexually humiliated for nearly four hours after a man pretending to be a police officer called the store and said he was investigating the theft of a purse from a customer. Nix, 43, was scheduled to be tried today before Bullitt Circuit Judge Tom Waller. The judge asked Ogborn if she supported the plea bargain and if so why. She said she did because it will require Nix to serve time in prison, to register as a sex offender and to testify against David N. Stewart, the alleged perpetrator of the hoax. Stewart, a former private prison guard from Fountain, Fla., is scheduled to be tried April 18 on charges of impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy for allegedly making the hoax call. Law enforcement officials have said they suspect Stewart was behind at least 69 other hoaxes at businesses in 32 states from 1995 through 2004. He has been charged only in Bullitt County, and has pleaded not guilty.

December 7, 2005 Courier-Journal
The trials of the three people charged in connection with the sexual humiliation of a teenage McDonald's employee in Bullitt County during a hoax last year have been postponed: David N. Stewart, 38, of Fountain, Fla., who was scheduled to stand trial Dec. 13 in Bullitt Circuit Court on charges of impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy, now will be tried on April 18. Walter W. Nix, 43, who also was scheduled for trial Dec. 13 on charges of sodomy and assault, has been rescheduled for trial Feb. 1. Donna Jean Summers, 51, who is charged with unlawful imprisonment, a misdemeanor, and was to be tried today, is set for trial Feb. 22. All three have pleaded not guilty. Stewart is accused of calling the Mount Washington restaurant on April 9, 2004, and, while pretending to be a police officer investigating a theft, inducing Summers, a McDonald's assistant manager, to strip-search Louise Ogborn, then 18. Summers later called Nix, her fiance at the time, to the store to watch Ogborn. Nix has admitted in court that he forced Ogborn to sodomize him and engage in humiliating exercises, but he has said he was following the orders of the caller, who he thought was a police officer. Summers, who was fired, also has said that she was following orders, and that McDonald's is at fault for having failed to alert employees about similar hoaxes at stores. Stewart, a former private prison guard, is suspected by law enforcement officers of pulling similar hoaxes at 69 other businesses from 1995 through last year, but so far he has been charged only in Bullitt County.

November 17, 2005 In-Forum News
The suspected mastermind behind strip searches of employees at chain restaurants and stores nationwide - including one at a north Fargo Burger King - faces felony charges in Kentucky for a hoax there. Authorities arrested David Richard Stewart of Panama City, Fla., after tracking a call from a Wal-Mart to Kentucky, where an18-year-old McDonald's employee was sexually abused last year when an assistant manager followed directions from a caller. Court papers state Stewart, 38, posed as "Officer Scott" when calling the McDonald's in Mount Washington. He convinced the assistant manager to strip-search the woman, who Scott said was suspected of stealing. The call resembles one made to the Fargo Burger King on 19th Avenue North in January 1999. The caller, posing as "Lieutenant Scott," convinced then-night manager Jason Allan Krein to strip-search a 17-year-old female employee in his office. Krein later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and served 30 days in jail. In Kentucky, the assistant manager and her boyfriend also face charges for the McDonald's strip search. The assistant manager faces an unlawful imprisonment charge while her boyfriend faces sexual abuse and sodomy crimes. Authorities charged Stewart with impersonating a police officer and soliciting each of the other crimes. The suspects all pleaded not guilty and face trials next month. "It was a horrible, horrible ordeal that this young lady had to go through," said Walt Sholar, the Bullitt County, Ky., attorney handling one of the cases. Nationwide, Sholar said there are about 70 cases similar to the ones in Kentucky and Fargo. Dozens of police departments have contacted Mount Washington authorities convinced they arrested their suspect. "I have no doubt in my mind that he's been the one behind all of them," Mount Washington Police Detective Buddy Stump said. "For the sake of the rest of the country, I hope and pray that it is." Stump broke the case open after the city told him to find the caller. "We realized how many people have been affected across the United States," he said. "I thought it was my duty." With help from detectives in Massachusetts and Florida, Stump zeroed in on a surveillance video at one of Panama City's three Wal-Marts. Once they had the guy's image, they tracked Stewart to a private prison company where he worked. Stewart remains free on bond until his trial. Calls to a phone listing for David Stewart in Panama City went unanswered. In January 1999, a man called six Fargo businesses- two Burger Kings, three Taco Bells and Payless Shoe Store - in an attempt to convince managers to strip-search female employees. At the north Fargo Burger King, Krein went along with the caller's demands, undressing the employee and touching her legs to describe them to the caller. At Krein's court hearing, East Central District Judge Georgia Dawson said "it's just not conceivable" for Krein to think the search was proper. Fargo attorney Adam Hamm, a prosecutor then, told Dawson the girl was traumatized for months. "Of all the cases I prosecuted, this was one of the cases that burned itself into my memory," Hamm said. "I have always wondered if I made the right decision in charging Jason Krein with the charge." Hamm said he prepared a more serious charge against Krein but balked at filing it because of how state law defines sexual contact. "I knew I could prove the misdemeanor and at some level he had to be held responsible," Hamm said. After the Fargo strip search, the girl and her parents sued Burger King, owned by RED Inc. in Grand Forks, N.D. The case was settled in mediation, according to those familiar with the case. Details of the settlement are not public. Krein moved to Wisconsin and could not be reached for comment. Fargo Lt. Tod Dahle recalls the Burger King search because police tracked one call to a Florida pay phone and the caller posed as a Fargo officer. After the incident, Fargo police received reports of similar incidents in Grand Forks, Devils Lake, N.D., Watertown, S.D., and Virginia and Wisconsin. "Ever since that happened, I probably got a call about that case every three months," he said. "Of course, I'd learn it happened somewhere else." With Stewart's arrest, Dahle said Fargo police will ask prosecutors to review the case to determine if charges can be filed against Stewart. "I think to some degree, the people (managers) wanted to participate," Dahle said. "I don't think we'll ever know how many times this guy (Stewart) was told no."

November 3, 2005 Courier-Journal
The Bullitt County man who claimed a hoax caller duped him into sexually humiliating a teenage McDonald's employee at the restaurant last year apologized to his victim yesterday and said he was ashamed of what he did. "I had no intention of hurting anyone," Walter W. Nix Jr., 43, said in Bullitt Circuit Court to Louise Ogborn, whom he forced to sodomize him in April 2004. Nix has said he was following the orders of the caller, who he thought was a police officer. But Judge Tom Waller refused to accept a deal in which Nix had offered to plead guilty to a reduced charge of sexual misconduct and unlawful imprisonment in exchange for a sentence of one year's probation. Waller let Nix withdraw his plea and set his trial on charges of sodomy and assault for Dec. 13. That's the same day that David N. Stewart, a former private prison guard from Fountain, Fla., is scheduled to stand trial on charges of impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy for allegedly perpetrating the hoax during a call to the Mount Washington restaurant. Law enforcement officials have said they suspect Stewart was behind at least 69 other hoaxes pulled off at other businesses in 32 states from 1995 through last year. He has been charged only in Bullitt County and pleaded not guilty there.

November 2, 2005 Courier-Journal
Bullitt Circuit Judge Tom Waller this morning rejected a plea agreement for a man who admitted sexually humiliating a teenager who was strip-searched last year at the Mount Washington McDonald's where she worked. Walter Nix Jr., 43, pleaded guilty last month to unlawful imprisonment and sexual misconduct as part of a plea bargain that would have given him one year probation. The deal fell through after Louise Ogborn, 19, who was forced to sodomize Nix as part of telephone hoax at the store on April 9, 2004, objected to portions that allowed Nix to deny wrongdoing and to avoid registering as a sex offender. Judge Waller set Nix's case for Dec. 13. Ogborn was detained for nearly four hours in the hoax, which was one of 70 perpetrated in 32 states from 1995 through last year. A private prison guard, David N. Stewart, of Fountain, Fla., was charged in July 2004 with impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy in the Mount Washington case. He has pleaded not guilty and is set for trial Dec. 13.

November 2, 2005 Courier-Journal
A teenager who was strip-searched in April 2004 at the Mount Washington McDonald's where she worked is objecting to terms of the plea bargain struck for the man who admitted sexually humiliating her. As part of the agreement, Walter Nix Jr., 43, pleaded guilty last month to unlawful imprisonment and sexual misconduct, and was to be sentenced today in Bullitt Circuit Court to one year's probation under those charges. But Louise Ogborn, 19, who was forced to sodomize Nix as part of telephone hoax at the store on April 9, 2004, objects to portions of the deal that allowed him to deny wrongdoing and to avoid registering as a sex offender, according to lawyers for both sides. "The deal will not go through," said William C. Boone Jr., Ogborn's co-counsel. Nix's lawyer, Kathleen Schmidt, said she will ask Judge Tom Waller to enforce the plea agreement today. If he doesn't, Nix will have the option of withdrawing his plea and going to trial, or accepting an agreement with harsher terms. Nix had been charged with sodomy and assault, which carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison. Nix has claimed he was duped into humiliating Ogborn by a man who called the McDonald's pretending to be a police officer investigating a theft. Nix was engaged at the time to the store's assistant manager, Donna Jean Summers, who, at the behest of the caller, had taken away Ogborn's clothes before calling Nix in to help watch the teen. Nix has said the man on the phone ordered him to direct Ogborn to do exercises in the nude and perform oral sex on him. He said he also slapped her several times on the buttocks at the direction of the caller. Ogborn was detained for nearly four hours in the hoax, which was one of 70 perpetrated in 32 states from 1995 through last year. A private prison guard, David N. Stewart, of Fountain, Fla., was charged in July 2004 with impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy in the Mount Washington case. He has pleaded not guilty and is set for trial Dec. 13. ABC Primetime is scheduled to broadcast a segment Nov. 10 about the Mount Washington case, according to Yater, who said Ogborn was interviewed for it last week by a producer and reporter John Quinones.

October 11, 2005 Courier-Journal
A Bullitt County man who claimed he was duped into sexually humiliating a teenage McDonald's worker last year by a man impersonating a police officer pleaded guilty yesterday to a felony charge of unlawful imprisonment. In a plea bargain approved by his victim, Walter Nix Jr., 43, will get probation after agreeing to a one-year term for the felony and for sexual misconduct, a misdemeanor. He originally was charged with sodomy and assault, for which he could have been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Bullitt Circuit Judge Tom Waller tentatively accepted the plea pending formal approval of it by victim Louise Ogborn at Nix's sentencing, set for Nov. 2. Nix was engaged at the time to the store's assistant manager, Donna Jean Summers, who asked him to come watch Ogborn. A man who phoned the store pretending to be a police officer accused Ogborn of theft and ordered her strip-searched. According to police and court records, Nix said he thought he was following an officer's orders when he directed Ogborn, who was detained four hours in the restaurant's office, to do exercises in the nude and perform oral sex on him. He also slapped her several times on her buttocks, at the direction of the caller, the records show. The incident was the focus of a Courier-Journal story Sunday that noted that the strip-search was among at least 70 performed at fast-food restaurants and other businesses from 1995 through 2004 at the direction of a caller who claimed he was investigating crimes. Ogborn agreed to be identified by name in the newspaper. A private prison guard, David N. Stewart, of Fountain, Fla., was charged in July 2004 with impersonating a police officer and soliciting sodomy in the Mount Washington case. He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is set for Dec. 13. Summers is charged with unlawful imprisonment, a misdemeanor, and her trial is scheduled for Dec. 7. She also has pleaded not guilty. Ogborn's co-counsel, William C. Boone Jr., said his client approved the deal because "she wants somebody to say they are sorry and for somebody to say she did nothing wrong," both of which he said Nix has promised to say at sentencing. "She is tired of McDonald's blaming her for what happened," Boone said. In a lawsuit, Ogborn has alleged that the company failed to warn employees at the Mount Washington store about prior strip-search hoaxes at other restaurants around the country. McDonald's has said in court papers and through its lawyer that Ogborn was in part responsible because she failed to realize the caller wasn't a real officer. Nix and Summers were among at least 13 people across the United States charged with crimes for executing searches for the caller. Seven have been convicted of various crimes. Stewart so far has only been charged in the Bullitt County incident.

November 11, 2004 Arizona Republic
A teenage girl who was strip-searched by the manager of a Taco Bell earlier this year has filed suit against the restaurant chain. The lawsuit alleges Taco Bell officials were aware of a string of prank calls to fast-food restaurants across the country where a caller persuaded employees to do strip searches, but did not adequately update franchises. In the March incident at 17230 E. Shea Blvd., a male caller claiming to be a Scottsdale police officer persuaded the Taco Bell manager to body search the girl, a patron, in a back room. According to the suit, Taco Bell knew of incidents at restaurants in Wyoming in 2004, Alaska in 2003 and Georgia in 2002 and issued warnings to franchises, though not enough was done to educate employees.

July 29, 2004 Nation's Restaurant News
One of the most bizarre and longest-running con games in foodservice may have ended with the arrest of a prison guard who was charged with duping scores of restaurant managers over the phone into strip-searching their employees.  The Panama City Police Department was holding David Stewart, a 38-year-old corrections officer, under a governor's warrant, a kind of fugitive warrant, until his bid to fight extradition to Mount Washington, Ky., was exhausted.  Stewart, a father of five and a former auxiliary policeman, worked for the Bay County State Facility, a privately run prison operated by the Corrections Corp. of America. better know as the CCA.  Police in Mount Washington--a bedroom community of 13,000 residents seven miles from Louisville--were seeking to interrogate Stewart in connection with an April 9 incident in which a man posing as a cop called a local McDonald's and convinced a manager to strip-search a young female cashier. Stewart faces a $ 500,000 bond once he is in the custody of Mount Washington authorities.   Investigators used phone records, calling-card numbers and security surveillance cameras in a Wal-Mart outside Panama City where the calling cards had been purchased in order to link Stewart to the assault.  Mount Washington is only one of nearly 73 police departments in 30 or more states whose Burger Kings, McDonald's, Taco Bells, KFCs, Applebee's, Hooters, Wendy's, Perkins and dozens of other restaurants were victimized by similar ruses. In almost all cases the restaurants were located in small towns.  As the story first was reported in Nation's Restaurant News in March, police nationwide had been looking for a man who posed as a cop or a senior executive of a restaurant company. He had persuaded as many as 73 unit managers of major brands to strip-search young staffers in bogus hunts for stolen valuables.  The perpetrator listened in over the phone while the managers were coaxed into giving detailed descriptions of the hapless victims' underwear and body parts. The crime had gone largely unreported for years, possibly as far back as 1995, because the victims and their employers were too embarrassed to report it to authorities, once they realized they had been duped. Even when they did report it, most small-town police departments didn't know how to investigate the con, so police tended to file the reports away under "miscellaneous" and the cases died.  Particularly anxious to interrogate Stewart are detectives of the police departments of four Massachusetts towns--West Bridgewater, Abington, Whitman and Wareham--where single Wendy's restaurants were victimized on the same day this year, Feb 19. One civil lawsuit has come out of those cases against Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy's International Inc.  The four towns pooled their resources and appointed detective sergeant Victor Flaherty of West Bridgewater to lead a task force to find the perpetrator. Wendy's financed the task force's expenses for travel, phone record recalls and overtime.  Flaherty waded through hours of security video footage of calling-card purchases from the Wal-Mart store until he and other investigators linked a customer to cards used in the Wendy's incidents in February and an incident at a Kentucky McDonald's in April.  In one tape a man wearing a Corrections Corp. of America uniform purchased a calling card used in the February assault in Massachusetts, but other security footage identified the same man in civilian clothing purchasing a card used in the April con in Kentucky.  Flaherty first showed prison administrators the tape of the man in civilian clothes, and they immediately recognized him. The clincher occurred when they were shown the other tape of the suspect wearing his uniform. Supervisors were certain that the man was one of theirs

January 11, 2004 News Herald
A 26-year-old corrections officer stabbed two sisters — including one who is pregnant — with a butcher knife early Saturday during an argument over a man, authorities reported. Investigators charged Cachetta Ann Barnes with two counts of aggravated assault after the altercation at 4 a.m. at 1013 Spring Ave. An arrest affidavit said Barnes stabbed 19-year-old Tikila Walker on the left arm. Tiffany Walker, Tikila’s 24-year-old sister, heard a commotion near the door and went to Tikila’s aid, the affidavit said. "She started calling my house around 3 in the morning threatening us," Tiffany Walker told The News Herald Saturday afternoon. Authorities said Barnes is a corrections officer at the Bay Correctional Facility on Bayline Drive, a private prison run by Corrections Corporation of America. CCA officials did not immediately return phone messages. 

Bay County Jail and Annex
Panama City, Florida
formerly run by CCA
Bay County Jail shows privatization isn't always best: February 4, 2012, Panama City News Herald. Cautionary tale of CCA's misadventures running the local jail before the Sheriff took it back.

October 28, 2011 News-Herald
The jail has long been finished and the initial contractor fired, but Bay County only recently received final judgment on a lawsuit that alleged favoritism and arbitrary behavior in awarding the jail contract in 2006. Circuit court Judge Hentz McClellan issued a final judgment Oct. 18 in favor of Bay County and against Emerald Correctional Management, a Louisiana corporation that lost a bid for jail construction and operations. Emerald Correctional filed the suit after the county entered negotiations with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) on a $117 million contract for the construction of the Star Avenue jail, which ultimately was awarded to CCA for the design, construction and six years of operation of the jail, sally port and court holding. The final judgment awards Bay County $167,761 in lawyer fees. William C. Henry, of Burke Blue, Hutchison, Walters and Smith, who represented Bay County in the suit, said county staff spent two months analyzing and comparing the proposals and matching them with their proposal request. “This RFP (request for proposal) was very complicated because it was very big,” Henry said. “There were upgrades [in CCA’s proposal] that weren’t asked for in the RFP, but later county staff said, ‘Yeah, that’s a really good idea.’ ” To give commissioners an “apples-to-apples” comparison, the proposals were manipulated in a “fair and rational manner,” Henry said, and CCA was a better deal. Commissioner Mike Thomas said the allegations of favoritism were preposterous from the beginning because the commission did not want to give the contract to CCA, who was managing the old jail at the time. “There had been a lot of complaints about the way inmates and their families were being treated,” he said. “Once we got everything done, they (CCA) were the better deal.” In the end, CCA couldn’t do the project for the price it said and left the project, and operations were turned over to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office in 2008. “The main thing is we have a good product out there now,” he said. The judge awarding lawyers’ fees “takes some of the sting out” of the litigation, Thomas said, but the time could have been better spent. The judge’s ruling was issued as a final order, but Henry said Emerald Management still has the right to appeal the decision, which attorney Obed Dorceus said he would be discussing with his client. “All these zombies, even though they are deader than dead, they still find a way to come out of the grave and eat people,” he said.

July 14, 2010 News-Herald
A federal jury determined Wednesday that there was no racial discrimination against a black corrections officer who was not allowed to interview when the Bay County Sheriff’s Office took over the jail in October 2008. Patrick Lane, a guard with Corrections Corporation of America, sued the sheriff’s office because he was not interviewed for a job when the agency took over. Lane had been working at the jail while CCA was in charge. He currently works for CCA at another facility. Sheriff Frank McKeithen testified that he did not know Lane’s race when he prevented him from interviewing, just his criminal background. “I am very humbled and appreciative with the verdict, but I’m not sure anybody won today. The outcome of the verdict cannot erase all the nasty accusations made against me and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office,” McKeithen wrote in a statement to The News Herald. “It cannot take away the humiliation suffered by the witnesses both for and against me. But this is how our system works and why we have courts and juries.” Lane’s attorney, Marie Mattox, has been trying to prove that there was a double standard during the hiring, in which black officers with criminal records had a more difficult time getting a job than white officers.

July 13, 2010 News-Herald
Bay County Jail Warden Rick Anglin testified at a racial discrimination trial Tuesday that he and Sheriff Frank McKeithen hired both black and white officers with criminal records as they rushed to staff the jail in October 2008. The Bay County Sheriff’s Office had only a few months to take over the jail after Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) decided to pull out, Anglin said, adding that he, McKeithen and other supervisors used the time to wade through hundreds of applications and install county-owned equipment into the facility. “It was quite a monumental task,” Anglin said. “It was seven days a week and a lot of sleepless nights.” Patrick Lane, a guard with CCA, is suing the sheriff’s office because he was not interviewed for a job when the agency took over the jail. Lane had been working at the jail and for CCA until the takeover. His attorney, Marie Mattox, has been trying to prove there was a double standard during the hiring, in which black officers with criminal records had a tougher time getting a job than white officers. However, Anglin testified Tuesday that he hired both black and white officers who had criminal charges such as passing worthless checks and battery. In most of those cases, the charges were decades old and had been dropped. On the day the sheriff’s office took over, there were 34 black officers and 92 white officers, Anglin said. The jail also has two black shift supervisors out of a total of four. When the command staff at the jail is not present, the shift supervisors are in charge of the entire facility, Anglin said. McKeithen testified Monday that he prevented Lane from interviewing because of his criminal history, not because of his race. In 2001, Lane was charged with conspiracy to commit attempted murder for his alleged involvement in a non-fatal shooting in Franklin County. According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by The News Herald through a public records request, Lane was arrested by the Apalachicola Police Department the night of the shooting because he was driving two of the alleged shooters mere minutes after the incident took place. He eventually was charged in the case, but the charge ultimately was dropped. Although he was not hired at the jail, Lane currently works for CCA at another of the company’s facilities. On Tuesday, Mattox called several other black employees who were not hired by the Sheriff’s office and several white employees who were either hired or offered jobs at the jail. All of the employees involved had criminal histories. Two women were fired by CCA and charged criminally because they allegedly falsified their time records. However, CCA eventually dropped the matter and the women got their jobs back. McKeithen and Anglin still declined to hire them. Anglin testified the evidence in the case seemed clear that the women had somehow clocked in for 12- and 16-hour days without coming to work. The women also are suing the sheriff’s office for racial discrimination. Mattox also called Jeffery Langford, a former CCA employee who now works for Florida’s Department of Corrections. Langford, who is black, had been offered a job with the sheriff’s office. However, shortly before the takeover, Langford and two other black officers were involved in a physical altercation with inmates. On the day the sheriff’s office took over, Langford was escorted off the premises and told he would be called, he said. No one ever called him and he found a job with the Department of Corrections, he said. “I was looking forward to working for the sheriff’s office, but it just didn’t work out,” Langford said. Robert Wayne Evans, the attorney representing the sheriff’s office, pointed out the problem was not just that Langford and the other guards used force on inmates; they also failed to report the incident. Langford said his CCA supervisor told him not to worry about the altercation. That was not good enough, Anglin testified, adding that officers in similar situations who do not notify supervisors and fill out the proper paperwork are fired automatically. “You have to report that immediately,” Anglin said. “As bad as I hated it, I didn’t have any choice.”

July 12, 2010 The News-Herald
Sheriff Frank McKeithen testified Monday in a racial discrimination trial filed on behalf of a black corrections officer. The officer, Patrick Lane, has accused McKeithen of failing to hire him even though he was qualified for the job. In court documents, McKeithen argued that his reasons for not hiring Lane were simple: In 2001, Lane was charged with conspiracy to commit attempted murder for his alleged involvement in a non-fatal shooting in Franklin County. Lane countered in subsequent documents that the charge ultimately was dropped and that some white officers have been hired even though they pleaded guilty to other criminal charges, including battery, receiving stolen property and passing worthless checks. One applicant who was hired had been accused of lewd and lascivious battery on a child and pleaded guilty to battery, the documents stated. McKeithen also hired a former guard at the Bay County Boot Camp to work at CCA, which ran the Bay County Jail until the sheriff’s office took control in fall 2008. The guard, Charles Enfinger, had been charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child in the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson. That case went to a jury, which found Enfinger, six other guards and a nurse not guilty. During his testimony Monday, McKeithen said that in October 2008, as the sheriff’s office was preparing to take over the jail, he personally waded through about 300 applications. Most of those applications came from current CCA employees. McKeithen said that when he hired for the sheriff’s office he rejected anyone with a criminal history and was shocked to find out CCA employed many people with “felony backgrounds.” “I had never seen that before,” McKeithen said.

May 14, 2010 AP
An appeal court says three nurses held hostage by inmates cannot sue a privately run jail because they are covered by workers compensation. The ruling Friday by the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a judge's dismissal of a lawsuit against Corrections Corporation of America, Bay County and the Bay County Sheriff's Office. One nurse and two inmates were shot by police to end a 12-hour standoff in 2004 at the Bay County Jail in Panama City. All three survived. Workers compensation pays for job-related injuries and prohibits suits against employers. The appeal court ruled that exceptions for negligence by co-workers or an employer with knowledge of a hazard based on a prior accident or explicit warning did not apply.

March 11, 2010 WJHG
Hernando County commissioners are considering dropping Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and turning their jail over to the county sheriff. They've been consulting Bay County officials about a similar transition that took place here in the fall of 2008. According to published reports, CCA criticized Bay County for terminating their contract, telling Hernando County officials they could have saved Bay County $3 million this year if they had still been running the facility. But, Bay County commissioners are now reminding everyone that it was CCA that terminated the contract, claiming they couldn't abide by the financial terms of that agreement. They also say sheriff Frank McKeithen has done a better job of running the jail, and has done it cheaper than CCA. Bay County commissioner Mike Thomas said, "In 2009, the sheriff's budget, entire budget, with insurance, building payments, power, everything, was $1.3 million cheaper than it was in 2008 under CCA's operation." Thomas says the county commission hasn't received nearly as many jail complaints since McKeithen took over from CCA.

March 3, 2010 Hernando Today
About two years ago, Bay County commissioners realized they had reached a crossroads with the operator of their jail. They had been receiving negative publicity in the press over contraband being smuggled into the jail and there were problems with personnel, said County Commissioner Jerry Girvin. On top of that, the operator, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) asked for more money, he said. So the county commissioners of this Panhandle community rejected CCA's contract renewal bid and asked their sheriff whether he would be interested in taking over operations. Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen said he'd look into it. He did and about six months later, in October 2008, he offered to take over the reins of the jail. "(McKeithen) said, 'You want me to run it, I'll run it,'" Girvin remembers. "He's done an excellent job ever since." That scenario, with a few variations, is about to be played out in Hernando County. Sheriff Richard Nugent announced Tuesday his office can provide a better and more efficient service while reducing the county's cost of operating the jail. The sheriff will make a presentation to county commissioners at their meeting next Tuesday. As with Bay County, commissioners here had broached the topic twice last year, especially when the board went through somewhat contentious contract renegotiations with CCA. "We wanted to see if there were any other options out there that could save us money," Hernando County Commissioner John Druzbick said. "There are other counties that are doing it. Now how they are doing it and whether it is saving them money is what we are wanting to know." Girvin has some advice for his Hernando County counterparts: "Go for it." "Nobody likes to run a jail," Girvin said. "But if you have to run one, it's better to have a local elected sheriff do it." Stabins: Sounds good on paper -- Hernando County Commissioner Jeff Stabins, after asking for a day to think about the sheriff's proposal, said he is open to Nugent's idea, especially because the jail falls somewhat under his purview. "His agency would be more involved in the supervision and the ramifications of how many inmates are there and the costs," Stabins said. "So on paper, it makes sense." Stabins' concern is that the sheriff is asking for the full amount of what the county has budgeted for jail operations this year: $11.2 million. But Nugent said Friday he will need that much because of anticipated upfront costs of taking over CCA's operations. "There are so many unknowns and so many variables at play," Nugent said. When McKeithen took over jail operations there, county commissioners gave his department about $1 million more than what they had contracted with CCA — knowing that the first year the sheriff might have to deal with hiring new people and purchasing equipment. The same scenario applies in Hernando County, Nugent said. Because CCA is a private entity, it is not open with operations, he said. That company owns everything from the toilet paper to the video-monitoring equipment, he said. "(McKeithen) didn't know what he was walking into, nor do we," Nugent said. Ultimately, McKeithen ended up returning close to $2 million to the Bay County general fund after the first year of operations, and Nugent said it is his "gut feeling" he will be able to return money as well. Hernando County's current jail contract does not guarantee a fixed cost for the operation of the jail, as an increase in inmates would increase the cost to the county. With his department operating the jail, an increase in the number of inmates will not increase the cost to the county, Nugent said. 'Best move we ever made' -- The Bay County jail has about 900 inmates, compared to 520 in Hernando. Located in the Florida Panhandle, Bay County has a population of about 163,500 people, compared to about 172,000 in Hernando County. Bay County Commissioner Mike Nelson echoed his colleague Girvin's comments that CCA was not running as tight a ship as the board wanted. "They just didn't seem to be interested in listening to us," Nelson said. So after roughly 25 years, the board decided they wanted out of the contract. "We talked to the sheriff; he made a proposal," Nelson said. "It was the best move we ever made. It's been like night and day. I haven't had a phone call on the jail in the two years since he took over." McKeithen kept about 150 of CCA's employees and placed them on the sheriff's payroll, while others found jobs in other company sites. "The first year he was budgeting high because he didn't know what he would run into with his expenses," Nelson said. And even though the board started him off with a $17 million budget, about $1 million more than it would have given CCA, Nelson believes it was well worth it — especially considering he returned $2 million.

September 17, 2009 News-Herald
After more than three years, a correctional company’s lawsuit against Bay County finally may go to trial. The First District Court of Appeal upheld a circuit judge’s opinion this week, denying Shreveport, La.-based Emerald Corrections’ motion for summary judgment against Bay County, and clearing the path for trial. “We’d like some finality on this case,” county attorney W.C. Henry said Thursday. The lawsuit, originally filed in February 2006, alleges that the county commission, and thus the county, broke state law in how it awarded the construction and operations contract for the expansion of the county jail. Then-Circuit Court Judge Glenn Hess dismissed all the complaints in May 2006, but the appeals court ruled Hess improperly dismissed two of the complaints. Emerald attorney Obed Dorceus refiled suit against the county in circuit court. He made a motion for summary judgment, which Circuit Judge Hentz McClellan denied in June and the appeals court upheld Tuesday. Emerald’s complaints stem from it submitting the lowest bidder when the request for proposal went out for the county jail expansion and operations project in late 2005. Tennessee-based CCA, which operated the jail at the time, was the only other bidder. But after asking for clarification on parts of their proposals, the commission gave the job to CCA despite a slightly larger price tag ($36.4 million to $35.4 million), because they felt the overall package offered by CCA was superior. Henry drew an analogy comparing the choice to the decision to buy a sports utility vehicle, with Emerald’s offer being a “bottom-line SUV” and CCA’s being a “Cadillac that cost a little more.” Dorceus was looking for an injunction in his appeal, something McClellan ruled cannot happen, since the jail is built, and CCA no longer operates it; the Bay County Sheriff’s Office does. “That’s patently absurd,” Henry said of the appeal. “An injunction is to prevent damage. ... What is the court going to do, say to the county to tear down the jail and start over again?” Dorceus said Thursday he was not surprised by the decision and plans to appeal again if the bench trial, yet to be scheduled, doesn’t go his way. “My client spent a lot of money pursuing this contract. We would be OK if the county followed the law,” Dorceus said. The county has turned down two settlement requests by Emerald, one for $13.2 million offered in June 2007, and a more reserved $514,000 offer in September 2007. At this point the lawsuit boils down to legal fees, with the loser paying the fees of the winner. Henry has billed out more than $80,000 for the case. He is confident the county will not have to pay. “Were going to win. There’s no question about that, and we’ve felt that way from the beginning,” he said.

June 2, 2009 News-Herald
Three nurses who were held hostage at the Bay County jail in 2004 are asking Florida's First District Court of Appeals to overturn a local judge and find against Bay County and Corrections Corporation of America. The plaintiffs, Amie Hunt, Glenda Baker and Kathleen Baucum, are claiming that Nashville-based CCA should be held liable for the actions of Officer James Clayton Hall. Hall was breaking CCA rules by allowing more than one inmate out of his cell at a time, according to a final judgment written by Circuit Judge Hentz McClellan. McClellan ruled that Hall was concealing this activity from other employees and his supervisors. "There is no evidence here that CCA knew of the dangerous situation created by Hall based on prior similar incidents or on explicit warnings of Hall's actions," McClellan wrote in March. He added that the nurses are only eligible for monetary claims from CCA and the County under Florida's Workman's Comp statutes. The case is now being reviewed by Florida's First District Court of Appeals. Hall, Hunt, Baker and Baucum were held hostage for 11 hours by four inmates. During negotiations all of the hostages except for Hunt were released in exchange for pizza and a cell phone. The Sheriff's Office's tactical team stormed into the third floor of the old Bay County Jail and freed Hunt. However, Hunt was shot three times by deputies in the Sept. 6, 2004 incident. She filed suit for loss of earnings, pain and suffering and medical expenses incurred. The bullets entered her hip, back and left leg, damaging bones and vital organs. She survived but had to undergo physical rehabilitation. The other nurses were not physically injured in the incident. Three of the four men involved in the takeover, Kevin Nix, James Norton and Matthew Coffin were convicted of false imprisonment. Nix, Norton and Coffin were acquitted of more serious charges in the incident, but still sentenced to 15 years in prison for their roles. The fourth, alleged ringleader Kevin Winslett, plead guilty to grand theft auto, resisting an officer with violence, assault on a corrections officer, three counts of false imprisonment and six counts of battery on corrections officers. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison in 2007. H. Lawrence Perry, the attorney for Baucum, Baker and Hunt, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday. CCA and County officials declined to comment because the matter is facing an appeal.

January 29, 2009 News Herald
A prison employee believed to be romantically involved with an inmate was arrested Thursday on charges of introducing contraband into a correctional facility, officials said. Tina L. Ortiz, 35, of Chipley is accused of bringing a cellular phone into Bay Correctional Facility with the intention of giving it to an inmate, according to a Bay County Sheriff's Office release. Ortiz was working at Bay Correctional Facility, a prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America, as a mental health specialist assistant, Bay County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Ruth Corley said. "She was not one of our employees," Corley said. Ortiz became a suspect when prison authorities found a cellular phone when an inmate was moved. An investigation to discover the phone's ownership suggested she and an inmate may have been romantically involved, Corely said. "Investigators discovered messages between the two that revealed their relationship was romantic in nature," Corley said. Bay County Sheriff's Officials were brought into the investigation Wednesday, Corley said, and it was determined Ortiz had brought the phone into the facility. Ortiz was arrested and later admitted to the crime, Corley said. "She has given us a full confession," Corley said.

January 23, 2009 News-Herald
Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet found enough evidence in Anthony Davis' case to allow it to go forward, despite Davis exposing some weaknesses in the evidence. Davis, 40, is charged with two counts each of bribing public servants and introducing contraband into a penal facility. He's accused of paying two corrections workers at the Bay County Jail to smuggle cigarettes, marijuana, prescription pills, nude photos and a cell phone to him. All four charges against Davis are third-degree felonies carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison each. Davis appeared before Overstreet on Thursday for a preliminary adversarial hearing in which the evidence against him was laid out for the judge to decide if it established probable cause in the case. Prosecutor Pat Faucheux brought three sheriff's investigators to the stand and Davis called the two former corrections workers, Angela Childs and Shannon Copeland. Copeland refused to testify, however, evoking her right against self incrimination because she has pending charges. Childs, who has resolved her case, told Overstreet that she brought Davis a total of five packs of cigarettes during their arrangement and received money in return. Childs said the money came to her through Western Union in a check that was not made out to her and was not sent directly by Davis. Investigators said they only have testimonial evidence that Davis organized payments to Copeland and Childs through another party. When Childs was arrested, she was carrying a cell phone and prescription Xanax in a bottle. She testified that both items were hers. Investigators said Copeland began a sexual relationship with Davis the day Childs was arrested. The affair was discovered when jail officials tapped into an intercom system and overheard an "explicit" conversation between Copeland and Davis. When she was arrested, investigators said, she was carrying nude photos of herself, a sexual device and an MP-3 player. More nude photos of Copeland were allegedly found in Davis' cell. Davis, who acted as his own lawyer in this hearing, argued that Childs, at the time of the alleged transactions, was an employee of Corrections Corporation of America Inc., which was operating the jail at that time. Davis said Childs was a corporate employee, not a public servant as described in the charge. He also argued that the items seized from Copeland and Childs were their items and there was no direct connection between him and the money. Davis said when he was arrested he was not in possession of cigarettes, drugs or a phone. Overstreet, however, ruled that there was probable cause to go forward and scheduled Davis for another court date March 17.

December 15, 2008 News-Herald
A detention officer accused of sneaking drugs and nude photographs of herself into Bay County Jail was arrested Sunday, Bay Sheriff's Office officials said. Shannon Nicole Copeland, of 1613 Fairy Ave., was met at the jail by Sheriff Frank McKeithen and jail administrator Rick Anglin as she began her shift Sunday. A search of her person revealed a CD of nude photographs of herself and several printed nude images, according to a Bay County Sheriff's Office release. A search of an inmate's cell uncovered additional nude photos of Copeland, 23, who told investigators she engaged in sexual misconduct with the inmate and had brought him marijuana, the release said. Copeland, a control room operator who had been entrusted with the movements of inmates, was a former employee of Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, and had been retained by the jail as an uncertified detention specialist after the transition.

November 5, 2008 News Herald
A Bay County Jail correctional officer was arrested Wednesday morning and accused of smuggling contraband into the detention facility, authorities said. Angela Lavonne Chiles, 41, of 9304 Kelly Circle, Youngstown, was beginning her shift at 6 a.m. when she was found to be in possession of about 17 alprazolam pills, which are available only by prescription, according to a Bay County Sheriff's Office release. Investigators learned Chiles had been introducing other contraband into the jail, including tobacco products that were being sold among inmates for $30 to $50 per pack, the release said. Chiles, who was terminated immediately, was taken to the Bay County Jail and booked on charges of introduction of contraband into a detention facility and unlawful compensation for official behavior, the release said. Jail Warden Rick Anglin said Wednesday's arrest was a positive signal the Sheriff's Office intends to improve security and run the jail with professionalism. "It (the arrest) is a sign that the Sheriff's Office isn't gonna tolerate this kind of stuff," Anglin said. "You can't allow this kind of thing to occur; it jeopardizes the safety of inmates and the detention officers." Anglin said Correctional Corporation of America hired Chiles in April 2008, and she was rehired when the Bay Sheriff's Office assumed responsibility of the jail Oct. 9.

October 9, 2008 WJHB TV7
The Bay County Sheriff's Office now has a new duty on its list. After almost 25 years of a privately run jail, the sheriff's office is back in charge. The official takeover of jail operations from Corrections Corporation of America is happening right now at 6:00. It's been a been almost five months from the time CCA decided they wouldn't run the jail till the sheriff's office has taken over today, and Sheriff McKeithen says his men and women have been working day and night to be prepared.

September 21, 2008 News-Herald
The reaction this week to jail nurse Kathy Baucum's fear of being placed - with a cart full of medications - with dozens of inmates and one guard tells you what you need to know about a corporate-run jail versus a locally operated one. Baucum was one of the hostages held by inmates at the Corrections Corporation of America-run downtown jail in 2004. It was a 12-hour standoff with inmates who got access to pharmaceuticals and took nurses hostage and ended in gunfire and one nurse getting shot. Part of the fault in that case was the method used for distributing the medicines and locks. A new system was put in place, one that left Baucum and other nurses feeling safer. About a week ago, it changed again, and the nurses were told to enter a cell pod - where between 50 and 120 inmates are housed - with one guard between the inmates, the nurse and the medications. Baucum refused. She says she was fired, that they took her CCA identification card and told her not to return. Warden Joe Ponte says she wasn't fired, that he was willing to discuss it. More telling, he had this to say about her concerns: The job, like any others, has its dangers and the nurses know of those ahead of time. It's how some other jails do it. That was a one-time incident. That while the new jail is set up for nurses to hand out meds via a safe station, it needlessly blocks hallways for too long. That means nothing to Baucum, who was at the mercy of inmates not that long ago. "No one knows it until they lived it," she said. "If it can happen once, it can happen again." Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen lived it. He negotiated with the inmates who held Baucum for 12 hours. He and his men secured the release of one hostage for pizza, and another for a cell phone. They heard the call from one kidnapper to a girlfriend, essentially saying he didn't plan to live through the night. "You had to see the terror in those ladies' faces," McKeithen said. "If you had, you wouldn't put them in that position again." And that is the problem, it seems at times. CCA, on its way out as operator of the jail, does not seem to see the terror in the faces. They don't seem to see the broken locks, the families trying to visit loved ones only to find the process unmanageable at times. They see a bottom line, which is what businesses do. McKeithen said others were aware of the change in the procedure last week, and he had already decided that was not how it would be handled once the Sheriff's Office takes over. "It's designed so they can safely dispense those medicines," McKeithen said. "And that's how we intend to use it." Ponte's job, as an employee of CCA, is to safely run the jail, maximize profits, minimize costs and serve his corporate bosses. McKeithen's job, as an elected sheriff, is to safely run the jail, minimize costs as long as it's not at the expense of the employees, while at the same time keeping his constituents happy. Those constituents include the people in jail and their families. This is not to say all will be well when the Sheriff's Office takes over. Running a jail is rarely smooth. It is to say that the sheriff is starting with a clean slate, and we hope it stays that way.

September 18, 2008 News-Herald
Even if it means her job, Kathy Baucum won't be a hostage again. Baucum, 50, a local nurse, said she was fired Wednesday by Corrections Corporations of America from the Bay County Jail because she refused to put herself in a dangerous situation. Baucum knows dangerous situations all too well; in September 2004 she was held as a hostage during a 12-hour siege in the CCA-run jail in downtown Panama City. Last week, the jail's warden, Joe Ponte, issued a memo ordering all nurses to enter the jail's pods with the inmates and hand out medicine, Baucum said. Under the new rule, Baucum and other nurses would bring a cart full of controlled substances into the pods, a room filled with anywhere from 60 to more than 120 inmates, and the nurse and cart would be escorted by one guard, she said. A single guard standing between a nurse, a cart full of drugs, and dozens of inmates would almost certainly lead to another hostage situation or worse, Baucum said. "No one knows it until they lived it," Baucum said. During the 2004 incident, the inmates went for drugs first, she said. They snorted over-the-counter medication when they could not get to controlled substances, she added. For about a week, Baucum and several other nurses did not comply with the order, she said. On Wednesday night, the nurses were told they had to follow the memo and enter the pods. Baucum said she refused and was fired. Other nurses there do not agree with the rule either but cannot afford to lose their jobs, Baucum said. When she complained to a supervisor, Baucum said she was told the 2004 hostage crisis was a "one-time thing." "If it can happen once, it can happen again," Baucum said. Ponte said Baucum has not been fired. Instead, she was sent home for one night and he has tried to contact her Thursday. "I'd like Kathy to come in and talk to see if we can alleviate her concerns so she can come back to work," Ponte said. "She's a good nurse." However, the current plan for delivering medication is "not that unusual," Ponte said. He pointed out the guard and the nurses were watched at all times by another guard outside the pod. Ponte said it was a change for some of the nurses, but it was done this way successfully in several other jails. Ponte said Baucum did not try to talk to him or make an appointment with him before Wednesday's incident. "If they (employees) have an issue or problem, I'm always available to talk to them," he said. Baucum was sent home for the night because she was refusing to do her job and the inmates needed to get their medication, Ponte said. "I have a responsibility for the care and the custody of these inmates," he added. "After that, we could talk at any length about any concerns." Baucum said there is no doubt she was fired Wednesday night. Her badge was taken away from her, she was told to return all CCA property and she was escorted from the building, she said. She said she was told her termination paperwork would be filled out in the morning and she should not return to the jail. There are two other options that could be used instead of entering the pod, Baucum said. One is to administer the pills through a feed flap at the bottom of a door. "According to the warden, it is not humane to do it through a feed flap," Baucum said. The other would be to use a nurse's station attached to the pods and keeps the nurses separated from the inmates by a window. After the annex was built, the nurses were told the station was "just for show," Baucum said. Those options won't work, Ponte said. The nurse's station ties up a hallway too long, forcing jail operations to stop while the pills are distributed, Ponte said. And inmates cannot talk with the nurse through the feeding slot without shouting and being overheard by other inmates, he added. Legally, inmates must be able to talk to a caregiver without others hearing the conversation, Ponte said. Baucum now is looking for another job, but she said getting fired was worth it if it means the warden reverses his decision and the other nurses are safe. "I'm doing this for the other nurses that are there," Baucum said. "I don't want anybody else's safety jeopardized."

September 16, 2008 News-Herald
In preparation for taking control of the Bay County Jail once Corrections Corp. of America leaves the facility next month, the Bay County Commission received an update on the process from the Bay County Sheriff's Office Tuesday. "Are we encountering any glitches that were unforeseen?" asked Commission Chairman Jerry Girvin. Maj. J.B. Holloway of the sheriff's department reported there were "some minor things," but that the changing of the guard should go off without a hitch. "We made an informal step into this kind of anticipating problems," Holloway told the board, adding that questions regarding equipment inventory and other minor issues had arisen. Holloway said the sheriff's office had already spent $252,735 toward the transition effort. He requested an additional $172,000 to purchase existing equipment from CCA. The sheriff's office is still in the process of determining exactly what equipment will be bought from the company. "They're trying to sell us some stuff that we think is obsolete," Holloway said. He also reported that his office was "up to speed" on hiring employees for the jail. He said about 300 applicants had been interviewed thus far, and 25 positions remained unfilled.

September 3, 2008 News-Herald
Accused killer Ahmad Smith's jury selection started an hour late Tuesday because Bay County Jail officials transported him late and lost his court clothes. Circuit Judge Don T. Sirmons reacted by putting jail Warden Joe Ponte and his officers on notice that if it happens again, he will find them in contempt of court. A finding of contempt of court by a judge can result in a short jail term or fine. Smith, 29, is charged with first-degree felony murder, robbery with a firearm and burglary of a dwelling with a firearm. He is accused of participating with Jay Broxton and Eric Harden in a robbery of James Edwards Jr.'s Shadow Bay Drive home on Oct. 3, 2006. Edwards was shot to death when he fought back. Broxton and Harden were convicted, based largely on Smith's testimony in court against both men, and sentenced to life in prison. Smith had worked out a plea to a prison sentence of less than life in exchange for his trial testimony, but in March, when the state would go no lower than 20 years, Smith refused to plead guilty and insisted on going to trial. Smith's attorney indicated Tuesday that Smith might not take the stand. Apparel problem -- Prosecutor Shalla Phelps and defense attorney Jean Marie Downing spent most of Tuesday finding 12 deliberating jurors and two alternates to hear the evidence. The trial is expected to go all week. The day started with Downing scrambling to find suitable clothing for her client. The courts have ruled jail uniforms might be prejudicial and defendants have a right to dress in street clothes for trial. Downing told Sirmons that her assistant had dropped off clothing to the jail Friday, but jail officials could not immediately locate the clothes Tuesday morning. Eventually, the Public Defender's Office loaned Smith a button-up shirt and slacks until his suit arrived from the jail. The jail is going through two transitions, having recently moved all inmates from the downtown jail to what was the annex in Bayou George. Operation of the jail also is moving, from Corrections Corporation of America to the Bay County Sheriff's Office in October. Deputy Public Defender Walter Smith said he had to fight for clothing from the jail on a prior occasion for another defendant, asking at that time that jail officials be held in contempt of court. For these kinds of emergencies, the office has a small supply of slacks, shirts and ties to loan to defendants. "It happens 50 percent of the time, and I'm not exaggerating," Walter Smith said of the clothes issue. "I always bring clothes to the jail on the Friday afternoon before trial. That way they only have two days to lose them." He said other jails in the state are far more accommodating when it comes to inmate court clothing. "Every time the issue comes up, CCA acts like it's never been raised before," Smith said. Ponte did not return a phone message Tuesday seeking comment.

August 25, 2008 WMBB News 13
The new Bay County Jail is now housing around 900 prisoners, but a problem finding permanent staff is causing the Sheriff’s Office to expand the search. The Bay County Sheriff’s department has been searching for staff for the new jail. The current staff members are employed by the Corrections Corporation of America. So far, the sheriff’s office has only recommended around 190 for hire out of around 270 applicants. On October 9th, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office will take over the facility and many of the current CCA staff will become BCSO employees.

July 15, 2008 WJHG
The board voted to enact the Bay County Jail transition agreement between the Bay County Sheriff's Office, the County Commission, and Corrections Corporation of America. The agreement is the next step in the sheriff's takeover of the county jail. Back on June 17 the board voted unanimously for Sheriff Frank McKeithen and the sheriff's office to run the jail when CCA leaves in October, but before they take over they want to make sure they have a smooth transition. The sheriff’s office will work with CCA to go over operation procedures. They will also begin the process of interviewing and training staff to be correctional officers. Jerry Girvin of the County Commission said, "We'll start with the very senior folks and then work down to the deputy warden, the captains, and lieutenants and whatnot. They will shadow the current operations so that when we take over officially in October, or when the sheriff does it won't be walking in blind, they would have spent time with the current staff and they'll know where the keys are, where the doors are, and how things work." The agreement goes into effect immediately. The sheriff is set to officially take over on October 1.

June 19, 2008 News-Herald
A Corrections Corporation of America officer was arrested Thursday and charged with three counts of sexual battery, police said. Robert C. Heller, 27, of Parker, was a CCA employee assigned to the Bay County Jail, Detective Aaron Wilson with the Parker Police Department said. No further information was available Thursday night.

June 17, 2008 News-Herald
It is going to cost more, but Bay County commissioners expect to get their money's worth out of Sheriff Frank McKeithen when he takes over operations of the county's jail facility in October. Commissioners passed an ordinance Tuesday placing McKeithen at the helm when current operator Corrections Corporation of America leaves in the fall. He officially will take over Oct. 9. There was little discussion on the matter at the commission meeting. Most of the talking took place weeks ago. In May, when Tennessee-based CCA cited financial hardship and announced it would be leaving, Commission Chairman Jerry Girvin described more of an opportunity than crisis. The county had been critical of the company for several incidents through the years, including hostage standoffs, smuggled contraband and sex scandals. "While we're not totally delighted with the concept, it's now in our lap and we'll deal with it," Girvin said at the time. "Really, in most of the counties in Florida, the sheriff does run the jail." McKeithen told the board June 3 that the Bay County Sheriff's Office could operate the facility for $17,855,216 a year. That is about $7 more per inmate, per day than CCA's price, which McKeithen said is because county employees require more pay and benefits. Also, Bay County spokeswoman Valerie Lovett said peripheral details, such as who would provide food and health services at the facility, still are being worked out. Such costs would be above and beyond the sheriff's estimate. Commissioners stressed Tuesday that CCA should be held accountable to their agreement to construct the current expansion project at the U.S. 231 jail annex. "We need to hold the money until we're sure they have fulfilled all their responsibilities," said Commissioner George Gainer. County Attorney Terrell Arline said such things are being handled. The county, he said, also will be requesting CCA further explain its exit. "One of our intentions is to have them explain, in writing, how they were not able to fulfill their obligations," Arline said.

June 8, 2008 News-Herald
Originally, Sheriff Frank McKeithen was reluctant to run Bay County's jail system. But in an interview last week, McKeithen was armed with ideas and plans for changes at the local jail. McKeithen stressed, however, that he does not have the job yet. The Bay County Commission will meet June 17 and is expected to vote on McKeithen's proposal to run the jail, taking over the job from the private Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA. During their last meeting, commissioners supported the idea. "It's not going to be easy," McKeithen said. "Every day will be a work in progress. We can't get complacent." If commissioners approve him for the job, McKeithen would send every jail employee an information packet that will let them know where they stand, he said. Nearly 300 people work at two local jail facilities, one downtown and the other at the jail annex near Bayou George, which is being expanded and eventually will replace the downtown facility. "We're not going to leave them hanging," McKeithen said. "Everybody there will have an opportunity to retain their jobs." As long as current employees are properly qualified, they most likely would keep their jobs, McKeithen added. However, every employee also would have to fill out an application and go through the application process, he said. "I have confidence in the people that are there, and they are going to be there," McKeithen said. He said it was too early too say how employees at the jail would be structured and managed, but he did talk about the need to streamline the two organizations. Jail employees would be part of the "family" that makes up the Sheriff's Office, McKeithen said. In his budget, McKeithen has approved a raise for the starting salary of jail employees from about $26,000 a year to $30,000 a year. New ideas -- The sheriff has several new ideas about how things should be run. To start, he said, jail officials would implement an inmate management system that would give corrections officials a "better handle on these prisoners." McKeithen mentioned that in the past, some inmates were kept in jail past their release dates. In November, nine inmates were released from the jail before their release dates and had to return. McKeithen said the new inmate management system would work closely with courthouse officials to ensure these kinds of incidents don't happen. McKeithen also said he wants a Web site that would let the public know inmate status, visiting hours and other important information. The sheriff also expressed concern for the treatment of inmates' relatives. "We want to better train our staff in customer service," McKeithen said. Parents, siblings and others who visit an inmate must be treated with courtesy and respect, he added. "It's already a stressful visit," McKeithen said. "A county jail is accountable to the citizens of that county." Work-release programs and other possibilities also were on McKeithen's mind last week. These things, done right, could "save the taxpayer money," he said. The money -- Last month, Nashville-based CCA, which has run Bay County's jail operations for more than 20 years, told county officials they were leaving town. Although they had signed a contract, CCA officials said could not run the jail for the planned cost of $43.34 per inmate, per day and were leaving the county Oct. 1. According to information provided by Bay County officials, Charlotte County pays $76.29 per inmate per day. Indian River County pays $75 per inmate per day, while Santa Rosa pays $49 per inmate per day. McKeithen's proposal breaks down to $50.79 per inmate, per day, for a total of $17.9 million. McKeithen asked Rick Anglin, Bay County's liaison to CCA and contract monitor, to investigate the needs and come up with his budget proposal. Much of Anglin's job involved overseeing CCA and ensuring the company followed its contract. The sheriff said it was important to have someone outside the Sheriff's Office do the initial budget. Anglin investigated CCA's budget and the budgets of several jails across the state before writing the new budget, he said. Anglin and McKeithen estimate they would pay $13.5 million for salaries and benefits; $1.3 for medical supplies, pharmacy needs and hospital services; $115,000 for mental health services; $956,230 for food services; and $53,160 for uniforms, security equipment and ammo. McKeithen pointed out the food contract breaks down to 93 cents per meal. "There's no fat built into that budget," Anglin said. New jail -- If McKeithen takes over Oct. 1, he would inherit the jail facilities at the U.S. 231 annex site, which eventually will serve as the area's only jail. Good riddance, he said. "That is a monster," he said of the downtown jail, adding that many of the safety and security problems jail officials have dealt with over the years were caused by the dilapidated building. But when CCA leaves, it also might take with it computers, desks and other equipment the company purchased. The county would have to replace that, McKeithen said. The furnishings and equipment in the new buildings will stay, McKeithen said. "It does appear to be a state-of-the-art facility," he added. That facility is part of a residential neighborhood, something McKeithen is taking into account. Inmates will only be released from the U.S. 231 site if they have a ride or a cab. If they do not, they will be taken to the courthouse and released from an office there, McKeithen said. This will keep former inmates from walking through a residential neighborhood and place them closer to Bay County's bus station, rescue mission and other services they might need, he added. Though he might have been reluctant at first, McKeithen seemed to be looking forward to the new situation. "I'm to the point were I'm ready for the challenge," he said. "I want this to be the best jail in the state of Florida."

June 6, 2008 News-Herald
If it's true that you get what you pay for, then Bay County should receive moderately better operation of its jail with Sheriff Frank McKeithen in charge. County commissioners indicated Tuesday that they plan to hire the Sheriff's Office to run the jail and replace Corrections Corporation of America, a Tennessee-based company that has contracted to do the job for the last 23 years. CCA informed the county last month that it was seeking a divorce, citing irreconcilable financial differences: Officials said they couldn't provide adequate service for what the county was paying them. Enter McKeithen, who previously had expressed a willingness to assume responsibility for the jail but told commissioners up front that it would cost them more. Tuesday, he laid out the numbers: Whereas CCA had been charging the county $46.18 per inmate per day (which was scheduled to drop to $43.34 when the new jail annex opens this fall), the Sheriff's Office said it would charge $50.79 - or about $18 million a year, $3 million more than CCA. Saving money was costing the county numerous headaches. Under CCA's direction, the jail had experienced several embarrassing - and sometimes dangerous - incidents in recent years, often resulting from staff failures. How much of that was due to low salaries and how much to CCA's training and oversight? We should find out the answer soon enough. Either way, the jail needed a fresh start. The question is, should the county have spent more time looking elsewhere before settling on the sheriff? Why not re-bid the contract and see if it could get a better deal for taxpayers? The answer is that it probably would have been a waste of time. First of all, there aren't that many companies that run jails. Indeed, the last time the county bid the work, only one other company competed with CCA. Out of Florida's 67 counties, only three - Bay, Citrus and Hernando - contract out their jail operations, and Bay has by far the cheapest per diem rate. Eight county jails are run by county commissions, and the remaining 56 are operated by the sheriffs. According to Bay County staff research, most of the counties with inmate populations comparable to Bay's pay a higher per diem than McKeithen's estimate. One advantage to turning the jail over to the sheriff is that if issues arise, the county can deal directly with a local official it knows well, instead of some corporate bureaucracy. Furthermore, that official is elected, which means he has to answer to the public for the jail's performance. Commissioners still must keep a close eye on the bottom line, and that means watching out for unintended expenses that might crop up that would significantly boost McKeithen's per diem estimate. For instance, according to the terms of the CCA contract, any equipment purchased after 2006 belongs to CCA. If the company takes that stuff with it when it leaves, how much will it cost to replace it? McKeithen says it might take a year to determine exactly what it will cost to run the jail. He deserves an opportunity to demonstrate it will be money well spent.

June 3, 2008 News-Herald
Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen informed county officials Tuesday he could take over jail operations for just less than $18 million a year. "I haven't sugar-coated these numbers; these are real," McKeithen told county commissioners during their regular meeting. "With all due respect, this will be my only proposal. I'm not going to compete with anyone." The cost estimate, breaking down to $50.79 per inmate, per day, is higher than the current $46.18 charged by Corrections Corporation of America. The company is walking away from the jail in October, shy of a contract-stipulated drop to $43.34 upon the completion of the jail expansion project at the annex property off U.S. 231. McKeithen said the higher quote primarily was because county employees require a more competitive salary and benefits. "It's a little higher rate," conceded Bay County Commission Chairman Jerry Girvin, "but let's face it; a lot of the problems have been because of the salary." The board was unanimously receptive to the sheriff's projections. Legal counsel, however, advised that a formal ordinance declaring such would need to be written up for the June 17 county meeting and approved. "I think what we're saying, sheriff ... you'll have a new hat to wear," Girvin said. McKeithen stressed his numbers were only estimates. The per diem rate also assumes a minimum of 963 jail beds is filled. "It would take a year to realize exactly what it's going to cost out there," he said. Officials have budgeted $16.8 million in jail costs for the 2008 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, according to Bay County spokeswoman Valerie Lovett. Of that amount, $16.2 million would be paid to CCA to cover the per diem expenses; the other $600,000 would cover costs, such as building maintenance, that are not in CCA's contract, Lovett said. Had CCA continued its contract another year at the lower per diem rate, the county would have paid $15.2 million to CCA for Fiscal Year 2009, and the overall cost would have been $15.8 million. Commissioner Bill Dozier said the sheriff's numbers seemed right, as opposed to CCA's $43. When alerting the county to their planned departure, company officials cited inadequate finances. "This is realistic," Dozier said. "That was unrealistic." If the ordinance is approved at the commission's next meeting, McKeithen will not take over the facility until CCA's October exit.

June 3, 2008 WMBB
Running the Bay County jail is not the most glamorous of jobs, but Sheriff Frank McKeithen has offered to take on the task to the delight of the Bay County Commission. At Tuesday's regular Commission meeting McKeithen made clear that he could not garuntee there would be no problems under his watch. "I'm not going to tell you there will never be a hostage situation or jail break or issues in jail but I will tell you that there will be far less than what CCA has had to deal with in that facility downtown," said McKeithen. Last month Bay County expressed disappointment that Corrections Corporation of America would not run the new jail at a rate of $43 a day per prisoner, but Tuesday they said McKeithen's offer of $50 per prisoner a day was reasonable. "We have looked at jails all over the state of Florida and the typical per day jail rate is $54 to $64 throughout the state," said Chairman Jerry Girvin. The Sheriff estimates that the total budget for the year will be around $17.8 million- that's an increase of one million after CCA leaves- and McKeithen says that money is largely due to raises for personnel. "There is a possibility that if this amount of money is given that we may have money left over. There's a possibility that we may have to ask you for more money," McKeithen said. Commissioners say choosing the Sheriff over another private contractor is the most preferable of options. "This is not a knee jerk reaction. This is something that everyone of us has taken time with, everyone of us, the sheriff, and our staff," said Commissioner Mike Thomas. County Attorneys will draft an ordinance in the coming weeks to be considered in a public hearing at it's next meeting on June 17th.

May 27, 2008 News-Herald
Bay County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously rejected an offer by Emerald Correctional Management to drop its lawsuit against the county in exchange for the keys to its jails. The offer was passed on to the board by County Attorney Terrel Arline. "Can we laugh first?" asked Commissioner Mike Thomas. Emerald Correctional Management filed suit against the county in 2006, claiming the bidding process for the construction of the new jail off U.S. 231 was flawed. Arline said he recommended the offer be rejected, but was obligated to inform the commission about what was being put on the table. "Would ‘Hell no' be appropriate?" Commissioner George Gainer said. "I was gonna use those terms," Arline replied, "but I bit my tongue." Although Emerald Correctional was the original low bidder on the project, after some bid clarifications, the job was awarded to the only other responding party, Corrections Corporation of America. The Tennessee-based CCA currently is constructing the new county jail but recently notified the county it would be pulling out of its contract Oct. 1 because of financial concerns. Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen is researching how much it would cost his office to take over the facility. He has told commissioners it would be more than what CCA is charging: $46.18 per inmate, per day. Upon completion of the new jail expansion, the rate was expected to drop to about $43. Commissioners approved an agreement Tuesday with Tyndall Air Force Base to house Air Force pre-trial detainees at the current Bay County Jail. Thomas stipulated that any per-inmate costs agreement would need to jibe with future decisions regarding management of the jail once CCA departs.

May 21, 2008 News-Herald
A Bay County Jail captain has been placed on administrative leave after a weekend traffic crash. Capt. Stacy C. Blakeney, 36, was driving an estimated 80 mph in a 35 mph zone on Beach Drive when he rolled his vehicle late Sun-day, according to a Panama City Police Department crash report. Police said Blakeney was driving west near Buena Vista Boule-vard about 11:30 p.m., and his vehicle drifted off the road. His 2003 Chevrolet struck a power pole and began to spin. The vehicle crossed the front yard of a home, crashed through a row of shrubs, hit two trees and flipped, landing on its top in the next yard. Blakeney was not seriously injured, police reported. Police estimated damage to the vehicle at $15,000, to the power pole at $3,000 and to landscaping at $2,000. Criminal charges are pending the results of a blood-alcohol test, police reported. Joe Ponte, warden of the Bay County Jail, said Blakeney declined to speak to supervisors about the circumstances of the crash. With criminal charges pending, he cannot be com-pelled to make a statement, Ponte said. Blakeney works at the downtown jail, according to Ponte.

May 14, 2008 News-Herald
It takes millions of dollars a year to run the Bay County jail but now that Corrections Corporation of America is leaving town, the County Commission worries it could cost a tremendous amount more. Bay County went to a lot of effort to try to save money on the construction on a $40 million facility including a lawsuit from a company bidding on the project. In the end the County went with Corrections Corporation of America. "The fact that they designed it around their ability to run it, that was supposed to be a savings for everybody," said Commissioner George Gainer on Wednesday. At Tuesday's County Commission meeting, Commissioners announced that CCA planned to leave the new jail in October. CCA and the County signed a 6 year contract in 2006. The terms of the contract say the company would be responsible for building the new jail to be completed by August. After the jail was complete, the County's rate per prisoner per day was supposed to drop from $46 dollars to $43 a day in 2009. "My problem is they're not sticking around long enough for Bay County to realize if the design is one that is going to save us money. If it's what we paid for," said Gainer. While the County has a number of options for running the new facility, Gainer says he thinks each one would be more expensive than CCA. He hopes the commission will address his concerns at a workshop on Friday. "This whole process was entered into because of the savings on the per diem. I think we're paying $43 a day now and if we've got to pay $56 at this facility- I think that $13 a day is the basis of a tremendous lawsuit back against CCA," said Gainer. CCA's official reason for leaving the county was that wages and benefits for staff could not be covered with the rate worked out with Bay County. County Commissioners will weigh three options at a special workshop Friday including running the jail themselves as a County Department, asking Sheriff Frank McKeithen to step in, or hiring another private contractor to run the jail.

May 13, 2008 News-Herald
Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, let the county know late Monday that it would be abandoning its local operations in 150 days, or Oct. 1. “Where our path will take us, we don’t know,” Bay County Commission Chairman Jerry Girvin said of the question left in CCA’s wake. “It’s been a long-term relationship, but it’s probably one that’s run its course, and it’s time to go separate directions.” During the commission’s meeting Tuesday, the board briefly discussed the last-minute news before scheduling a workshop for 2 p.m. Friday at Panama City City Hall to further explore the county’s options. Girvin said the two most probable options would be to either run the jail as a county department or turn operations over to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. “Really, in most of the counties in Florida, the sheriff does run the jail,” Girvin said Tuesday afternoon. CCA, which has operated the area’s jails for more than 20 years, cited financial concerns as the reason for pulling out of Bay County. Spokeswoman Louise Grant said the Tennessee-based company could not continue to pay the competitive wages needed to “retain the brightest and the best staff.” Locally, CCA employs almost 290 people. Warden Joe Ponte said the average jail employee makes about $28,000. CCA entered into a new contract with Bay County in 2006 that stipulated a per-inmate rate of $46.18 per day. Last year, the company was paid $15.8 million. The six-year contract also called for the company to expand on the facilities at the U.S. 231 annex site, which will serve as the area’s only jail once the downtown location is closed. County officials said the work should be complete before CCA’s October departure. Ponte said his staff has been made aware of the situation. “As it starts to sink in, people are asking questions: ‘Who’s going to run it?’” Ponte said. “We don’t have any answers to that stuff.” The possibility of running local jails is not a new concept to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. Department officials have suspected this day might arrive and have assessed if such a venture would be a viable option. “We’ve heard these rumors here, lately,” Major J.B. Holloway said of CCA’s exit, sounding confident about Sheriff Frank McKeithen’s prospects of running such an operation. “The sheriff has run a jail on a small scale,” Holloway said, referring to his boss’s stint heading up a Gulf County facility when McKeithen was the sheriff there. “I feel certain he could do it here.” Regardless of what Bay County officials decide to do when CCA leaves, Ponte hopes the people currently staffing the facilities will be included in the plans. “This is a jail, it’s going to be run as a jail, and they’re going to need people to run it,” he said, adding that CCA also is offering to relocate some employees to other prison operations but that “a lot of people don’t want to move.” Holloway said it would be “premature” to discuss possible costs of running Bay County’s operations, but the Sheriff’s Office previously stated it might not be able to match CCA’s price. Girvin hinted the county might be open to paying more. That would depend on many things,” Girvin said. “How much more? What kind of bang are we getting for our buck?” CCA problems -- At times, officials have indicated CCA’s bang for the buck has not been sufficient. Since first beginning work in Bay County in October 1985, the private correctional company has weathered a number of storms that caused local officials concern. Last November, CCA released nine inmates early by accident. In June 2007, an inmate fashioned a plastic utensil into a lock-pick and briefly broke out of his cell. In 2005, a CCA nurse was fired after an inmate gave birth inside the jail annex four hours after complaining of labor pains. Another nurse, as well as a supervisor, was fired for having sex with an inmate. In 2004, a nurse was shot in a hostage standoff after inmates escaped from their cells. CCA said such instances were not a factor in the decision to leave town. “No, operations did not play a role in this at all,” said Grant, stressing CCA’s financial concerns. “Nothing else played into that.” Recently, county officials have made strong statements directed at CCA in regard to the company’s mishaps. “They’re going to run it right, or we’ll get somebody who will run it right,” said County Commissioner Mike Nelson, following the accidental inmate release last fall. Girvin said that although CCA’s notice was not expected, it is an issue county officials are ready to address. “While we’re not totally delighted with the concept,” Girvin said, “it’s now in our lap and we’ll deal with it.”

May 13, 2008 WJHG
Corrections Corporation of America, C-C-A, the private company which has operated the Bay County Jail since 1985, says it has had enough and is cancelling its contract effect October first. C-C-A made the disclosure in a letter to the Bay County Commission revealed this morning. Reason for the termination was not disclosed. The company said it was exercising its 150 day option spelled out in it 2006 contract with Bay County. The county commission has scheduled a special meeting for Friday7 afternoon to discuss several options, two of which include having the Sheriff take back operations of the jail, or the commission operating the jail itself. Would the Sheriff be interested? A spokesman for Sheriff Frank McKeithen said this morning he would not have any comment on the C-C-A issue until he meets with the county commission Friday. Meanwhile, work continues on the building of the new Bay County jail in Bayou George. CCA will finish building it before its contract expires.

November 21, 2007 News Herald
Bay County commissioners sent a clear message Tuesday to Corrections Corporation of America: Shape up or ship out, and pay $140,000. “We need to go aggressively at them,” Commissioner Mike Nelson said. “We’re gonna have to get it across to the folks up in Tennessee that we take this very seriously.” Nashville-based CCA runs the Bay County Jail and Jail Annex. On Nov. 1, the company mistakenly released nine inmates early from a substance abuse program. All the inmates voluntarily returned within a week. A county report released Nov. 13 listed a number of chinks in CCA’s armor. Primarily, the report cited poor judgment on the part of jail staff as the biggest reason for the oversight. “This is a jail, and it needs to be run like one,” Nelson said. “It shouldn’t have happened; I don’t want it to ever happen again.” In addition to corrective measures, such as notifying the county within 30 minutes of an incident and creating new booking and classification procedures, commissioners also are fining CCA $140,000 for the inmates’ release. The contract with the corporation stipulates financial penalties may be levied in such cases, and will be taken out of the county’s monthly payments to CCA. The agenda for Tuesday’s County Commission meeting did not list the jail issue. It came up during the commissioner comments section of the meeting. No one from CCA spoke during the meeting. The company is conducting its own investigation into the inmates’ release. County officials signed a six-year contract in May 2006 for CCA to run the facility and build a $39.7 million annex. As a condition of that contract, the county may break the relationship within 90 days without cause, or within 30 days with cause. “When we were redoing our contract we said, ‘new ballgame,’” Commission Chairman Jerry Girvin noted. Nelson said CCA’s frequent lapses might merit exploring other options. “What concerns me is what else is going on out there that we don’t know about,” Nelson said. “I don’t want to see the county get into the jail business … but the sheriff may have to.” Girvin directed county staff to begin considering other options. He advised that such a consideration would be in its infancy, and staffers should “not go 24/7 on it” in the hopes CCA will begin tightening up its operation.

November 20, 2007 WJHG
Bay County wants to fine the Corrections Corporation of America $140,000 for mistakenly releasing 10 inmates from the Bay County Jail earlier this month. The fine stems from an incident that happened on November 1. CCA worker released ten inmates enrolled in a drug rehab program, before they'd completed their sentences. All of the inmates surrendered after CCA discovered the mistake and notified them. A review by the county contract monitor cited poor staff judgment, broad booking procedures, inadequate staffing, and a seven-hour delay between the time the incident occurred and the time it the contract monitor was notified. County commissioners say the penalty is justified because the release violated the contract the county has with CCA to operate the county jail system. The contract provides for the fine, based on the $1.4 million monthly amount the county pays CCA to house inmates. The fine is one percent of the monthly invoice, for each inmate released. Commissioners say the incident is unacceptable. Mike Nelson, Bay County Commissioner, "What I'm really upset about is there was a seven hour delay before anyone at our place was ever notified, and what concerns me even more is what else is going on our there that we don't even know about?" Commissioner Nelson says the county will have to watch CCA closer in the future. The board discussed other options including the termination of CCA's contract, but did not take any action.

November 14, 2007 News-Herald
Someone with Corrections Corporation of America should have noticed nine inmates were being freed early from the Bay County Jail on Nov. 1, according to a county report released Tuesday. “That kind of carelessness is something we can’t have,” said Bay County Commissioner Mike Nelson. “I mean, they’re running a jail.” Employees of the Tennessee-based company that operates the jail and jail annex for the county mistakenly released the inmates who were part of the facility’s Lifeline Substance Abuse Program. All nine inmates voluntarily returned within a week. Warden Joseph Ponte said last week that CCA staff members mistakenly released the individuals because their graduation certificates were printed early by a staff member and misinterpreted by other staff members. The documents had the correct release date for the inmates, but staff members overlooked it, Ponte said. The county report found there were numerous times at which CCA employees should have caught the mistake. At the very least, suspicions should have been raised when the inmates themselves voiced concern, the report stated. “Apparently, the staff they were telling thought it was someone else’s responsibility,” said Rick Anglin, the county’s contract monitor who interviewed CCA staff and inmates while preparing the report. Anglin said if he had to pick one reason for the mishap, it would be staffing. Three key staffers in the classification department were absent the day of the incident. Another CCA shortfall mentioned in the report concerned a seven-hour delay between the realization something had gone wrong and notification of the county. Nelson said Ponte has yet to call the county manager to discuss the matter. The report lists several corrective actions to be taken. Primarily, the county liaison must be made aware of an “unusual incident” within 30 minutes. New, clearly defined booking and classification procedures also are called for. The county’s contract allows for financial penalties when such an incident occurs. Nelson said county attorneys are pursuing that course. CCA began its own investigation into the matter the day it happened, Ponte said. That investigation should wrap up within two weeks. Nelson said the incident has shown the county needs to keep a closer watch over the corrections company. “We’re gonna have to tighten up on them,” the commissioner said. “They’re gonna run it right, or we’ll get somebody that will run it right.”

November 5, 2007 WMBB TV13
An investigation is underway at the Bay County Jail Annex after an incident that Chairman Commissioner Mike Nelson calls inexcusable. Nine inmate's were released from the jail prior to the completion of their count-ordered drug program and then told to come back. Thursday evening, The Bay County Jail Annex released nine inmate's in the facilities lifeline substance abuse program, which is a 120 day program. All nine offenders, five males, and four females were being housed for misdemeanors charges and were expected to complete the program within the next few weeks. Eight of the offenders voluntarily returned to the program. The ninth offender, whose residence is out of the state, is in the process of being notified. "The county is going to put every effort to find out how this happened and make sure it never happens again," said Nelson. Warden Ponte said the mistake happened when inmate’s completion certificates were printed early. "I apologize, this shouldn't have happened. We are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening in the future," said Ponte. The Bay County Jail is managed by Corrections Corporation of America and hope to have the investigation completed in the next couple weeks.

September 27, 2007 News-Herald
Emerald Correctional Management LLC has taken a step back from the $13.2 million it sought from Bay County — a considerable step. The Louisiana company, which argues it was slighted during the bidding process in 2005 for the county’s jail expansion project, now is seeking $514,050 to settle a lawsuit. Obed Dorceus, attorney for Emerald Correctional, said the reduction doesn’t reflect a loss of resolve. “My client wanted to make sure the county knew he was willing to compromise,” Dorceus said. “But we still believe in the case.” The county has not accepted the settlement offer. Instead, it is requesting Emerald Correctional pay $35,000 in legal fees and drop the case. W.C. Henry, who represents the county, called the original $13.2 million “ridiculous, absurd; you’ve got to be kidding me.” The most recent offer is “still blatantly absurd.” Emerald first brought suit against the county in 2006. The company claimed the county’s bidding process was tainted. Only two companies responded to the call for bids on the project; Emerald’s came in a few million dollars below Tennessee-based CCA. CCA, however, was awarded the job after both companies were asked to clarify their bids. The company had a 20-year history working with the county. The contract Bay County awarded CCA was for six years and more than $36 million, and covers the demolition of the downtown jail, the expansion of the jail annex and management of the completed facility. Ground has been broken on the annex, with an expected completion date of May 2008. Emerald sued the county, alleging it didn’t adhere to bidding rules. Bay County Circuit Judge Glenn Hess dismissed the six-pronged complaint. In May, an appellate court overturned two of Hess’ dismissals. Henry said the entire case has stalled to some degree because Emerald has not filed a new complaint after withdrawing the initial suit and focusing on the two remaining issues. “We’ve kind of been working in limbo,” Henry said. “Right now, there is no complaint. It’s kind of weird; this is very strange.” Dorceus said he plans to file a new complaint soon. Depositions are planned for Oct. 10. Several county employees, as well as Commissioner Mike Thomas, will be deposed via video. Henry said the $35,000 legal fees offer is good until Monday. He said it would spare everyone the costs of a courtroom. “We’re gonna win, and we’re gonna win big in the end,” he said. “If they see the light and realize they’re going to lose, we could save the costs.”

August 21, 2007 News-Herald
Seven suspected illegal immigrants were arrested Tuesday at a county work site. Bay County sheriff’s deputies made the arrests Tuesday at the county courthouse. The men were employed by BCL Contractors to work on the new sally port project, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release. Deputies said they checked the employment records of the workers and found the men had used stolen Social Security numbers. Each of the workers was charged with criminal use of personal identification information. The arrests could be a problem for county officials. The Bay County Commission unanimously passed a resolution in March that would allow commissioners to break contracts with companies that hired illegal workers. The resolution provided the option of banning those companies from seeking county contracts for at least a year. County spokeswoman Valerie Lovett said Tuesday evening that the suspected illegals were working on a project overseen by CCA, the company that runs the county jail. “At this point, we don’t have the details,” Lovett said. “We will be having a conversation with CCA to find out what happened.”

June 21, 2007 News Herald
Bay County Jail officials still are trying to figure out how a murder suspect escaped from his cell Monday night. Hermon Harmon, who faces the death penalty if convicted of murder in the February shooting death of Jeff Gillman, picked the lock on the door of his maximum security cell at the Bay County Jail Annex on Nehi Road, using shaved plastic eating utensils, according to an arrest affidavit. Plastic utensils were found in Harmon’s cell, but Warden Joe Ponte said that is normal. “We give them (inmates) plastic utensils with every meal,” he said. Ponte said jail maintenance workers took the lock apart Tuesday and said it was working fine. Ponte asked the lock’s manufacture, Brinks Lock Company, to send someone to examine the lock. “We want to make sure we didn’t miss anything,” he said, “and to make sure the locks are working properly.” An internal investigation is ongoing, and Ponte said it should be completed early next week. After Harmon was captured Monday night, officials checked the other locks in the segregation pod at the annex. Only one lock was found to be defective, and it has been fixed, Ponte said. Ponte began his term as warden in January, and he said that prior to his arrival, the locks had a tendency to be broken easily. If the inmates slammed the door shut when the bolt was extended, it would damage the internal lock mechanism, Ponte said. Inmates also could stuff anything in their cell into the locks and that could short out the electronics, allowing the cell door to open.

June 20, 2007 News Herald
A man charged with murder broke out of his maximum-security cell Monday night, using plastic eating utensils to pick the lock, according to an arrest affidavit. Herman Harmon, 45, escaped about 9 p.m. from cell number 8 in a maximum-security pod at the Bay County Jail Annex on Nehi Road, said Warden Joe Ponte. It’s not clear how Harmon, who is charged with first-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting death of Jeff Gillman, picked the lock on his cell. He faces additional charges after officers eventually apprehended him. Ponte said the cell’s lock was working properly and an internal investigation is under way. Ponte said he isn’t sure how Harmon got out of his cell and didn’t want to speculate until the investigation is completed. Once out of his cell, Harmon entered the common area of the jail, then left the pod through a sliding metal door, which might have been open, Ponte said. The warden said he’s also heard a few versions from inmates and corrections officers on how Harmon got out of the pod. The pod doors have a defect that allows them to be opened if someone forcibly pushes it, but it makes a lot of noise. The warden said that all the pod doors are due to be replaced. Outside of the pod, Harmon accessed a small, open post, where he grabbed correctional officer Beverly Brennen by the neck and demanded her portable radio, the affidavit stated. Brennen and Harmon wrestled briefly and Brennen was able to call for help, Ponte said. Harmon eventually got the radio and tried to have the control section open the door leading to the exercise yard, but it was too late. A responding officer captured Harmon in the hallway just outside of his pod, Ponte said. Harmon has been charged with battery on a correctional officer, attempted escape, depriving an officer with means of communication and possession of contraband in a detention facility, according to court records. Judge Thomas F. Welch ordered Harmon held on an $85,000 bond. Officers found a garrote, which was made out of string, Ponte said. But Ponte doubted the garrote was intended to hurt someone. “It was found in his cell,” he said. “So if he wanted to do harm, he would have taken it with him.”

June 19, 2007 WMBB TV
In a closed executive session Tuesday, Emerald Correctional Management asked for $13m. Emerald says the county violated its own bidding process by awarding the new county jail contract to Corrections Corporation of America. Shortly after the February bid award, Emerald filed suit but the case was dismissed. Emerald appealed the decision and won the right for the case to be reviewed again. Bay County Commission Chairman Mike Nelson said earlier the Commission would likely not approve the settlement. Emerald has threatened to sue if they aren't granted the $13m.

June 15, 2007 WMBB TV
Next Tuesday the Bay County Commission will hold an Executive Session to consider a lawsuit settlement. Emerald Correctional Management, Inc. filed suit against the County after they say the County unfairly awarded a contract for the new jail to Corrections Corporation of America. Emerald Correctional says CCA was allowed to adjust their bid after it had already been submitted. Now Emerald Correctional is making an offer to settle for more than $13 million in damages.

June 6, 2007 News Herald
Unsuccessful jail expansion bidder Emerald Correctional Management Inc. has offered to settle its lawsuit against Bay County for $13.2 million. The County Commission will meet in executive session June 19 to consider the offer. County officials hinted Tuesday they were not inclined to pay any money to the company, which alleges that the county violated state law and the terms of its own request for proposals when it awarded a jail expansion and operations contract to Corrections Corporation of America in February last year. “Why should we pay them anything when we followed the law?” Commissioner Bill Dozier said. Steve Afeman, executive vice president of the Shreveport, La.-based Emerald Correctional Management, said Tuesday $12.7 million is being sought in damages — money the company would have realized had it been awarded the six-year contract. The remaining amount pertains to time and money invested in preparing for the project, including legal fees. The County Commission opened bidding for a new jail contract in June 2005, which called for expanding the jail annex on Nehi Road, tearing down the downtown Bay County Jail and constructing new holding cells connected to the Bay County Courthouse. Only Emerald and Tennessee-based CCA responded, with Emerald bidding at $31.8 million and CCA at $38.8 million. Both companies were asked to clarify parts of their proposals, and the county determined that Emerald’s price would be $35.4 million and CCA’s would be $36.4 million. CCA had been operating Bay County’s jails for more than 20 years, and that longevity coupled with a satisfactory performance weighed on commissioners’ decision to go with CCA. Circuit Court Judge Glenn Hess in May last year threw out all six of Emerald’s complaints against the county. Last month, the First District Court of Appeal ruled that Hess improperly dismissed two of six complaints and directed him to reconsider them.

May 7, 2007 WMBB TV
An appeals court opinion could lead to a challenge for the Bay County Commission. Back in June 2005, Bay County Commissioners opened bidding for a contract to expand the Bay County Jail. Two companies entered bids. They were Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, and Emerald Correction Management, with Emerald entering the lower bid. Both companies were asked to clarify certain points of their proposals, resulting in a reduction of cost for CCA. The Commission then entered into contract negotiations with CCA in December 2005. Emerald filed a letter in January 2006, formally protesting the negotiations. The County Manager denied the protest, based on a recommendation from the county purchasing agent. In February 2006, Emerald filed a six count complaint. All six counts were dismissed. The opinion from the District Court of Appeals, First District, agrees with four of the dismissals, but raises objections to two. One count challenges the county's decision to all CCA to estimate construction cost that may later inflate. The other count relates to the county allowing CCA to make certain changes to portion of their proposal. The opinion now leaves an opening for Emerald to motion for a rehearing on those counts.

February 6, 2007 NEWS 13
At Tuesday's Bay County Commission meeting, commissioners voiced their concerns with CCA. Commissioners say CCA did not consult them before hiring a new warden. They say CCA's contract requires them to let the commission have more of a say in decision process. "You expect a little better communication and a little better adherence to the contract then what we're getting out of CCA," says Commissioner George Gainer. The commissioners also made it clear that they have no problems with the actual warden. Joe Ponte comes to Bay County from Massachusetts. His resume boasts over 30 years of experience managing jails. Ponte says he's happy to be working in Bay County. "We've got one real old facility which we're in today and then the annex which is not too old... but we're going to open a brand new facility. So it really gives us a lot of things to look forward to in this county," says Ponte. And Ponte hopes to bring better communication to the table. "I think we could have done a better job and I think everyone realizes that. I think we need to respect the county's wishes. We're looking forward to working with the county to reassure them that there isn't a second time," says Ponte. Commissioners plan to write a letter to CCA telling the company exactly what they expect in the future. "I was very impressed with him but I am underwhelmed with CCA and their total disregard to their contractual obligations to Bay County," says Gainer.

January 17, 2007 News Herald
The final defendant in a 2004 jail standoff was cleared Tuesday for trial. Kevin Winslett appeared before Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet for a hearing to determine if Winslett is mentally competent for trial. Winslett had been at a state mental hospital since December 2005, but doctors cleared him a month ago to return to Bay County. Tuesday’s hearing, which is required by law, was little more than a formality because Winslett’s lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Doug White, acknowledged he had no evidence to dispute the recent findings. Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigators said Winslett, Kevin Nix, James Norton and Matthew Coffin took over the fourth floor of the Bay County Jail on Sept. 5 and 6, 2004, and held jail nurses hostage. The standoff ended when deputies stormed the floor and shot one of the men and a nurse.

January 5, 2007 News-Herald
The state Supreme Court is weighing whether the property a prison sits on in Bay County is exempt from taxation. Bay County Property Appraiser Rick Barnett said the court heard the case Thursday. In 2006, the First District Court of Appeal ruled the land could not be taxed, upholding a decision by Circuit Court Judge DeDee Costello. She ruled the prison property is leased through a state department, making it ineligible for property tax. Because the issue is one being debated across the state, the appeals court moved the question to the state’s highest court. Corrections Corporation of America, the company that runs the county jail, owes about $2.2 million in back taxes, Barnett said.

November 21, 2006 News-Herald
A former jail nurse shot during a hostage situation in 2004 sued Corrections Corporation of America, Bay County and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. Ann Marie “Amie” Hunt filed suit for loss of earnings, pain and suffering and medical expenses incurred after Sheriff’s Office deputies shot her three times Sept. 6, 2004, when firing at four inmates who had taken control of the Bay County Jail’s fourth floor. The bullets entered her hip, back and left leg, damaging bones and vital organs. According to the lawsuit, she has been in physical rehabilitation since the shooting. “On or about September 6, 2004, several inmates took advantage of known flaws in the security of the Bay County Jail and upon seizing the opportunity of those security flaws, the inmates took control over the jail and intentionally took control over the plaintiff Amie Hunt,” attorney H. Lawrence Perry wrote in the complaint. Perry said Corrections Corporation of America, the jail’s Tennessee-based corporate owner, Sheriff’s Office and county, failed to maintain the electrical door locking system. The takeover began when one of the inmates got out of a cell that did not lock properly and freed the others, according to witness testimony at a criminal trial in this case. Three of the four men involved in the takeover, Kevin Nix, James Norton and Matthew Coffin were convicted of false imprisonment. The fourth, alleged ringleader Kevin Winslett, has not been tried because of mental problems that have kept him in the state mental hospital. Nix, Norton and Coffin were acquitted of more serious charges in the incident, but still sentenced to 15 years in prison for their roles. Perry wrote in the lawsuit that the county, corporation and Sheriff’s Office were served with notices of intent to sue in January, but had not responded. He was unavailable for comment at his office Monday afternoon. Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Ruth Sasser said Sheriff Frank McKeithen had not received the lawsuit and could not comment. Hunt testified on Sept. 8, 2005, in the trial of Norton, Nix and Coffin. “At the very beginning,” she said, choosing her words carefully, “they were a little nutty. They just wanted to find a way out. They were as polite as they could be for the situation we were in.” Then, she said, the inmates broke into the drug storage lockers and began ingesting narcotics. “They started getting high and that lasted for several hours,” Hunt said. “Then they started coming down.” She said the situation was made worse by another dorm of inmates that, while secured, were still breaking windows and going crazy after getting into a medication cart. Hunt said Nix told her that those inmates wanted her and the two other female nurses, but he would protect them. As the night progressed, she said, Nix became agitated with nurse Glenda Baker’s praying. Another nurse, Kathy Baucum, said Baker was constantly praying and also “speaking in tongues.” When it came time to offer a hostage in return for pizza and cigarettes, Nix insisted Baker go because she was “freaking him out,” Hunt said. Then Baucum developed a migraine headache and she was soon exchanged for more pizza and cigarettes. Another hostage, James Hall, had been the first to be released. That left Hunt alone with the inmates. The standoff ended, she said, when she was brought before a barred gate at the end of a hall. Nix, she said, was standing behind her with a scalpel to her throat. “I don’t know who shot me,” she said. “He was just a figure, a person standing there, then boom. I looked down and I got shot. Then boom and I got shot again.” One bullet shattered her knee, an injury that incapacitated her for months. But Hunt was able to walk into court and take the witness stand with the help of a cane.

October 20, 2006 News Herald
The Florida Commission on Ethics has agreed to issue a final order clearing two former and one current Bay County employee of ethics complaints concerning a February 2000 out-of-state trip that was paid for by a private company. A separate ethics complaint against Bob Majka, who is the assistant county manager but was chief of emergency services in 2000, alleged that he violated gift laws by accepting payment from someone for a round of golf during the 2000 trip. Majka has agreed to pay a $1,500 fine for accepting payment for the golf game by Gary Akers, a financial consultant who assists the county with bond issues, said attorney Albert Gimbel, who represented Majka in the case. “Majka had agreed to the fine a long time ago, we were just waiting for the main case to be decided,” Gimbel said. Florida law prohibits public officials from accepting any gift with a value of more than $100 from a “lobbyist.” Gimbel said the golf game was more than $100. Majka, former County Attorney Nevin Zimmerman and former County Manager Jon Mantay were part of a Bay County contingent who flew to Tennessee to view a Corrections Corporation of America jail and a publicly run facility in Arizona. CCA, based in Tennessee, paid for the officials’ airfare and lodging. The county was negotiating a new contract with CCA at the time of the trip. That parallel drew the ire of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which initiated the ethics complaints in July 2003 and referred the case to the Florida Ethics Commission. Zimmerman said during a June 15 hearing with administrative law Judge Harry Hooper that it was reasonable and beneficial to taxpayers for a third party, such as CCA, to pay for “fact-finding” trips that county officials take. Hooper said in his recommended order to the Ethics Commission in August that the gifts were not directed to the three men, but rather to the county, so they were not required to report the gifts. Gimbel said the Ethics Commission agreed with that assessment.

August 18, 2006 News Herald
An administrative law judge has recommended clearing a former county attorney, former county manager and current assistant county manager of alleged ethics violations. Judge Harry Hooper heard arguments in the case in June against Assistant County Manager Bob Majka, former County Attorney Nevin Zimmerman and former County Manager Jon Mantay. The central question was whether the men violated ethics laws regarding gifts after they took a February 2000 trip to view a Corrections Corporation of America jail in Tennessee and a publicly run facility in Arizona. Other county officials were present. CCA, based in Tennessee, paid for the airfare and lodging of the three men and two former county commissioners. Zimmerman said during the June 15 hearing that it was reasonable and beneficial to taxpayers for a third party, such as CCA, to pay for “fact-finding” trips that county officials take. CCA has operated Bay County’s jails for 20 years, and the county was negotiating a new contract with the company at the time of the trip. That parallel drew the ire of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which initiated the ethics complaints in July 2003 and referred the case to the Florida Ethics Commission. The commission in September 2004 found probable cause that Mantay, Zimmerman and Majka may have violated gift laws. In his recommended order, though, Hooper ruled the gifts were not directed to the three men but to the county, so they were not required to report the gifts. The attorneys for either party can file “exceptions” to the recommendation within 15 days, and the Ethics Commission will review those submissions along with Hooper’s finding before entering a final order. Ethics Commission attorney Linzie Bogan said Thursday that he likely would file a response for the commission to consider. “How I’ll respond will depend on how the judge laid out his order,” he said, explaining that he just received the order and had not looked over all of it yet. “I would hope the commission would be open to persuasion on this issue,” he said. “I still feel there are violations.”

July 20, 2006 News Herald
At least two residents who live near the Bay County Jail Annex on Nehi Road object to a proposed zoning and land-use change for adjacent property to allow jail expansion. Shelley and David Hickman, of Nehi Road, stated in a letter to county officials that they believe approving a zoning change from agriculture-timberland to public institutional for 14.2 acres will create a wave of construction of other “institutional” facilities in the area. The Planning Commission will vote on the items today at its regular meeting, and the County Commission, which has final say, will consider that recommendation when it takes up the issue in a couple of weeks. “As I see it, it would mean that there would have to be lawyer offices to aid inmates, and also do not forget about the need for bail bond facilities and halfway houses and shelters and other types of businesses that ‘feed off’ the ‘institution,’” the Hickmans wrote. In an interview, Shelley Hickman also said she thinks it is a moot point to consider the zoning and land-use changes now when the county already has awarded a contract to Corrections Corporation of America for construction at the annex. CCA officials have said they hope to break ground by December. Martin Jacobson, planning and zoning division manager, said the CCA-led construction and zoning and land-use changes are “independent of each other.” County staff is rec- ommending the switch to public institutional for the 14.2 acres, he said, with the condition that use of the property is limited to jail operations. The Florida Department of Community Affairs has to review the proposed land-use change, as it does with any property greater than 10 acres.

June 20, 2006 News Herald
On an average day, the Bay County Jail in downtown Panama City is 100 to 150 inmates above capacity. The 30-year-old facility’s design provides additional daily headaches for jail staff, inmates and defense attorneys. “There’s a lot of wasted space and there’s not enough space,” explained Assistant Warden Richard Thore. There are not enough holding cells, so interview rooms have been converted for backup use. Interviews are conducted wherever there is room. There is one small room for booking and taking fingerprints, which slows the inmate admitting process. And from the jail’s central command post, guards cannot see all of the 12-cell pods. They must be viewed individually, which necessitates several jail guards instead of one. “Everything that should be easy becomes difficult and time-consuming,” including preparing meals in a kitchen not large enough or designed to accommodate 400 inmates, Thore said. The kitchen is situated on the second floor of the six-floor building, so employees have to take extra time to pick up food on a loading dock and transfer it to the second floor. New facility. Overcrowding has persisted at both jails for at least the past 10 years, according to county inmate counts. There are 410 beds at the jail annex on Nehi Road, but there are about 500 inmates there. Both jails — operated for the past 20 years by Corrections Corporation of America — now keep inmates of all security classifications, said Jennifer Taylor, CCA’s senior director of business development. In January, Panama City Beach attorney Jeremy Early documented problems he saw at the jail for his boss, Public Defender Herman Laramore. Assistant Public Defender Susan Rogers said she forwarded Early’s memo to county officials. One issue Early identified was lack of space for female inmates, who are held long-term only at the annex on Nehi Road. In a memo on Jan. 25, Early stated that he saw at least 20 women in a holding cell at the main jail who had either pleaded out at first appearance or had been released on their own recognizance a day or two prior. Early said Judge Elijah Smiley told him to record their names. “As I started taking their names, a CCA guard came in and removed some of the women before I could get all their names … I personally heard one of the CCA guards tell (am inmate) she was being held because CCA had lost her paperwork.”

June 19, 2006 News Herald
About half of the Bay County jail system’s correctional officers left in 2004 and 28 percent quit last year, making effective and safe operations tough to achieve, county officials say. High turnover has been a primary concern of Commissioner Jerry Girvin, a retired captain with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, which ran the jail until the county awarded the original Corrections Corporation of America contract in 1985. Girvin said the constant hiring of new guards unfamiliar with Bay County’s jails jeopardizes security. “An experienced correctional officer can sense the need and circumvent a situation from occurring or minimize the effect,” he said. Jason Bradley Sims, a 30-year-old who recently was detained at the main jail on Harmon Avenue for violating his probation for a battery charge, said fighting among inmates is frequent, partly because there aren’t enough guards. “I’ve been in at least a dozen fights in the last two years,” said Sims, who has spent the majority of his life locked up in Bay County jails and in correctional institutions elsewhere in the state. Assistant Warden Richard Thore said understaffing is not leading to more inmates beating one another. “They’re going to fight whether guards are there or not,” he said. For an attorney representing an inmate at first appearance, new correctional guards are sometimes a source of frustration for mistakes made or delays in bringing inmates to the hearings. Occasionally, Deputy Public Defender Walter Smith said, guards show up with the wrong inmate because of similarities in names. Frequent turnover of jail guards, he said, contributes to complications in the first appearance process. “They always have new people coming in,” he said of CCA. New jail guards and the company they work for are not solely responsible for difficulties during a first appearance, he added. “It’s not all CCA’s fault. It’s the warrants division; it’s correctional guards calling in sick. …” Turnover problems locally also rise to the top. The past two wardens of the Bay County Jail have stayed on the job only six and eight months, respectively. Kevin Watson took the post in December 2004, relieving Denny Durbin, who was warden for 19 years. Watson requested a transfer in August 2005, citing personal reasons. Mark Henry came in as the replacement, but he departed in March, also citing personal reasons. Durbin is back as the interim warden until a new warden is found. Former wardens could not be reached for comment, but Jennifer Taylor, senior director of business development for CCA, said Watson is still with the company in Indianapolis. Her explanation for Henry’s departure was that the job “was a lot more demanding than he thought going into it.” Some of the reasons for the difficulty in drawing people into corrections work also account for the frequent departures. Starting salary currently for guards at Bay County’s jails is $27,296, and some of them decide several months or a year into the job that they can’t continue to support themselves or their families with that pay, Thore said. Quitting after a few months or a year on the job, Durbin said, is not always a symptom of dissatisfaction with the employer; it may have more to do with the general evolution of their careers. “Corrections officers are very mobile and want to try new things,” he said, noting that many former Bay County guards have ventured to Washington Correctional Institute in Washington County and other state-operated prisons. Thore said he believes that the appeal of working for state prisons, which pay more and are continually being built as Florida’s inmate population grows, is the main culprit of local turnover. “The state has given (jail guards) at least two raises in the last year-and-a-half, and that makes it extra difficult for us to compete,” he said. There are young people looking for their first job who pick a jail guard position for lack of decisiveness, Thore said. “The reality of the job hits when we’re booking 16,000 inmates a year. Sometimes, that creates a little turnover.” Of the 48 correctional guards in 2005 whose employment at Bay County’s jails was severed, 21 were voluntary and involved no misconduct. But jail guards testing positive for drug use, having unprofessional relationships with inmates and smuggling contraband into the jail also were to blame for high turnover. The guards committing these and other offenses — which totaled nine — were fired in 2005 for violating state moral character standards or violating CCA and county policies, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. Ken Kopczynski, a legislative affairs assistant for of the Florida Police Benevolent Association and vocal CCA opponent, called Bay County’s turnover outrageous. “How can you properly run a facility when half of the people don’t have any experience” at that facility? said Kopczynksi, who is also executive director of Private Corrections Institute Inc., an organization that opposes privately run correctional facilities. While the turnover rate at Bay County’s jails is high, it is tame compared to the departures at some other CCA facilities in Florida. Hernando County jails, for instance, had a turnover rate of 82 percent in 2003, 75 percent in 2004 and 69 percent in 2005. Other CCA-run facilities in Florida had the following turnover rates in 2005: Gadsden Correctional Institution, 48 percent; Lake City Correctional Facility in Columbia County, 57 percent; and Citrus County Detention Facility, 28 percent. Turnover at Bay Correctional Institute, the CCA-operated state prison on Bayline Drive off U.S. 231, was 19 percent. In 2004, turnover was 36.7 percent. Taylor said the company’s jail staff is “down some everywhere” at its 63 U.S. facilities, but it is not at a critical point. “If it was at a critical point, we’d pull people in from other facilities. “It’s hard to find people to work in a jail,” she added. “We have to do extra things to attract employees and keep them there.” The company recently started posting help wanted messages on billboards in various locations, including Bay County, Taylor said. One on Tyndall Parkway aimed at military men and women reads: “From Camouflage to Corrections.” “We’ve found that people coming out of the military make very good correctional officers,” she said. Targeting military personnel is not a new focus of CCA’s, but there has been a stronger emphasis on attaining that demographic in the past year, she added. CCA also has been filling some vacancies in Bay County with part-time correctional officers, said CCA spokesman Steve Owen. Until it gets closer to full staff, the company is operating with mandatory overtime for all correctional guards, Thore said. Thore said 10 to 15 more guards are needed to be at normal levels. Currently, about 30 non-certified officers and 147 certified officers man the two county jails. While jail guard pay is mid-range compared to what guards at other Florida CCA facilities make, it’s far from the six digit incomes corporate bigwigs bring home. The highest-paid executive for CCA, John Ferguson, has a 2006 salary of $700,000 plus a $677,727 bonus, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But Owen defended the salaries for jail guards as competitive, especially since about two months ago the company started paying people attending the three month certification school the salary of uncertified officers. Certified jail-guard pay at the Bay County jail and annex has risen almost $2,000 in the past two years, up from $25,475 in 2004. Jackson County Correctional Facility, which is county-operated, has not approved a higher pay grade for its new certified guards since 2004; the salary stands at $23,947. The $20,500 salary at Gadsden County Jail hasn’t changed since 2003. The sheriff’s office there runs the facility. Escambia County currently offers certified correctional guards $30,400 at its two detention facilities, and Franklin County Jail jumped its pay by $3,000 over last year and is now $27,500. The sheriff’s offices in all three counties run the jails. CCA-run Hernando County Jail upped its pay for certified guards this year from $28,000 to $32,000.

June 16, 2006 News Herald
Former Bay County Manager Jon Mantay joined a former county attorney and the current assistant county manager Thursday in defending themselves against an ethics complaint before an administrative law judge in Panama City. Two attorneys representing Mantay, former County Attorney Nevin Zimmerman and Assistant County Attorney Bob Majka sparred with an attorney for the Florida Commission on Ethics over the legality of a February 2000 trip the three men took to view a Corrections Corporation of America jail facility in Tennessee and a publicly run facility in Arizona. CCA, based in Tennessee, paid for the airfare and lodging of the three men and two former county commissioners. CCA has operated Bay County’s jails for 20 years, and the county was negotiating a new contract with the company during the time of the trip. The Florida Police Benevolent Association initiated the ethics complaints in July 2003, and the ethics commission in September 2004 found probable cause that Mantay, Zimmerman and Majka may have violated gift laws. Much of the attention during Thursday’s hearing before Judge Harry Hooper focused on Zimmerman and his declaration to county officials that the trip and payment arrangements were legal. Zimmerman said it was reasonable and beneficial to taxpayers for a third party, such as CCA, to pay for “fact-finding” trips that county officials take. “That (logic) is reflected in our ordinances and regulations — to have developers pay for permitting based on the time it takes county staff to process the permits,” he said. The Bay County officials that went to Tennessee and Arizona, he said, needed to see in person how other facilities were handling overcrowding and recidivism, which are problems here. There is local precedent for allowing a company to pay for such trips, Zimmerman said. In 1997, several county officials traveled to Vancouver, Canada, and Long Island, N.Y., to view facilities now run by Montenay Bay LLC. Westinghouse Corp., which wanted another company to run the Bay County waste-to energy incinerator, paid for that trip. Ethics commission attorney Linzie Bogan challenged Zimmerman’s interpretation of Florida statutes on gift laws, and he tried to discredit Zimmerman for not reviewing ethics cases between 1997 and 2000 related to acceptance of gifts. “It’s not a gift if it’s an expense related to your employment,” Zimmerman said. Bogan insisted the definition of gift was clear, but Hooper said the entire statute governing acceptance of gifts (112.312) is not clear to him. “First you have to determine if it was to their benefit. … Do people benefit from looking at a bunch of prisoners?” Hooper said. Majka said during his testimony that he was unaware CCA paid for his airfare for the trip until records were being collected at county offices three years later in connection to the ethics complaint. But he said he learned the company paid for his lodging while at the hotel. In 2000, Majka was the emergency services chief and shared responsibility with other officials in jail oversight. Hooper said not knowing CCA paid for the trip does not produce a “complete defense” for Majka. The ethics commission, however, dropped the allegations against former County Commissioners Carol Atkinson and Danny Sparks because they had no knowledge CCA covered the expenses. Sparks and former County Commissioner Richard Stewart have admitted and paid fines for violating gift laws by accepting a round of golf paid by county financial adviser Gary Askers. Majka faces the same allegation, but his attorney, Albert Gimbel, said Thursday that he didn’t know how Majka would plead to that issue. Majka declined to comment. After Hooper has had sufficient time to review the facts of the case, he will issue a recommended finding for the ethics commission to consider. Tallahassee attorney Gary Early, representing the Bay County officials, said it would be at least two months for Hooper has a recommendation.

May 23, 2006 News-Herald
Bay Medical Center is seeking payment for the treatment of four patients who were either furloughed from the Bay County Jail or booked after their stay. County and Bay Medical will meet at the hospital Wednesday to discuss the cases that date back as far as 2000. The meeting was scheduled after a circuit judge — at the county’s request — ordered that the hospital and the county attempt to resolve the conflict over payments out of court. Bay Medical filed several lawsuits seeking payment from the county in 2003. The lawsuits later were consolidated. Hospital CEO Steve Johnson requested Wednesday’s meeting in a letter May 2 to County Manager Edwin Smith. When prisoners have no means of paying for hospital treatment, Florida law places responsibility on the county where the patient was arrested. “We believe that the county cannot avoid its responsibility by obtaining temporary medical furloughs or by dropping arrestees off at the hospital before booking them into jail,” Johnson wrote in his letter to Smith. County correctional program manager Roger Hagen said the county pays about $350,000 in medical bills for inmates each year. Payment issues between hospitals and local governments are common, he said. “The judge is issuing an order. It’s legal. There’s no question about it,” Hagen said. “We’re trying to minimize the exposure to the county, but just to have them all the sudden not be under the jurisdiction of the county, now is that playing by the rules? It is playing by the legal rules, but it does create an exposure for Bay Medical.” When very sick individuals are jailed for minor crimes, Hagen said he has encouraged CCA employees to ask judges to consider their release. However, Hagen said he was unaware until Johnson raised the issue that prisoners were being released with a requirement that they return to the jail after treatment. The jail is run under contract by Corrections Corporation of America, but the county pays for patient treatment outside of the jail. However, a new contract starting in October puts the first $10,000 in medical bills per inmate on CCA’s tab. “When the new contract goes into effect, CCA is going to have the exposure up to $10,000,” Hagen said. “I’m sure they’re going to be highly motivated to encourage the judge to reduce those costs. Whether the judge goes along with it, I don’t know.”

May 2, 2006 WJHG
A lawsuit challenging the awarding of a contract to build and operate a new Bay County Jail has been dismissed. Circuit Judge Glen Hess tossed out the suit filed by Emerald Corrections against the Bay County Commission and Corrections Corporation of America. The dismissal Monday clears the way for the county and CCA to continue planning to build a new county jail adjacent to the jail annex in Bayou George. Emerald had challenged the awarding of the contract for the project to CCA saying it wasn't the lowest and best bidder. It’s the second time Judge Hess dismissed the Emerald Corrections lawsuit.

April 26, 2006 News Herald
Circuit Court Judge Glenn Hess heard arguments Monday in Bay County’s motion to dismiss a correctional company’s lawsuit accusing the county of wrongdoing in awarding a contract to Corrections Corporation of America for jail construction and operation. Hess did not immediately rule on the motion and offered no comments during the hourlong hearing. He said he might make a decision this week. County attorney William C. Henry and counsel for CCA used their time to try to discredit Emerald Correctional Management LLC’s six-count complaint. Their dominant argument was that the county acted within its “legislative, discretionary role” in reviewing and ranking both companies’ responses to the county’s request for proposals, or RFPs, to build a new jail. Emerald has alleged that Bay County violated Florida procurement laws, Sunshine Laws and the RFP terms. On Monday, Henry said Emerald failed to provide certain facts and meet specific criteria in order to make a request for injunctive relief to prevent CCA from receiving the contract. Addressing Emerald’s allegation that the county violated Sunshine laws, Henry said the plaintiff was not a citizen of Florida and therefore lacked standing to make that claim. Emerald’s attorney, Obed Dorceus of Tallahassee, told Hess that “courts must liberally construe” Florida law to determine whether Emerald has standing to claim there were Sunshine law violations as an individual rather than on behalf of the public’s interest. The county wants a 150,000-square-foot addition to the existing jail annex on Nehi Road, creating 680 new beds in addition to the existing 410. The RFP also called for the downtown Bay County Jail to be demolished and for construction of new holding cells connected to the Bay County Courthouse. Emerald, based in Shreveport, La., proposed a price of $31.8 million to complete the project, while CCA’s price was $38.8 million. After the bids were unsealed, the county clarified the figures to take into account differences in each firm’s proposals. In the end, the county determined that Emerald’s price is $35.4 million and CCA’s is $36.4 million. Dorceus has claimed that the county simply amended the figures to suit Tennessee-based CCA, which holds a contract to operate the county’s jails through October. But Henry defended the county’s handling of the jail RFP, saying that local ordinance “gives a great deal of discretion to deal with the procurement process.” CCA attorney Cliff Higby’s main point to Hess during the hearing was that as long as “reasonable people could disagree” on whether CCA or Emerald had the best proposal, the courts should not intervene. In February, Hess denied Emerald’s request for an emergency injunction to prevent the county from signing a contract with CCA. Neither the contract for construction nor operations and maintenance have been signed, however.

April 8, 2006 News-Herald
Bay Medical Center’s CEO wants the county and local municipalities to take on greater responsibility for criminals and police suspects who are treated at the hospital. Steve Johnson has requested a meeting with Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen and Panama City Police Chief John Van Etten to discuss the matter. In a letter addressed to McKeithen and Van Etten on March 27, Johnson complains that the law enforcement agencies are waiting until injured or sick suspects are discharged from the hospital to arrest them, leaving the hospital responsible for charges when patients have no health coverage. Also, Johnson writes, prisoners are being released from the Bay County Jail for hospital treatment and picked up by authorities after discharge. “I really don’t see how Bay Medical can continue to fund this practice,” Johnson said in the letter, which also was sent to the Bay County and Panama City commissions, Panama City Mayor Lauren DeGeorge and the hospital’s board of trustees. Johnson said he plans to schedule the meeting next week. In the event of injury or illness at the time of or during an arrest, Florida laws puts responsibility for medical payment first with the patient, then with the county or municipality where the person was arrested in the event that the individual does not have medical coverage. Roger Hagen, the county’s correctional program manager, said Johnson’s concerns are not unique to Bay County. “It’s an ongoing dilemma — who’s going to pay for this kind of care,” Hagen said. The same issues Johnson is complaining of are among the reasons that Gulf Coast Medical Center, the county’s private hospital, raised rates for prisoners about a year ago, said Wes Fountain, Gulf Coast’s chief financial officer. “They, being the county or the Sheriff’s Office, don’t take ownership of these patients at certain points,” Fountain said. “Some patients, they would have financial responsibility for.” “And a lot of patients, they would not have responsibility for and it was unclear to us a lot of time which ones were it. That was the problem — just kind of understanding it.” An agreement was signed June 21 making non-profit Bay Medical Center, the larger or the county’s two hospitals, the primary provider for county prisoners. Gulf Coast served the same role before the hospital raised charges. Knowing what had happened with Gulf Coast, Hagen said of Bay Medical, “They knew the risk of what they were walking into.” Under the agreement with Bay Medical, hospitalized inmates are treated at a discounted daily rate of $1,248 with special rates for some services like cardiac care, Hagen said. Addressing the complaint that prisoners are being released from custody and dumped on the hospital, Hagen said he did not know of any instances in which prisoners were released for hospital care and taken back into custody for the same charges after their hospital discharge. However, in some cases, Hagen said prisoners who need hospital care are evaluated to determine whether they really need to be in jail. For example, Hagen said, if a prisoner were taken to the hospital with chest pains, the case might be reviewed and if that individual were in jail for a light offense, such as being intoxicated in a right of way, jailers might request that a judge release the individual from custody. “It’s got to be a minor situation before a judge would go ahead and do something like that,” Hagen said. Bay County is finalizing a new contract with jail operator Corrections Corporation of America, and Hagen suggested some of the issues between the county and the hospital might be resolved when that contract goes into effect in October. The county has been picking up all medical costs outside the jail, but the new contract requires that CCA pay the first $10,000 in charges per inmate. Johnson said there have been informal talks about the hospital’s concerns, but he decided those talks were getting nowhere after reading comments made by local law enforcement representatives in a March 21 News Herald article. The article was about a local man who was shot by police during a drug investigation. He faced charges from the Sheriff’s Office and the Panama City Police Department and was arrested upon release from the hospital. Explaining why the man was not arrested before his release, Panama City Police Sgt. Kevin Miller told The News Herald, “If we were to arrest him, he would be in our custody, therefore our responsibility.” Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Ruth Sasser said, “We don’t usually arrest people while they’re in the hospital and when the appropriate time came we arrested him.” Johnson described the comments as a blatant description of the practices he is concerned with. McKeithen declined comment on the issue Friday. “I’m sure all of these issues will be addressed at the meeting,” Sasser said. Van Etten was unavailable for comment.

March 22, 2006 News Herald
It's time again to put the "Help Wanted" sign out in front of the Bay County Jail after the facility experienced another sudden departure of its warden. Mark Henry resigned as jail warden Tuesday, said Steve Owen, a spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that operates the jail for Bay County. Owen said the resignation was effective immediately and that former Warden Denny Durbin will serve as the interim warden until a replacement is found. Owen said Henry did not provide a written resignation but told CCA officials he was leaving the company for "personal reasons." The former Jackson County Jail warden's departure comes six months after he took over the jail in wake of the transfer of then-Warden Kevin Watson. In August, Watson was granted a request for a transfer. He also cited "personal reasons" as the basis for his request. Watson's request came the same day CCA confirmed the termination of then-Assistant Warden John Rochefort for violating CCA policies. Watson had taken over as Bay County Jail's warden in December 2004, replacing Durbin - who had served as the jail's warden since 1987. Owen said county officials have been notified of Henry's abrupt resignation. Attempts to contact Henry and Roger Hagen, the county's contract monitor, were unsuccessful Tuesday. The Bay County Jail and CCA's contract with the county have been the subject of increased scrutiny since Durbin's final year at the helm. In September 2004, a CCA nurse was shot by police during a hostage standoff between officers and inmates who broke out of their cells thanks in part to mistakes by jail staff and faulty locks. Last year at the jail, an attempted escape by an accused cop killer was foiled after jail and police officials discovered the suspect had saw blades smuggled into his cell. Also, CCA fired a jail supervisor and a nurse after learning the nurse was reportedly having sex with an inmate. In November, a nurse was fired and another nurse reprimanded after a pregnant inmate delivered a premature baby inside the Bay County Jail Annex four hours after the woman complained of labor pains. CCA currently faces a civil suit from a fellow jail management company that claims it was cheated when the county renewed its contract with CCA in February.

March 8, 2006 News Herald
An accused cop killer and a man suspected of leading a 2004 jail floor takeover face additional charges after attacking a jail guard on Tuesday, according to a news release. Authorities charged Robert James Bailey, 23, and Kevin Bradley Winslett, 35, with battery on a corrections officer stemming from separate incidents at the Bay County Jail Annex. According to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office: On Tuesday morning, a jail maintenance worker was placing plastic shields around Winslett’s cell to prevent him from throwing liquids at guards. Winslett threatened to throw urine at the worker before tossing an unknown liquid and forcing guards to remove him from his cell. During a struggle, Winslett kicked a shield into the guard’s face — splitting the guard’s lip. A few hours later, Bailey threw an unknown liquid at maintenance workers who were putting shielding around his cell. The same jail guard who was reportedly injured by Winslett went into the cell and was confronted by Bailey, who was armed with a homemade shiv crafted out of a toothbrush and barbed wire. Bailey cut the guard’s head before being disarmed and restrained. Investigators are not sure how Bailey obtained the barbed wire.

February 25, 2006 News Herald
Circuit Judge Glenn Hess cleared the way Friday for the county to sign a contract with Corrections Corporation of America for the construction and maintenance of a new jail. Hess denied a request from Emerald Correctional Management for an emergency injunction to prevent the county from sealing the deal. Emerald’s lawyer, Obed Dorceus of Tallahassee, told Hess that the county violated state law and its own procedures in awarding CCA the jail contract over Emerald. Dorceus said Emerald’s proposal for the jail project was $5 million less than CCA’s. But, he said, after the proposals were unsealed, the county asked for clarification and allowed CCA to modify its proposal. Then, Dorceus said, the county approved the revised proposal and agreed to a contract. “They just waited to resolve it in a manner that benefited CCA,” he said. The County Commission voted Tuesday to sign the six-year contract with CCA. Its attorney advised that the board did not need to wait until a judge ruled on Emerald’s request. Emerald proposed a price of $31.8 million to complete the project while CCA’s price was $38.8 million. After the clarification process, the county determined that Emerald’s price actually will be $35.4 million and CCA’s $36.4 million. Emerald also is seeking damages and ultimately to have the county’s decision reversed. Dorceus said he feels confident that at the end of a trial in this matter the judge would “direct the board to award the contract to (Emerald).” The county’s attorney, William Henry, argued that this was a request for proposal, not a bid, and the county made it clear throughout the process that it had the right to reject any proposal. He said CCA’s proposal was closer to what the county wanted. The bid process has more legal restrictions than a request for proposals. Essentially, when the county asks for a bid on a project it knows what it wants done, how it wants it done and what materials are to be used, then puts out a request for companies to offer their cheapest price to do the work. By law, the county is required to accept the lowest bid. Requests for proposals are used when the county wants a project done but does not know how to do it. It then asks companies for a game plan as well as cost projections. When those come in, the county then negotiates with the companies to try to get the best price and contracts with the most favorable. The county is not required to accept the lowest price in a request for proposal. Hess said it was that flexibility in the request for proposal that saved the deal with CCA. “The language of this makes it very clear that the county didn’t have to accept or do anything but look at the paperwork and say, ‘This is all very nice,’” he said. Dorceus said both processes require the county to adhere to policies and give fair treatment to the companies involved. Roger Hagen, who oversees the jail contract for the county, testified that neither Emerald nor CCA provided an exact response to the request for proposal, so county staff requested both companies to clarify their plans. After seeing the proposals in better detail, Hagen said county staff members scored the plans and CCA was viewed as the better prospect. He said neither company was allowed to alter its proposal during the clarification process. Hagen said the county’s proposal was four-part: design and build an extension at the annex on Nehi Road; operate the new facility; demolish the old downtown jail; and finance the project. Emerald, he said, proposed a separate building next to the annex but not connected to it. That would mean separate kitchens, laundries, staff and check-in procedures. Hagen said that would make for a cheaper construction plan, but more expensive operational costs in the long run. He said the county specifically asked for an addition to the annex to keep operational costs down and CCA’s proposal was closer to what the county envisioned. Hagen said CCA also had more experience than Emerald in operating a jail. Hagen acknowledged that CCA had no experience in jail operations before it was awarded its first contract with Bay County 20 years ago. Dorceus pointed out that CCA’s proposal did not fix a price to the final project, but left in an option to renegotiate the price if material costs are higher due to post-Hurricane Katrina construction projects. The jail project goes into design phase as soon as the contract is signed. Construction is slated to begin in July. CCA’s current jail contract would have expired in October.

February 22, 2006 News Herald
Corrections Corporation of America will continue its tenure as Bay County jail operator, although a new contract which the County Commission approved Tuesday allows for a quick, cost-free termination. At its regular meeting in Panama City Hall, the board voted 4-1 to enter into a six-year contract with the Tennessee based CCA, plus a two-year contract for constructing an expansion to the jail annex on Nehi Road and other related projects. Bob Majka, assistant county manager, told commissioners that construction costs dropped from $41.5 million to $39.7 million through “value engineering,” such as using a chain-link fence versus concrete to serve as a yard barricade. Majka and the rest of county staff accepted mostly praise for their work, although two commissioners said staff should have produced an estimate for the Bay County Sheriff’s Office to run the jail. Commissioners George Gainer and Jerry Girvin said they wanted to see what it would cost the county to run the jail, and Gainer had the harshest words for Majka for not having that information. “I’m a little put out with staff because you didn’t do what you said you would do,” said Gainer, who voted against the motion to bestow CCA with the contract. But Majka said there was no instruction from commissioners to get that figure. According to Thomas, Sheriff Frank McKeithen has told him that his department could run the jail but probably not for less money than any private firm could. One resident, Tom Misskerg, told commissioners they “need to take a harder look at jail operations” before awarding a contract. Later, he addressed the board again to ask about potential consequences if another jail construction firm wins its lawsuit against the county over its RFP process. Emerald Correctional Management LLC — the only other firm to bid for the project — has alleged that the county violated state procurement laws and Sunshine Laws when considering proposals. County attorney Mike Burke would not divulge details about the situation, but assured the board: “We wouldn’t have let you go ahead with this contract if we thought there was a problem.”

February 17, 2006 News Herald
Youth, stupidity and blind love were not enough to keep accused cop killer Robert Bailey’s girlfriend from a prison sentence on Thursday. But admitting her guilt may have saved Andrea Guenette seven extra years behind bars. Circuit Judge Glenn Hess sentenced Guenette, 22, of Wisconsin, to three years in prison after she pleaded guilty to introducing contraband to the Bay County Jail and conspiring to commit escape. She could have received a 10-year sentence. Guenette gave hacksaw blades to a jail trusty who gave them to Bailey. Bailey, 23, is accused of shooting to death Panama City Beach Police Sgt. Kevin Kight during a traffic stop last year and faces the death penalty if he’s convicted as charged of first-degree murder.

February 10, 2006 News Herald
Bay County officials on Thursday rejected all of Emerald Correctional Management’s claims in a lawsuit that the bidding process for a jail expansion project was improper and illegal. Meanwhile, the company’s attorney, Obed Dorceus of Tallahassee, said he will ask Judge Glenn Hess to expedite a hearing for a temporary injunction against the county to halt its negotiations with Corrections Corporation of America. “We’re concerned that if the county proceeds with a flawed (selection) process, we may not be able to get some of the remedies we’re asking for,” Dorceus said. The most important objective for Emerald, Dorceus said, is to receive the contract to design and build a Bay County correctional facility. In the lawsuit, Emerald states that the county permitted CCA to modify its proposal after all proposals were opened, violating state law. The county said in a letter to Dorceus that it never asked for a fixed price in the RFP and that “both firms were asked to clarify their proposals to allow the board to conduct due diligence and select a firm with whom to begin negotiations.”

January 20, 2006 News Herald
In a strip cell at the Bay County Jail Annex, on suicide watch next to an inmate with a penchant for beating up cellmates, Sweatt wanted out in the worst way. He made a ruckus, yelled for guards, even broke a toilet seat to no avail. Shoeless and clad in a jail gown, the 49-year-old crawled onto a mat on the floor to sleep. He awoke to a severe stomping and, later, brain swelling — all thanks to a “questionable assignment” and drastic overcrowding, according to an incident review obtained by The News Herald. The incident underscores a consistent theme — too many prisoners and too few places to put them — hashed over by county officials and Corrections Corporation of America, the private company paid $16.3 million this year to run facilities downtown and near Nehi Road. A report compiled by Bay County’s contract monitor and released this week indicates that guards and supervisors violated no procedures during the late December incident that landed Sweatt in the hospital and his alleged attacker back in court. In fact, the incident report places blame on a single issue: overcrowding. “The questionable assignment of Sweatt to a cell occupied by (Orlando Marcus Holly) was necessitated by overcrowding in D Dorm,” wrote Roger Hagen, the county’s pointman with CCA. One cell, Hagen reported, was out of commission because of a broken toilet and guards felt it best to house Holly and Sweatt in a cell near an observation desk. Holly was accused of a similar assault two weeks later and forced officials to rethink his daily handling. Guards now move Holly in full restraint — including a belly chain and leg restraints — and the 25-year-old is housed alone in a cell. Authorities reported that Sweatt had asked to be moved from Holly’s cell but was rebuffed because the dorm and other high-security cells already were full. The men bickered throughout the day, officials said, and at 1:45 p.m., Holly laid into his cellmate with a flurry of punches and kicks. The beating was so bad that Sweatt remained in critical condition for more than two weeks and suffered brain swelling, inner cranial bleeding and a shattered orbital bone. Police waited 10 days to charge Holly because they feared Sweatt would die.

January 14, 2006 News Herald
Emerald Correctional Management LLC has accused the Bay County Commission of breaking state laws in its decision to pursue negotiations with another firm for jail construction projects. The process the County Commission went through in accepting and evaluating the request for proposals, or RFP, was “arbitrary, capricious and illegal,” states Emerald’s petition, filed last week with the county. The county wants a 150,000-square-foot jail addition to the existing jail annex on Nehi Road, creating 680 new beds in addition to the existing 410. The RFP also called for the downtown Bay County Jail to be demolished and for construction of new holding cells connected to the Bay County Courthouse. Shreveport, La.-based Emerald had said it could build the addition for $31.8 million and Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, priced it at $38.8 million. The county chose to enter negotiations with CCA. In a formal notice of protest filed Jan. 6, Emerald alleged that Bay County violated Florida procurement laws, Sunshine Laws and the RFP terms. The company requests the county “forward the protest to the Division of Administrative Hearings for a fair determination of the issue at hand.” Emerald further labeled CCA, the company currently operating Bay County’s jails, as “non-qualified, non-responsible and non-responsive.” After taking into account project features that were either missing from the RFP or added but not asked for, the county determined Emerald’s design-and-build cost would be $35.4 million rather than $31.8 million, and CCA’s would be $36.4 million instead of $38.8 million. County staff said that with construction and fixed operational cost for six years, it would cost $117.1 million to stick with Emerald and $114 million with CCA.

January 12, 2006 News Herald
Since grand juries in Bay County are not encouraged by the courthouse leadership to exercise routine oversight of county offices and facilities, lawsuits are an alternative but expensive way for citizens to involve other citizens as jurors in attempting to understand how well or how badly things work. As the father of Martin Anderson said on Tuesday, “I just want to know what happened to my son.” Knowing what we know now, just days after the incident, our view does not see anything sinister in the death of the 14-year-old boy during his initiation into a stay at the Bay County Sheriff’s Office Boot Camp. We have numerous questions, of course, which we expect a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation to answer. Anderson’s parents say they don’t trust FDLE to thoroughly and impartially investigate the Sheriff’s Office — one police agency investigating another. They want someone else to do it, an “independent agency.” Although the news story didn’t say, the family presumably will seek compensation if their son’s death was caused by the wrongful behavior of people who had him in custody. We have no such quarrel with FDLE’s professionalism. However, wrongful-death lawsuits are an understandable reaction by survivors looking for someone to blame. Sometimes the lawsuits bring to public attention things the public should know as consumers and taxpayers. Lawsuits uncover the safety risks of prescription drugs, potentially fatal defects in popular vehicles and other consumer products, and the management practices of public institutions that are free from grand jury oversight. But not often enough. Certainly there is no shortage of lawsuits. The problem is that the prevalence of secret settlements to avoid trial makes public enlightenment a less likely outcome. Survivors who sue to find out what happened often walk out of court having signed an agreement not to tell. The lawsuits seldom go to public trial. Corrections Corporation of America had 16 lawsuits related to its management of Bay County jail facilities during a recent three-year period, according to the Tallahassee based Private Corrections Institute. Settlements ranged from $150 compensation for an injury to $500,000 to the family of Justin Sturgis, who died in jail custody. For CCA, lawsuits are a cost of doing business the way it wants. For citizens and taxpayers of Bay County, pretrial settlements mean the plaintiff gets compensated for the wrong without the public having to know the details, and thus perhaps feel obliged to make conditions right.

January 11, 2006 News Herald
Deputy Public Defender Walter Smith said Tuesday that he has a better chance of keeping accused cop killer Robert Bailey off death row by being a witness in the case instead of being Bailey’s lawyer. Smith withdrew from the case and told Circuit Judge Glenn Hess that he expects to be a witness when the court has a hearing to determine Bailey’s mental condition. Smith said he also will look outside the county for a lawyer and put together the paperwork necessary for Bailey’s new attorney to ask for a change of venue. Smith said he wants the case handled by a Tallahassee lawyer and decided by a Leon County jury. A change of venue could move Bailey out of the Bay County Jail Annex where he has been since August. Smith said Bailey’s treatment at the jail has aggravated Bailey’s existing mental problems. “His condition has deteriorated since he’s been in solitary confinement,” Smith said. “I think his mental state is a direct result of the condition he’s kept in.” Smith said Bailey is isolated in a small cell with a light burning 24 hours a day, making it difficult to sleep. The toilet in Bailey’s small cell would not flush for three months, and a jailer had to empty it manually during that time. “A Fortune 500 company like Corrections Corporation of America can’t fix a toilet?” Smith said, referring to the jail’s corporate owner. “I know what’s going on, and it’s unconscionable. They’re being punitive.” Bailey complained about the toilet the last time he was in court and Hess ordered it repaired. Bailey’s last words to the judge Tuesday were about that issue. “Thanks for fixing my toi …,” Bailey, who appeared at the hearing by closed-circuit television, said. The last word was cut off when the connection was cut. Bailey’s mail is intercepted and his phone calls are monitored. He is not allowed visitors or contact with other inmates, Smith said. Bailey rarely is allowed to shower and is almost always shackled and handcuffed, Smith said. “This is not because I like Robert Bailey and I think he’s a sweet guy,” Smith said of his outrage over Bailey’s treatment. “It’s because he’s not being afforded his basic constitutional rights.” The jail’s treatment of Bailey, Smith said, has made it more difficult to give Bailey a fair trial because it has impacted his mental state. Smith said Bailey understands the legal process, but he’s now more likely to act out in an inappropriate, even aggressive, manner in court.

January 3, 2006 News Herald
Orlando Marcus Holly waited until the lights were off and his 49-year-old cellmate was asleep before Holly began kicking him, a Bay County Sheriff's Office investigator said Monday. Investigator Mitch Pitts also said Holly, 25, probably would have killed Robert Sweatt if not for the swift reactions of guards at the Bay County Jail Annex. Sweatt's teeth were kicked out, his orbital bone was shattered and he had inner cranial bleeding. Sweatt was rushed to Bay Medical Center and is recovering in surgical intensive care, Pitts said. Court records show that Holly was charged with battery three times in 2005, including a count of battery on an inmate. The day before the alleged attack on Sweatt, a judge sentenced Holly to more than a year in prison after Holly admitted to probation violations.

January 2, 2006 News Herald
Police charged a 25-yearold inmate with severely beating a cellmate 10 days after two guards witnessed the attack in a dormitory at the Bay County Jail annex, according to arrest documents. Investigators accused Orlando Marcus Holly of aggravated battery on a detainee more than a week after the alleged beating. It was so severe that the 49-yearold cellmate remained in critical condition in surgical intensive care on Sunday. According to an arrest affidavit, Robert Sweatt was sleeping on a floor mat Dec. 20 when Holly began stomping on his face, kicking out Sweatt's teeth, shattering his orbital bone and causing inner cranial bleeding. Sweatt was rushed to Bay Medical Center. Two Bay County Jail guards witnessed the attacks, police reported. It is unclear when Bay County Sheriff's Office investigators were notified of the attack, and officials from the Bay County Jail and the Sheriff's Office could not be reached Sunday. Court records show that Holly was charged with battery three times in 2005, including a count of battery on an inmate. The day before the alleged attack on Sweatt, a judge sentenced him to more than a year in prison after Holly admitted to probation violations.

December 31, 2005 News Herald
Emerald Correctional Management LLC is formally protesting Bay County's decision to negotiate with another firm for new jail construction. Steve Afeman, Emerald's executive vice president, said Friday that his company would formally send to Bay County a Notice of Protest for choosing on Dec. 20 to negotiate with Corrections Corporation of America to build an addition to the jail annex on Nehi Road and related projects. Emerald has requested from the county every document and piece of information relevant to the RFP, or Request for Proposals. The move has confused Bay County officials and the Tennessee-based CCA because no bidder has been awarded a contract. Roger Hagen, contract monitor for the county, said Friday that he had not received the Notice of Protest from Emerald. Earlier this month, county staff produced an analysis that reflected the variations in both firms' proposals. Neither firm adhered precisely to what was asked for in the RFP, said county spokeswoman Catherine Zehner, so adjustments were made to "try to level the playing field." Afeman said it appears that "CCA has adjusted their bid after looking at our" proposal. Hagen and CCA deny that such action occurred.

December 30, 2005 News Herald
Emerald Correctional Management LLC still wants the contract for Bay County's jail projects and has requested extensive documents related to the county's decision to negotiate with another firm. Steve Afeman, Emerald's executive vice president, said Tuesday that his company wasn't yet formally protesting how the county handled the request for proposals, or RFPs. "We're still looking at the comparison for how they formulated their bid structure," he said. "We want to leave our options open until … we feel everything was reported accurately." Afeman is referring to the county staff's interpretation of Emerald's and Corrections Corporation of America's RFP responses. As early as today, the Shreveport, La.-based Emerald may decide whether to file a Notice of Protest of the RFP, Afeman said. But Emerald's Tallahassee attorney, Obed Dorceus, said in an e-mail message late last week to county officials that a "formal written protest will be filed within the time required by law." The attorney further asks the county to suspend activity regarding the RFP until the dispute is resolved.

December 21, 2005 News Herald
Bay County plans to stick with Corrections Corporation of America to run its jails and build the jail annex addition. At Tuesday's County Commission meeting at Panama City City Hall, the board voted unanimously to instruct county staff to negotiate a contract with CCA. The county still reserves the option to pull out if it does not like the final price CCA delivers for the project. If a compromise cannot be reached, Commissioner George Gainer said the board will consider building and operating jail facilities itself. Besides the jail annex addition on Nehi Road, the county wants the downtown Bay County Jail demolished and new holding cells connected to the Bay County Courthouse. Besides Tennessee-based CCA, the only firm that responded to the request for proposals, or RFP, was Emerald Correctional Management in Shreveport, La. For the entire scope of services, Emerald listed its price as $35.4 million. CCA estimated a cost of $41.5 million. Gainer said he was not comfortable with CCA's price estimate, and he is concerned because the expanded jail annex could be at or over capacity several years after its expected opening in spring 2008. "This does not meet our needs," he said. "A lot needs to take place with the negotiating team for this to move forward." "We need to think long and hard" about the contract, he added. "It's going to affect everyone in Bay County for 50 years." Budget Officer Mary Dayton said that if CCA funded the design and construction of the jail annex addition with its 8-percent interest rate over 25 years, the interest alone would total $56.7 million. She said the county could get an interest rate of 4.5 to 4.7 percent, and over 25 years, that would total $32.6 million in interest. Commissioner Mike Thomas asked county staff to analyze what debt payments would be if the county tried to pay for the project in 18 to 20 years.

December 18, 2005 News Herald
To pair as "jail project contenders" Emerald Correctional Management and Corrections Corporation of America, as did a Nov. 22 News Herald headline, is akin to pairing as boxing-ring "contenders" Pee Wee Herman and Muhammad Ali. CCA manages jail and prison complexes totaling almost 70,000 beds. That's 23 times as many as Emerald's 3,000, and even those are more likely found in less rigid detention centers. But, the two are squared off a in the political arena, not a boxing ring. The prize is a $31 million to $38 million construction job, plus a 10-year contract worth at least $170 million to operate the greatly enlarged county jail. A majority of Bay County commissioners in early December charitably advanced Emerald to a second round this week, on Tuesday. If not Tuesday, then sometime, someone on the County Commission needs to ask, "Who ARE these people?" Emerald's brochure - the one for jail management (the Emerald Companies' emblem appears on numerous other closely held enterprises including homebuilding, real estate and drug testing) - directs attention to its six-man management team. Emerald says it has been doing business out of Shreveport, La., since 1989. In a fashion familiar to anyone who ever puffed a resume, Emerald boasts in its management team "More than 80 years of law enforcement experience," "More than 45 years in principal founder of Emerald Companies," worked "in the correctional and construction industries for more than 20 years." He also heads Emerald Correctional Management, LLC; Emerald P.M. Group, LLC; Emerald Properties, Inc., and The Emerald Group, hardly any of which show up online as identifiable entities. Lee also serves as vice president of W. T. Lee Construction Co., presumably headed by W. T. Lee, who brings "more than 35 years" experience as the management team's business-development man. Glenn P. Hebert, the chief operating officer, worked for 13 years in the Sheriff's Office of Vermillion Parish (pre-Katrina pop. 50,000). Before that, he worked in retail. Emerald's chief of security, Raywood LeMaire "brings more than 35 years of law enforcement experience" including a memorable 20 years as Vermillion Parish sheriff. "It was legend that if you crossed the Sheriff, you were fed to the crabs at Raywood's cabin in Freshwater Bayou," a former resident once said. LeMaire was sheriff in 1990 when a crazy man shackled in an isolation cell plucked out his own eyes. To LeMaire a violent prisoner was a violent prisoner, mental case or not, and treated accordingly. The deputy who discovered the self-mutilation took an hour to decide whether to take the man to a hospital.  Eventually, blind but back on his medication, the man sued LeMaire for negligence and won a jury verdict. LeMaire got the verdict thrown out. LeMaire was still sheriff in 2002 when he was busted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents. He pleaded guilty to several charges, including shooting over-limit ducks in Freshwater Bayou ponds baited with 500 pounds of rice. He was fined $2,130. The government kept the ducks. LeMaire announced he wouldn't seek reelection in 2004. Clay Lee, identified as CEO and "a correctional management," "More than 30 years in correctional fiscal management," and, "More than 40 years providing correctional training." Most of this cumulative expertise is contributed by four men, all longtime friends or relatives. General Manager Stephan Afeman worked for 17 years in the drug-screening industry. Comptroller M. Shane Carnahan has nine years of experience in the correctional industry. They round out the management team. Whatever "the correctional industry" means with regard to each, they and many others across America are betting it's a growth industry. Until its Bay County foray, Emerald Correctional Management has been a smalltime player that capitalized on hustling even smaller-time players. Like The Music Man, they'd go into small, isolated and impoverished counties and persuade local officials that an economic boom was just a detention center away. Local officials had only to pay to build the facility and pay them to operate it. Emerald's eastward march for new territory leaves behind in Louisiana and Texas some business success but some bad feelings. The most publicized was La Salle County (2000 pop. less than 5,900). County commissioners were persuaded by a lobbyist and the management team to issue $22 million in bonds to build a 500-bed prison. Although commissioners eagerly embraced the idea, they agreed to keep public involvement at arm's length. The secretiveness enabled commissioners and Emerald to reach convivial agreement without the hindrance of county legal and fiscal staff. When the public learned what transpired - that the bonds paid an outrageous 12-percent interest, underwriter fees were 6 percent, Emerald would get a flat amount for operating the prison no matter how small the inmate population, and the persuasive lobbyist reportedly received a percentage of the deal, not a fee - the public was not amused. Lawsuits ensued. It was too late to stop the bond fiasco. As part of the lawsuit settlement, however, Emerald agreed to be paid based on the actual number of prisoners. Emerald also agreed to pay the town of Encinal $50,000 and La Salle County $100,000. Both payments were part of Emerald's bid but somehow were omitted from the contract. When County Commissioner George Gainer talks about Bay County being victimized by bad contracts in the past, this is the kind of shoddy legal work he means. La Salle County had to issue an additional $4.5 million in bonds to pay contractors so the work could proceed. The absence of public input caused additional oversights. Now open, "The facility itself used up all but a few connections-worth of our existing water supply capacity," says Encinal City Council member Barba de Chiva. "It uses - and stinks - all of our sewer capacity. Any further development is now contingent upon our spending millions of dollars to upgrade local infrastructure."

December 16, 2005 News Herald
Emerald Correctional Management LLC says its method for financing jail expansion will help save the county at least $20 million compared to Corrections Corporation of America's payment option. But after meetings with Emerald's staff, at least two County commissioners believe it is better for the county to finance the project itself because the county has a lower bond rating than either company could obtain. "That's not going to be there," Commissioner Mike Thomas said of Emerald's financing plan. "We can save money doing a bond ourselves," he said, indicating that the county's bond rating is around 4.5 percent and if either company funds the project, their bond rating would be 7- to 8-percent. CCA proposes to fund the expansion itself at a projected cost of $334,476 per month for 25 years, totaling around $100 million. With private bond placement, as Emerald suggests, the total debt over 18 years would be around $80 million, or $350,000 per month, said Glenn Hedert, chief operations officer for the Shreveport, La.-based company. In a letter this week to Commission Chairman Mike Nelson, CCA stated that Emerald did not adhere to project specifications in the county's request for proposals, or RFP, and that is why its plan costs less. "If they were compliant with the RFP, their proposal would've cost as much as what we projected," said Jennifer Taylor, senior director of business development for Tennessee-based CCA. Nelson said Thursday he received the 18-page letter at his office, Mike Nelson & Associates, but that he threw it away without reading all of it. "They've already had their say," Nelson said, referring to Emerald's and CCA's presentations to the commission on Dec. 6. "If Emerald sends me anything, it's going to get tossed, too."

November 19, 2005 News Herald
Corrections Corporation of America fired a Bay County Jail Annex nurse for the way she handled an inmate's complaint of labor pains, according to her termination letter. Joan Elliot, 48, of Panama City, refused to acknowledge wrongdoing in the events that lead up to Jennifer Bozeman, 26, giving birth to a premature baby in the infirmary more than four hours after reporting labor pains to jail guards, according to CCA records. Bozeman was in jail at the time for failing to pay a $500 child support fine. CCA reprimanded nurse Melissa Blalock, 36, for her role in the incident on Nov. 7, according to CCA records. The names and positions of the employees receiving disciplinary action were released to The News Herald in accordance with the state Sunshine Law, but only after a written request to the Tennessee based company's corporate headquarters and Bay County Jail Warden Mark Henry denied access to the employees' personnel files. According to CCA records, Elliot was terminated on Tuesday after CCA officials determined the nurse failed to follow CCA sick call policy. Specifically, Elliot failed to "accommodate unscheduled inmates/residents with conditions that require immediate attention, including acute illness and injuries," according to her termination letter. During a follow-up discussion regarding the jail birth, Elliot told Henry she had done nothing wrong and would not do anything differently if the same situation arose again, according to CCA reports. Elliot told CCA officials she was dealing with several medical calls at the time, including a seizure, two guards bitten by an inmate and several inmates waiting in the infirmary while Bozeman complained of pains. Jail officials issued a written reprimand to Blalock, but did not terminate her. They said Blalock failed to keep Bozeman in a "stable position/location" until the inmate could be transferred to the hospital. Blalock should not have allowed the expectant mother to walk in the unit, climb up and down from the examination table or sit on a bench in the waiting area, according to CCA reports.

November 16, 2005 News Herald
One employee has been fired and another reprimanded after an investigation into a birth at the Bay County Jail annex revealed a series of missteps - from a nurse who ignored cries for help to a supervisor unaware of the labor - that preceded a delivery in the infirmary. Jail officials would not reveal the names or positions of the employees who received disciplinary action, and a Sunshine Law request made Tuesday afternoon was not immediately answered. Florida's public records statutes routinely cover discipline reports of public employees, including jail guards and nurses. "I can only talk in general terms," Warden Mark Henry said Tuesday afternoon. "We have to be cognizant of other people's rights. These two employees have been disciplined and it has become part of their official records. But that is proprietary information kept by the company." Jennifer Bozeman said she complained of labor pains for more than four hours before she was taken to the infirmary and seen by a nurse. Bozeman said fellow inmates helped her through the ordeal, nursing her while jail staff ignored her pleas for help. Bozeman's daughter, Crystal, was born just before 7 a.m. and was airlifted to Gainesville's Shands Hospital. The baby remained there on Tuesday, where she is being treated for birth defects. Bozeman was jailed Sept. 10 for failing to pay a $500 child support fine, although the fine was paid late Monday night by a friend. While the names and positions of the disciplined employees have not been released, CCA officials did divulge a 32-page report that documented mistakes and policy violations the night of Bozeman's labor. Among them: Nurse Joan Elliott was informed of the labor pains at about 2:30 a.m., and told guards to have Bozeman fill out a "sick call," a written documentation of an inmate's illness. The slip was not given to medical staff until 4:30 a.m. When a female guard handed the slip to Elliott, the nurse said "it could wait." Elliott, in a written statement, indicates that on Monday night she dealt with several medical calls, including: a seizure, two guards who had been bitten and scratched, an inmate with scratches, and a number of inmates waiting in the infirmary. Elliott later retrieved sick calls and treated at least two other sick patients before she received word from guards that Bozeman was having "stomach pains." It was not until 6 a.m., Elliott wrote, that a guard told the infirmary nurses that Bozeman was in labor. Capt. Richard Bouchard, who worked the overnight shift, responded at least eight times to the dorm where Bozeman was held and was never notified by a pair of guards that there was a pregnant inmate complaining of labor pains. Bouchard also said "nor was there any documentation in the post log book that the (labor pains were) addressed." By the time Bouchard was notified, Bozeman already had been escorted to the medical unit. Jail personnel waited more than 25 minutes to call an ambulance after a nurse determined Bozeman was indeed in labor. The child was born before officials contacted paramedics to take her to Bay Medical Center. At about 6:05 a.m., a guard told nurse Melissa Blalock, who was starting her shift, that Bozeman was in labor, and Blalock ordered the woman to be brought to the infirmary. Blalock and Elliott then checked Bozeman for delivery symptoms and determined at 6:30 a.m. that she was in labor. Bozeman was sitting in an infirmary restroom when Blalock assisted her to an exam table, although Bozeman was sent back to a waiting room and Elliott ended her shift. At about 6:55 a.m., Bozeman screamed for help and the child was delivered before Blalock could remove Bozeman's pants. Blalock removed the umbilical cord from around the child's neck, ordered a guard to call 9-1-1 and helped cover the child in blankets. Paramedics arrived at the jail at 7:15 a.m. and the child was taken to the hospital at 7:20 a.m. - nearly five hours after Bozeman first told guards she was in labor.

November 15, 2005 News Herald
She was in labor for more than four hours, crying in a crowded dorm room, bent and writhing on a bunk, crooked with pain and sweat and gritted teeth, pleading for help. When help finally came, so too did her child. The 26-year-old woman who gave birth in the Bay County Jail annex said Monday that guards and nurses repeatedly ignored her pleas for medical attention, allowing her to struggle for four hours - using inmates as nursemaids - before the baby was born in the infirmary. While jail officials have hedged against the release of information related to a personnel investigation, Jennifer Bozeman offered sharp criticism of the annex and its medical staff, saying Monday that officials failed both mother and child. "They just ignored me," Bozeman said in an interview with The News Herald. "They should have gotten me to the hospital. I kept telling them: 'It hurts, I'm in labor.' They didn't do anything. It was just handled wrong. I'm still hurt by it. I'm still having flashbacks." Bozeman's account was confirmed by two female inmates who stood by her throughout the labor, as both women said that it took more than four hours before the expectant mother was transferred to a medical pod at the Nehi Road annex. The inmates both issued stinging rebukes of the jail staff, calling the situation untenable but believable. In fact, Charla Meadows, 33, said medical attention is hard to come by at the facility - if it comes at all. "It's crazy in here," said Meadows, being held on a cocaine charge. "Jennifer told them at about 2 o'clock that she was hurting bad. I mean, you could see her all bent over. One of the guards asked me if could get her some ice, so I did. I just had to stay with her. She started hurting worse and worse, and nobody would do anything to help her." According to all three women, the incident unraveled like this: Bozeman first told an officer that she may be in labor shortly after 2 a.m. The officer asked Meadows to deliver some ice, and later allowed Bozeman to take a warm shower. As the pain progressed, Meadows continued to ask for medical help. An officer tried unsuccessfully to contact the overnight nurse, and at about 4 a.m. guards told Bozeman to fill out a "sick call." The "sick call" is a form used to notify personnel of medical problems, although Bozeman said the form went unheeded for an additional two hours. During that period, another inmate - Tris Souza, 43 - sat with Bozeman, massaging her back and rubbing her forehead. As the pain reached its zenith, Souza began pounding on a cell window, pleading for help. "We were just trying to get their attention," said Souza, also being held on drug charges. "She just kept getting worse and worse, and I was like: 'When are y'all going to help her?' They just kept ignoring us. That's not so uncommon in here, though. "I've seen things that are totally unbelievable. They think ibuprofen will cure anything." About 6 a.m. - with a shift change - the daytime nurse ordered guards to have Bozeman delivered to the infirmary. Once there, Bozeman said medical personnel diagnosed her condition as kidney stones and allowed her to wait in a chair. The baby, Crystal, was born within minutes. "I had to catch my own baby," Bozeman said. "It fell out into her pants," Meadows added. Officials from Corrections Corporation of America, the private, Tennessee-based company hired to run a pair of facilities in Bay County, have hesitated to release details of an internal evaluation. Warden Mark Henry cited medical privacy laws last week and declined to release information, although he did note that the annex was at full staff during the incident. Roger Hagen, the county's jail contract monitor, said he is awaiting information from CCA, and said the timeframe between Bozeman's first complaint and the birth appears to be a key factor in the evaluation. "That's my concern," Hagen said Monday. "There is, however, some question of whether the midnight nurse had competing priorities. The length of time it took the nurse to see her is a concern, but I'm waiting to see what this person was up against. Were there other things going on that prevented (the nurse) from seeing (Bozeman)?" Bozeman's delivery came about two months early, and the child remained in a neonatal care unit at Gainesville's Shands Hospital on Monday. The baby was born with birth defects, Bozeman said, and the family is concerned about her health. Bozeman has been jailed since Sept. 10 for failing to pay a $500 fine related to a previous adoption. Since then, county taxpayers have paid nearly $3,000 - or about $45 per day - to keep Bozeman behind bars. "I'm still so upset," she said. "I'm still so hurt by it. It was just handled wrong. They should have gotten me to the hospital."

November 11, 2005 News Herald
Jennifer Bozeman owes the state of Florida $500. She never paid, got sent to jail, birthed a baby in the infirmary, and now Bay County taxpayers are footing the bill - to the tune of about $2,730 so far. And she has not been charged with a crime. By holding Bozeman in jail, taxpayers have vastly outspent her debt to the state Department of Revenue regarding a child support fee for a previously adopted child. The county pays about $44 per day per prisoner. The new mom has been in jail for 62 days and has 28 to go. If she stays in jail the full 90 days, it will cost taxpayers about $3,960. That does not include her hospital costs, which the county could be billed for. Bozeman, 26, was back Thursday at the Bay County Jail annex, where she gave birth early Monday to a 5-pound, 8-ounce daughter in an infirmary. The birth is the subject of a personnel investigation into several questions, including, according to the county's jail manager and the Bozeman's mother: How long did officials wait to give Bozeman medical treatment? In a brief phone interview earlier this week, Bozeman said she told a jail guard that she was suffering the pangs of labor just after 2 a.m. Bozeman's mother, Doris Ayers, said the baby was born between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Officials from Corrections Corporation of America, the private, Tennessee-based company that was paid $14 million in 2005 to run two Bay County facilities, have repeatedly hedged against releasing documents related to the birth. Warden Mark Henry said Thursday he could not speak to specifics of the case, citing medical privacy issues that hinder the release of Bozeman's information. Bozeman could not be reached in jail Thursday for a waiver. The News Herald has requested documents related to staff levels and medical procedures the morning that Bozeman gave birth. "At this point," Henry said, "there isn't a whole lot I can tell you. I wish I could, but I can't do it without violating her rights. Even as an inmate, people still enjoy rights and privileges that I would not want to violate." One of those rights, Ayers said, would be a proper birth. "It's just absurd," she said, "that it happened like this. No one should have to catch their own baby."

November 9, 2005 News Herald
The last of four men accused of taking hostages last year in a jail standoff will not go to trial next week as planned. Instead, Kevin Winslett will be evaluated for his mental competency to stand trial. Bay County Sheriff's Office investigators said Winslett, 33, Kevin Nix, James Norton and Matthew Coffin took over the fourth floor of the Bay County Jail on Sept. 5 and 6, 2004, and held jail nurses hostage in a police standoff. The standoff ended when deputies shot one of the men and a nurse.

November 9, 2005 News Herald
Bay County Jail officials have launched a "full-fledged investigation" of personnel at the Nehi Road annex after a pregnant prisoner repeatedly called for medical attention hours before she gave birth in the infirmary early Monday morning, according to the county's jail liaison. Conflicting reports have emerged about the birth of a 5-pound, 8-ounce baby girl named "Crystal," who was born at least one month premature and was expected to be taken Tuesday to a neonatal facility at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. The baby's mother, Jennifer Bozeman, was recovering Tuesday afternoon at Bay Medical Center, where she was under watch by authorities and was expected to return soon to jail. "I don't know what happened really," Bozeman said. "I went into labor early Monday and I told one of the (corrections officers), but they didn't really do anything. They were supposed to get me down to the infirmary, but they didn't." According to Bozeman's mother, Doris Ayers, jail officials have been evasive, releasing scant information about Jennifer, the baby or the birth. Ayers said the birth announcement came from the lips of a fellow prisoner during a mysterious phone call early Monday morning. "(The warden) is not saying a whole lot," Ayers said Tuesday. "You know, they actually told (Bozeman) that she had a kidney stone. That's what they said was bothering her. … She told them she was having labor pains, and she told me that by the time somebody came to get her, she had to catch the baby. "That's exactly what she told me - that she actually had to catch her own baby." Officials offered a slightly different account, although Roger Hagen, who monitors the county's contract with the private company hired to run the downtown jail and Nehi Road annex, said Tuesday that early indications show a procedural breakdown among personnel. "That's my understanding," Hagen said. "There is an indication that there were some problems in the way it was handled. The warden is conducting a full-fledged investigation. Right now, he's doing a personnel evaluation to find out what happened." Henry is the third Bay County Jail warden in 22 months, and was hired in September by Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that holds a contract to run three county facilities. Henry, who last worked at the Jackson County Jail and spent nearly 30 years in the federal prison system, took over after the former warden quit and an assistant warden was fired.

October 1, 2005 News Herald
A man convicted of DUI manslaughter and an accused killer face additional criminal charges after attacking guards at the Bay County Jail on Friday, according to court records. William Deshonn Jones, 25, and Lashod Marquis Black, 21, each face a charge of battery on a corrections officer following separate incidents at the county's main jail. According to court records, at about noon, Jones became upset at a jail guard and threw two trays of food at the guard's chest. Jones' outburst came a little over an hour after a guard accused Black of grabbing her arm during a cell inspection, according to court records.

September 21, 2005 News Herald
Kevin Winslett should be ready for a new trial in November. Winslett, the accused ringleader of a takeover of the Bay County Jail last September, went to trial in August with his three co-defendants, but his case was declared a mistrial. Co-defendants Kevin Nix, Matthew Coffin and James Norton were convicted of false imprisonment and sentenced to 15 years in prison. They went to trial on the same charges that Winslett faces, but were acquitted of the most serious charges against them.

September 20, 2005 New-Herald
Lucrative contracts to operators of Bay County facilities and a $5 million increase in funds for blighted communities contribute to the county’s budget increase for fiscal year 2006. Operating costs for the two county-owned jails is projected to rise $2 million, to $16.3 million for FY 2006. That’s despite a decrease in the inmate population from about 1,100 last year to 900 currently, according to Roger Hagen, Bay County correctional program manager. Usually, there are 3 percent to 4 percent more inmates each year. There are fewer inmates now because those nabbed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials no longer are being housed in the Jail Annex. The operations cost per prisoner is expected to be $45.35 in FY 2006, about $1 more than it is now, said County Budget Officer Mary Dayton. Corrections Corporation of America runs the jails, but its contract expires next year. The county is looking to cut back on the amount it pays the contractor, whomever is selected. Emerald Correctional Management Corporation, based in Shreveport, La., also is bidding to operate the jail. “I feel like the CCA contract has been far too lucrative,” Gainer said. “If we don’t have a bid that’s much lower, then the county ought to consider running it by ourselves.”

September 13, 2005 News Herald
For the third time in 22 months, the Bay County Jail has a new warden. Corrections Corporation of America officials have hired Jackson County’s corrections chief to run the beleaguered Panama City Jail after the former warden quit and an assistant warden was fired less than a month ago. Mark A. Henry, who last worked at the Jackson County Jail and spent nearly 30 years in the federal prison system, is expected to start next week, according to Bay County’s jail contract monitor.
Roger Hagen, who acts as a liaison between Bay County commissioners and the private company hired to run three local facilities, said commissioners signed off on the hire after CCA officials tabbed Henry sometime last week. The hire came shortly after the dismissal of Assistant Warden John Rochefort for violating an undisclosed company policy and Warden Kevin Watson asked for a transfer for “personal reasons,” CCA officials said in mid-August. The company declined to give the exact reason Rochefort was fired, nor would they say in what capacity Watson would be retained. CCA officials did not return phone calls Tuesday.

September 12, 2005 News Herald
Strategy is a part of any trial. But when four men accused of taking hostages in a police standoff at the Bay County Jail were preparing to go to trial together, strategies were everywhere. The Bay County Sheriff’s Office had a plan to keep the four from attempting anything in the courthouse like what they were accused of doing at the jail. Prosecutors had their reasons for trying all four together, despite the security risks. And the four defense attorneys had the job of devising an attack that would work for their individual client, but not hurt the other three.
Coffin’s lawyer, Nancy Jones Gaglio, said there was an agreement going into trial that their clients would not try to blame each other for the takeover. Gaglio was able to address issues about jail conditions. “Judge allowed me to go there a little bit,” she said Wednesday. “But part of my defense was it was just a chaotic place and (jail operator Corrections Corporation of America) certainly wasn’t taking care of and running the place properly. I was trying to show that what happened was a direct result of CCA’s negligent maintenance.”

September 7, 2005 News Herald
Kevin Nix and Kathy Baucum share the same nightmare. Nix is one of three men convicted of falsely holding three jail nurses, including Baucum, against their will in a September 2004 takeover of the third floor of the Bay County Jail. The inmates were convicted last week of false imprisonment.
On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet sentenced Nix, 29, and co-defendants Matthew Coffin, 20, and James Norton, 32, to 15 years in prison each, to begin after their current prison sentences expire. That basically means that Norton will spend the next 16 years in prison, Nix 28 years, and Coffin 24.

September 2, 2005 News Herald
Three Bay County Jail inmates who held nurses prisoner last September during a jail takeover were acquitted Thursday of the most serious charges against them. Jurors acquitted Kevin Nix, James Norton and Matthew Coffin of kidnapping, aggravated assault and escape. Instead, they each were convicted of three counts of false imprisonment. In addition, Nix was convicted of attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and Norton of simple assault. The three were facing up to life in prison on the kidnapping charges, but could now see greatly reduced time. False imprisonment is a third-degree felony punishable by five years in prison.  Specifically, Nix, 29, Norton, 32, and Coffin, 20, were convicted of illegally holding jail nurses Glenda Baker, Kathy Baucum and Amie Hunt against their wills during a 12-hour standoff with deputies Sept. 5 and 6. They were acquitted of any charges involving former jail guard James Hall, who was kept in a cell for two hours before being released in exchange for pizzas and cigarettes.

September 1, 2005 News Herald
A September standoff at the Bay County Jail ended in gunshots, but testimony in the case ended on Wednesday without the smoking gun. Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet ruled that testimony about gunshots from a hostage negotiator and SWAT team that wounded an inmate and a hostage were irrelevant to the charges against Matthew Coffin, Kevin Nix and James Norton. The three men began trial this week on charges of kidnapping, escape and aggravated assault. They are accused of participating in a takeover of the jail’s third floor on Sept. 5 and 6 and face life in prison if convicted as charged. Ann Marie “Amie” Hunt told jurors that the takeover went from a kind of “nutty” situation to a dangerous one as the night progressed.  “At the very beginning,” she said, choosing her words carefully, “they were a little nutty. They just wanted to find a way out. They were as polite as they could be for the situation we were in.” Then, Hunt said, the inmates broke into the drug storage lockers and began ingesting narcotics. As the night progressed, she said, Nix became agitated with nurse Glenda Baker’s praying. Another nurse, Kathy Baucum, said Baker was constantly praying and also “speaking in tongues.” When it came time to offer a hostage in return for pizza and cigarettes, Nix insisted Baker go because she was “freaking him out,” Hunt said. Hunt said an inmate told her she might end up as “collateral damage” when officers stormed the jail. The standoff ended, Hunt said, when she was brought before a barred gate at the end of a hall. Nix, she said, was standing behind her with a scalpel to her throat. “I don’t know who shot me,” she said. “He was just a figure, a person standing there, then, boom. I looked down, and I got shot. Then, boom, and I got shot again.”
One bullet shattered her knee, an injury that incapacitated her for months. Hunt was able to walk into court and take the witness stand with the help of a cane.

August 27, 2005 News Herald
Kevin Winslett got a mistrial. Kevin Nix stuck a pen up his nose. The first day of trial for four men accused of taking hostages in a jail standoff in September got off to an interesting start Tuesday. Testimony in the trial of the remaining three defendants will resume today. Winslett, Nix, James Norton and Matthew Coffin began trial on charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault and escape. They are accused of holding four people hostage during an attempted escape Sept. 5 and 6 at the Bay County Jail. The standoff ended with gunfire that wounded two of the men and a jail nurse. All four face up to life in prison if convicted as charged. The first prosecution witness Tuesday was James Hall, a former jail guard and one of the four allegedly held hostage. He said he was the only guard working the jail’s third floor the night of Sept. 5, with 80 inmates to watch. Hall said he opened a cell during “pill call,” when medications are dispensed, to check on an inmate who did not respond to him. Hall said while he was in the cell, he was hit twice from behind and knocked to the ground. Initially in his testimony, Hall said it was Norton who hit him. Hall changed that later and said he did not know who hit him, only that Norton was the closest to him when he looked up from the ground. Hall said he first told jail administrators that he had been knocked unconscious and during that time his keys and radio were taken. Months later, when being interviewed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, he changed that, saying he was not unconscious but told jail officials that to try to save his job. Hall also said inmates ripped his uniform shirt before releasing him to make it look like he had put up a struggle. Hall was fired from the jail for several policy violations stemming from the incident on the third floor. Former jail nurse Glenda Baker told jurors she was working her first full day at the jail on Sept. 5. Baker said she never actually was threatened during the incident but felt threatened. “You said you felt like you couldn’t leave,” Chris Patterson said to Baker during cross-examination. “Did you ever ask?” Baker thought about it for a minute and said, “I don’t remember.” Prosecutors decided to try the four together, a rare strategy, that made for extraordinary security as well as legal complications. Tuesday morning began with prosecutor Quentin Broxton’s opening statement. He described the takeover as an elaborate escape attempt that backfired. Winslett’s attorney, Doug White, then began to lay out his defense for jurors. He said this would be a case of perspective in which jurors may have a hard time understanding the thinking of those behind bars. “If we’ve never been jailed, can we still understand the context of a prisoner?” White asked. “Can a deaf person appreciate a classic symphony?” Fellow defense attorney Nancy Jones told jurors in her opening statement that conditions at the jail were “horrible” and “horrendous.” “Conditions in that jail were so bad they made one’s toes curl,” she said. White said the four men’s actions on Sept. 5 were to bring attention to jail conditions, but were not well thought out. “These four young men acted out in ways that were not brilliant,” he said. “They were not smart. And in some cases, they were downright dumb.” White then said that Winslett’s conception of reality also may be skewed by a diagnosed mental disorder. Prosecutor Bill Lewis objected. The defense lawyers, prosecutors and Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet left the room to discuss the objection. A part of White’s defense was that Winslett has a “mental defect” that would affect his ability to form the necessary intent to have committed the crimes. White denied that it was an insanity defense and refrained from calling it a “mental health” defense. Lewis argued that any mental health defense requires a notice to the prosecution that would give the state an opportunity to prepare witnesses and have the defendant evaluated. White argued that a notice was required only if he was pursuing an insanity defense. Overstreet found that a notice was required in this case and prevented White from pursuing that aspect of his defense. White asked for — and Overstreet granted him — a mistrial so White can file his notice and prepare for another trial. While the lawyers and judge were out of the room discussing Winslett’s case, Nix, who was one of the defendants sitting closest to the jury, started playing with a blue Sharpie felt-tip pen. He took off the cap, sniffed the tip, put the tip in his mouth and chewed on it, then spit a piece of it onto the table. He then put the tip up his nose. When Nix’s lawyer, Mike Hunter, returned to the courtroom, he found Nix with blue lines on his nose, lips and hands. Hunter asked for a continuance, saying he needed to have his client evaluated for his mental competency to continue. Hunter said Nix told him that in times of stress, fear or anger Nix “loses time” or blanks out. Hunter said Nix did not know what he had done in court. Overstreet asked two psychologists to interview Nix from noon to 2:30 p.m. to give their best assessment of his mental ability to continue with the trial. Nix then was found competent to proceed. “Putting a pen up your nose isn’t really consistent with a mental disorder,” Dr. David Smith told Overstreet.

August 18, 2005 News Herald
Less than eight months after taking over as warden, the head of the Bay County Jail has resigned, according to a Corrections Corporation of America spokesman Wednesday. Kevin Watson submitted a letter to CCA officials Tuesday requesting a demotion and transfer for “personal reasons,” said Steve Owens, spokesman for the Nashville-based company contracted by the county to manage the downtown jail and annex. Watson’s resignation came the same day CCA fired John Rochefort from his position as an assistant warden for violating CCA policies, Owens said. Owens and Jennifer Taylor, CCA’s senior director for business development, said Watson’s decision to step down and Rochefort’s termination are not related. Taylor said Watson flew to Nashville on Tuesday to deliver a letter to CCA officials requesting the change of position. CCA has not determined what position Watson will fill with the company and he has taken an indefinite leave of absence, she said. Roger Hagen, the contract monitor for Bay County, said Wednesday that Rochefort was terminated for “performancerelated issues.” Hagen said he was aware Watson had requested vacation time and may not return as warden. Both facilities have been subject to increased scrutiny in recent weeks because of a foiled escape attempt by a suspected cop killer from the downtown jail and a sex scandal at the annex involving a prison guard, a nurse and an inmate.

August 11, 2005 WNYT
A man awaiting trial on charges stemming from the September hostage-taking at the Bay County Jail faces new charges after guards said he tried to smuggle a razor blade into the jail. The Bay County Sheriff’s Office charged 32-year-old James Richard Norton with introduction of contraband into a detention facility Wednesday.

August 10, 2005 News Herald
Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigators and jail officials are trying to determine how an accused cop killer came within a few days of escaping from the sixth floor of the county’s downtown jail. Robert Bailey, 23, of Milwaukee, Wis., is accused of attempted escape and introduction of contraband to a detention facility after jail guards and Sheriff’s Office investigators searched his cell Monday evening and found hacksaw blades and evidence that Bailey was trying to cut his way out of the cell’s windows, according to a Sheriff’s Office report. The search of Bailey’s jail cell came after U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents contacted the Sheriff’s Office on Monday afternoon to report they had learned during an investigation that Bailey was planning a jailbreak, said Capt. Jimmy Stanford, head of the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division.  After pulling Bailey from his cell, located in a maximum security pod on the jail’s sixth floor, investigators said they discovered about seven hacksaw blades in the toilet, hidden under Bailey’s bed and stashed in a cutout and patched section of the ceiling. Investigators also reported finding bolts sliced in metal grates covering windows and cuts in a metal divider between the two windows. The grates placed over the 6-inch-wide Plexiglas windows are bolted into the window frame at the bottom and top. The top bolts had not been sawed through, investigators said. With Bailey remaining behind bars, investigators and jail officials are turning their attention to how the inmate was able to obtain the hacksaw blades and how his planned escape attempt went unnoticed, Stanford said.
Because Bailey’s status as a “high-risk” inmate prevented him from having direct contact with visitors, investigators have not ruled out that a guard or fellow inmate may have supplied Bailey with the hacksaw blades, Stanford said.

July 20, 2005 News Herald
Four men accused of taking hostages in a Bay County Jail standoff last year have been scheduled for trial the last week of August.  It is unlikely, however, that the four will be tried together.  James Norton, Kevin Winslett, Matthew Coffin and Kevin Nix are accused of holding nurses hostage during a jail standoff Sept. 5 and 6. All four are facing kidnapping charges that could land them in prison for life.

July 18, 2005 News Herald
A married jail nurse was arrested late Saturday and accused of having sex with a female inmate on an examining table in the Bay County Jail annex, leading to a felony count that was vehemently denied Sunday by the man's wife. Authorities charged Christopher Michael Byrd, 33, with sexual misconduct between a detention facility employee and an inmate, a third-degree felony that could land the licensed practicing nurse in jail for five years. According to a Bay County Sheriff's Office arrest affidavit: Byrd asked a guard to release a female inmate to the medical unit sometime Saturday night. Byrd told the guard that he had permission from a supervisor to allow the inmate to walk to the medical pod without a runner. In jail lingo, a "runner" is an escort generally used to accompany inmates between units in a facility. Once the woman arrived in the medical unit, Byrd told her to go to an examination room. Inside, they began canoodling before the woman dropped her pants and the pair had sex on a table. It is unclear how authorities discovered the alleged intercourse. The charge against Byrd is part of a state law passed four years ago. Legislators passed in 2001 the "Protection Against Sexual Violence in Florida Jails and Prisons Act" as a measure to prevent misconduct between jailers and inmates in detention facilities. The act contains a provision that says consent cannot be used as a defense during prosecution.

June 16, 2005 AP
A state investigation has confirmed that a Bay County Jail inmate committed suicide in a shower room and found no evidence officials or other prisoners knew he planned to kill himself. A summary of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the April 5 death of James T. Sly Jr., 35, of nearby Springfield, was released Wednesday. Sly was found hanging by a bedsheet from a shower head. The summary does not address whether guards followed proper procedures before the death. A May report from Bay County's jail contract monitor alleged that a jailer included Sly in midnight head count without actually seeing him, assuming the inmate was there because water could be heard running in the shower. Company officials said they are waiting to review the full state investigation report before commenting on county allegation or the guard's status.

May 20, 2005 News Herald
Corrections Corporation of America officials remain silent about a report issued by the county’s jail program manager stating a corrections officer did not properly account for an inmate later found dead from an apparent suicide. However, the family of James T. Sly Jr. has not stopped demanding answers from the company contracted to oversee the Bay County Jail. They want to know why the 35-year-old jail inmate was able to hang himself while under the control of CCA. According to a recently released report by Bay County’s contract monitor, Roger Hagen, a jail guard identified as J. Harris "counted" James Sly as part of a midnight shift head count without seeing the inmate. The report states the guard "assumed" James Sly was in the shower because the shower water was running. Harris failed to follow CCA’s policy that requires guards to only count an inmate after seeing the person’s "living, breathing flesh," according to Hagen. Hagen’s report conflicts with previous statements made by the jail’s warden, Kevin Watson, who in April told The News Herald that a preliminary investigation suggested that no CCA policies or procedures were violated concerning James Sly’s death. Watson also said no CCA employees had been reprimanded because of the incident.
In his report, Hagen called on CCA to "take appropriate disciplinary action" against the officer and "provide special training for all officers" on the counting procedures. On Thursday, Watson declined to comment further on James Sly’s death pending the outcome of the FDLE investigation. He also declined to comment on Harris’ status with CCA. A report from the FDLE is expected to be completed within the next two weeks.

May 17, 2005 News Herald
The correctional officer responsible for checking on inmate James T. Sly during the early morning shift on April 5 was supposed to see him "in the flesh." He did not, and that night Sly apparently hanged himself in the inmate showers. The death is still being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. However, an incident review by Roger Hagen, Bay County’s correctional program manager, found that the Corrections Corporation of America policies were not followed on the night Sly died. The fact Officer J. Harris did not physically see Sly when he was doing rounds is a violation of CCA’s policy "Count Principles and Procedures," Hagen says in the report, which was forwarded to the County Commission May 10. That finding counters Warden Kevin Watson’s preliminary investigation last month, which suggested that all CCA policies or procedures were followed on the night Sly died.

April 22, 2005 News-Herald
The Florida Ethics Commission found former Bay County commissioner Danny Sparks in violation of a gifts law Thursday. On terms he agreed to, he will pay a $1,000 civil penalty and admit fault. Kerrie Stillman, assistant to the executive director of the Ethics Commission, said that an attorney for Sparks met with an Ethics Commission advocate and they both approved a settlement agreement. This includes paying $1,000 "with public censure and reprimand." The ethics board will submit a final order of the case to the governor’s office on Tuesday. Gov. Jeb Bush will review it and issue an executive order stating the findings. He has the authority to impose the fine, Stillman said. Sparks, contacted at home Thursday, said he was unaware of any settlement or ruling regarding his case. He said he wouldn’t comment on it, anyway. Sparks is accused of breaching Florida ethics law during a trip he and other county officials took in February 2000 to Tennessee to visit a jail run by Corrections Corporation of America, which also operates Bay County’s jail and annex. He participated with others in a round of golf — valued at $240 per person — paid for by county financial adviser Gary Akers. Florida ethics laws prohibit public officials and employees from accepting any gift worth $100 or more from a lobbyist. In July 2003, the Florida Police Benevolent Association filed complaints with the Ethics Commission against Sparks and two other former county commissioners, Carol Atkinson and Richard Stewart, as well as former county manager Jon Mantay, former county attorney Nevin Zimmerman, and Bob Majka, county emergency services director. Public hearings on the charges would have been held if Sparks didn’t settle his case. His ethics violation admission frees the county from paying his attorney fees, said Commission Chairman George Gainer. In March, the County Commission agreed to pay for the fees of all parties being investigated for ethics complaints if they were eventually exonerated. Sparks’ case is the only to be resolved to date.

April 13, 2005 News-Herald
A week after apparently hanging himself in a Bay County Jail shower, James T. Sly was laid to rest Tuesday in a Panama City cemetery. Special agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have not released the results of their investigation into the death of the 35-year-old Springfield man, said FDLE spokeswoman Lisa Lagergren. Sly, a father of six children, was found dead in a fifth-floor shower room early April 5 by corrections officers, according to jail officials. Jail officials said because of Sly’s suicidal tendencies at the time of his arrest, he was placed in an observation unit of the jail and interviewed at least five times by a mental health counselor. Jail officials said counselors in February approved Sly’s move into a general population pod where he continued to receive treatment. Jail officials said Sly did not display signs that he wanted to hurt himself and guards had no reason to believe something was wrong when Sly requested to take a shower at about 2 a.m. on April 5.

April 9, 2005 News-Herald
A Bay County Jail corrections officer faces battery charges following an investigation into a fight between the guard and an inmate earlier this week.  Corrections Corporation of America fired Grant Cox, 35, of Panama City on Friday following an internal investigation of a Wednesday evening melee involving Cox and 19-year-old Skylar Jones, said Warden Kevin Watson. The incident occurred moments after a jury announced it could not reach a verdict in Jones’ attempted first-degree murder trial. Watson said Cox violated Tennessee-based CCA’s policy by striking Jones during a "verbal altercation" in the jail’s elevator. Watson said Cox allowed the inmate to "push his buttons." "That was certainly not the right thing to do," Watson said. Jones said the two men exchanged profanities in the elevator and said the argument became so heated that Cox grabbed him by the throat and threw him to the ground. He would not provide details on the argument.
"He put his knee into my chest and said he was going to" hurt me, Jones said. Jones said he was not handcuffed at the time. Jones said Cox got off of him when the elevator doors opened but rushed at him as Jones started walking out of the elevator. Jones said the guard knocked him into the trash can. Three other CCA guards noticed the fight and rushed to assist Cox, Jones said. After his termination, Cox was cited on the misdemeanor charge and released without posting bond.

April 5, 2005 News-Herald
About three months after police thwarted a Springfield man’s attempt to kill himself on the DuPont Bridge, the 35-year-old was found dead inside the Bay County Jail on Tuesday morning. Jail officials said James T. Sly hanged himself at about 2:40 a.m. in the shower room of his fifth floor housing unit. Because of the attempt to kill himself in January, Sly originally was placed in an observation unit of the jail and interviewed at least five times by a mental heath counselor, Thore said. About a month later, Sly was allowed to move into a general population pod on the fifth floor of the downtown jail and continued to receive treatment, Thore said. At about 2 a.m. on Tuesday, guards conducting a head count listed Sly as being in the housing unit’s shower area, Thore said. When guards returned about 30 minutes later to conduct another count, Sly’s cellmate said Sly still was in the shower, Thore said.

March 14, 2005 News-Herald
You can turn a Styrofoam cup inside out and still drink from it. Several years ago, an inmate at the Bay County Jail asked then-corrections officer Kevin Watson if he was aware of this interesting fact.  "I said something like I didn’t think he could do it, but he took that cup he had and carefully worked it with his hands until it was turned inside out," Watson said. Having successfully completed the task, the inmate asked Watson: "Do you know what the moral of this story is?" "What’s that?" Watson responded. I have nothing but time," the inmate said. That is just one of many lessons Watson said he has used to guide him through 18 years in corrections and his first three months as the Bay County Jail’s warden. "He was right," Watson said of the inmate’s message. "These guys have nothing but time." During a recent interview with The News Herald, Watson explained how he has wasted little time making his mark on the aging facility and a staff trying to recover from repeated criticism by the press and the community. The newest warden for Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America’s Bay County facility has literally "cleaned house" since taking over the reigns from former Warden Denny Durbin.

March 2, 2005 News Herald
Bay County will reimburse former county officials for attorney’s fees paid to defend themselves against investigations of ethics violations.  On Tuesday, the Bay County Commission voted 5-0 in favor of reimbursing five people: former Commissioners Carol Atkinson, Richard Stewart and Danny Sparks; former County Manager Jon Mantay; and former County Attorney Nevin Zimmerman.  Commission Chairman George Gainer emphasized that the board will reimburse only the fees that pertain to the officials’ defense of taking a trip to Nashville, Tenn., in February 2000 to tour a jail operated by Corrections Corporation of America. The reimbursements also are contingent on the former county officials’ exoneration.  During the trip, at least one of the county officials, former Commissioner Danny Sparks, played a $240 round of golf paid for by county financial adviser Gary Akers.  CCA paid for county officials’ flights to Nashville, which The Florida Commission on Ethics found problem- atic because the county should have footed the initial expense for the trip, said county attorney Mike Burke. It would have been permissible, he said, for the county to collect reimbursement from CCA afterward.  Bay County was negotiating a contract renewal with CCA at the time. The Florida Police Benevolent Association, a union representing police and correctional officers, filed the ethics complaints.  The golf game was not part of PBA’s original complaint. Instead, the complaint was limited to allegations that CCA paid the officials’ travel, lodging and meal expenses for the trip.  Florida law prohibits public officials from accepting any gift with a value of more than $100 from a "lobbyist." In August 2004, Atkinson was cleared of the charges, so her $1,085 in legal expenses is guaranteed reimbursement. Burke said she proved that she was unaware CCA, not the county, was paying for the Nashville trip.

February 24, 2005 News Herald
Bay County Jail officials ordered last weekend the installation of exterior, sliding-bolt locks on transport van doors to prevent escape attempts by inmates, said the jail’s warden.
The new locks come after an inmate broke out of a Corrections Corporation of America transport van Friday afternoon, resulting in an 18-hour manhunt. On Friday, 18-year-old Jeremy D. Aultman of Panama City Beach manipulated the CCA van’s door-locking mechanism through the interior paneling, CCA officials said. Aultman then escaped from the van that was transporting 13 inmates to the Bay County Jail Annex, CCA officials said.   Along with new locks, maintenance crews placed a steel plate over the interior passenger-door panels of the transport van that Aultman escaped from, Watson said. Watson said steel plates already were in place on other CCA vans. Watson on Tuesday defended the actions of his transport driver, who prisoners said failed to notice Aultman trying to escape and then ran from the vehicle to catch Aultman, according to police reports. Watson said Tyndal followed CCA policies and has not been disciplined. Tyndal climbed out of the van to chase Aultman but gave up and returned to the van, according to the reports. Though none of the 12 remaining inmates joined Aultman in trying to flee, some reported to police that they had ample opportunity. Inmate Ryan Meadows and Stanford W. Ferguson sat behind Aultman during the transport from the main jail to Bayou George, according to CCA incident reports. "Tyndal jumped out of the van, leaving his door and our door wide open — keys still in the van," Meadows stated in the incident report. Ferguson concurred Meadows’ report that Tyndal chased Aultman without securing the van’s doors. Meadows added that when Tyndal came back to the van, the guard took the inmates on a "high-speed" chase through the nearby residential area called The Cove. Friday’s escape attempt occurred about five months after four inmates at the main jail escaped from their cells and held CCA employees hostage. A faulty cell door lock received part of the blame for allowing the uprising, according to a state investigation.

February 24, 2005 News Herald
Former Bay County Commissioner Danny Sparks has entered into a "joint stipulation" with an advocate for the Florida Commission on Ethics in which Sparks admits he violated state law when he accepted a $240 round of golf paid for by the county’s financial adviser.  The Ethics Commission must approve the stipulation, which it will consider at its April 21 meeting.  The Florida Police Benevolent Association, a union representing police and correctional officers, filed ethics complaints against Sparks and five other former and current county officials in July 2003. The complaints targeted a February 2000 trip the officials took to Tennessee to visit a jail operated by Corrections Corporation of America, which also operates Bay County’s jail and jail annex. As a second leg of the trip, the officials traveled to Arizona to view a publicly run jail. Bay County was negotiating a contract renewal with CCA at the time.  The PBA also filed complaints, each with multiple allegations, against former Commissioners Carol Atkinson and Richard Stewart, former County Manager Jon Mantay, former county attorney Nevin Zimmerman, and county Emergency Services Chief Bob Majka.  The Ethics Commission issued probable-cause findings against all but Atkinson. All allegations against her were dismissed. Spark’s stipulation with the commission advocate includes a recommendation that he be fined $1,000 and that he be publicly censured and reprimanded. The public censure and reprimand would occur as part of an executive order by the governor. The $240 golf game, which was played during the trip, was paid for by Gary Akers, a financial consultant that assists the county with bond issues. Florida law prohibits public officials from accepting any gift with a value of more than $100 from a "lobbyist." Ken Kopczynski, PBA’s legislative assistant, said Ethics Commission investigators found out about the golf game as part of their review of the PBA’s complaint. The Ethics Commission dismissed allegations against Sparks related to CCA’s paying his travel expenses. The commission based the dismissal on its determination that Sparks was not aware that CCA was paying for the trip. The dismissal of the allegations against former Commissioner Atkinson was based on the same determination. In its probable cause findings issued in September, the Ethics Commission found: That Majka, Mantay and Zimmerman may have violated state gift laws by allowing CCA to pay their travel expenses. That Majka and Stewart, in addition to Sparks, may have violated gift laws by accepting rounds of golf from Akers. The commission dismissed the most serious allegations — that the officials accepted the gifts with knowledge that they were intended to influence future votes or decisions. Kopczynski said Wednesday that he believes the stipulation with Sparks is "reasonable." But he noted that allegations related to CCA would not be addressed until the other officials enter into stipulations or settlements or take their cases to hearing. Kopczynski’s organization, the Police Benevolent Association, opposes privately operated prisons and jails.

February 22, 2005 News Herald
Will Rogers famously said that if you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. Corrections Corporation of America would do well to heed his advice. Last summer’s takeover and hostage situation brought scrutiny to CCA, the following investigations and News Herald reports exposed gaps in security. CCA went into damage control mode. Now that Bay County is talking about building an expansion to the existing jail annex for maximum-security inmates, nearby residents are worried — and rightly so ("Jail plans hit home," Feb. 21). Even as Ryan Burr was writing the story about residents’ fears, an inmate escaped from a van transporting prisoners to the facility from downtown. Residents raise these kinds of fears any time a new prison or jail is planned. "Not in my back yard" is a common refrain no matter how safe a facility is. Most of them are, in fact, safe as can be and the fears turn out to be all hype. This time, though, residents do have something to be worried about: a corporation which has, time and time again, proven itself to be incompetent and possibly dangerous to its prisoners and workers. According to the state of Florida, 109 prisoners escaped from the Florida Department of Corrections in the fiscal year beginning July 2003. But almost every single one came from a work release program — in other words, they only had to walk away. Inmates who escape these programs are non-violent and pose little threat to the communities around them. Only three actually escaped from the custody of correctional facilities. Since September, five prisoners have escaped their cells at CCA facilities in Bay County — more than other correctional facilities in the entire previous year in the entire state of Florida. That’s not the kind of record that inspires confidence. It’s more important for the county to ensure that CCA establishes a normal level of security than it is to build new facilities or shuffle prisoners from one jail to another. CCA is steadily losing the trust of Bay County citizens by failing again and again to meet security requirements. If CCA didn’t learn its lesson from the events of September, it’s unlikely that one more escape will drive the point home. First things first: Bay County needs to follow through on its plan to accept bids for the jail contract and decide who could do the job best — even if that means giving CCA the boot. A maximum-security jail doesn’t need to be a dangerous place for nearby residents. Normal jails don’t have escapes every year, or even every few years. It’s only because of CCA’s lax security that residents have to worry. Once the jails have a real measure of security, a maximum-security jail near residences might make sense. Until then, the NIMBY folks have a point — with CCA in charge, no one would want a jail in their back yard.

February 21, 2005 News Herald
When Dana Knight awoke one morning in 1997 to find bloody handprints on a rented U-Haul truck and the driver’s window busted out, she didn’t have to think long about possible culprits. Living near the Bay County Jail Annex on Nehi Road, she understands there is a risk of escapees coming onto her property. That is what happened in July 1997. Four inmates — three with previous charges of murder or attempted murder — broke out of the jail annex. When one of them could not jumpstart Knight’s U-Haul, the group went to another residence and stole a vehicle, Knight said. Within about two days, all of the inmates were apprehended. Knight and her husband, Dan, have two children, ages 6 and 11. The couple used to live near the main Bay County Jail in downtown Panama City, which keeps the most serious criminals in maximum security. "I don’t think the CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) has done their job," she said, referencing an inmate takeover on Sept. 5 and 6 at the downtown jail. Four men were arrested in that incident and face kidnapping charges. CCA operates both facilities.

February 20, 2005 News Herald
A 23-year-old Bay County Jail inmate faces a charge of introducing contraband into a corrections facility after he told a guard he was hiding money in his rectum, according to a jail investigation report.
Chris Eckman of Panama City informed a jail guard Friday evening of a $100 bill hidden in his body, according to the report. The report does not explain the reason Eckman possessed the cash. Eckman is awaiting trial on charges of smuggling drugs into the jail , according to court records. Eckman was convicted of burglary and grand theft in 2001 and placed on probation, according to court records. In 2002, he was arrested for violating probation and in 2004 was found possessing methamphetamine and Ecstasy inside the jail , according to court records.

February 20, 2005 News Herald
Police captured and returned to jail a Panama City Beach man on Saturday, a day after he escaped from a transport van.   Panama City police found Jeremy D. Aultman, 18, at about 7 a.m., walking through a residential area about a block from where he escaped, according to police reports.
Aultman became the subject of a manhunt Friday afternoon when he unlocked the transport van’s door from the inside and ran from the vehicle as it waited on a traffic signal. Thore said Aultman was en route to the Bay County Jail Annex in Bayou George with 12 other inmates when he escaped. Thore said Correction Corporation of America , the Tennessee company that manages the jail for Bay County , continues to investigate the incident.

February 19, 2005 News Herald
A Panama City Beach teen remained on the run Friday night after escaping from a Bay County Jail transport van Friday afternoon, a jail official said. Assistant Warden Richard Thore said police continued to search for accused felon Jeremy Daniel Aultman, 18, of 229 E. Lakeshore Drive. Thore said the search began at about 1:30 p.m. after a Corrections Corporation of America transport van driver reported that an inmate escaped from the van. The CCA driver was transporting 13 inmates from the downtown jail to the CCA jail annex in Bayou George, he said. CCA manages the jail , the jail annex and the Bay Correctional Facility. The CCA van was stopped at the intersection of U.S. Business 98 and Cove Boulevard, when Aultman tripped a locking mechanism, pulled the van door open and fled south, Thore said. The 12 other inmates remained in the van, he said.

February 9, 2005 News Herald
The four men who investigators say took hostages during a Bay County Jail takeover in September may be ready for trial by late spring.
James Norton, Kevin Winslett, Matthew Coffin and Kevin Nix are accused of holding nurses hostage during a jail standoff on Sept. 5 and 6. All four are facing kidnapping charges that could land them in prison for life.

February 5, 2005 News Herald
Police arrested a Bay County Jail corrections officer on multiple drug charges while on his way to work Friday afternoon, according to a Bay County Sheriff’s Office news release.  Jamie Bishop, 29, of the 5200 block of State 22A, faces charges of selling cocaine, possession of cocaine, possession of steroids, possession of Xanax, possession of drug paraphernalia and sale of a controlled substance, according to the news release. Bishop was taken to the Bay County Jail and held pending bond.

January 24, 2005 News Herald
Former jail nurse Ann Marie "Amie" Hunt was a bundle of emotions Friday as she talked about the night she almost died during an inmate standoff at the Bay County Jail. Hunt was shot three times the morning of Sept. 6 after a 12-hour standoff between four inmates and Bay County deputies. Bullets entered her hip, back and left leg, damaging bones and vital organs. Hunt, who was unable to stop herself from crying through much of the interview and showed flashes of deep anger, said she has hired a lawyer to explore the incident, the way it was handled and how it has been investigated by the different agencies involved.  She declined to go into too much detail about the night of Sept. 5 and morning of Sept. 6, but did say she never felt like her life was in danger during the standoff.  Investigators said four hostages gained control of a third-floor holding cell, including the nurses’ station and prescription drug cabinet. Through the standoff, the inmates released all the hostages but Hunt.
Her husband, James Hunt, is still employed by Corrections Corporation of America, the jail’s owner. He said he’s on the payroll but is allowed to stay home and care for his wife.

January 1, 2005 News Herald
On the evening of Sept. 5, four inmates at the Bay County Jail broke free from their third-floor cells, subdued a guard and took four people hostage. The standoff ended 12 hours later in a hail of gunfire that injured a hostage and two inmates.  Three months later, the incident continues to brew. A guard has been fired and the warden replaced while three deputies who opened fire have been cleared by prosecutors and investigators. But many questions remain: Did jail supervisors fail to fix broken door locks? Did a guard fail to secure the inmates’ cells? Does the county need to rethink its relationship with Corrections Corporation of America, the Tennessee company hired to run the jail and annex?  The Bay County Commission could answer the last question in the coming year, as it decides whether to put the jail operations contract — which CCA has held for nearly 20 years — out for bid.

December 30, 2004 News Herald
Like anything else, a jail is as secure as its weakest link. And as Anthony Cormier’s Wednesday article "County report addresses issues in jail incident" described the findings of Bay County’s contract monitor, any weak link can become the weakest under the right circumstance. Therefore, contract monitor Roger Hagen’s report on the September hostage incident should not be reviewed as just another attempt to get to the bottom of the inmate takeover. Investigative authorities have done that, tracing the immediate spark to an apparently manipulable guard whom Corrections Corporation of America has since dismissed. To some extent, CCA preempted Hagen’s report by also reassigning the jail warden. Clearly, too much was amiss to blame just a wayward guard. Supervisors rarely checked duty logs, Hagen found. And when they did, it apparently wasn’t to look for weak links — a broken key and a missing flashlight repeatedly were documented, for example, to no avail. CCA should correct notated security related maintenance issues within 24 hours, Hagen said, reasonably. The new warden’s biggest challenge will be to persuade jail staff that CCA really wants to start doing things right. Alas, from Hagen’s report, that’s a tall order. Hagen depicted a culture in which employees feared retaliation by management if they made supervisors "aware of any problems, staff errors or performance deficiencies." In other words, the culture outside the cells seemed little different from the culture that prevailed behind bars. We agree with Hagen that CCA needs to refute what he calls a "correctional code of silence." Do it by calling employees together, or in writing, but do it. If employees don’t believe that CCA means business, their business becomes to create even more weak links, not fix them.

December 30, 2004 News Herald
A man who says he was in the Bay County Jail in September when four other inmates took hostages on the third floor has sued the jail’s corporate owner in federal court. Richard Lewis Bell Sr. of Ellenwood, Ga., filed suit Nov. 8 against Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America seeking $100,000 for reckless endangerment, "cruel and harsh treatment," "mental stress," failing to maintain a maximum security area, and failing to comply with the state "no smoking" law. Bell stated in a handwritten complaint that he went through "living hell" during and after a Sept. 5 takeover of the third floor. He stated that after deputies stormed the cellblock and shot two alleged hostage-takers and a nurse, the jail’s guards "went total nuts." Bell wrote that he and other inmates who were not involved in the takeover were thrown to the floor and grabbed by the hair. He stated that in the days that followed, two-man cells were filled with four inmates each, and the inmates were fed once every 24 hours.

December 29, 2004 News Herald
Bay County Jail managers were not regularly reviewing duty and maintenance logs in the weeks before September’s inmate takeover and failed to address issues — including a faulty cell door — that precipitated the standoff, according to a county review obtained by The News Herald. An Unusual Incident Review, completed last week by Bay County’s jail contract monitor, Roger Hagen, offers a chronology of the takeover and 10 corrective actions for Corrections Corporation of America supervisors. Among the recommendations are disciplinary action for a third-floor guard — who two weeks ago was fired — and a more thorough review by managers of daily logs compiled by jail staff.
In the county’s review, Hagen found that Officer James Hall was "less than truthful with law enforcement" when he recanted portions of his story during interviews with police. Hall repeatedly told Sheriff’s Office investigators that he was scared to work on the third floor of the downtown facility and acknowledged violating numerous CCA policies because he knew supervisors rarely checked duty logs. Hagen’s review seems to second that notion. "When reviewing this documentation, for a 2-4 week time period prior to the incident," Hagen wrote, "it was apparent that managers or supervisors are either not regularly reviewing the logs or if they are, they are not addressing the issues they document. As an example, a broken key and a missing flashlight were repetitively documented by different shift floor officers in the third floor post duty log for the entire time frame I reviewed." The logs show a history of maintenance problems on the third floor, including reports of broken locks that went unfixed at least two weeks before the takeover, according to a November examination by The News Herald. State agents confirmed the newspaper’s examination in an Florida Department of Law Enforcement report, in which guards, nurses and inmates all claimed that the door to cell C-1 easily could be defeated. Perhaps a more pressing issue cited in the review is a "correctional code of silence," which keeps staff from reporting problems for fear of retribution. "Most of the staff I had discussions with," he wrote, "were concerned about being identified if they shared issues or concerns with me."

December 19, 2004 News Herald
The Tennessee company that operates the Bay County Jail fired a corrections officer Friday, three months after inmates held him hostage during a 12-hour standoff with police. Corrections Corporation of America terminated James C. Hall of Lynn Haven for violations of CCA policy, according to Kevin Watson, Bay County Jail warden.
Watson declined to comment on specific violations Hall committed. He confirmed that Hall’s violations were related to the escape of inmates from their cells in September. Hall, 26, had been on administrative leave since Sept. 6 pending police and CCA investigations into the jail break that resulted in four inmates escaping from their cells and taking Hall and three nurses hostage. According to an Florida Department of Law Enforcement report on the hostage-taking incident, Hall admitted during an interview with law enforcement agents that he allowed inmates to shut themselves into their cells and falsified shift logs relating to inmates’ time in the jail’s third-floor day room. The inmates, nurses and Hall told investigators that inmates were able to escape from their cells because of faulty locks on cell doors, something they said was common knowledge in the jail, according to the FDLE report. Inmates also told investigators they decided to start the incident because of inhumane living conditions at the jail, including insufficient medical care, physical and mental abuse by guards and low-quality food, according to the FDLE report.

December 16, 2004 News Herald
The Tennessee company that runs the Bay County Jail is "switching out wardens" less than a week after the release of a state report detailing personnel failures and maintenance problems that spurred September’s inmate takeover. Despite the timing, Corrections Corporation of America officials insist that the move — current Warden Denny Durbin is out; longtime CCA administrator Kevin Watson is in — has nothing to do with the 12-hour siege and torrent of scrutiny that followed.
The Sept. 5 standoff, which ended in gunfire on the third floor of the downtown facility, left one hostage and two inmates with bullet wounds. But the FDLE also confirmed a News Herald investigation of equipment failures on the jail’s third floor, where shift logs and maintenance records show a history of broken locks in the segregation unit. One of the accused inmates slipped from one of the cells at the start of the takeover, and FDLE interviews indicate that the maintenance problems were repeatedly reported to jail supervisors. One of the hostages told agents, according to an interview transcript, that Durbin and security chief Chuck Bellows were aware of the broken locks before the takeover. Also, the lone guard working on the third floor told investigators that he routinely falsified shift logs, broke company policy regarding the number of inmates allowed out of their cells and allowed prisoners to lock their own cells the night of the siege.

December 9, 2004 News Herald
So, it all started months before, with a jail cell lock that didn’t work. It ended, of course, when a Sheriff’s Office SWAT team terminated with bullets a tense 12-hour hostage standoff. In between, from May to September, the broken lock repeatedly was brought to Corrections Corporation of America’s attention by guards and other jail personnel. It repeatedly got fixed but never for very long. It apparently didn’t work for almost two weeks before the Sept. 5 blowup. The last guard who brought it to CCA’s attention did so indirectly, by being knocked to the floor by inmates leaving the cellblock to raise havoc. The ensuing bloody confrontation involving inmates, hostages and SWAT team sharpshooters was unusual by any corrections measure. The broken lock wasn’t, at least not at the Bay County Jail.  The News Herald’s Anthony Cormier has written, and on Tuesday the release of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report confirmed, that jail staff reported the broken lock at least five times. The easily opened cell was common knowledge around the jail.
It does indicate that CCA was not concerned about oversight. Bay County has a stunningly ineffective full-time corrections program manager on county staff (he complains he gets no respect from CCA). The Sheriff’s Office, the jail’s best customer, has no say in managing what goes on inside.  County commissioners think only about cost.

December 9, 2004 News Herald
A guard failed to secure cell doors that he allowed inmates to shut themselves the night of a 12-hour siege at the Bay County Jail, according to interview transcripts obtained by The News Herald. Officer James Hall acknowledged to detectives that he falsified shift logs related to inmates’ time in a third-floor day room and said he made a "mistake" in allowing three of the four accused hostagetakers out of their cells in the hours before the Sept. 5 standoff, the transcripts show. Hall, 26, also admitted lying to Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents about the severity of a blow to his head during the takeover, according to an interview conducted more than a month after the incident. In a Nov. 22 interview with a Bay County Sheriff’s Office investigator, Hall said he did not secure a lock box —which ensures all the cell doors are locked — and told inmates to close cell doors themselves. According to the transcript: Hall had allowed four inmates — including suspected hostage-takers James Norton, Kevin Winslett and Kevin Nix — to mingle in a day room earlier in the day. Corrections Corporation of America policy maintains that only one inmate at a time be allowed to enter the segregation unit’s day room. Hall said he normally allowed more than one inmate into the day room, and often falsified shift logs to show that only one prisoner was in the room recreation area. The guard knew that this was a policy violation, but said that he knew he wouldn’t be disciplined because supervisors "hardly ever check the logs." Despite indications that the doors may not have been closed, Hall and others — including inmates and nurses — maintain that Norton escaped from his cell because a door lock was broken. Maintenance records show that the lock to Norton’s cell, 3C-1, repeatedly malfunctioned and had not been fixed in two weeks before the takeover. Nix, Nurse Kathleen Baucum and Norton’s cellmate each told FDLE agents that Norton’s door did not lock, and jail staff repeatedly told supervisors of the problem. A 750-page FDLE report, released this week, indicates that the equipment malfunction triggered the breakout. "It’s a well-known fact," Baucum told investigators. "It’s been put in writing by me … it’s been put in writing by my supervisor … and by another nurse and by (Chief of Security Chuck) Bellows himself."
In an interview with FDLE agents, Norton accused Hall of being "in on" the escape plan and said Hall had only one request for the inmates: "Just don’t hurt me." Hall strongly denied the allegation that he knew of the inmates’ plan, saying he lied during his initial interview because he wanted to keep his job. Hall said he was "scared" to work on the third floor and believed that a second officer should be assigned to the pod during each shift. "The way the jail is run," Hall told investigators, "the way it was run when I was there scares me, it doesn’t feel safe ever."

December 8, 2004 News Herald
The use of deadly force by police during a jail uprising and hostage situation in September that left two prisoners and a hostage injured was necessary, State Attorney Jim Appleman has determined. In a letter sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Monday, Appleman stated his office had reviewed the FDLE’s investigative report of the incident and determined that officers’ gunfire was justified, including a SWAT team member’s shot that injured a hostage. The standoff began at about 8 p.m. on Sept. 5, when officers from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office’s hostage negotiation and SWAT teams responded to a report of a hostage situation at the Bay County Jail, managed by Corrections Corporation of America. According to the FDLE report, during an attempt to escape, inmates Kevin Winslett, Kevin Nix, Matthew Coffin and James Norton had jumped a CCA corrections officer and three nurses working on the third floor of the jail and were holding them hostage. During the 12-hour standoff, the hostage negotiation team was able to free the corrections officer and two nurses before one of the inmates, Kevin Nix, threatened to kill the remaining nurse, Ann Marie "Amy" Hunt, according to the report. Lead negotiator Jimmy Stanford, who was conducting face-to-face negotiations with the inmates, saw Nix with his arms around Hunt with a scalpel to her neck and a syringe to her stomach, according to the report. At that time, convinced the "situation was getting worse," Stanford said Tuesday, he pulled a pistol and fired at Nix’s legs. SWAT team members Lt. Rad Nelson and Sgt. Tony Bruening were hiding in a room near the hostages and the inmates when they heard the shots, according to the report. They came out of the room and fired toward the inmates. One of the rounds from Bruening’s gun hit Hunt in her left hip and came to rest in her kidney, according to the report. Hunt was struck three times, including in her lower leg and the small of her back, according to the FDLE report. Nix suffered a gunshot wound to the front of his left calf, and Norton was shot once in the in the front lower left leg, according to the report.

December 8, 2004 News Herald
It was common knowledge, an open secret that everybody — guards, nurses, inmates and supervisors — was in on. Florida Department of Law Enforcement documents confirmed Tuesday that a broken lock triggered September’s inmate takeover at the Bay County Jail, allowing one prisoner to escape from his cell and ambush the lone guard on the third floor of the downtown facility. The FDLE file supports a recent News Herald investigation, which revealed two weeks ago that jail staff reported five times in the 60 days prior to the takeover that third-floor locks were broken or had malfunctioned. According to maintenance records, work orders and shift logs, jail personnel requested maintenance work for a door lock to Cell 3C-1. The first request was made on May 23; the final request came on Aug. 23, when a guard wrote that the door again needed to be fixed. But the work order was returned without a signature and remarks include: "need to fix door … officer did not have time." It was this broken lock, the FDLE case file shows, that allowed inmate James Norton to escape at the beginning of the 12-hour siege. Norton slipped out of his cell, then struck officer James Hall in the back of the head, stole his keys and freed four other inmates.
FDLE interviews with guards, nurses and inmates indicate that jail supervisors were aware of the equipment problems, although officials from the private company hired to run the jail have declined comment on the matter. Hall, the officer who was slugged in the head with a padlock wrapped inside a sock, told investigators that the third-floor locks long had been a problem, according to an FDLE transcript. In a meeting with The News Herald last week, CCA President John Ferguson said Hall had been placed on administrative leave since the incident. "Cell 1 does not lock," Hall told the agents. "Everybody knows it. We have put in a request to get it fixed. Maintenance says that they have fixed it, but they can still roll right out of it."

December 1, 2004 News Herald
 It was an ambush. A corrections officer on the third floor of the Bay County Jail was tricked by an inmate "playing possum" and struck in the back of the head with a padlock or bar of soap wrapped in a sock, according to CCA officials who laid bare Tuesday the chronology of events that precipitated September’s standoff at the downtown facility.
CCA President John Ferguson acknowledged that the incident on Sept. 5 was a watershed moment for the Bay County Jail and may have sullied CCA’s public reputation. A controversial afteraction report, compiled by an outside law firm to gauge CCA’s liability, sparked the disconnect and left both sides wondering how to mend a relationship fractured by the takeover. Last month, CCA officials delivered to the county’s contract monitor a ream of documents requested four days after the incident. The News Herald also requested and obtained those records, which showed a history of broken locks and equipment problems on the third floor of the jail, where the takeover occurred. According to Turner: At about 9 p.m. on Sept. 5, a third-floor corrections officer approached an inmate in a segregation unit about a dose of medicine. When the inmate didn’t respond, the officer entered the cell and tried to awaken him. The inmate, Turner said, was "playing possum" and setting the stage for a pre-planned escape attempt. With the officer in the cell, another inmate sneaked behind and swung at the officer’s head with an improvised weapon — likely a bar of soap or padlock wrapped in a sock and wielded like a mace. The officer radioed for help and the shift captain raced to the third floor, slamming shut a riot gate and shutting down elevators to keep the inmates from getting off that floor. With their escape foiled, the inmates rushed across the hall to a nurse’s station — where an examination of maintenance records shows at least one instance of broken locks in the 60 days preceding the takeover.  At least one CCA staffer has been placed on administrative leave since Sept. 6, although officials refused to identify the employee or the employee’s position. In a letter to Bay County’s jail contract monitor, a CCA attorney wrote that any employee who failed to follow company policy has been "counseled, retrained, reassigned or disciplined, as appropriate." It is unclear how many employees this applies to, and CCA officials said they could not immediately release that information.

November 22, 2004 News Herald
The medical pod and segregation wing of the Bay County Jail were plagued by broken and jammed door locks in the weeks leading up to September’s inmate takeover, according to maintenance requests and work orders obtained by The News Herald. There is plenty of smoke but no smoking gun in a ream of documents released by Corrections Corporation of America, the Tennessee company tasked with an internal investigation of policies, procedures and possible failures that contributed to the 12-hour standoff on Sept. 5. Records indicate that a series of equipment problems on the third floor of the Bay County Jail precipitated the uprising, which ended when negotiators stormed the medical pod and shot one hostage and two inmates. A CCA liaison met Friday morning with Roger Hagen, the county’s jail point man, to hand over records requested four days after the incident. The News Herald also filed public record requests for the documents. Hagen and CCA engaged for more than two months in a muted battle over the records, publicly squabbling over an "after-action report" and a dearth of communication during the internal probe. Hagen said Friday he expected to review the materials over the weekend before reporting back to the Bay County Commission, which soon is expected to seek bidders on the contract to run the downtown jail and Nehi Road annex.
A News Herald examination of the paperwork reveals no definitive evidence suggesting how the inmates escaped their cells, although shift logs and maintenance requests show a history of equipment problems on the floor where the four accused inmates were being held. According to jail records: At least five times in the 60 days prior to the takeover, CCA personnel requested maintenance work for a door lock to Cell 3C-1.In interviews following the standoff, authorities suggested Norton set off the takeover by escaping from his cell, 3C-1, and beating a guard in the medical pod. One of the hostages, Glenda Baker, told The News Herald that she was distributing medicine on the third floor when the lights suddenly went off and one of the locks failed. Baker said one of the inmates released the others and overtook the floor’s lone guard, and negotiators contend that the inmates used a padlock to seal the faulty door from police. Perhaps the most controversial element of CCA’s investigation is the "after-action report," a compilation of liabilities put together for the company by an outside law firm. Jennifer Taylor, CCA’s senior director of business development, said Friday that there was some confusion about the legal probe, which resulted not in a tangible report but informal guidelines for the company to follow. CCA employees who failed to follow company policy in connection with the incident have been "counseled, retrained, reassigned or disciplined, as appropriate." It is unclear how many employees this applies to, and CCA officials said they could not immediately release that information.

November 20, 2004 News Herald
Bay County and the company hired to run its jail met Friday to make amends for two months of quiet bickering, with each side making concessions to the other in the fight for information about September’s hostage taking and standoff at the Bay County Jail.
A Corrections Corporation of America liaison was in Panama City on Friday for a discussion with Roger Hagen, the county’s jail point man. Hagen previously said he was frustrated by CCA’s slow response to the request, which was made four days after the takeover.

November 14, 2004 News Herald
Everybody wants to know what happened — and CCA refuses to say.  Bay County officials trying to determine the root of September’s inmate takeover at the Bay County Jail have run into a corporate-size roadblock and are now trying to pry vital information from the tight-lipped, $141-million company that operates the county’s downtown facility.  Corrections Corporation of America was blamed last week for a lack of cooperation during the aftermath of the hostage-taking and standoff that landed a nurse and two prisoners in the hospital. County leaders criticized the company for operating in secret and failing to consult with local administrators on the outcome of a controversial after-action report.  The report is supposed to detail how four inmates got free from their cells, obtained weapons, took hostages and kept the Bay County Sheriff’s Office at bay for 12 hours.  Roger Hagen, the county’s correctional program manager, said CCA has kept him in the dark during its investigation and has not consulted with him. Commissioners Jerry Girvin and Cornel Brock said they were not aware of any communication between the county and the company — despite contrary claims by CCA. "We’ve been in contact with Bay County throughout this process," said Louise Chickering, a marketing executive at the company’s Nashville, Tenn., headquarters. "We are keeping them up to date." "They are? Well, who are they talking to?" Hagen asked last week. "It’s not me. You’d think by now they would have been in contact with someone." Said Girvin: "It sounds very confusing to me, on their part. On CCA’s part." The disconnect was triggered by an incident summary and review that Chickering said was completed more than two weeks ago. But last week, Chickering hedged against that claim, saying that only "the investigation is complete but the report is not." Several groups, including The News Herald, have filed formal requests to review the report, but a CCA attorney said the after-action report never will become a public record.
That’s because the investigation was performed by a private law firm hired by CCA, legal counsel Gus Puryear said Thursday. The law firm, Puryear said, was brought in to protect the company from liability. For Brock and Hagen, CCA’s reluctance to share information is troubling. The county recently recouped $1.25 million from the company in return for a contract extension through September 2005. To dissuade the county from bidding out the contract to operate the jail — which commissioners ultimately decided to do — CCA offered to reduce Bay’s bill by $83,333 a month from June 1 through May 31, 2005. CCA also paid the county a lump sum of $250,000 on Oct. 1. The company also has been besieged by bad public relations, as CCA struggled with riots, takeovers and a homicide in the last four months. In a two-week period in July, inmates nearly overtook facilities in Colorado and Mississippi. That followed a July 7 homicide in Nashville and a smaller uprising in Oklahoma. A Colorado Department of Corrections report indicated that understaffing led to a slow response to a disturbance at the Crowley County Correctional Institution — where inmates beat cellmates and set fires across the facility. That the company has not been forthcoming during its investigation of the Bay County Jail is disconcerting, Hagen said. While he has remained in touch with local CCA administrators, Hagen said his dealings with the corporate office have been uneasy at best. Like others, Hagen has tried for weeks to keep abreast of the company’s critical incident review. But getting his hands on the after-action report has proved impossible. "I don’t know if I can get a copy," Hagen said, "and its contents have never been discussed." Brock, who leaves office Tuesday, said the problem may lie with the County Commission and its staff, which has never shown the "enthusiasm" necessary to keep tabs on the jail.

November 9, 2004 News Herald
A state investigation into September’s inmate takeover and police shootings at the Bay County Jail is complete and likely will be turned in to the State Attorney’s Office today.
In its review of the incident, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement focused solely on the shootings of a jail nurse and two inmates accused of barricading themselves inside a third-floor medical wing. In addition to FDLE and Sheriff’s Office documents, CCA spokeswoman Louise Chickering said jail administrators completed an after-action report about two weeks ago. Chickering also said the company had been in contact with Bay County officials about its findings. A CCA attorney later denied a News Herald public record request to review that report.   Panama City lawyer Cliff Higby said the report had not yet been finished. And Roger Hagen, Bay County’s correctional program manager, said the Nashville-based company had not spoken with local officials regarding the after-action report. "I don’t know who in the world they’ve been talking to," Hagen said two weeks ago. "But they haven’t been talking to me."

November 3, 2004 News Herald
One of four men charged in a September jailhouse kidnapping pleaded Tuesday to the charges that had him in the Bay County Jail initially.
Matthew Coffin, 18, pleaded no contest to escape, robbery with a weapon and attempted robbery with a weapon. Coffin is one of four men accused of taking hostages in a jailhouse standoff Sept. 5. The standoff ended when sheriff’s deputies stormed a third-floor holding cell and shot a suspect and the hostage.

October 9, 2004 News Herald
The company that manages the Bay County Jail has completed an internal investigation into a September hostage taking at the facility.
Louise Chickering, a spokeswoman for the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, said company investigators have finished an "after action report" assessing the incident. "We have completed the report and are keeping the county up to date on all our processes and getting as much feedback as possible," Chickering said. The report is not available for public inspection, Chickering said. On Sept. 5, police said four jail prisoners barricaded themselves with four CCA nurses on the third floor of the jail. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is expected to complete a "fact-finding" report by the end of October, said Lisa Lagergren, spokeswoman for the FDLE.

October 6, 2004 News Herald
Police are awaiting the autopsy report for a 22-year-old Springfield man before closing the investigation into his suspected self-inflicted death at the Bay County Jail during Hurricane Ivan. Bay County Sheriff’s Office Investigator John Sumerall said it appears that William Henry Cantor hanged himself from his jail cell bunk with a bedsheet Sept. 15. He said Cantor died alone in a jail cell located in a section of the jail used specifically for inmates who request to be isolated from other inmates.

September 26, 2004 News Herald
An inmate disappeared from the Bay County Jail in downtown Panama City at about 8 p.m. Friday and remained on the lam Saturday night. "We’re working some leads. As of yet they have proven to be fruitless," said Lt. Dave Delaney with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. "We are actively looking for him."

September 12, 2004 News Herald
I will not second-guess the command decision to utilize deadly force when SWAT members stormed the Bay County jail. I will let an objective and comprehensive afteraction investigation review those facts. There are, however, several initial items which warrant complete review. As a retired associate warden with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (22½ years), I’ve had some experience in these matters. First, was there a clear chain of command? Who was "calling the shots" regarding the negotiations — Bay County Officials or Corrections Corporation of America’s warden of the site? Second, was there a public information officer designated to speak on all matters to the media? Negotiators usually never speak to the media during negotiations as Sheriff Frank McKeithen did. Third, I read where a door would not lock and the staff panic-button alarm system malfunctioned. These issues are inexcusable. Security conditions (cell locking mechanisms, staff emergency equipment, etc.) must be checked each shift — daily — and when found inoperative fixed immediately, or replaced with functioning equipment. Fourthly, how could inmates access controlled medications? Facilities are required to have these items safely secured (behind a grille in a safe) and available for immediate disposal through a chute in event of an emergency. Finally, who’s overseeing CCA’s compliance with contractual requirements, correctional personnel and jail standards, and regulations? Many important issues must be addressed through an objective post-incident investigation team. Accountability for incompetence must be made. By Fred Apple. The writer, who helped run federal prisons in Minnesota, now is retired and lives in Panama City.

September 9, 2004 News Herald
He missed. He just missed. Bay County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jimmy Stanford was aiming for the inmate’s leg, aiming to end a 12-hour standoff that had quickly dissolved, that had been calm and controlled but soon spiraled into a violent, drug-laced nightmare. There he was Monday morning, on the third floor of the Bay County Jail, trying to quash a rebellion and earn freedom for the final hostage. He saw the nurse, a scalpel to her throat and a hypodermic needle at her chest, the inmate standing behind her.

September 9, 2004 News Herald
The Florida Ethics Commission on Wednesday issued probable-cause findings on two former Bay County commissioners, a former county attorney, a former county manager and a current county employee on charges related to a 2000 trip to Nashville, Tenn. The Ethics Commission’s findings are related to a February 2000 trip the county officials took to Tennessee to visit a jail operated by Corrections Corporation of America, which also operates Bay County’s jail and annex. Bay County was negotiating a contract renewal with CCA at the time of the trip.  In July 2003, the Florida Police Benevolent Association filed complaints with the Ethics Commission against former County Commissioners Carol Atkinson, Danny Sparks and Richard Stewart, former County Manager Jon Mantay, former county attorney Nevin Zimmerman, and Bob Majka, then and still the county’s emergency services director. The Ethics Commission dismissed all complaints against Atkinson because she believed the county was paying for the trip, according to the Ethics Commission’s report.

September 8, 2004 News Herald
The wisdom of the bloody end Sheriff Frank McKeithen ordered to a weekend hostage standoff at Bay County Jail will be thoroughly weighed under more tranquil circumstances, as it should. Given the criminal history of four inmates who took hostages and threatened to take lives, though, the sheriff for 11 hours lived with the knowledge that these were not just boys acting up. It appears that all four should have been in a better guarded state penitentiary or institution; one may be a mental case.
The hostage-takers’ grievances deserve attention, not from sympathy for their diet or sloppy medication management, but as a more sober-minded look at the county’s repeated inability to properly monitor or control what goes on inside the jail or to properly address complaints raised by inmates over and over, year after year.  CCA also is constantly pressured to do everything more cheaply.

September 8, 2004 Tallahassee Democrat
A sheriff's negotiator won the release of three employees before a SWAT team stormed the Bay County Jail when inmates threatened to torture and kill their remaining hostage, a nurse who then was accidentally shot, authorities said Tuesday. The nurse suffered gunshot wounds in the back and leg Monday and remained hospitalized in stable condition, said sheriff's spokeswoman Ruth Sasser. Inmates had taken over the six-story jail's third-floor infirmary, and one of them was holding a scalpel to the nurse's neck when the SWAT team and armed jailers ended an 11-hour standoff that began about 9 p.m. Sunday, Sasser said. The hostages - three female nurses and a male guard - worked for Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the jail under contract with the county. Licensed practical nurse Glenda Baker, however, told The News Herald of Panama City that she was one of the hostages released during the night. The lights had gone off and a door to the floor's cells failed to lock before the incident occurred, Baker said. One inmate then released others and four hostage-takers overpowered the only guard on the floor. Then a panic button failed, she said. A television anchor said she had received a telephone call Sunday night from someone claiming to be holding hostages at the jail. The caller said he was upset about health hazards there.

September 8, 2004 News Herald
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement continued its investigation on Tuesday into the Bay County Sheriff’s Office’s response to a Bay County Jail hostage situation that ended in gunfire early Monday morning. Four jail inmates were charged in the hostage taking, which ended when Bay County SWAT team members stormed the third-floor area where the men had barricaded themselves with four hostages.
A CCA nurse and two inmates were injured by gunfire when the SWAT team moved in.

September 6, 2004 AP
A SWAT team stormed the Bay County Jail on Monday to end an 11-hour hostage standoff, injuring one hostage and three inmates, authorities said. An undetermined number of other employees were freed. The injured hostage, a nurse, suffered a leg wound and was undergoing surgery at a hospital, and her injury did not appear to be life-threatening. 

July 22, 2004 News Herald
A jail melee that left three prisoners injured this week was motivated by "racial prejudice," according to arrest affidavits filed Wednesday at the Bay County Courthouse.  Six men attacked two men "en masse," using their fists and a makeshift weapon — a padlock stuffed in a sock — during a quarrel Monday at the Bay County Jail, authorities reported. One of the alleged attackers also turned on a third man who tried to quell the fisticuffs, police said.  Five of the prisoners were charged with two counts of felony battery on a detainee. They are: Tyree C. Cleveland, 22; Danny D. Dorsey, 19; Shawn C. Ponds, 28; Demar J. Davis, 19; and Derrick M. Bell, 19. Johnny L. Brown, 23, was charged with three counts of felony battery, accused of shoving the man who tried to break up the fight into a metal bunk.  An official from Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the Bay County Jail and its annex on Nehi Road, said the fight occurred on the fifth floor of the downtown Panama City facility. Spokeswoman Mary Hughes said two guards were on duty at the time and called for backup when the melee began.   The injuries were minor, Hughes said, and the alleged victims were treated at the jail.  Arrest affidavits said the suspected attackers had been calling two of the victims a racial epithet the week before the incident and made the men complete their daily work assignments. The alleged attackers also used the epithet during the beating, the affidavits said.  "We were not aware of that," Hughes said. "The chief was told that by the (Bay County) Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating it."  

March 31, 2004 The Ledger
The last two of six Bay County Jail inmates charged in the beating death of a fellow inmate pleaded guilty and were sentenced Monday.  Investigators said Chad Littles, 18, was beaten to death in October 2002 because others thought he was an informant for the guards, The News Herald reported.  James DeRossetti, 22, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years in prison; Larry K. Burks, 20, pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and was given seven years in prison.  "I'd just like to say I feel real bad for what happened," said DeRossetti. "I hate that it happened. I just wish this court and the people of Bay County could know what really happened, but it won't never come out."  Originally, the six defendants were charged with second-degree murder. The others were sentenced earlier.  Jeremiah Samuel Hinsey, 22, pleaded no contest to manslaughter in July and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Carlos King, 32, pleaded no contest to aggravated assault June 8 and was given five years in prison.  Malachi Najair, 26, was sentenced Aug. 22 to 12 years in prison after entering a plea to felony battery and violation of probation. Ronald Lawson, 26, was sentenced in October to five years in prison for felony battery.  Littles' mother has sued Corrections Corporation of America Inc., which operates the jail, claiming it did not protect her son. That lawsuit hasn't been resolved. 

March 15, 2004 News Herald
After a surprise visit to inspect the conditions of the Bay County Jail Thursday, Bay County Commissioner John Newberry shook his head in disbelief and said "the place needs to be dynamited."  Newberry told Denny Durbin, the facility’s administrator, that he visited the jail unannounced so there would be no question about whether or not he was seeing typical conditions. Newberry also questioned jail officials about their refusal to release medical records of two inmates who asked News Herald staff to look into claims of physical abuse by CCA employees.  On Wednesday, Kenneth Pringle, 28, called The News Herald from the Bay County Jail Annex and asked to be interviewed about beatings he said he’d taken from guards. In order to verify his claims that he received medical treatment for injuries, a reporter requested Pringle’s medical records.  After Pringle signed a waiver to make his records available, another inmate, Timothy Pilgreen, made similar claims and requested a waiver from jail officials.  But Assistant Warden John Rochefort refused to release the records and said The News Herald would have to subpoena them.  After News Herald staff submitted a freedom of information request for the medical records, jail officials released Pilgreen’s records. Pilgreen said he had been removed from the cell and handcuffed during the search.  Pilgreen said he followed a guard’s instructions to face the back wall of the cell, but when the officer came in and removed the handcuffs from one arm, he "slammed" Pilgreen’s head into the concrete wall, Pilgreen said.  Pilgreen said he fell to the floor and several correction officers began to punch and kick him. Then, he said one of the jailers climbed onto the toilet and jumped onto his left leg.  An inspection of Pilgreen’s medical records uncovered an evaluation from the jail’s medical staff that listed the reason for examination as "use of force and restraints." The record, dated Jan. 24, said Pilgreen’s left thigh was red and inflamed. It also said he had a large knot and a small laceration on his right eyebrow, an abrasion on his right knee and an "ecchymosis" — a bruise — on his neck.  Soon after the examination at the jail, Pilgreen was taken to the emergency room at Gulf Coast Medical Center for an evaluation because he was "taken down with force" and his thigh was "red and swollen," the medical records showed. Newberry asked about roach infestation based on comments inmates had made in a previous News Herald article. Officials had previously said they sprayed for roaches once a month, but Newberry suggested that might not be enough. Pilgreen’s medical records revealed that he was treated for ant bites in December of 2003 and complained of a spider bite in February.  Newberry asked about mold, and Durbin told him "there is very little ventilation." When Newberry asked about heating and cooling, Durbin said "heating hasn’t been reconstructed but (there) has been a lot of improvement."  Newberry said it was time to address the condition of the jail. 

March 10, 2004 News Herald
Even as it considers major changes in its jail operations in the next couple of years, Bay County is talking with current jail operator Corrections Corporation of America about ways to reduce costs in the meantime. "Right now you’ve got the best of all worlds," Roger Hagen, the county’s newly hired corrections program manager, told county commissioners Tuesday. "You’ve got two years to deal with the broader issue of where we want to be five, 10 years from now."  The county’s contract with Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, expires in 2006, but the county has an opportunity to terminate it this year. If it decides to do so, the county must notify CCA by the end of June.  The county pays CCA on a per-inmate, per-day basis. With the jail population exceeding capacity most days, the county has seen its jail costs skyrocket. If the current trend continues, the total cost for the current fiscal year will exceed $14 million.  

March 8, 2004 News Herald
Even though the combined population of Bay County’s two jails has swollen beyond the designed capacities by more than 300 inmates, jail officials say the buildings are not overcrowded. At the Bay County Jail in downtown Panama City last week, some inmates slept in steel bunks that lined the concrete walls of dayrooms — open areas outside of the cells, where inmates spend most of their waking hours. Mold and rust were visible on the walls of the shower room and inmates said it did not drain properly. Other inmates said the interior walls of the jail should be painted and still others complained that they did not get enough to eat.  Wesley Smith, a 20-year-old inmate, asked why his room constantly leaks around the ceiling. The walls of Smith’s cell, which abut the shower stall, were damp and what appeared to be mold was visible in the corners around the ceiling. Smith said living in the damp conditions often makes him sick.  During two separate interviews with Smith at the Bay County Jail, roaches could be seen crawling on the top of a desk in an interview room.  Bellows directed questions about the facility to the jail’s spokeswoman, Mary Hughes, the administrative supervisor for Corrections Corporation of America’s Bay County facilities. John Rochefort, assistant warden for the Bay County Jail Annex on Nehi Road, said the downtown jail was designed to hold 212 inmates. There were 445 in the facility on March 1. On the same day, he said there were 565 inmates in the annex, which is designed to hold 456 people. During a tour of the annex on Tuesday, bunks could be seen overflowing into dayrooms. A female inmate said they were "way over" capacity in her dorm.  During an interview last week, Smith said he had looked on in horror as a group of inmates beat to death 18-yearold Chad Littles in a cell at the annex Oct. 6.  Littles’ mother is suing CCA, claiming the jail didn’t do enough to protect her son.  If steps have been taken to thwart violence, Smith and Allen said they couldn’t tell. Both said they had been beaten so severely in the last year that they required hospitalization.  Allen said he has been beaten on five separate occasions. He blamed the guards.  "(A female guard) walked into the pod I just got put in and said, ‘Hey, there’s a guy in here for raping somebody,’" Allen said.  The beatings soon followed, Allen said.  In November 2002, Allen said, he was beaten so severely he required staples in his head. On another occasion, Allen said, he was beaten until he had a seizure.  Following that incident, Allen said he was put in the isolation ward for mental patients. For safety reasons, inmates are let out of their cells one at a time to use the dayroom. But on one occasion, he said, guards let an inmate who had already made violent threats into the dayroom with him. Allen said he was beaten again.  "Rochefort did confirm a story by one inmate who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. He said inmates at the Bay County Jail were able to tie pieces of bed sheets together and lower a pillowcase to the ground from the sixth floor in order to smuggle in contraband.

February 26, 2004 News Herald
One Bay County Jail inmate received 10 years in prison and another received five years after pleading no contest to charges stemming from the beating and stomping death of another inmate.   Jeremiah Samuel Hinsey, 22, received 10 years for manslaughter and Carlos King, 32, five years for aggravated assault in the 2002 death of Chad Littles, 18, at the jail's annex outside Panama City.  Circuit Judge Don T. Sirmons gave each credit for 505 days time served Tuesday as he sentenced them in accord with plea agreements. They join two other inmates already sentenced for participating in the killing. Two more are awaiting trial.  Investigators said Littles, who died from a head injury, was killed because other inmates mistakenly believed he was an informant.  Malachi Najair, 26, was sentenced in August to 12 years after pleading no contest to felony battery and unrelated charges. Ronald Lawson, 26, was sentenced in October to five years for felony battery.  Larry K. Burks, 20, and Nicholas Hulsey, 22, are set for pretrial hearings March 10 on second-degree murder charges.  A lawsuit by Littles' mother is pending against Corrections Corporation of America Inc., the private company that runs the jail for the county.  

October 14, 2003 News Herald
Circuit Judge Don T. Sirmons followed the agreed upon sentence in Ronald Lawson’s plea deal Monday and gave him five years in prison for his role in the beating death of a Bay County Jail inmate last year. Lawson, who was originally charged with second degree murder in the death of Chad Littles, 18, pleaded no contest to felony battery several months ago.

October 8, 2003 News Herald
Bay County commissioners said Tuesday they’re not ready to decide whether to solicit bids for operation of the Bay County Jail and annex.  At the conclusion of a 3½ hour workshop, the commission tabled the issue for two months.  They hope that will provide time to determine whether a new county position will help them address the persistent problem of rising jail populations and the associated costs.  Commissioners approved the new staff position in the current year’s budget, which began Oct. 1. The yet-to-be-hired employee will provide heightened oversight of the county’s contract with Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that has operated the jail since 1986.  "At this point, I’m not prepared to give a formal notice to CCA that we’re going to do a (request for proposals)," Ropa said. "What I’m looking for is more investigation into what exactly we should ask for in an RFP or what we should ask of our current vendors."  The county’s contract with CCA does not expire until the end of September 2006. But the county can terminate the contract in the mean time by providing the company 90 days’ notice. If the county wanted to solicit proposals for next fiscal year, it would have to provide such notice in June.  County staff had suggested that if the commission wanted to solicit proposals, it should go ahead and provide CCA notice. That would give the staff plenty of time to prepare a request for proposals.  But Commissioner Cornel Brock said he thinks the commission should test the new con    tract oversight position to see what difference it makes.  Commissioners first broached the subject of soliciting proposals from other private jail-management companies when they were reviewing their budget for the current year. With one month still uncalculated, the jail contract exceeded its $10 million budget by more than $1 million.  The bill has been running about  $1 million a month.  Commissioners budgeted $12.6 million for this year.  That took into account an increase in the per diem, per-inmate rate charged by CCA. The rate this year will be $43.16.  

July 25, 2003 News Herald Bay County commissioners said Thursday they want to take a fresh look at their options for operation of the county jail.  Reacting to a suggestion by Commissioner Mike Ropa, they agreed to put the issue on the agenda for their Aug. 19 meeting.  At that time, they will discuss giving Corrections Corporation of America — which runs the main jail and annex — notice that they intend to solicit bids from other private jail-management companies. Some commissioners suggested they’d like to expand the discussion to include the possibility of the county’s reassuming responsibility for jail operations.  Ropa said cost is the primary reason he wants to put the contract out for bid.  Budget Officer Mary Dayton told commissioners she expects payments to CCA to exceed the budgeted amount by more than $2 million. The county budgeted roughly $9.9 million for the year, and so far has paid $9.2 million with three months left to pay. Monthly bills have been running about $1 million, Dayton said.  Commissioner John Newberry said he generally questions private jail operation, and suggested that incarceration "really ought to be a government function." 

July 15, 2003 News Herald
A union that represents law enforcement and correctional officers said Monday that it had filed ethics complaints against three former Bay County commissioners, a former county manager, a former county attorney and the county’s chief of emergency services.  The Florida Police Benevolent Association said its complaints stemmed from a February 2000 trip the officials took to Tennessee to visit a jail operated by Corrections Corporation of America, which also operates Bay County’s jail and annex.  Ken Kopczynski, PBA’s legislative assistant, said the union has documentation that CCA paid for the trip, including airfare, hotel rooms and meals.  At the time, CCA and the county were negotiating the renewal of the contract for Bay County jail operations.  "It is very questionable since they were in the middle of contract negotiations (with CCA,)" Kopczynski said.  Kopczynski said PBA began looking into Atkinson after she began chairing the privatization commission last year. As part of that research, he said, "we came across this trip."  

July 8, 2003 News Herald
The third of six men charged in the death of a Bay County Jail inmate pleaded no contest to manslaughter Monday and faces 10 years in prison.  Jeremiah Samuel Hinsey, 21, was one of six men charged in the death of Chad Littles, 18, who died Oct. 6 at the jail annex on Nehi Road. Investigators said six inmates beat Littles to death when they thought he was an informant for the guards.  Hinsey, Carlos King, 31, Ronald Lawson, 25, Nicholas Hulsey, 21, Malachi Najair, 25, and Larry K. Burks, 19, were charged.  King and Lawson entered pleas in their cases last month.  King pleaded no contest Monday to aggravated assault. He was accused of barring Littles’ escape from a group of inmates who had attacked him. It was while Littles was facing King, investigators said, an inmate swept Littles’ legs out from under him. Littles was kicked and beaten while he was down.  He died from a head injury.  Lawson was one of those accused of kicking Littles. He pleaded no contest to felony battery.  Both men will be sentenced to five years in prison, according to court records, after all six cases have been disposed of.  Hinsey tentatively was scheduled for sentencing Sept. 22. He agreed to testify against the remaining co-defendants if called by the state.  Prosecutor Ashley Adams said additional depositions in this case are scheduled for August, which could move all the cases closer to completion.  Najair’s attorney said in court last month that he is considering a plea offer as well.  No contest means the men don’t admit their guilt, only that the state could prove they did the crime.  Littles’ mother sued Corrections Corporation of America Inc., the jail’s corporate owner, claiming the jail didn’t do enough to protect her son. The morning of Oct 6, guards conducted a routine security inspection in Littles’ cell pod, which was completed five minutes later.  Two minutes after officers left the minimum-security pod, an inmate came to the front of the pod and told the guards that an inmate was down, according to jail officials. 
June 11, 2003 News Herald
Malachi Najair might be the next Bay County Jail inmate to enter a plea in the beating death of Chad Littles Najair, 25, is charged, along with three other inmates, with second degree murder. He’s accused of participating in a beating Oct. 6 in the jail annex on Nehi Road that killed the 18-year-old Littles.  On the morning of Oct. 6 guards conducted a routine security inspection in Littles’ cell pod, according to Corrections Corporation of America, the jail’s corporate owner. The CCA said the inspection was completed five minutes later.  Littles’ mother, Frances Hughes, sued CCA, claiming it failed to provide the proper number of guards or monitoring equipment for the cell block, or train the guards properly.

June 10, 2003 News Herald
Two men entered pleas Monday to their involvement in the death of a Bay County Jail inmate in October. Carlos King, 31, and Ronald Lawson, 25, both face five years in prison after pleading no contest to lesser charges than the second-degree murder they were facing.  Chad Littles, 18, died Oct. 6 while being held at the Bay County Jail Annex on Nehi Road. Investigators said six inmates beat Littles to death when they thought he was an informant for the guards.  Littles’ mother, Frances Hughes, and a representative from the attorney’s office handling her lawsuit against the jail’s corporate owner, Corrections Corporation of America, were in the audience to see King and Lawson change their pleas.  Hughes said in her lawsuit that CCA failed to provide the proper number of guards or monitoring equipment for the cell block, or train the guards properly.  

April 18, 2003 News Herald
The Bay County jail’s 2002-03 budget allocation is almost two-thirds spent, halfway through the fiscal year, due to an exorbitant number of inmates. "If this trend continues, Bay County’s current (Corrections Corporation of America) budget of $9,990,780 will need to be increased," Rogers wrote in a letter recently to the Bay County Emergency Services Department, which is responsible for monitoring the county’s contract with CCA. 

April 3, 2003 News Herald
Corrections Corporation of America has pledged to work with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to address discrepancies in computerized arrest information for inmates at the Bay County Jail.  In January, the FDLE reviewed CCA’s computerized arrest records against 288 booking reports. FDLE found a "high percentage" of discrepancies, ranging from incorrect or misspelled names to incorrect charges.  A number of the discrepancies occurred because arresting officers failed to enter proper Florida Statute numbers to identify criminal charges.  

December 17, 2002 News Herald
A man who used his little brother's name to avoid being booked into the Bay County Jail Sunday remained at large Monday after escaping out an unguarded back door at the Bay County Jail.  

December 6, 2002 News Herald
Correctional officers at the Bay County Jail released the wrong woman Tuesday when a female inmate assumed the identity of a sleeping woman who was in the same holding cell for detoxification.  While the intoxicated woman was sleeping in the cell, Robbie Levingston, 29, answered for her, signed for her belongings and walked out of the jail, said Bay County Sheriff's Lt. J. D. Nolin.  Chief Michael Thompkins, of the CCA, said an incident like this has never happened in his 14 years at the Bay County Jail and new procedures are in place so it never happens again.  

October 9, 2002 News Herald
Office of Emergency Services has intiated its own investigation this week into the death of a Bay County Jail annex inmate.  Sheriff's investigators said the Chad Littles, 18, was beaten to death Sunday by six other inmates at the annex on Nehi Road.  Bob Majka, chief emergency services, said his office oversees the contract between the county and Corrections Corporation of America, the operators of the Bay County jail and its annex.  He said Tuesday that a member of his staff was looking in to the death of Littles to ensure that jail staff performed in accordance with the jail's policies, and that those policies were in agreement with the contract.  Majka said his office has become more involved in monitoring activities at the jail since inmate Justin Sturgis, 20, died Feb, 15 after an apparent drug overdose at the main jail.  Both facilities are operated by CCA.  A grand jury handed down a presentment in the Sturgis case that was critical of how the situation was handled.  Steven Owen, CCA spokesperson, said Tuesday that jail personnel weren't responsible in any way for Littles death.  When Bay County contracted with CCA back in the mid-1980s, it became the first county in the country to turn its jail over to a private company.  Owen said there were cameras installed in the pod, but they didn't work.  They'd been installed 15 years earlier to monitor a specific remodeling project and hadn't been in operation since.  

October 8, 2002 News Herald
A county judge Monday said there was "no chance" he would allow six men accused of a jailhouse slaying to post bond.  They are accused of beating to death fellow Bay County Jail inmate Chad Littles, 18, on Sunday.  

October 7, 2002 News Herald
Six inmates at the Bay County Correctional Facility Annex on Nehi Road were charged Sunday with the beating death overnight of Chad Littles, 18, of Panama City.   Littles was serving time for failure to pay a fine –possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, resisting an officer without violence/violation of probation on an original charge of burglary of a structure. Bay County Sheriff Guy Tunnell said James DeRossutt, also known as Nicholas Hulsey, 19, of Alabama; Malachi Najair, 25, of Callaway; Carlos D. King, 30, of Panama City; Larry Burks, 19, of Panama City; Jeremiah S. Hinsey, 18, of Evansville, Ind.; and Ronald Lawson, 24, of Fort Walton Beach assaulted Littles.   They are now in the main Bay County Jail and will make first appearances on the open charge of murder today.   Tunnell said Littles was killed after an altercation in the B dorm of the minimum security annex, where about 80 inmates are housed. The fight began after a routine shakedown yielded an instrument for applying tattoos.   Tunnell said most of the inmates felt Littles had told Corrections Corporation of America guards about the tattooing tool. But Capt. Ralph Dyer of the Bay County Sheriff’s Office said that was not the case.  "The sad thing is that Littles was not an informant," he said. "He was called back into his cell to unlock his locker, which guards could not open. The other inmates thought he was a snitch and that he had told guards about the tattooing tool."   After guards let the inmates back into their cell pod, at least four of the defendants allegedly confronted Littles at the rear of the dorm and began to beat him.   Littles was able to get away temporarily and was trying to summon guards when King blocked his way and, according to witnesses, enticed the same inmates to "finish him.  At that time, according to Tunnell, DeRossutt came up behind Littles and pulled his feet out from under him, causing his head to strike the concrete floor with full force, knocking him unconscious.  Witnessses said Najair, Burks, Hinsey and Lawson then began to kick or hit Littles while he was lying on the floor. Guards arrived and summoned the on-duty nurse for CCA. The nurse then called EMS to transport Littles to Bay Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. 

August 19, 2002 News Herald
While grand jurors found no criminal liability in the death of a Bay County Jail inmate, their presentment found there were "serious deficiencies" on the part of jail personnel "which led, or contributed to the death of Justin Sturgis."  CCA representatives said Sturgis caused his own death.  However, the medical protocols the jail had in place were inadequate and weren't followed anyway, according to the presentment.  "Correctional personnel failed to demonstrate adequate health training in responding to the level of distress evidenced by Justin Sturgis," the jury's presentment stated.  In addition, policies that require a "system of structured inquiry and observation" to an inmate's medical condition were not adhered to.  "That structure was sorely lacking in the Sturgis case."  Jurors singled out jail nurse William Schwarz Jr. and recommended that a copy of the presentment be sent as a report of his performance to the Florida Department of Health's Division of Medical Quality Assurance.  "William Schwarz was deficient in the performance of his duties as the facility's sole health care professional," the presentment said.  "Such deficiencies may have contributed to the death of Justin Sturgis."  The report did not address inmate's allegations that jail personnel tainted Sturgis.  Grand jurors also recommended that the Bay County Commission look into the matter to see if it merits termination of the county's contract with CCA.  

August 13, 2002 News Herald
Attorney Wes Pittman said Monday he was angered by comments made by Corrections Corporation of America officials after a grand jury released its findings into the death of a Bay County Jail Inmate. Grand Jurors issued a presentment containing views, criticisms and suggestions Thursday after investigating the death of Justin Sturgis, 20, who died the morning of Feb. 15 after an apparent drug overdose at the jail, a CCA facility.  “It is a very solid finding of fault on the part of the grand jury as to the ludicrous nature of health care, or lack of health care, in the Bay County Jail,” said Pittman, who represents the Sturgis family  While grand jurors found no criminal liability in Sturgis’ death, there were “serious deficiencies” on the part of personnel “ which led, or contributed to the death.”  Sturgis apparently swallowed 10 to 12 Ecstasy pills during a traffic stop, just before he was arrested for DUI.  He started suffering some degree of distress about 3 a.m., according to the presentment, but wasn’t taken to the hospital until three hours later. He died of malignant hyperthermia, a rare reaction to the drug.  His body temperature was 108 degrees when he was admitted to the emergency room, said a Bay Medical Center doctor.  CCA representatives said Thursday that Sturgis caused his own death by swallowing the drugs to avoid prosecution and not telling the jail nurse what he had done.  “When Mr. Sturgis failed to give the nurse adequate information concerning the quantity and nature of the drug, he effectively removed any possibility of survival,” said Louise Green, CCA vice president of communications.  Pittman, who returned to work Monday after being on vacation in Canada last week, said those comments did nothing to head off a lawsuit he plans to file late this week against CCA.  “It was almost laughable, the comments that the two CCA defense lawyers made following the publication of the presentment,” he said.  “In effect, CCA has issued a death sentence to any kid who takes drugs.  That’s hardly a commendable attitude for contract persons charged with the protection of individuals within their custody and who are unable to take care of themselves.  “Even someone who has subjected himself to an overdose of drugs must be cared for.  There’s no excuse in denying someone reasonable medical care.”  Pittman said he’s been in contact with several people who have been denied medical care at the jail.  He said the lawsuit he intends to file might include plaintiffs other than the Sturgis family.  “It’s more than a weekly event that I’m receiving letters and telephone calls from people who have been deprived of medication that’s been prescribed to them,” Pittman said.  “They have been totally ignored just as Justin Sturgis was.”  CCA attorney Deeno Kitchen said last week that over the last 30 months, jail personnel have taken 480 inmates to area hospitals with 81 being admitted.  “If we err at all, we err on the safe side every time,” he said.  “We take them and let the doctors make the call.  In this instance we followed what we understood the instructions to be.”  Kitchen said Monday that the threat of a lawsuit wouldn’t stop the jail from adopting changes grand jurors recommended.  He said the rules of evidence would prohibit Pittman from using any improvements the jail made as proof of negligence.  “We want to do the right thing,” Kitchen said.  “If we’re going to improve it, we will improve it.”  He said the jail provided a lawyer, Emily Dowdy, for inmates to go to with complaints. Dowdy said that a “very small percentage” of the numerous letters she receives daily from inmates are about medical care.  She said the media coverage of Sturgis’ death, and the grand jury’s investigation, sparked an increase in the number of medical complaints she receives.  “Both medical offices (at the jail and annex) are real good about following up on things when I call them,” Dowdy said  She said she contacts medical personnel about the inmate’s complaints.  She then writes back to the inmates asking that they contact her if their situation doesn’t improve.  “Some do” write back, Dowdy said.  “The majority don’t.”  Pittman said the more he looks into the situation at the jail the more he uncovers.  

August 8, 2002 News Herald
While grand jurors found no criminal liability in the death of a Bay County Jail inmate, their presentment found there were "serious deficiencies" on the part of jail personal "which led, or contributed to the death of Justin Sturgis" said CCA attorney Deeno Kitchen.  However, the medical protocols the jail had in place were inadequate and weren't followed anyway, according to the presentment.  "Correctional personnel failed to demonstrate adequate health training in responding to the level of distress evidenced by Justin Sturgis," the jury's presentment stated.  In addition, policies that require a "system of structured inquiry and observation" to an inmate's medical condition were not adhered to.  "That structure was sorely lacking in the Sturgis case."  The grand jury was empanelled in July to review a Bay County Sheriff's Office investigation into the incident and interviewed 18 witnesses, including jail and medical personnel.  The jury issued a presentment on July 17.  Named parties were given a chance to review the findings, and the presentment was made public Thursday.  Jurors singled out jail nurse William Schwarz Jr. and recommended that a copy of the presentment be sent as a report of his performance to the Florida Department of Health's Division of Medical Quality Assurance.  "William Schwarz was deficient in the performance of his duties as the facility's sole health care professional," the presentment said.  "Such deficiencies may have contributed to the death of Justin Sturgis."  A specific problem jurors cited was apparent miscommunication between Schwarz and emergency room Dr. George Tracy.     Tracy testified that he told Schwarz to take Sturgis' vital signs and call him back.  Schwarz said Tracy told him to call back in two hours.  That prevented Tracy from getting Sturgis' information in an timely manner, jurors wrote.  Harry Harper, Schwarz's attorney, said his client was the only nurse on duty that night in a jail that held more than 300 people.  The report did not address inmates' allegations the jail personnel taunted Sturgis.  The presentment recommended numerous changes in jail policy and procedures.  He said cameras had been installed in the holding cells to monitor inmate activities.  Kitchen, however, couldn't say if those cameras would record- the the presentment suggested- as well as monitor.  Kitchen said the jail also would try to set aside a specific area for distressed inmates where medical personnel could more easily monitor their condition.  The presentment was critical of the fact that jail guards, instead of nurses, had to keep track of Sturgis' symptoms.  Green said the jail was audited recently and found in compliance with the provisions of the Florida Model Jail Standards and American Correctional Association Standards.  Grand jurors also recommended that the Bay County Commission look into the matter to see if it merits termination of the county's contract with CCA.  

July 12, 2002 News Herald
Grand jurors are expected to decide today whether criminal charges will be brought against Corrections Corporation of America officials in the death of an inmate in February.   Justin Sturgis, 20, died the morning of Feb. 15 after an apparent drug overdose at the Bay County Jail, a CCA facility.  Inmates at the facility at the time of Sturgis’ death told The News Herald that guards taunted and laughed at Sturgis while he was in distress, and didn’t call for an ambulance until it was too late to prevent his death.   Sturgis’ family members filed notice about two weeks after his death that they intended to sue CCA.  

July 18, 2002 News Herald
Grand jurors found Wednesday that no one was criminally responsible for a Bay County Jail inmate’s death, but have issued a presentment, meaning they have something to say about the matter.  Justin Sturgis, 20, died the morning of Feb. 15 after an apparent drug overdose at the Bay County Jail, a Corrections Corporation of America facility.   Attorney Wes Pittman, who expects to represent Sturgis’ family in a lawsuit against CCA and possibly Bay Medical Center, said the presentment will help his case. He said the family didn’t feel like it needed an indictment to justify how serious the situation was.   "Considering the hideous facts of this case, it was enough that the State Attorney’s Office would take this to the grand jury," Pittman said. "There were some very serious, bad things, in (the prosecutor’s) opinion, happening within the Bay County Jail."  

July 13, 2002 News Herald
Grand jurors started their second day of investigation Friday into the death of a Bay County Jail inmate with testimony from the emergency room doctor who treated him.  Bay Medical Center Dr. George Tracy was the first witness Friday.  Tracy told The News Herald after the incident that he told a jail nurse to monitor Sturgis' condition carefully and call him back, but the nurse didn't call him until two hours later.

February 27, 2002 News Herald
The parents of Justin Sturgis have filed a notice that they intend to sue the Bay County Jail and perhaps Bay Medical Center for failing to properly care for Sturgis when he became fatally ill in a jail holding cell on Feb. 15. Doctors believe that Sturgis, 21, died of malignant hyperthermia, a rare reaction to the street drug Ecstasy. The medical examiner will determine a cause of death when toxicology tests are completed. Investigators believe Sturgis swallowed 10 tablets of Ecstasy during a traffic stop on U.S. 98 to prevent police from discovering the drugs. Inmates who were jailed with Sturgis told The News Herald that jail officials denied Sturgis medical assistance for two hours. The officials did not call for an ambulance until after the jail nurse announced that Sturgis' heart had stopped, the inmates said.  Inmates also alleged that correctional officers laughed and mocked Sturgis even as he was experiencing seizures. Attorney Wes Pittman said he will file suit against Corrections Corporation of America on behalf of the Sturgis family. CCA is the private company contracted by Bay County to manage the jail. "These parents do not want anyone else to suffer the grief they are experiencing right now," Pittman said. "Their motivation is to try and prevent this from happening to someone else. "If the allegations made by other prisoners are correct, we are certainly looking at CCA for violations of certain civil rights afforded to inmates as well as being extraordinarily negligent."  "We do not see the county as the culprit," Pittman said. "It (the suit) is going to be against CCA and possibly the
hospital.  Bay County Commission Chairman Cornel Brock said the commission is anxiously awaiting the results of investigations into the incident that the Bay County Sheriff's Office and CCA are conducting. "The county is very much concerned," Brock said. "We don't take it lightly. An inmate who becomes seriously ill while they are incarcerated ultimately is the responsibility of the county. 

February 24, 2002 News Herald
Justin Sturgis' gruesome death under jailers' watch was a discomforting public intrusion, especially because, in some ways, it's as if it happened somewhere else.  Accountability for public institutions, and thus self-government itself, remains an unfinished portrait.  Sturgis' death wasn't mentioned at Tuesday's County Commission meeting, as surely it would have been had he died while taking part in a local high school football practice. Sturgis was in the custody of a private company, Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America. When the company has something to say, a CCA spokesman told reporter Todd Twilley, people will hear what people need to hear. A defense attorney who beats a regular path to the jail told Twilley, "It's been fairly well known for a long time that there's a problem down there."   Fairly well-known by whom?   Perhaps it is good the public doesn't know a lot that is going on within public institutions, even privately managed ones like the jail. Just as perhaps, it is bad. With citizen oversight, maybe public officials - the ones who should be accountable - would know what is going on.   Panama City police, who brought Sturgis to jail on a drunk-driving charge, apparently were unaware he had swallowed a potentially fatal number of Ecstasy tablets to avoid additional charges involving drugs.   At the jail, though, the whole line of command and custody - admissions personnel, medical personnel, guards - should have known his convulsions weren't just jailhouse malingering. The experts on such things, other inmates, knew.   Just keep an eye on him, a doctor at Bay Medical Center told the jail nurse by phone.   The only sign of criminal wrongdoing that a Sheriff's Office investigator has turned up in the case didn't involve jail staff, however, the investigator told Twilley. It involved the plastic bag found in Sturgis' stomach during autopsy. We have no reason to think otherwise. Still, we believe criminal wrongdoing is too narrow a focus of an examination of what happened to Sturgis.   Panama City police; the Sheriff's Office, which has jurisdiction over the jail; Bay Medical Center; and no matter the contracting, the Bay County Jail; all are public institutions. They are operated by public employees but not under public oversight.   The long-term value of grand jury oversight or charter-based citizen oversight is not to point the finger at who didn't do what he was supposed to, but to empower and enable citizens to know how things are supposed to work, and whether they do or not - here, and now. 

February 21, 2002 News Herald
A man who worked at the Bay County Jail as a nurse said Wednesday that he quit last year because he felt pressure from correctional officers not to do his job and feared that an inmate eventually would die.   "And it happened," Jerry Militich told The News Herald.   "I knew it was going to happen, and I couldn't handle it. So I left. When I saw the paper, I had to call."   Militich was referring to a story about the death of 20-year-old Justin Sturgis early Friday.   The specific pressure he said he felt was to avoid sending sick inmates to the hospital. Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the jail under contract with Bay County, must pay to transport prisoners to the hospital and pay for the medication that inmates receive.  Militich said he worked for CCA for about a year during 2000 and 2001. He said Wednesday that some of the medical practices at the jail while he was there upset him.   Militich said correctional officers and supervisors at the jail often leaned on him not to send inmates to the hospital. In addition, he said, some inmates did not receive medication that had been prescribed them.   Many inmates have complained to their attorneys and The News Herald about inadequate medical care at the jail.   Militich said that having to send inmates to the hospital was considered a problem at the jail.   "I was pressured not to send people to the hospital," he said.   "There is a lot of pressure because of a manpower shortage when you say, 'I want this guy to go to the hospital,' and they have to pull one or two (correctional officers) from somewhere else" to go to the hospital with the inmate.   Militich said that sometimes inmates went days without the medication they needed - or worse, never got it.   "They would put (inmates) on something else other than the medication they were prescribed because of the cost," he said.   Sometimes the other medication was a generic brand, but sometimes not, he said.   Militich's description of the practices at CCA are comparable to complaints inmates have made.   Inmates who were in the jail's basement Friday morning said they tried to alert officers to get Sturgis to the hospital, but the guards mocked Sturgis and let other inmates see his shaky condition.   An inmate who asked not to be identified said he was surrendering himself at the jail when he saw Sturgis convulsing at 3:30 a.m. It was two hours later when paramedics arrived, the inmate said.   Militich said he resigned in mid-2001 because he did not feel that he got the backing he should have had to do his job. He said he never saw an inmate who didn't get medical attention because he treated them if they needed it.   Militich said that while he worked for CCA, some nurses at the jail were qualified, while others "needed help."   "I told one nurse before I left that she needed to get to a hospital and learn some assessment skills," he said. "That's pretty strong language to tell a nurse."   Militich recalled guards mocking inmates for their medical condition.   He said one time correctional officers announced loudly that an inmate was faking a medical condition. Militich said that after he had the inmate sent to the hospital, doctors revealed that he had suffered a seizure.   During a similar incident, Militich said, he felt such pressure from correctional officers that he yelled out to them: "Well, hell, there's no reason for me to be down here. You are all apparently qualified to assess this person medically. Why do you need me?" "That was frustrating, because obviously they weren't qualified," Militich said. 

February 19, 2002 News Herald
Allegations that Bay County Jail guards mocked an ill DUI suspect - who later went into convulsions and died Friday morning - come as no surprise to local defense attorneys and a former correctional officer who worked at the jail for three years.   Inmates have said that guards did little to help 20-year-old Justin Sturgis, who reportedly told one correctional officer he had taken 10 Ecstasy pills. No one called for an ambulance until he went into cardiac arrest.   Criminal defense attorneys, meanwhile, said some of their clients have complained for years about the way some Corrections Corporation of America employees have treated them. CCA contracts with the county to run the jail.   And an inmate who was in the jail at the same time that Justin Sturgis was showing signs of distress told The News Herald on Monday that guards were treating Sturgis like a "freak show" - parading other inmates by Sturgis to watch his behavior.   According to inmate witnesses and an investigator with the Bay County Sheriff's Office, Sturgis showed seizure-like symptoms a short time after being taken to the jail. He began shaking and told a correctional officer he had taken pills before being arrested.   A nurse at the jail called Bay Medical Center's emergency room about Sturgis. Based on what the nurse said, a
tor advised that the nurse monitor Sturgis for a couple of hours.
  Inmates who said they were in the jail's holding area at the time said Sturgis' condition deteriorated, and guards did nothing until he went into cardiac arrest.   Sturgis was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 7 a.m.   Dr. George Tracy, who treated Sturgis, said it's his belief that Sturgis suffered a rare reaction to Ecstasy.   A plastic bag, presumably containing drugs, was found in his stomach at the autopsy. The medical examiner will issue a final cause of death when toxicology reports are completed.   Tommy Sims Jr. said he worked for the jail for three years in the late 1990s. Sims, who said he was fired because of allegations that he had sexually harassed women inmates, said he felt he had to come forward about conditions at the jail when he read about Sturgis' death.   "Sure I've got faults, but the information I'm telling you about what goes on at that jail, you can put me on a polygraph and I'll pass it," he said.   He said that while he was working at the jail, inmates in need of medical attention were often ignored and that supervisors helped smooth over what he considered to be poor judgment on the part of guards.  Sims said he wonders whether guards looked in on Sturgis when he was supposed to be under a medical watch.   He said the practice in such situations when he was at the jail was to simply post a note on the holding cell that the person inside was under medical watch.   "You are supposed to look at the inmate and sign off,"   Sims said of his experience as a jail employee. "The only problem is they don't do anything but sign off. They don't look inside."   Inmates have reported that they tried to alert guards that Sturgis was in trouble and needed medical attention. An anonymous source, who is represented by criminal defense attorney Bob Pell, said he was at the jail during Sturgis' plight. He said Sturgis was either being made fun of or being ignored throughout the morning.   "A lot of times these inmates are hollering out for different reasons," Sims said. "But it's almost like they've stereotyped it to be a troublemaker and so they yell out, 'Shut up!' or kick the cell door or threaten to mace them."   Sims said that while he worked at CCA he violated some of the company's policies, but that so did most other officers.   Sims said correctional officers are sometimes fired when a problem occurs, but the problem isn't fixed. "If (CCA) figures they can tell the public, 'We got rid of so-and-so,' then the public thinks everything is all right," he said.   Louis Green, the head of marketing for CCA in Nashville, Tenn., said it is the company's policy not to comment on statements that ex-employees give to news organizations. She also said that CCA could give out no information on the investigation into Sturgis' death.   Pell said that he has heard complaints from his clients about their treatment at CCA for years.   "It's been fairly well known for a long time that there's a problem down there," he said. "There are several officers down there that are very responsible. In fact, some of the information I've gotten is from concerned officers who have seen people they feel should've gotten better medical attention than they received."   Assistant public defender Kelly McIntosh said inmates' voices often go unheard, but that it could be hard to separate legitimate requests for medical attention from false ones.   McIntosh also said it is usually hard to prove if someone was denied proper medical attention.   "If I was a civil lawyer and trying to prove it, it's hard to prove because (correctional officers) are going to bind together and it's their word against someone in there who is convicted," she said.   "Who's a jury going to believe?"    McIntosh said she believes video cameras should be installed in the jail to give inmates a credible witness.   "It's a Catch-22," she said. "Who's going to believe them - and it's a damn shame, it really is. But we hear it enough that I believe something is going on. But how do you prove it until something like this happens?"   Attorney Waylon Graham said he was at the jail to surrender a client on Friday morning and saw CCA personnel and paramedics trying to revive Sturgis. He could tell the situation was bleak, he said.   "I've had clients that have had some trouble dealing with CCA's bureaucracy and them getting their medication," Graham said. "My experience with that is not some evil intent on the part of CCA - it's just dealing with the bureaucracy."   Correction officers were talking about and showing off Sturgis' plight to arriving prisoners, a 24-year-old man who wished to remain anonymous told The News Herald on Monday. His version backed up those given by others who said they were present when Sturgis went into convulsions.   "(The officer) was telling me I had to see this messed-up kid here tonight. He said he ate like 10 Ecstasy pills at one time," said the man, who is no longer in custody. He was wary of giving his name because of his pending criminal case.   The man said he was being booked when the guard offered to show him Sturgis.   "It was the worst I've ever seen anybody on that drug before. He was all over," the man said. "I told (the guard) if he ate that many, you need to take him to the hospital and he was like, 'Oh, he's just a drug addict.'   "People were just looking in there like he was a freak show. About an hour or an hour and a half later, no one was looking at that room anymore and a CO (corrections officer) came over and looked in and (Sturgis) was about dead.   "The only time people checked on him were when they were getting checked into the jail. They were showing him off."

February 18, 2002 AP
Sheriff's deputies are investigating allegations that staffers at the privately run Bay County Jail failed to get medical attention quickly enough for an inmate who later died.   Justin Sturgis, 20, who had been charged with driving under the influence, died Friday from a rare reaction to a street drug, believed to be Ecstasy, Dr. George Tracy said.   The doctor treated him at Bay Medical Center where he died five hours after being booked into the jail. An official cause of death will be made by the district medical examiner's office following toxicology tests.   Sheriff's investigator Ken Smiley said his initial investigation of the death indicated no criminal wrongdoing.   The jail is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America of Nashville, Tenn. Spokeswoman Louise Green said the company would comment only after it completes its investigation.   Tracy said a jail nurse had called the hospital when Sturgis became sick.   The doctor said he told her to keep monitoring the inmate but that it was unnecessary to immediately bring him to the emergency room based on her description of his condition.   Other prisoners alleged that guards mocked the moaning Sturgis for two hours before finally calling an ambulance.   Jessie Powner, who was in a holding cell, said Sturgis was banging himself against a wall, kicking and biting his lip while other inmates yelled for guards to get a doctor.   "When we looked in the window, he was having uncontrolled convulsions,"   Powner told The News Herald of Panama City for Monday editions. "The guard was laughing and said he was going to be all right."   Sturgis' uncle, Dave Junker, said he was told his nephew had asked for help three times.   "We're very concerned if there was some neglect in the time he could have went to the emergency room," Junker said.   Smiley said the remains of a plastic bag were found in Sturgis' stomach during an autopsy. That indicates he probably swallowed a drug to avoid having police find it in his possession when they pulled over his car. 

July 10, 2001News Herald
A man accused of escaping from jail officials last month to avoid prison could have received a harsher sentence Monday, but will still be behind bars until he's almost 50.  According to police, Collier walked out of the Bay County Courthouse law library and escaped from two jail guards.  Investigators said he asked the guards if he could use the restroom and they allowed him to go unescorted.  The guards, both Corrections Corporation of America employees, have been released by the company.  

June 09, 2001News Herald
A man with an extensive criminal history, and facing another 30 years in prison, walked out of the Bay County Courthouse on Thursday with a little help from some friends.  Tracy Lashawn Collier, 35, was recaptured near a relative's house in Callaway Thursday evening.  He'd escaped from Bay County Jail guards about 3:30 p.m. while visiting the law library on the third floor of the courthouse.  Collier has a criminal record that includes rape, escape, battery, resisting officers, possessing cocaine, passing worthless checks, grand theft auto and obstructing justice by disguise.  While at the law library, he asked the guards if he could use the restroom and was allowed to go in alone, the Bay County Sheriff's Office said.  When he didn't return after a period of time, the guards checked on him and discovered he was gone.  

April 21, 2001Naples Daily News
An inmate awaiting trial on domestic violence, document forgery and attempted escape charges hanged himself in his cell at the privately operated Bay County Jail.  Sheriff's deputies said John Alvin Leggett, 38, used a bed sheet for a noose.  His body was discovered Wednesday during a bed check.  The jail is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, of Nashville, Tenn., under a contract with the county.  The sheriff's office is investigating the death. 

Blackwater Correctional Facility
Milton, Florida
GEO Group

Grand jury probes Panhandle private prison deal: September 9, 2011, Mary Ellen Klas Times/Herald. Another breaking expose on corruption surrounding this prison.
FBI issues subpoenas apparently linked to Florida Geo Group investigation,  June 16, 2011. As previously reported by DBA Press (“Legacy of Corruption,” February, 2011), the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been quietly investigating the circumstances which led to the appropriation and construction of Florida’s largest private prison, Blackwater River Correctional Facility (Blackwater CF), operated by Florida-based private prison operator, Geo Group. By Beau Hodai  DBA Press
New private prison in Milton shows Florida cost-savings challenge, April 25, 2011, Steve Bousquet, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau. Excellent piece exposing the cherry-picking going on in this GEO for-profit prison.
DBA Press Investigative Report: Legacy of Corruption January 22, 2011 U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s unsettling history of extremely close ties to private prison operator Geo Group and the possible federal investigation into Florida’s private prison giveaway of more than $120 million. By Beau Hodai

May 22, 2019 pnj.com

Blackwater Correctional inmate charged with sending bomb threats to federal agencies

The person allegedly behind bomb threats prompting evacuations last week of the Social Security Administration and U.S. Attorney's Office buildings in Pensacola was a 24-year-old man already incarcerated in Santa Rosa County. A criminal complaint filed in federal court charged Noah D. Stirn, 24, with interstate threats involving explosives and mailing interstate threats to injure. He was taken into federal custody Monday, according to the office of Lawrence Keefe, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. Prior to Monday, Stirn was a prisoner at the Blackwater Correctional Facility, a private state prison in Milton, where he was incarcerated after being convicted of witness tampering, intimidating or forcing witness and grand theft of a motor vehicle, according to Keefe. From the prison, Stirn allegedly sent a series of letters threatening to blow up multiple federal agencies. More: Authorities investigate 2 bomb threats in 2 days in downtown Pensacola. Threatening letters were received by the U.S. District Court in Pensacola on May 8, the U.S. District Court in Miami on May 10, the Social Security Administration in Pensacola on May 14, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pensacola on May 15 and the Florida Department of State on May 17, according to the complaint. The letter received by the U.S. District Court in Pensacola on May 8 said court judges had been followed home by gangsters who would kick in their home's doors and "viciously murder" them, according to the criminal complaint. The May 8 letter went on to allege that a “Texter Unibox C4” bomb was timed to explode inside the courthouse unless $50,000 was wired to a specified bank account. Other letters included threats such as the assassination of a magistrate judge, blowing up the Social Security Administration building and planting "a car bomb for the Secretary of State, which should be in place as you receive this letter," the compliant stated. Stirn signed his signature to all of the letters, according to the criminal complaint. He included his date of birth on some letters, and on others, he added his Department of Corrections inmate number. When FBI agents interviewed him May 17, Stirn admitted to authoring the letters and placing them in the prison's outgoing mail. Stirn told the FBI that “he disagreed with various policies of the United States government and these letters were his attempt to change the policies of the United States," the criminal complaint stated. “Stirn informed the FBI that he would not stop mailing letters of this nature,” the complaint said. At Stirn's first appearance in federal court Monday afternoon, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Goldberg requested the court institute a policy that all outgoing, future letters written by Stirn receive review before they are mailed. Stirn’s defense attorney objected, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Timothy said the court would take the matter into consideration.

Mar 20, 2019 pnj.com
Santa Rosa County inmate indicted for the murder of fellow inmate

An inmate at Blackwater Correctional Institution in Milton was indicted by a Santa Rosa County grand jury for first-degree premeditated murder. Thomas H. Fletcher was indicted for allegedly killing fellow inmate Kenneth J. Davis, State Attorney Bill Eddins announced Tuesday morning, adding that the state has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty in its case. The indictment comes nearly six months after Davis was found unresponsive at the private prison around 3 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2018. At 3:33 p.m., EMS confirmed Davis' death. Davis, 33, was serving 25 years for attempted first-degree murder in Walton County. Fletcher was serving a sentence for convictions in Broward County for murder, robbery and trafficking cocaine in 1994. Fletcher is next scheduled to appear in court on March 28 in Santa Rosa County.

Sep 28, 2018 pnj.com
Authorities investigating inmate death at Blackwater River Correctional
Authorities are investigating an inmate death at Blackwater River Correctional Institution. Inmate Kenneth Davis died at the private prison Saturday, though Blackwater CI officials were not available for comment Monday afternoon. Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman Jeremy Burns confirmed the agency is involved in the investigation but could not comment further, citing the active nature of the case. Florida Department of Corrections records show Davis, 33, was serving 25 years for attempted first-degree murder in Walton County.

Jan 12, 2018 nwfdailynews.com
Corrections officer stabbed at private prison
MILTON — A corrections officer at Blackwater River Correctional Facility was stabbed by an inmate Tuesday morning. “She’s going to be fine,” said state Sen. Doug Broxson, whose district houses the prison. The assault occurred at 8:40 a.m. during a “routine post assignment,” according to a statement released Thursday by The Geo Group, the private organization that runs the Blackwater River prison east of Milton. “The officer received immediate medical attention and was transported to an area medical facility. The incident was referred to law enforcement and remains under ongoing investigation,” the release said. Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson said his agency had not been contacted to investigate the stabbing. Dexter McWhite, 56, who is serving a life sentence for aggravated assault, robbery and armed robbery, attacked the officer, according to The GEO Group. The GEO Group did not release the identity of the victim, whose injury was not life-threatening. The prison has been on lockdown since Tuesday, an inmate’s family member said. It remained locked down Thursday evening, according to the prison staff. Questions about the stabbing were deflected by the Florida Department of Corrections to the state Department of Management Services. The DOC said Managment Services has oversight of private prisons. In a late afternoon email, a Management Services spokeswoman said The GEO Group would respond to all questions about the stabbing. Blackwater River administrators also directed questions to The GEO Group. Broxson finally stepped in late in the day to break the gridlock. He said he had communicated to officials at the state agencies and Blackwater the need for future transparency. “I encouraged the departments to be more open in the process,” he said.

Aug 28, 2014 miamiherald.typepad.com

Florida Governor's MansionThe idea made sense: create a “governor’s park” around the Florida Governor’s Mansion to spruce up the entrance by buying up shabby commercial property on the adjacent street and replace it with a grand boulevard and a visitors commons. But it was an idea that was going to take cash. Lots of cash: $2.3 million for the project and $2.7 million more to acquire an old house, a pawn shop, a tire store and three other properties nearby, records from 2011 and 2012 show. First Lady Ann Scott embraced the project. Mansion director Carol Beck was on board, the governor’s deputies coordinated the effort with donations from the state’s top industries and persuaded Republican legislative leaders to dedicate $2.5 million in the state budget. A lavish party at the Mansion was held to recognize the generosity of the corporate donors. But while records show that everyone involved was using state time to do the work, they wanted to avoid creating a public records trail, so they used private email accounts and private cell phones to keep what they were doing out of the public eye. The practice was part of the culture in the new governor’s office. The governor’s first two chiefs of staff, Mike Prendergast and Steve MacNamara, instructed employees to use personal emails and personal cell phone text messages to communicate anything that was sensitive, creating a barrier to access when records requests were made, former employees have told the Herald/Times. More here. The details about the governor’s park emerged only after a judge ordered them released last year as part of a lawsuit by Tallahassee lawyer Steven R. Andrews. He successfully sued the governor and Cabinet for attempting to break a contract he had to purchase a building near the Mansion that houses his office. Although Andrews’ property wasn’t initially included in the “governor’s park” project, it was later rolled together in Scott’s so-called “legacy project” that included updating the furnishings in the current mansion in addition to building the adjacent park. Andrews sued the governor’s office for withholding documents and, in the process, found that everyone from the First Lady and her assistant to the mansion director and the governor’s deputies — Carrie O’Rourke, Chris Finkbeiner and Carly Hermanson — used private email accounts and cell phones to communicate about the mansion project. The governor’s lawyers have also adopted a policy never before employed in state government, instructing employees that they were custodians of the public documents on their private accounts. The result: the governor’s former employees must hire lawyers to represent them in handling records requests that traditionally had been the responsibility of the state. “We follow the law,” Scott told reporters last week, dismissing Andrews as “an individual that sues the state, tries to cause problems.” The governor’s office “code of conduct” forbids text messages and requires that employees refrain from using personal email accounts “unless such use is necessary.” Employees then must “retain them in accordance with the Department of State retention policy.” But, records show, the policies are widely ignored. “This is foundation business, not EOG (Executive Office of the Governor,)’’ wrote Carrie O’Rourke, the governor’s deputy chief of staff in a Jan. 9, 2012, text message to Beck, the mansion curator. “Pls do not use that account moving forward.” And in an apparent attempt to avoid the appearance of fundraising on state time, Beck had checks sent to her home — instead of a state building, according to records obtained by Andrews. “Make checks payable to the Governors Mansion Foundation,” Beck wrote in an email to potential contributor, former Scott campaign finance chairman Mike Fernandez, in January 2012. Beck used her private AOL account, not her state account, and added: “In order to expedite receipt, please mail to my attention at the following address.” She then listed her home address. Copied on the email was O’Rourke, using O’Rourke’s private Yahoo account. When Andrews, in a public records request, sought all documents and communications regarding the Mansion project, the governor’s Office of Open Government replied that some documents could not be released because they were attorney “work product” and the text messages did not exist. Colleen Andrews, a paralegal in the firm and Steve Andrews’ wife, said she discovered the existence of the text messages after finding that Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard had sent text messages to O’Rourke about the mansion. The governor’s office told Andrews to approach O’Rourke. Colleen Andrews said she has doubts about whether what she has received is the true record. “I don’t know if we’re getting all the messages, are they holding some back and are some deleted?” Brian Ballard, a a prominent GOP fundraiser and member the Governor’s Mansion Foundation board, said that if there was any attempt at secrecy “it was an innocent mistake.” He said the goal of the Mansion Foundation was to enhance the entrance to governor’s residence “to celebrate our history and our Capitol” and there was “never a conversation” about shielding the campaign from the public. O’Rourke and Beck would not respond to requests for comment. The governor’s spokesman, John Tupps, would not comment on why the governor’s office used private email accounts for public business or why private fundraising was managed on state time. “The Mansion Foundation is a legislatively authorized direct support organization, whose function is to raise funds for public purposes; in this case historic preservation,’’ he said. When asked if it was the governor’s policy to allow fundraising for private entities on state time, Tupps answered: “No.” Records obtained by Andrews show that O’Rourke, Beck and Ann Scott’s aide, Sarah Hansford, actively sought to raise funds from some of the most powerful industries in the state — all of whom benefited from remaining in the governor’s good graces. Florida Power & Light, U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and Blue Cross Blue Shield wrote checks for $100,000 each. Donations for $20,000 also came in from Ballard, Scott’s political adviser Tony Fabrizio, lobbyist Billy Rubin, and George Zoley, the CEO of the private prison company The GEO Group, which runs two Florida prisons. Joe and Samara Caruncho, owner of the state’s largest Medicare Advantage program, wrote a $25,000 check. “U.S. Sugar just came thru w check for $100k!!!’’ Beck wrote in a text to O’Rourke on Feb. 13. “Heading over to Ballard firm to pick up and deposit.” Ballard said the project is now on hold, in part, because of Andrews’ lawsuits. After the governor’s legal office released the records to Andrews, they also clarified their policy and required that all Mansion Foundation documents be retained as public records.

December 1, 2011 The Daily News
Santa Rosa County Commissioner Bob Cole said Thursday that FBI agents had asked him Wednesday about a private land sale in 2009 and the county’s sale of land to build the Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Milton. “It was all the same things over again,” Cole said during a brief telephone conversation about the search of his home and business. “They threw so much out there I didn’t know what they were focused on.” FBI and IRS agents searched Cole’s home in East Milton and his Pensacola business, Bob Cole’s Automotive. No arrests were made and the agents declined to say what they were seeking. Cole, who has been a commissioner since 2002, has maintained his innocence of any wrongdoing. Although his County Commission offices were not searched Wednesday, Cole focused his comments on his actions as an elected official. “No vote was bought and I did not better myself because of a vote,” he said Wednesday. “I am comfortable in my votes of the past on issues and no one twisted my arm. Everything I have done is on the record and I feel good to go.” Cole confirmed Thursday that agents asked specifically about his sale of land to a business known as Beannacht Properties LLC. On April 17, 2009, Cole sold 9 percent of a five-acre parcel on Welcome Church Road to Beannacht Properties for about $50,000. Beannacht Properties is managed by Nina Roche Cobb and her husband, Donald Cobb. Nina Roche Cobb is the daughter of John and Deborah Roche, Gulf Breeze residents who own Lifeguard Ambulance Service, which holds a contract with Santa Rosa County to provide emergency services. A federal warrant was issued in August for documents pertaining to several Santa Rosa County land transactions and material related to discussions regarding the county’s Lifeguard Ambulance contract. It is not clear whether the records request in August and Wednesday’s search of Cole’s home and business are related. Calls to Beannacht Properties have not been returned. Cole also acknowledged Thursday that the FBI has also asked him about the county’s $2.65 million sale of land to a south Florida company known as the GEO Group. The GEO Group bought the property so that it could build a $120 million private prison in Milton.

September 25, 2011 Pensacola News Journal
Two Santa Rosa County officials are due at Pensacola's federal courthouse on Tuesday — with volumes of records — to answer four federal subpoenas served in August. Cindy Anderson, executive director of the TEAM Santa Rosa Economic Development Council, and Santa Rosa County Attorney Angela Jones will present thousands of pages of documents as well as numerous digital files to the federal grand jury. TEAM and the county each received two subpoenas in August demanding records involving contracts, developments, land purchases, travel and other interactions among TEAM, the county and numerous private parties. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office won't say why they want the information. The subpoenas sought information about a wide range of topics: » Santa Rosa County's purchase of an industrial park from Navarre developer Bill Pullum in 2009. » Any County Commission or TEAM staff member's travel to Pullum's private island in Honduras. » Any County Commission or TEAM staff member's travel to Washington, D.C. » Any county business with Pullum, developer Garrett Walton, architect and former state Sen. Charlie Clary, and Okaloosa County businessman William McElvy. » The sale of any property between the county and James "Jim" Young and/or KWY Investments, the company that sold the property where the private Blackwater River Correctional Institute came to be built in East Milton. » The county's ambulance service contract. Subpoenas issued to other offices center around how Blackwater River Correctional Institute came to be built by the Boca Raton-based GEO Group and the nature of former state Rep. Ray Sansom's relationship to the project.

September 1, 2011 Gulf Breeze News
A Grand Jury will meet in Pensacola on Sept. 27 to start reviewing numerous boxes of documents from Santa Rosa County’s economic development deals dating back to 2002. Subpoenas from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were served on the County Commissioners and on the county’s economic development arm, TEAM Santa Rosa, last Tuesday, Aug. 23. Commission chairman Lane Lynchard and TEAM Santa Rosa Director Cindy Anderson each said they are looking at this as an opportunity to clear the record – and the air – on these projects once and for all. “Anytime you receive a federal subpoena of any kind, it puts the county in a negative light. There is no doubt about that,” said Lynchard, an attorney from Gulf Breeze. “But it is my understanding this is the first federal subpoena of any kind that has been received by Santa Rosa County, and I really look at this as an opportunity to set the record straight on any questions concerning our economic development dealings. “The records they wanted go back as far as 2002 from the County Commission. I know there were a lot of questions surrounding the purchase of the property in 2009 for the industrial park off Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 90. Maybe this can out those questions to rest once and for all.” Anderson said most of the records subpoenaed already have been looked at and found to have no problems by the State Attorney’s Office as well as the Ethics Committee. “This really all started back when the ID Group of Gulf Breeze got funding from some grants back in 2004,” Anderson said. “There has been a group of individuals who have had questions on several projects since then, and I really hope this latest review of all those records can put all the questions to rest. “The investigation in March when records were subpoenaed was concerning only the private GEO prison project. Now this latest request has to do with any and all of our records going all the way back to at least 2004. That is boxes and boxes of records.” The owner of the ID Group was a former member of the TEAM Santa Rosa Board, and when TEAM received a $170,000 Defense grant, the TEAM board hired the ID Group to do the work required by the grant. Former State Rep. Ray Sansom was tied to the GEO group from Boca Raton that built the private Blackwater River Correctional Institute in East Milton last year. Questions have centered on Sansom’s involvement with the GEO group in Boca Raton since 2008, when the group purchased the property for the Milton prison. Subpoenas in March requested any and all records concerning that prison project.

August 24, 2011 Pensacola News-Journal
A federal grand jury in Pensacola is investigating the building and funding of a privately owned correctional facility that opened last year in East Milton, including the role of former state Rep. Ray Sansom. On Tuesday, the FBI seized a computer used by Santa Rosa County Commissioner Jim Melvin and his predecessor, Gordon Goodin. Melvin, who took office last year, said FBI agents told him the investigation was not focused on him but did not disclose what they were interested in. Goodin, who served for eight years, said he was confident the investigation didn't involve him. During the past five months, the grand jury, working with the FBI, has issued three other subpoenas. The first subpoena on March 29 requested that TEAM Santa Rosa, the county's economic development agency, deliver all records pertaining to Project Justice, the code name for the ultimately successful effort to bring a private prison operated by the Boca Raton-based Geo Group to the county. The Blackwater River Correctional Institute, owned by Geo under a contract with the state, opened last year. It is designed for 2,200 high-security prisoners. The March subpoena ordered Team Santa Rosa to produce all records related to "the projection, planning, design, funding, appropriation, construction and/or operation of any privately owned correctional facility located in Santa Rosa County." The second subpoena to Florida's Office of Legislative Services, dated May 27, requested travel vouchers since January 2004 for Sansom and several of his aides. The third subpoena, with the same date, was addressed to former Sansom aide Samantha Sullivan of Mary Esther. It ordered records "pertaining to any function performed as a legislative aide to state Rep. Ray Sansom" since Jan. 1, 2002. On March 27, 2008, Sansom traveled to Boca Raton on what he described in a travel voucher as "personal business after Session 2008." On April 4, Sansom inserted a provision into the 2008-09 general appropriation bill for $110 million for an addition to the Graceville Correctional Institute, owned by Geo, in Jackson County. That appropriation was removed. Then, on April 8, Sansom substituted an appropriation of $110 million into the 2008-09 state budget for a private prison to be built anywhere in the state, with no reference to Graceville. That money went to the East Milton facility, which ended up costing $140 million. In February 2010, Sansom, while serving as speaker of the House, resigned amid criminal allegations that he inserted a $6 million appropriation into the state budget for construction of an aircraft hangar in Destin for a prominent Florida Republican Party contributor, Jay Odom. The state dropped its case against Sansom in March after a Tallahassee judge blocked key prosecution testimony. Santa Rosa officials reached Tuesday said they didn't know the reason for the seizure of the commission computer. Commissioner Lane Lynchard said he learned of the seizure from Santa Rosa County Attorney Angela Jones but didn't know what the FBI's interest was. He said the county was served with two federal grand jury subpoenas, but he didn't know what the other one involved. Jones was not in her office Tuesday afternoon, and county spokeswoman Joy Tsubooka said copies of the subpoenas would not be available until today. Melvin said the federal agents appeared in his office with two subpoenas at about 10 a.m. "They explained that they had no problems with me, but that they needed records from the computer in my office," Melvin said. "They wanted to know whether I would demand a court order. I told them I was not the custodian of those records. They met with the county attorney, and then came and removed the computer from my office." Melvin said he did not know the nature of the records sought. Goodin, who was recently cleared of an ethics complaint involving a 2005 trip he and his wife took to Central America, said he had "no idea" what interest the FBI would have in the computer. "I'm not worried about any more investigations," he said. "They can investigate whatever they want." A message left at the FBI office in Pensacola was not returned Tuesday.

June 17, 2011 WEAR TV
"This is the $120 million Blackwater River Correctional Facility. It's been a pretty quiet addition to East Santa Rosa County, bringing hundreds of new jobs here. But... the Federal Government is continuing wide-scale investigation into what led to the construction of this prison." The project has been under fire ever since it became public knowledge. The GEO Group... The company that now runs the prison... Has documented ties to several state lawmakers who help approve the 120 million dollar project. Jerry Couey is one of many people around the state that's been closely following the development of this prison for years. "Any citizen or private business owner would love to have the same deal. I don't understand how they got the deal and I've become very curious about how that occurred." Jerry is not alone. The FBI obtained this subpoena in federal court back at the end of march. In it... The US District Court for the Northern District of Florida demands team Santa Rosa turn over all it's paperwork related to the GEO group and the state lawmakers who backed the privatized prison project in the legislature. , "I wish them well in their search. I think they're on to something that certainly needs to be looked at, in a time in the state of Florida where dollars are so precious, how did this happen." "It would make sense for them to come to us, because they know we have to keep track of all of this and it would be packaged all together all in one place." "The FBI is very good at what they do, and I don't know what's going to come of it. My gut gives me concern about how it occurred."

August 16, 2010 Sunshine State News
Former Rep. Loranne Ausley, the Democratic nominee to be the next state CFO, attacked a program backed by her Republican rival, Senate President Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach, that slashed 71 prison work squads, which she insisted saved Florida taxpayers more than $35 million, and created a new private prison. Labeling the Blackwater River Correctional Institution the “prison to nowhere,” Ausley noted that the project had already cost the state more than $110 million and that Atwater was ignoring recommendations made by the Florida Department of Corrections. She also compared the project to a new courthouse in Tallahassee which she labeled the “Tallahassee Taj Mahal.” “Senate President Jeff Atwater’s ‘prison to nowhere’ is yet another product of the broken system in Tallahassee, and once again Florida taxpayers are stuck with the bill,” said Ausley. “Floridians are fed up with politicians who play by their own rules with our money. Whether it’s the ‘Tallahassee Taj Mahal,’ the ‘Prison to Nowhere’ or an airport hanger for a political contributor, politicians in Tallahassee need to be held accountable.”

August 10, 2010 WCTV
Prison work squads are as old prisons themselves. But the state has slashed the number of work squads since the new budget took effect in July. Motorist Toby Edwards doesn’t think that’s good for roadways or the prisoners. “They eat good and the state takes care of them but that’s coming from the taxpayers,” Edwards said. “So they should be the ones out there picking up the trash.” Another motorist, Steve Bedosky thinks the work should be contracted to private companies. “I’ve never really been in favor of taking those jobs away from the private sector and putting prisoners out there at a lower price,” Bedosky said. But local governments don’t have the resources, which means the work will often go undone. 71 crews like this one are being cut. That’s going to mean taller grass, more trash on the road, and costs being shifted. The Department of Corrections was forced by lawmakers to spend 24 million dollars opening a private prison orchestrated by disgraced former speaker Ray Sansom. The private prison took money from the work squads, even though new projections show the 2200 private prison beds weren’t needed. The union representing correctional officers understands the need to keep staffing up inside prison fences, but it objects to the work squad cuts on moral grounds. “It’s just sad that the public has to pay for the legislature’s irresponsibility,” Al Shopp with the Police Benevolent Association said. But unless funding improves, prisoners will be spending more time behind bars and less time cleaning up roadsides. The state is cutting 71 of 180 work squads across the state.

June 8,  2010 St Petersburg Times
On the heels of its endorsement of Alex Sink for governor, the Police Benevolent Association has now announced it will support Loranne Ausley in her bid to be chief financial officer. Sink's endorsement was news because the PBA hadn't endorsed a Democrat for governor since Lawton Chiles' first run in 1990. Now, with its endorsement of an underfunded Ausley over Senate President Jeff Atwater, the group seems to have gotten religion on Democrats. Unsure about why the group is making the shift, but it could have something to do with the opening of a new private prison in North Florida and lingering unease over potential cuts to prison workers' pensions. Matt Puckett, the deputy executive director for the PBA, says the group likes people "that wanted to take care of law enforcement officers and public employees." He also noted that "it didn't help matters" that the new private prison opened up on Atwater's watch.

May 28, 2010 St Petersburg Times
Gov. Charlie Crist often laments "this culture of corruption in South Florida," but increasingly it's Tallahassee that looks like a central focus of multiple criminal investigations swirling about Florida. In recent weeks, prominent legislators have hired criminal defense lawyers, while high-ranking and low-ranking GOP staffers have been summoned to grand juries meeting across the state. Among them: Crist's former top money-raiser, Meredith O'Rourke; former state GOP executive director Jim Rimes; and indicted ex-House Speaker Ray Sansom's former fundraising aide, Melanie Phister, who at age 25 charged nearly $1.3 million on her state party credit card. Veteran observers of the state's political process can't remember a time when so many officials have been caught up in criminal investigations. "I don't think we've ever had it at this level,'' said longtime lobbyist Ron Book. Amid the most tumultuous and unpredictable election year Florida has seen in decades, the names of at least a dozen political figures have popped up in five major federal investigations probing the pay-to-play culture of corruption in Florida: • Alan Mendelsohn, 52, a Fort Lauderdale eye doctor and GOP campaign fundraiser, is indicted on federal fraud and influence peddling charges. • Scott Rothstein, 47, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer and campaign donor at the center of a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, pled guilty in January to multiple federal charges of racketeering, money laundering, fraud. • Sansom, 47, charged with grand theft in state court for secretly putting $6 million in the budget, is being looked at by federal officials in North Florida for his use of a GOP credit card and his role in creating a $113 million private prison.

May 4, 2010 Tallahassee Democrat
An influential state senator who is running for governor called for an explanation Tuesday of how the Blackwater River prison privatization project was handled in the state budget. Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, wrote to the Department of Corrections and Department of Management Services regarding the Santa Rosa County prison. She said the Legislature appropriated $87 million for it as a 2,000-bed privately operated prison in 2008, intending that it house medium- to close-security inmates. In the closing days of the session that adjourned last week, the budget adopted by the House and Senate added 224 prisoners to the institution's capacity -- potentially worth $2 million a year, or more, for GEO Group, the company negotiating with DMS to run the prison. The appropriation was also changed to specify that the prison will "primarily house special-needs inmates," such as those with mental or physical health problems, and that it would be in Santa Rosa County, she said. Dockery, who chairs the Senate criminal justice committee, asked DOC and DMS if either department had requested the appropriation. She also asked for a summary of responses from companies competing for the state's business, what other locations were considered for the institution and why it was designated for "inmates who require chronic medical and mental health treatment." "She's asking all the right questions," said Ken Kopczynski, a lobbyist for the Police Benevolent Association, which represents security officers in state-run prisons. The PBA opposes prison privatization, which has been a highly controversial endeavor at six corporate-run prisons in Florida. Spokeswomen for DMS and DOC said the agencies are gathering information to respond to Dockery later this week or next week.

May 4, 2010 St Petersburg Times
Sen. Paula Dockery, a Lakeland Republican running for governor, has written DOC Secretary Walt McNeil and DMS Secretary Linda South to find out more about the private prison Blackwater deal (more here on the background). The letter is here: Dear Secretary McNeil and Secretary South: As chair of the Florida Senate’s Committee on Criminal Justice, I am interested in the background of the Blackwater River Correctional Facility (Blackwater) in Santa Rosa County. I am aware that an appropriation of approximately $87,000,000 was made in 2008 to contract for a 2,000 bed private correctional facility to house medium and close custody inmates. The appropriation did not specify a location for the facility or that the facility would primarily house special needs inmates. I request clarification about the history of the facility, including, but not limited to, the following issues: • Whether the appropriation was requested by either the Department of Corrections or the Department of Management Services and, if so, the basis for the request. • A summary of the responses to ITN #DMS 08/09-026 (including vendor, proposed location, proposed cost, and any distinguishing features of the proposal). • The origin of consideration of Santa Rosa County as a location for the facility and identification of other sites that were considered. • The origin of the decision that the majority of the inmates in the facility would be special needs inmates who require chronic medical and mental health treatment, and whether that decision affected the costs of construction. I would appreciate a timely response to this request. It is not intended to be burdensome and you should contact me or my staff if there are difficulties with responding in a timely fashion. Warm regards, Sen. Paula Dockery

April 25, 2010 Tampa Tribune
House and Senate budget chiefs agreed Saturday to open a private prison and pour $61 million into the University of South Florida's Lakeland campus, but remained at odds over a variety of cuts and competing proposals. The Legislature, in its 2008 budget, approved the construction of the private Blackwater River Correctional Institution, responding to predictions that the state's prison population would jump more sharply than it has. The state-of-the-art facility now stands empty. Saturday, the House agreed to Senate budget chief JD Alexander's plan to cut state prison beds and eliminate more than 300 positions, mostly vacant, in the state Department of Corrections to fill 2,224 Blackwater prison beds. That's 224 more beds than the facility was designed to hold, raising concerns about crowding. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said the state can avoid that problem by "double-bunking" dormitory space. Ken Kopczynski, political affairs assistant for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, questioned whether it is ethical to turn incarceration of prisoners into a profit-making industry. With 4,000 beds or more available in the state's public prisons, Kopczynski said, there's no reason to open a private one. Alexander disagreed. "I just couldn't, in all conscience, sit there with a brand-new, $120 million facility and not find a way to use it; it just doesn't make sense to me. I think this is a reasonable compromise."

April 24, 2010 Tampa Tribune
House and Senate budget chiefs agreed Friday on money for Florida Forever and a range of other issues, but will spend the weekend haggling over items ranging from crisis pregnancy counseling to trading state-run prison beds for private ones. The popular-but-pricey Florida Forever program won $15 million Friday after losing in budget negotiations last year. When the House refused in 2009 to provide new money for the land conservation program, its line item, to the alarm of environmentalists, vanished from the budget. This year, the House initially left the program out of its budget plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Janet Bowman of the Nature Conservancy said environmentalists are grateful for the $15 million "bridge" funding. The proposed cash infusion, she said, will pay for land appraisals and allow the state to negotiate with land owners. Other issues on which Senate and House budget chiefs agreed during the past several days: •Spending $10 million on Everglades restoration. •Repealing a shoreline fishing fee lawmakers passed in 2009. •Cutting state payment rates to nursing homes by 7 percent. •Spending $200,000 on a new Innocence Commission to study why innocent people have wound up in prison and prevent future cases. •Spending $11.7 million on aid to libraries, less than the full $21 million funding the Senate proposed earlier. All decisions on the budget remain unofficial until the end of conferencing. The nursing home rate reduction is among a handful of recent agreements considered tentative, given concerns in both chambers about potential harm to nursing home residents. House and Senate budget chiefs will likely wrap up their negotiations on Sunday, at which point they forward any remaining sticking points to House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater for final decisions. Public versus private -- Among the issues still at play this weekend: How to handle the opening of Blackwater River Corrections Institution, a private prison in Santa Rosa County. The Legislature authorized construction of the low-cost, highly efficient prison in response to predictions that the prison population would jump more sharply than it has. The Senate is proposing to shutter less efficient state facilities and eliminate more than 300 vacant positions in the Department of Corrections to open 2,224 beds at Blackwater. That is 224 more beds than facility was designed to hold. Carter Goble Lee, the Atlanta-based firm contracted as Blackwater's project manager, warned the state Department of Management Services in an April 2 letter that the extra beds would place the state at risk of litigation by violating an industry standard of "25 square feet of unencumbered space per inmate." Senate budget chief JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said Friday the state can avoid overcrowding by "double-bunking" dormitory space for lower-risk inmates. "It's typical of the kind of structure that we have in our publicly operated prisons, so we felt like that was a good, efficient move to contain costs." The Senate proposes more than $24 million in cuts to the state corrections budget to offset the cost of opening Blackwater. Meanwhile, the state has 4,000 to 5,000 vacant beds available in the existing state system, said Ken Kopczynski, political affairs assistant for the Florida Police Benevolent Association. "There's no need for this prison," Kopczynski said. "They should let it sit until they need it." Alexander said that's not acceptable. "I believe it will save us money," he said. "It's unconscionable to me to have a $120 million facility sitting empty - the newest, most state-of-the-art facility. I don't know how I would tell the taxpayers that that's OK." The House has agreed to the corresponding reduction in prison staff vacancies, but not the extra 224 beds.

April 23, 2010 WEAR TV
It cost taxpayers over 120 million bucks and one state agency says it's not needed. Now the deal to build a new prison in Milton is attracting the attention of federal investigators. Dan Thomas/dthomas@weartv.com: "Take a look we're out here at the site of the new state prison in Milton and construction is full speed ahead out here today. It's 120 million taxpayer dollars being spent to build it out here. It could mean up to 400 jobs here to the local economy. One major problem with the project though? The State Department of Corrections says they don't need any of this. It's a situation that one report out of Tallahassee says has piqued the interest of the FBI." An unnamed source close to the investigation, says the FBI is curious about the prison deal. One of many dealings of former house speaker Ray Sansom currently under scrutiny. We know the FBI has spoken to at least one person locally about the matter. County Commissioner Don Salter says Federal agents have not talked to him but he expects the whole thing to blow over soon. Don Salter/Santa Rosa Commissioner: "Hopefully everything is going to workout, I suspect after august after the primary election and in November it'll probably calm down and everything will go forward." The state senate wants the Blackwater prison open with prisoners shipped in from existing facilities. Meanwhile the house didn't allocate any money to run it. Salter says the state may have no choice but to open the prison. Don Salter/Santa Rosa Commissioner: "It's my understanding that GEO bonded this project. The state guaranteed those bonds. So one way or the other the taxpayers of Florida will pay for this facility." Dan Thomas/dthomas@weartv.com: "And just what the legislature decides to do with this facility and those 400 jobs is expected to be decided next week." No matter what the legislature decides, construction is expected to be complete in July. If the facility is opened. They could start taking prisoners by November.

April 23, 2010 Florida News Network
The FBI is asking question about former House Speaker Ray Sansom’s involvement with a legislative deal to build a private prison. The news comes as the feds investigate Sansom, Marco Rubio, and former GOP Chairman Jim Greer for spending millions on Republican Party of Florida credit cards. As Whitney Ray tells us, the trouble for the GOP keeps growing. A legislative plan to close as many as five state prisons and ship inmates to a private prison run by GEO Group was scaled back last month by public out cry. Former House Speaker Ray Sansom originated the deal with an amendment in the 2008 state budget. On March 30th, a concerned citizen filed a complaint with the US Attorney’s Office calling for an investigation. A source familiar with the complaint says the FBI has been asking questions. A GEO Group Lobbyist says the feds haven’t questioned him. “I never heard anything like that at all,” said Smith. According to our source the feds may be searching to see if Sansom received any kickbacks from the company. GEO Group, formally known as Wackenhut, gave Sansom’s campaign 500 hundred dollars for his 2007 campaign. The company gave 145-thousand dollars to the Republican Party of Florida in 2008, and another 130-thousand in 2009. Neither Sansom’s lawyer nor the FBI returned our requests for interviews. Plans to house 22-hundred inmates in the private prison are moving forward in this year’s budget negotiations. The Police Benevolent Association says lawmakers should halt the prison plan. “The legislature would be smart to the taxpayers if they stopped this deal and took another look at it,” said Puckett. Earlier this week news broke of an FBI investigation into spending by Sansom, and several other high ranking Republicans on party issued credit cards. Questions about the prison deal may have spawned from their current investigation.

April 2, 2010 WEAR TV
A prison nurse in Santa Rosa County wants a federal and state investigation into the deal to bring the private Blackwater prison to Milton. Elva McCaig has compiled a lengthy and detailed account of the legislative moves former state representative Ray Sansom made in the 2008 budget to make the deal happen. She points out that the state bought the property for the prison from the Geo Group for $1.6 million. The state also awarded Geo the contract to build the facility for $110 million. She goes on to allege a number of other "back-room" transactions. McCaig is a nurse at the state-run jail next door to the site of the new facility, and she strongly opposes privatization of prisons.

March 31, 2010 Tampa Tribune
GOP leaders in the Florida Senate appeared Tuesday night to back off on a controversial budget proposal that would force the closure of two state prisons in order to open a cheaper private one. Senate Minority Leader Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, said Senate budget chief JD Alexander and Senate President Jeff Atwater have agreed not to require the state to shutter two as-yet unnamed prisons and privatize one to fill the private Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa County. That privatization plan, from Senate Ways and Means Chairman Alexander, appears in the proposed 2010-11 budget that the full Senate will begin considering today. Lawson, who filed an amendment late Monday that would strip the Blackwater plan from the budget entirely, said Tuesday night that he will file another that will leave it up to the state Department of Corrections how best to fill the private facility. Alexander and Senate President Jeff Atwater indicated Tuesday evening that they would accept such an amendment, said Lawson, R-Tallahassee. Lawson's district includes at least one small town fearing the loss of a local prison rumored to be a target of closure under Alexander's plan. "This will remove the panic," Lawson said. Blackwater still would open this year, he said, but without an estimated cut to prison budgets of $20 million. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said Tuesday that he still needs to see the language of Lawson's amendment but that they mostly have agreed on a different approach. The Legislature authorized construction of the low-cost highly efficient Blackwater facility in 2008, responding to predictions that the prison population would jump more sharply than it has. There is no version of the privatization proposal in the House. The two chambers will have to negotiate a final budget before the end of the session.

March 30, 2010 WJHG
More than 400 people showed up at a rally in Sneads this afternoon to protest a Senate budget-cutting proposal. The plan would supposedly save $68 million dollars by closing two state prisons and privatize a third. But some of the money would go to pay a private company to operate the new 2200 bed Blackwater Correctional Institute in Santa Rosa County. Folks in Jackson County are worried Apalachee Correctional Institute will become a victim of what they're now calling the 'Blackwater Bailout.' More than 400 people showed up at a rally in Sneads this afternoon to protest a Senate budget-cutting proposal. The plan would supposedly save $68 million dollars by closing two state prisons and privatize a third. But some of the money would go to pay a private company to operate the new 2200 bed Blackwater Correctional Institute in Santa Rosa County. Folks in Jackson County are worried Apalachee Correctional Institute will become a victim of what they're now calling the 'Blackwater Bailout.' Jackson County Commission Chairman Jeremy Branch didn't sugar-coat his feelings about Blackwater Correctional Institution. "Let me tell you what I hope it does: I hope it stays there and I hope it turns into a tombstone for privatization, I hope it's a monument to help symbolize the death of privatization in the state of Florida." The new prison in Santa Rosa County is 90% complete. The state owns it, but is planning to let a private company operate it. Branch and others, including the top State Corrections official, hope Blackwater never opens its doors. DOC Secretary Walter McNeil says, "I will not stand idly by. We're gonna fight until our little fingers are down to the bone to make sure that this does not come to fruition." Former State Representative Loranne Ausley asks, "when our communities are experiencing the worst employment, foreclosure rate, our budget is the worst it has been, how is it you can find 160-million dollars to build a prison that you don't need?!" If the state taps ACI as one of the two prisons that will close, community leaders say it will mean 640 workers will lose their jobs and the Sneads economy will be devastated. James Baiardi of the Police Benevolent Association, says "this is wrong, it's nothing more than a corporate bailout, that's all it is. They made the mistake and they want you to pay, your community to pay and they want the Correctional officers to pay for their mistake." 74-year-old Reverend Willis Raines Sr. has lived in Sneads his whole life. He raised 17 kids and knows firsthand ACI's impact on the local economy. "It creates communities where people get their jobs and support their families in our communities which is very, very important." Others are concerned the state could close as many as 5 prisons and will begin the early-release of inmates to compensate for the lack of prison beds. But former State Representative Curtis Richardson says, "we're here to say not 'NO' but 'HELL NO!' We will not take it anymore. They can keep this deal in Tallahassee. We're not gonna have it." Richardson went on to blame former House Speaker Ray Sansom for the situation. Sansom filed the 2008 budget amendment that issued state bonds to build Blackwater and hire a private company to operate it. Richardson said there's no question this can be tied to the kind of back room, smoke filled room, dirty deals Ray Sansom has become associated with.

March 30, 2010 Palm Beach Post
Once again, a Tallahassee lawmaker is playing hide and don't seek with Florida's budget. This time, the perpetrator is Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander. Last week, the Lake Wales Republican bypassed standard procedures to amend the proposed spending bill to close at least two state-run prisons, open a new private prison and privatize others. Sen. Alexander claims moving prisoners from state-run facilities to private ones will save $42 million a year. Why, then, didn't he bother to notify the Department of Corrections? Surely, the DOC should know about such a drastic change. Sen. Alexander's last-minute move would benefit Boca Raton-based GEO Group, the company likely to run one of the facilities. Sen. Alexander's amendment continues budget sleight-of-hand begun by former House Speaker Ray Sansom. That Santa Rosa County Republican slipped into the 2008 budget a $110 million appropriation the state used to pay GEO Group to build the private prison in his home county. That's the prison that Sen. Alexander now hopes to open. Mr. Sansom resigned last year as speaker and this year left the House after indictment on charges related to another deal he tucked into that budget — $6 million to build an airplane hangar for a major contributor to himself and the Republican Party. The GEO Group, which runs the South Bay Correctional Institution, has had a number of inmate deaths and riots at its prisons. Last year, a Texas appeals court upheld a 2006 $40 million wrongful death judgment concerning an inmate fatally beaten in 2001. Unless other prisons close, there aren't enough inmates to fill the 2,224-bed prison near the Blackwater River in Santa Rosa County. Also, the company, which contributed $158,000 to Florida Republicans and $17,000 to Democrats during the 2008 election cycle, saw its stock price drop as much as 8 percent earlier this month when the Federal Bureau of Prisons canceled plans to house illegal aliens convicted of crimes. GEO Group expected those inmates to fill a facility it operates in Michigan. An analyst pointed out at the time that all was not bad for GEO Group because the company's earnings from the Blackwater facility had not been included in its 2010 forecast. Sen. Alexander, whose amendment would help Blackwater's profits, also did not include the impact it would have on prison overcrowding when he forecast the savings privatization would bring to the state. Secretary of Corrections Walt McNeil estimates the amendment would shutter five prisons and force the department to release about 2,500 inmates early. "Everybody," Mr. McNeil said, "should be concerned about it." Everybody also should be concerned when legislators conduct state business under the cover of darkness. Obviously lawmakers should discuss prison projections and clear up serious disagreements about the numbers before acting. Last year, the grand jury that indicted former Rep. Sansom condemned the Legislature's clandestine budgeting process that lets a select few lawmakers make decisions behind closed doors. Sen. Alexander should read that grand jury report and take notes.

March 27, 2010 Palm Beach Post
After repeatedly emphasizing his commitment to "open and transparent" government during a committee meeting Thursday evening, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander attached a last-minute prison-privatization amendment to the state's spending bill without any warning to anyone it would affect, including the Department of Corrections. Alexander's proposal to open a privately run prison near the Blackwater River in the Panhandle would shutter at least two state-run prisons and put 639 prison guards out of work, the Lakeland Republican told the committee. His plan also would privatize an unidentified existing 1,350-bed prison, bringing the number of guards who would get pink slips up to 1,400, according to the amendment. Alexander says that shutting down prisons to fill a 2,224-bed facility to be run by Boca Raton-based Geo Group would save the state about $20 million a year. And it would put into use the state-of-the-art, energy-efficient Blackwater prison the state paid Geo $110 million to build near Milton in a deal slipped into the 2008 budget by state Rep. Ray Sansom before he became House speaker. Sansom later stepped down from that position in disgrace. But corrections officials object to the plan and say Alexander overestimates the state's potential savings by going private. Geo is now negotiating with the Department of Management Services to run Blackwater, but with a major hitch: The state doesn't have enough inmates to fill it without closing other prisons. That's because the state overestimated how many inmates would be incarcerated and the prison population is declining despite historically high unemployment. Alexander based his estimate on a $65-a-day rate for inmates in state-run prisons and $41 a day that Geo says it can charge for Blackwater, a savings of $24 a day for each of the 2,224 inmates who would be housed at the facility. But corrections officials say the savings would be about $9 million — less than half Alexander's $20 million estimate — because their average daily rate is $52 while the private prison's costs would depend on what kind of inmates were locked up at Blackwater. "We don't believe this is the right way to open Blackwater," said DOC spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. Blackwater was originally supposed to house mentally ill and seriously sick inmates who cost more to care for, but documents show that the state is now negotiating with Geo to care for inmates who are the cheapest and easiest to supervise. "As discussed earlier today, we wanted to provide you with a revised pricing for the Blackwater Facility if it were to house 2,224 M-1/M-2/S-1 inmates," an unidentified Geo official wrote on March 19 to Michael Weber, chief of private prison monitoring at the Department of Management Services. M-1, M-2 and S-1 inmates are relatively healthy and have no mental health issues. The $41-a-day price goes up to $45 if the 2,224-bed facility does not run at full capacity, according to the e-mail. But DMS spokeswoman Linda McDonald declined to say who would run Blackwater because negotiations aren't finished. And she would not say what type of inmates would be housed there. "That is not a decision that DMS makes. Ultimately it could be the legislature, but DOC is certainly involved, too," McDonald said. Plessinger said it is unlikely that all the inmates from one prison could be transferred to Blackwater because most prisons have a mix of classes of prisoners. She also said corrections officials have no idea which prisons will be shut down. Deal 'sneaky,' some say -- Alexander's late-filed amendment is the latest twist in a deal worked out in secrecy for at least two years since Sansom set it into motion. Sansom resigned his speakership in 2009 after being indicted on charges including grand theft related to a deal he tucked into the 2008 budget. He is facing trial on charges of steering tax money to build a jet hangar for developer Jay Odom, who donated nearly $1 million to Sansom and the state Republican Party, at a Panhandle college that hired him the day he became speaker. In the same budget, the Santa Rosa County Republican also slipped in a $110 million appropriation to build a private prison in his home county. Alexander's privatization plan was never discussed during the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee meetings where prison spending is usually decided. The committee chairman, Victor Crist, voted against the amendment Thursday. He said the potential savings by privatizing the prisons could not only put people out of work but also devastate the rural communities in which the prisons are based. "They generally are the primary if not the only employer there. If you shut it down, you could be shutting down a town. All of a sudden, everyone there could be out of work," said Crist, R-Tampa. "How do they sell their homes? How do they relocate even if they got a job with a private prison 300 miles away?" And, Crist said, the laid-off prison guards — whose annual salaries average between $30,000 and $35,000 — could wind up costing the state more if they sign up for state services for the unemployed. "Sometimes a dollar saved upfront could cost you two dollars behind," he said. Alexander said he introduced the amendment because Crist refused to do so and as Senate budget chairman he wants to save money on prisons to help close a $3.2 billion spending gap. "Many states have reduced their incarceration costs by using privatization," said Alexander, R-Lake Wales. He estimated Florida could save up to $700 million a year by privatizing each of its 62 prisons. But Police Benevolent Association President Jim Baiardi said Alexander kept his plan quiet to avoid public debate on the controversial issue. "It's been sneaky. Very sneaky. It's almost like it's been done in the dead of the night. So much for open government," Baiardi said, calling it a giveaway for Geo. "I don't understand how they can say that," Alexander said. "The reality is we've got a brand-new prison that the state directed and used taxpayers' monies to build. I think putting that prison online, saving the money, saving the maintenance costs, is something that only makes good financial sense for the people of Florida."

March 26, 2010 Capital News Service
Three state prisons would be shut down and 640 correctional officers would lose their jobs under the senate’s budget proposal. Some of the money saved from shutting down the prisons and firing the officers would be used to hire a private prison company for a facility in Santa Rosa County known as the Blackwater Prison. Matt Puckett with the Florida Police Benevolent Association says correctional officers who have risked their lives for years are being sacrificed so the private sector can pull down state dollars. “Basically the private sector has built a prison, we don’t have enough inmates to fill this prison, so they are going to take inmates from the private sector to fill it, so we are calling it the Blackwater bailout,” said Puckett. The PBA is fighting for an amendment in the Senate’s budget to save the prisons. The budget doesn’t name which prisons would be closed and gives the state until July 1st to decide who will be laid off.

September 10, 2009 Northwest Florida Daily News
The Santa Rosa County Sheriff's office arrested eight undocumented workers and charged six of them with fraud on Tuesday. Deputies conducted a traffic stop near the area of a construction site on Jeff Ates Road in Milton. Crews there are working to build a new private prison and the Sheriff's Office had received word that some of the crew members weren't in the United States legally. During the traffic stop on Sept. 8, a Special Operations investigator determined the four people in the vehicle did not have proper paperwork and documentation. The men said they were employed at the construction site as masons. Lawmen contacted the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and reported the arrest of two of the men in the car. Abelino Oviedo-Salinas, 25, was arrested for traffic violation and Sergio Mata-Oviedo, 18, was arrested for resisting an officer. The job foreman at the construction site was cooperative and reported the men were hired by a subcontractor at the site. The subcontractor said the men were sent to him through Robles Masonry in Alabama. After investigating the claims, six more men were arrested for providing false identification information to fill out their tax forms. Margaro Elias, 48, Jaime Condeles, 37, Mariano Sanchez-Ramiez, 21, Amado Landaverde-Vizcaya, 27, Jaime Flores-Aguilar, 32, and Bernardo Mata, 25, were charged with fraud. ICE was notified of the six arrests and bond was withheld for all the men arrested, pending their first appearance. There were no local addresses, local ties or valid information they could provide. Authorities report showed two of the men had fingerprints that matched prior arrests under different names in other parts of the country. Several of the other men, including the driver from the traffic stop, have prior arrests for illegal entry into the United States.

July 24, 2009 Santa Rosa Press-Gazette
It doesn’t appear that some tensions have died down since Monday’s meeting of the Santa Rosa County Commissioners where Chairman Don Salter entered into the minutes he “as chairman feared for the safety of certain individuals involved with economic development” based on the comments he quoted of Alan Isaacson. Since then, the feelings are still there. “I have a right to petition my government and asked them to take action based on the contract I drafted with them,” said Isaacson. “Then to have someone who accuses you of potential murder. “I was hurt, but I was also concerned about the fact that in the past two months I found 11 instances of items being withheld by TEAM. And that violates the agreement with the county according to paragraph 14.” Paragraph 14 section b in the Funding Program Agreement between TEAM and the Santa Rosa County Commission states, “TEAM shall, subject to and comply with the provisions of Chapter 119, Florida Statutes, and other relevant laws, permit public access to all documents or other materials prepared, developed or received by it in connection with the performance of its obligations or the exercise of its rights under this Agreement, unless exempted or confidential by law. This Agreement may be terminated by (the) County pursuant to paragraph 17 if TEAM fails to allow such public access.” Isaacson, who is now a witness into the State Attorney’s investigation into matters involving TEAM and government entities, is wondering why the contract is not being followed. “In 2007 the state attorney’s office told us TEAM was crystal clear on the regulations, but in Oct. of 2008 they form a committee to study what they need to do to be in compliance with the Sunshine Law,” said Isaacson. “Then in Jan. of 2009 they are still studying it and are basically forced to follow the law.” Most of the recent contention to arise this past week focused on an e-mail that came to light when John Myslak, who is a TEAM Board Member, addressed charges against him to members of the Santa Rosa County Commission as Myslak was awarded a contract involving the GEO Prison Project in East Milton. Other names were noted in the e-mail included TEAM members John Griffing, Pete Gandy, and Dick Hohorst may have or are all being paid by taxpayer funds even through the meetings leading up to these payouts which were held outside of the sunshine. He also questioned the $70,000 grant/contract Jeff Helms, with PBS&J, just finished with the Whiting Aviation Park. Since the e-mail was sent it has been learned Helms was awarded the contract prior to joining the board of TEAM Santa Rosa. Helms pointed out the contract he was awarded was based on a request for proposals and we went through a process and was fortunate enough to get part of the work. But questions involving the board and recent action still remain. Ken Kopczynski, with the Florida Police Benevolent Association, has been going through a battle to get documents involving an open records request since Sept. 2008 as they were looking into the matter with GEO Prisons. “We have had a long dialogue between the PBA and the County,” said Kopczynski. “One of our guys heard about this private prison on the agenda one Monday and they vote on the letter of support the following Thursday. “Our member raised questions on how this prison came about.” When the association sent their letter, TEAM replied their records were exempt. “We also asked for correspondence between Management Training Corporation and John Vanyur,” said Kopczynski. “They told us there was no documents regarding MTC. “Yet we learn about an e-mail dated in April 2008 from Vanyur to TEAM Santa Rosa.” Since this time the Florida PBA, one of the state’s largest unions, contacted Roy Andrews who on July 14 stated he was not the custodian of the public records for TEAM, but that he has “given the staff my opinion that all their records are public with the exception of those exemptions specifically set forth in Florida Statute 288.075 for the applicable time periods.” This is causing a great deal of concern to those like Isaacson, who have been championing open records and meetings for a long time. “If one of the largest unions in the state can’t get the information, what makes you think an individual like me can,” said Isaacson. When asked about if he has ever taken the time to talk to Isaacson about these questions and concerns Salter stated they had talked some six months ago. “I talked to Alan about six months ago for three hours to explain my position on economic development and base protection and we agreed to disagree,” said Salter. “My big point is for two years they have been saying their allegations on local radio and everywhere they can that we are guilty and the allegations they have. “If you have a problem and feel something is wrong then file the proper complaint and let the legal system work through it; don’t convict in the media.” “I want to say just as a reminder when you do stuff like this personalities do arise,” said Isaacson. “But I do not apologize for what I am doing because these items need to be done out in the open. “I have a fiduciary responsibility to check on what is questionable and in my opinion in Oct. of last year your own attorney agreed.”

Bradford County Jail
Starke, Florida

February 4, 2008 Jacksonville Times-Union
A privately contracted corrections officer is in jail after Bradford County deputies charged him Friday with having sex with two inmates he was transporting. Shaun McFadden, 26, was arrested at the Days Inn in Starke after one of the women escaped from a motel room where she'd been taken and called police, Bradford County Sheriff Bob Milner said. Both women went to the motel willingly, but one became fearful and fled, Milner said. McFadden is charged with two counts of having sex with an inmate in custody. He is being held on $100,000 bail. Police didn't disclose the women's names. The incident began after McFadden, an armed officer who works for the national corrections transport chain Transcor, took four prisoners to the Bradford County jail. Milner said such prisoners come from different locations and spend time in the jail until being transported to their final destination. The jail is paid a fee to house the prisoners. McFadden returned a short time later and told authorities he needed to take the two women to a local hospital for physicals so they could be cleared for further transport. McFadden and the women, who were handcuffed and shackled, then left. A police report said the women and McFadden had planned the move. The women told police they intended to drink and smoke with McFadden, while one also planned to escape. The women told police McFadden had consensual sex with them at the motel on U.S. 301. One of the women said she became fearful that McFadden might harm her and fled while he was in the shower. When police arrived, they found McFadden and the other woman still in the room. The women were neither restrained nor injured when police found them. One was to be taken to Brevard County, while the other was headed for Atlanta. Milner didn't know what the women were being held for, but they weren't charged in the Bradford incident.

Broward County, Florida
Wackenhut (Group 4)
08.08.13 miamiherald.com

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel has chosen Miami’s Armor Correctional Health Services for another lucrative term providing medical, dental and other care to the county’s jail inmates despite complaints from the Public Defender’s Office, which represents many of the detainees, that the care is substandard. The company’s bid is also more than $13 million higher over the life of the contract than that of the low bidder. “The sheriff has approved the recommendation…This means that BSO will begin negotiations with the top-ranked firm, Armor,” said BSO spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion. If a contract can’t be reached, an unlikely prospect, negotiations would begin with the second-ranked firm, Corizon, formerly known as Prison Health Services. If a contract with Armor can be finalized, it will likely cost Broward’s taxpayers about $143.6 million over five years — or $13.6 million more than what Corizon, the low bidder, offered, according to an analysis of bid proposals. Armor has served as the sheriff’s jail healthcare provider since 2004. An in-house selection committee recommended Armor to Israel last month. Neither the committee, nor the sheriff, has publicly explained why they preferred Armor’s proposal. Quality of care is as important as price in evaluating the jail healthcare proposals. BSO’s selection committee also sought no independent local assessment of Armor’s performance from the agency that represents many of Broward’s inmates. The opinion of the Broward Public Defender’s Office is that Armor’s care at the jail is substandard. “Of all the jail healthcare providers I have worked with over the last 24 years, perhaps none challenge me in my role as a liaison quite like Armor,” said Shane Gunderson, the public defender’s director of client services, in a memo last month. “Armor practically spits in the face of nearly all common assumptions of what compassionate care in general should be.”

November 13, 2008 Miami Herald
The Wackenhut Corp. overbilled Broward County thousands of dollars for airport security guards, and collected hefty payments for unauthorized overtime work by library guards, according to a county auditor's report. But those irregularities could be just the tip of the county's problems with the Palm Beach Gardens-based security company. County Auditor Evan Lukic also found poor spending controls at nine county agencies that paid Wackenhut $5.8 million last year. The County Commission will discuss the report Thursday, as Lukic vowed a more in-depth look at the billings. 'If we'd found little chance of risk we'd say, `Case closed,' '' he said. ``This has opened the door to look some more.'' A spokesman for Wackenhut downplayed the auditor's findings, noting that the amount in question totals less than one percent of the money the company was paid last year. ''We are pleased and proud of not only our long-term relationship with Broward County, but also of the high degree of safety and security we provide to the residents,'' Bruce Rubin said. Rubin said Wackenhut has worked closely with the county ``to ensure compliance and improve processes.'' County Administrator Bertha Henry reviewed the report and told commissioners she agreed with its findings, and had begun implementing fixes. Broward launched its audit last spring following reports in The Miami Herald about problems in a Miami-Dade contract involving the company. There, the county reported that Wackenhut overbilled as much as $6 million over three years for phantom security guards at county transit stations. Miami-Dade auditor Cathy Jackson said the company relied on inaccurate and falsified records to try and cover up the billing. ACCUSATIONS DENIED -- Wackenhut denied the accusations and supplied the county with paperwork seeking to refute them. Miami-Dade has not yet responded, and the company continues to supply guards for Metrorail under a contract that runs through November 2009. Broward signed a three-year security contract, including two one-year renewal options, with Wackenhut in June 2005. In the first three years, the firm was paid $14.9 million. Lukic's audit found that most county agencies doing business with Wackenhut failed to review and validate daily entries on security logs that documented hours worked by guards. Also, they didn't compare the hours Wackenhut billed with the hours reported on the security logs. Likewise, little checking was done to ensure that some highly qualified guards Wackenhut billed the county for actually carried those special qualifications. AVIATION DEPARTMENT -- The one department that did check: Broward County Aviation, where officials said Wackenhut overbilled nearly $19,000. Those overcharges were recovered last year, the audit said. In contrast, the report said, the library division paid Wackenhut overtime for 14 branch guards even though OT wasn't properly pre-authorized or substantiated by payroll records. In one week alone in September 2007, the auditor found 233 hours of unauthorized overtime costing $1,655.

November 11, 2008 South Florida Business Journal
Broward County auditors are raising red flags over how county agencies kept tabs on nearly $6 million in billings by Wackenhut Corp. for security services last year. In a report to be presented to county commissioners on Wednesday, county auditors noted several problems with the way Wackenhut invoices have been processed. Specifically, the report noted that county personnel were not reviewing and validating daily entries on security logs that document hours worked by guards. The audit also found that there was no evidence that hours billed were hours actually worked. County Auditor Evan A. Lukic said the decision to review the county’s oversight of Wackenhut grew out of news reports earlier this year that alleged the Palm Beach Gardens-based security company was overbilling Miami-Dade County for services that were not performed. “We were concerned about the allegations we heard and whether we were possibly experiencing the same thing here,” he said. “We wanted to look at it from how are we controlling the contract and administering it.” At this point in the auditing process, Lukic said, there was no evidence Wackenhut engaged in any wrongdoing. However, based on the audit’s findings Lukic said his department will take a closer look at payments to “make sure that guards who we are paying for are present.” In June 2005, Broward County entered into a three-year agreement with Wackenhut to provide security services. Payments for fiscal years 2005, 2006 and 2007 totaled more than $14.8 million. In fiscal 2007, Broward County’s Aviation Department topped the list with $2.1 million in security services billings by Wackenhut. The county’s facilities maintenance division paid out $1.66 million to Wackenhut, and the county’s library division was billed nearly $633,000. The report found that during a one-week period, the libraries division paid 233 hours of overtime for security guards and found no evidence that Wackenhut provided the required written notification and payroll documentation to substantiate the overtime payments. When queried by the South Florida Business Journal about the auditor's findings, Wackenhut issued the following statement: "We've worked closely with facilities management through the audit department to insure compliance and to improve our processes." Questions also have been raised about matching guard qualifications to pay rates. In some instances, the audit raised concerns about guards with lesser qualifications billing at a higher rate, resulting in overcharges. In an Aug. 22 letter, Broward’s director of the facilities maintenance division advised Wackenhut President Drew Levine that he would now require the company to provide documentation that links guards’ qualifications with their job classifications. In the meantime, Lukic is asking the Broward County Commission to direct the county administrator to come up with procedures to ensure that billings are validated, that the guards’ qualifications match their job descriptions and that overtime charges are substantiated. In May, a Miami-Dade County audit found that Wackenhut overbilled the county by as much as $6 million over three years for services it did not provide to Miami-Dade Transit, and then falsified records to cover up the over charges. In its response to that audit, which Wackenhut published on its Web site, the company said it has cooperated with the county’s investigation, but “continues to question the audit methodology.” Wackenhut said a lawsuit by a former guard, who accused the company of padding its bills, has caused the increased scrutiny. “It is Wackenhut’s belief that county entities … have been placed under undue pressure and influence by unsubstantiated allegations in this ongoing disputed litigation,” it stated. Miami-Dade continues to review Wackenhut’s response to determine what actions should be taken, county spokeswoman Suzy Trutie said.

Broward County Detention Center
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Armor Correctional Health Services (formerly run by Wexford Health Services and PHS)

December 1, 2008 Sun-Sentinel
The Broward Sheriff's Office and its prison healthcare contractor have resolved two federal lawsuits brought by former inmates who said they were denied HIV drugs during their incarceration. An attorney for Richard Hardwick, 53, and Kevin Sauve, 38, would not disclose the terms of the settlement Monday, saying his clients were bound by a confidentiality agreement. Notices of the settlement were filed last week in federal court. Hardwick and Sauve, both HIV-positive, spent time in Broward jails in 2007. The men accused the Sheriff's Office and Armor Correctional Health Services of showing "callous indifference" by refusing for months to give them antiretroviral drugs. Defense attorneys responded in court filings that it would have been irresponsible to start the men on medication without assurance they would stick with the treatment once released. Both Hardwick and Sauve had drug abuse and mental health problems that made them bad candidates for the drugs, the attorneys said. Hardwick and Sauve reached settlement agreements directly with Armor Correctional and will dismiss their claims against the Sheriff's Office, said Jim Leljedal, an agency spokesman. Yeleny Suarez, a spokeswoman for Armor Correctional, would not discuss the terms of the deal. The firm works "tirelessly to meet the often extensive and complicated health needs of incarcerated persons," Suarez said. Settlement agreements must be approved by the presiding judge in each case.

November 27, 2007 South Florida Sun-Sentinel
During the three months he spent in a Broward County jail, Kevin Sauve made request after request for HIV medication. Not one was granted, according to a lawsuit recently filed in Fort Lauderdale federal court. In one of his more desperate written appeals, Sauve, 36, described piercing ear pain, night sweats and rapid weight loss. In another, the Fort Lauderdale college admissions officer asked to be tested for pneumonia, a potentially fatal condition for patients with HIV/AIDS. "I was freaking out," Sauve recalled. "I really thought I was left in there to die." Ultimately, the Broward judge presiding over Sauve's criminal case, involving charges of illegally selling pain pills, took the extraordinary step of ordering his release so he could seek medical treatment from his own physician. Sauve's federal lawsuit is one of two recent actions accusing the Broward Sheriff's Office and prison health-care contractor Armor Correctional Health Services of delaying the treatment of HIV-positive inmates. While such complaints are not new, the federal cases advance an effort by area lawyers and HIV advocates to change a system they say puts cost savings above the welfare of seriously ill inmates, whose health could deteriorate quickly without proper treatment. "In this day and age, when we know so much about HIV and how to treat it, this is just unacceptable," said Greg Lauer, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represents Sauve. Lauer and attorney Dion Cassata filed a similar suit in September on behalf of Richard Hardwick, 52, of Deerfield Beach, and are investigating several additional cases. Officials with Sheriff's Office and Armor rebuff the charges, saying their system for treating inmates with HIV/AIDS works well and is a model for other prison systems. "It's sometimes a difficult process, but obviously very necessary to make sure we have a continuum of care," said Karen Davies, who oversees the Broward jail contract for Armor. To be effective, HIV medication must be taken at precise intervals. Patients who miss even a few doses may become resistant to their drugs and require expensive blood tests to find a new combination. Addressing the issue at a Nov. 15 forum at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, Davies said Armor starts HIV treatment immediately for inmates who know which drugs they're taking. When inmates can't identify their medications, Armor seeks medical records from physicians and pharmacies, she said. "One of the issues we have difficulty with, frankly, is getting information back from community providers," Davies said. But anecdotal reports from attorneys and former inmates tell a more complex story. In the last year and a half, the Broward Public Defender's Office has filed complaints with Armor Correctional on behalf of 30 inmates regarding improper HIV/AIDS treatment, said Shane Gunderson, client services director for the office. On Oct. 30, Gunderson sent the list to the Sheriff's Office. Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein called the issue a grave concern. "The reason this became of paramount importance to us is the very nature of treatment for HIV/AIDS requires that the treatment regimen be tight, be consistent, and be regular," Finkelstein said. "When medications are altered or delayed, it creates the possibility that very bad medical things can happen, even death." For his part, Sauve insists he informed medical personnel of his drug regimen May 1, the day he was arrested on a charge of trafficking oxycodone. "I knew exactly what meds I was on," Sauve said. "I told them what they were. I spelled them. I even pointed to them on the wall." Sauve, who pleaded not guilty to the drug trafficking charge, said jail doctors did not agree with the pills his outside physician prescribed and refused to order them. On July 31, Broward Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato reduced Sauve's bond from $500,000 to $0 so he could pursue treatment on his own. His T-cell count, a measure of immune strength, had dropped from an already low 169 to 27, Sauve said. Eight days later, Broward Circuit Judge Marc Gold released Hardwick after a hearing revealed he had gone four months without HIV medication. Hardwick, who is charged with driving with a revoked license and multiple counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, informed prison officials he needed HIV medication within two days of his arrest, according to his federal lawsuit. He pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges. Lauer, a former state prosecutor, and Cassata, who specializes in employment law, said they think the Sheriff's Office and Armor systematically deny treatment to HIV-positive inmates as a cost-cutting measure. With many inmates quickly posting bond and leaving the jail system, medical personnel simply wait to order expensive treatment and tests, they said. "The problem is they don't have any way to tell who's going to be a long-term resident," Lauer said. "They have a blanket policy to keep their fingers crossed and hope these people are no longer their problem." Roughly 68,000 inmates pass annually through the Broward jail system, with an estimated 3 percent of the group having contracted HIV/AIDS. The Sheriff's Office has a $20 million annual contract with Armor to provide health-care services. According to Davies, Armor recently hired an HIV/AIDS specialist to work in the Broward jail system. Previously, Broward medical personnel consulted with a Tampa-based specialist. Daniel Losey, an attorney for Armor, defended the company. He declined to speak about specific cases because of patient privacy rights and the pending litigation.

August 21, 2007 South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Some HIV-positive jail inmates in Broward and Palm Beach counties needlessly go for weeks or even months without getting any HIV/AIDS drugs, defense attorneys and advocates said. But jail health officials sharply denied the charge. Because HIV drugs must be taken like clockwork to control the virus, inmates who miss repeated doses face greater risks that the drugs will stop working, raising the chance they could spread a hardier virus in and out of jail, HIV specialists said. The alleged delays also led some inmates to develop full-blown AIDS, attorneys said. Dr. Ron Shansky, who is on the board of the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare, which accredits lockups including Broward and Palm Beach, said jails should take only a few days to put HIV-positive inmates on the drugs they were taking when they were arrested. "Delaying the delivery of ongoing HIV medication is completely unacceptable," Shansky said. "If this is occurring on a regular basis, they need to fix that." The elected sheriffs who run jails in both counties have hired Miami company Armor Correctional Health Services to treat the 120,000 inmates incarcerated each year — 3 percent of whom have HIV/AIDS. The firm collects $38 million a year from those contracts. Armor's medical director insisted inmates get drugs immediately unless there's a good reason: Some have special problems, refused treatment, will not cooperate or must be retested because they previously stopped taking medicine. He accused public defenders of hyping drug delays in order to get clients released from jail, a charge the attorneys denied. "I'm really hurt by this," said Dr. John May, who oversees jail care in eight Florida counties where Armor has contracts. "Our policy is to continue their medications without interruption whenever possible, and we do that. Anyone can always do better but I don't think there's a problem." Spokesmen for the Broward and Palm Beach sheriffs said they have heard few if any complaints about jail health care. They referred further questions to Armor. But inmate advocates contend excessive drug delays in jails have been a persistent problem nationally and locally, often when jails try to trim health costs. Modern drugs can almost wipe out HIV from the body, but studies show the virus begins to grow resistant to drugs if the person does not take 90 to 95 percent of doses on time, or no more than a few missed doses per month. "For people on the cusp [of AIDS], a delay of more than a few days may push them into illness," said Dr. Larry Bush, an HIV specialist in Atlantis in central Palm Beach County. In Broward, public defenders said least 15 HIV inmates lodged complaints this year about drug delays despite requests to jail staff, and said more may be affected. Since July 1, judges have released four who had waited as long as four months, criminal case records showed. "People just fall through the cracks," said Shane Gunderson, client services director for the public defender's office. In Palm Beach County, attorneys and other advocates said they had heard few complaints, but the director of a church-based program aiding newly released inmates said she regularly sees inmates who waited weeks for HIV drugs. Sandra White, director of United Deliverance Community Resource Center, said the delays seemed to be for bona fide reasons. Kevin Sauve, 36, a Fort Lauderdale college admissions officer, said he went more than three months in Broward County jails without HIV drugs after his May 1 arrest for dealing pain pills. The jail, as is policy, would not let him bring his medicine from home, and he said jail doctors did not agree with the pills his physician prescribed, ordering more tests. Jail records show he filed a dozen requests for medications over the months. Eventually, Sauve said he developed fungus, ear infections and fevers while progressing to AIDS. "They just wanted to give me drugs I'm already resistant to. I can't take those," Sauve said, who was released July 27 to be treated outside the jail. "Everybody seemed very confused about what to do." Armor cannot discuss Sauve's case or others because of confidentiality rules, May said. But he insisted that as long as newly jailed inmates can name their drugs and the treatment makes sense, they get pills on the spot. If they can't, the jail calls their doctor or pharmacy to find out, he said. If the inmate has stopped taking drugs, May said the jail must delay to do blood tests before resuming medication. Public defenders cited problem cases: •Richard Hardwick, 52, of Deerfield Beach, waited four months for drugs after being arrested March 26 on illegal drug and driving charges. He now has AIDS. •Kevin L. Davis, 33, of Deerfield Beach, waited a month after being arrested June 7 for repeatedly driving with a revoked license and expired tag. He now has AIDS. •Joann Marie Christian, 41, of Pompano Beach, has been waiting for HIV medications since her arrest on July 3 for a probation violation. The law does not dictate how much health care jails must provide, only that they cannot intentionally neglect a serious illness, said Dr. Ann Spaulding, a corrections health expert at Emory University. George Castrotaro, a Legal Aid attorney in Broward, said he has complained to Armor, the Broward County Health Department and others about the delays and may file suit. Lisa Agate, the Health Department's HIV/AIDS director, said she was shocked by the complaints and plans to raise them Tuesday at a meeting of a Broward County jail health committee. "If it's happening, it needs to be corrected," Agate said.

November 15, 2005 Miami Herald
A year ago, Coconut Creek-based Armor Correctional Health Services was an upstart in the business of providing healthcare for jail inmates. The company had formidable political connections but no track record, no active contracts and not a dollar in sales. But Armor, owned by Miami physician Dr. Jose Armas, has bulked up fast. Today, with behind-the-scenes help from several current and former Florida sheriffs, Armor has signed multiyear contracts with Broward, Brevard and Hillsborough counties worth about $221 million over five years. A fourth contract, with Martin County, is being finalized. County sheriffs do their own hiring and set the rules that competing bidders must follow. In Broward and Brevard, rules were changed in advance of bids in ways that helped Armor qualify for contracts. And in Hillsborough, Armor's bid was millions of dollars higher than three others. It got a boost from a late decision to eliminate price as a consideration. Two sheriffs who bypassed Armor said fellow sheriffs have called them and plugged the company. They identified those sheriffs as Ken Jenne of Broward, Ric Bradshaw of Palm Beach and J.R. ''Jack'' Parker of Brevard. Ex-Hillsborough Sheriff Cal Henderson told The Herald that Armor hired him as a ''consultant'' shortly after he left office in January. His duties, he said, have included lobbying sheriffs in at least six counties -- Marion, Collier, Sarasota, Manatee, Leon and Lee -- where healthcare contracts were pending or anticipated. Florida law generally allows public officials to lobby agencies other than their own. But behind-the-scenes lobbying by sheriffs raises ethical questions, a University of Miami ethicist said. ''The use of surreptitious lobbying that is unknown to the public and unregulated by the public seems to be both unwise and arguably wrong,'' said Anthony Alfieri, director of UM's Center for Ethics and Public Service. Three sheriff's offices changed bid specifications for prison healthcare service contracts in ways that helped Armor win. o In Broward, BSO opened the door for Armor during the bid process by dropping its requirement that companies have experience providing healthcare to inmates. Armor had no experience, and was just three months old, when Jenne awarded the company its first $127 million contract in October 2004 to provide healthcare services to Broward's 5,000 inmates during the next five years. And Armor is owned by Armas, who, through his companies and associates, has been a major contributor to Jenne's reelection campaign. o In Brevard, Armor won a five-year, $19.9 million contract from Sheriff Parker in May, after Parker's office slightly altered the wording in bid specifications about corporate experience. The changes allowed fledgling Armor to qualify by giving it credit for the experience of individual executives. o In Hillsborough, Armor snagged a three-year, $65 million contract following a decision late in the process to eliminate price as a consideration in picking a winner. Three competitors submitted bids that were millions of dollars less than Armor's. The county's detention chief acknowledged in an interview that the decision was ''unusual,'' but it is not illegal. Two Florida sheriffs who chose not to hire Armor, St. Lucie's Ken Mascara and Lee's Mike Scott, said other sheriffs attempted to influence them to hire Armor.

March 22, 2005 Broward Daily Business Review
Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne privately encouraged the St. Lucie County sheriff to award the county's jail health care contract to a new Miami company that also bid for the Broward jail health care contract and was headed by a major Jenne campaign contributor. Armor Correctional Health Services Inc. had yet to perform work for anyone when Jenne pitched the company to St. Lucie Sheriff Ken J. Mascara last year in a personal telephone conversation. Armor CHS owner Dr. Jose Armas, an entrepreneurial Miami internist - along with his companies, his partner, and his employees - had pumped thousands of dollars into Jenne's re-election campaign. In an interview, Mascara said Jenne recommended Armas' company to him. Mascara said Jenne phoned him and praised Armor Correctional Health Services, then known as Correctional Health Services, saying, " 'Listen, you have a bid contract going on for inmate health services.' I said yes, and he said, 'We just retained a company that we feel is going to do a good job.' He said he knew the guy running it, and asked if I would entertain their bid." Jenne acknowledged talking up the company to Mascara. "We were talking," he said in an interview. "I brought it up. I don't know if that's a conversation. I told him our people were very satisfied with them." The two sheriffs said the phone conversation took place sometime after Oct. 29, the date when the BSO awarded a $127 million, five-year contract to Armor to provide health care to detainees at Broward's five jail facilities. By that time, Armor CHS had been eliminated for more than a month as a qualified bidder for the St. Lucie jail contract. But John deGroot, executive assistant to BSO's inspector general, provided Broward prosecutors with written notes of his Nov. 28 meeting with the St. Lucie County detention director. According to the notes, that official, Maj. Patrick Tighe, told deGroot that Jenne made the recommendation to Mascara in August - before the BSO designated a winning proposal and before Armor submitted its bid in St. Lucie. DeGroot's notes also said that Tighe told him that Aventura-based lobbyist Ron Book, a Jenne political ally, "visited our purchasing guy several times trying to talk him into going with [Armor]." DeGroot, citing orders from a BSO superior, declined to comment. Book could not be reached for comment. But a St. Lucie sheriff's spokesman confirmed that Book lobbied for Armor in a conversation with the department's chief financial officer. Armor CHS did not get the St. Lucie jail contract. A selection committee that included Tighe promptly tossed out its bid when it was submitted on Sept. 24 because Armor failed to provide audited financial statements and failed to meet minimum experience requirements, according to St. Lucie sheriff's spokesman Mark Weinberg. Jenne's support for Armor CHS could prove problematic for the embattled sheriff, whose office has been embroiled in a scandal over its alleged manipulation of crime statistics to make the BSO look more effective at fighting crime than it really was. Broward State Attorney Michael Satz's office is investigating that matter. So far, two BSO deputies have been arrested and charged, and more are under suspicion. Jenne is widely considered Broward's most powerful elected official. The disclosure of his private lobbying for a company owned by a major campaign contributor raises questions about the appropriate use of political office and possible favors for political allies. If it turns out that Jenne recommended Armor CHS to Sheriff Mascara while BSO was still evaluating proposals, it would raise questions about the fairness and impartiality of the bid process in Broward. Dr. Armas and his Coral Gables attorney, Brent D. Klein, incorporated the Armor CHS on July 19, 2004. Three days later, the Broward Sheriff's Office issued RFP No. 439002, soliciting bidders for the job of providing health care to 5,000 prisoners housed at the county's five detention facilities. The ink was hardly dry on the BSO's jail health care request for proposal when the sheriff's office recalled it six days later. On Aug. 10, BSO issued a new RFP that sought bids to provide the same services. But as the Miami Herald reported, RFP No. 439003 included some significant changes that opened the door for Armor CHS. For example, BSO's requirement that bidders have experience "in an institutional or correctional setting of equal magnitude and complexity" was broadened to allow for experience in medical facilities only. No longer, then, were bidding companies required to have experience delivering health care services to inmates. The selection committee consisted of Broward detention chief Col. James Wimberly, detention Lt. Col Rick Frey and John Curry, the sheriff's executive director of administration. Wimberly said Jenne legal adviser Kimberly A. Kisslan also participated. In an interview, Wimberly said Jenne was not involved. Wimberly also said that he took the unusual step of recalling the inmate health care RFP for alteration "simply because we wanted to expand the pool of applicants." He said the changes were made to recognize that a company's leadership could be more experienced than a company itself. He said it was "an oversight" that those changes weren't made before the initial bid went out. Armor CHS submitted its $127 million proposal to BSO on Sept. 16 along with three other bidders. Neither Armor CHS nor Dr. Armas, the company's president and chairman, had any experience providing health care to inmates. To remedy that, Armas sought out instant experience by hiring managers who'd worked at a troubled industry giant, Brentwood, Tenn.-based Prison Health Services. That included Armor CHS's current chief executive, Doyle H. Moore, who founded Prison Health Services. In its proposal to BSO, Armor also cited its affiliation with Miami-based Medical Care Consortium Inc., Dr. Armas' outpatient health care services firm. While all this was happening, Armas, his companies and employees were contributing to Jenne's re-election campaign multiple maximum contributions of $500 each. Between June 29 and Aug. 5, they gave at least $9,500 - including $1,500 returned by the campaign as illegal, excessive contributions. Armas has supported Jenne in earlier races, too. Armas spokeswoman Dana L. Clay said Armas has backed Jenne politically since Jenne was Senate Democratic leader in Tallahassee in the mid-1990s. But Jenne only said he's known Armas "for a couple of years in a business capacity." Armas also retained the sheriff's good friend and unofficial lobbyist, William D. Rubin. State registration records show that Rubin and his Fort Lauderdale firm, the Rubin Group, represent Armas' Sunrise-based South Florida Acute Care LLC. Jenne said in an interview that Rubin sometimes serves as an unpaid lobbyist for his office. A month later, despite lower bids from two other companies including incumbent Wexford Health Services, Armas' company got the nod from the BSO selection committee. "What made CHS stand out was basically that they were looking to give us things Wexford wasn't offering," said Wimberly. "We just had a comfort level with them."

December 10, 2004 Sun-Sentinel
A new health management firm has taken over the care of the 5,200 inmates in Broward County's jail system after a dispute between the Sheriff's Office and the previous contractor over medical costs.
Armor Correctional Health Services began work last week under its five-year, $127 million contract even though it did not yet have a license to dispense medicine. Armor replaced Wexford Health Sources, which first pushed for more money and then suggested cutting services despite the opening of a new detention center in the past year. The Sheriff's Office chose Armor over Wexford and two other firms that bid on the contract even though the Armor had only recently been incorporated. The company's chief executive officer is Doyle Moore, who previously founded Prison Health Services -- a longtime player in correctional health care in South Florida. Col. James Wimberly, who runs the jail system for Jenne, said the Sheriff's Office decided to put the contract out for bid after Wexford suggested a 12 percent increase in what it was paid. In the bidding process, Wexford's proposal was $300,000 less than that of Armor but would have cut eight positions from the jail system's medical staff.

December 4, 2004 Miami Herald
Three days after Correctional Health Services was formed, the Broward Sheriff's Office sought bids to provide medical care to 5,000 inmates at the county Jail. Only companies with longstanding experience at large jails or prisons need apply, officials wrote in a request for proposals. But a week later, on July 28, BSO did an about-face on its requirements. The agency announced it was tossing out its request for bids. And when a new request for proposals was issued Aug. 10, one requirement had been dropped: bidders no longer needed to have experience providing healthcare to inmates. The new solicitation left the door open for Correctional Health to bid, and the newly formed company was awarded a $127 million, five-year contract to manage healthcare at the Broward County Jail. Correctional Health Services (CHS) was not the lowest of the four bidders for the lucrative contract. Wexford Health Source, the company that had provided care at the jail for the last three years, submitted a bid that was $300,000 less, records show. The company's first few days at the jail already have been rocky. State pharmacy officials said they had not issued pharmacy licenses when CHS took over management of the jail on Wednesday, and company employees could not dispense medications until Friday, when they obtained a temporary license. Attempts to reach Doyle H. Moore, CHS's chief executive officer, or Jose Armas, CHS president and chairman, were unsuccessful Friday. Acccording to county Supervisor of Elections records, businesses owned by Armas, a doctor, contributed $4,250 to Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne's most recent campaign for reelection. In addition, Armas contributed another $500 as an individual to Jenne's campaign. The company's chief executive officer, Doyle Moore, had run into trouble in Broward before, however. At the 1993 federal tax fraud trial of former Port Everglades Commissioner Walter Browne, Moore -- the founder of a company called Prison Health Services -- testified he funneled money to a Republican power broker and hired lobbyists to sway then-Sheriff Nick Navarro when he became concerned Prison Health was going to lose its contract to provide medical care at the Broward jail. Moore testified with the guarantee his testimony would not be used against him. His attorney at the time said neither Moore nor the company did anything wrong. In 1985, Palm Beach County jail inmate Mario Abraham died after languishing in his cell for five days with a broken neck before Prison Health Services employees treated him. A grand jury at the time called the company's care of the man ``grossly inadequate and incompetent.''

February 16, 2002 AP
A nurse found 56-year-old David A. Taylor unconscious, unresponsive and bleeding in his bed Friday morning, said Jim Leljedal, a spokesman for the Broward Sheriff's Office.  Though the cause of death has not yet been determined, it raised concerns from inmate medical care advocates about the quality of care at Broward's jail.   Wexford Health Sources, the company the sheriff's office contracted with in October to provide health care, has faced allegations of mismanagement and shoddy care in prisons in several states, The Miami Herald reported in Saturday editions.   In Florida, where Wexford provides services to 12 state prisons, the company was faulted for poor medical care that may have contributed to the deaths of two inmates at a Miami correctional facility, The Herald reported.   Wexford also was criticized by mental health advocates and court officials in Broward for failing to provide mentally ill inmates with their medication upon release from the jail.  "When you contract out to a company, that company is just looking to provide services in the cheapest way," said Eric Balaban, a lawyer with the ACLU's National Prison Project, which represents prisoners in civil rights lawsuits. 

Broward Transition Center
Pompano Beach, Florida
GEO Group
Mar 23, 2018 sun-sentinel.com
Government contractor who took bribes to remove immigrants' ankle monitors gets prison
Ex-government contractor imprisoned for taking bribes to remove immigrants' electronic monitors. A former government contractor has been imprisoned after she admitted she took bribes in exchange for illegally removing electronic monitors from South Florida immigrants who faced possible deportation. Elisa Pelaez was sentenced this week to two years and nine months in federal prison. She is one of three people who admitted they requested and collected bribes – up to $5,000 per victim – from several immigrants in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. All three pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy charges in federal court in Fort Lauderdale earlier this year. They admitted they received several thousand dollars from a handful of victims between 2010 and 2014. Pelaez, 54, of Miami Shores, and Ginou Baptiste, 48, of Miami, were both fired from their jobs at Behavioral Intervention Inc, a Geo Group company. Baptiste’s cousin, Fritz Cyriaque, 50, of Miami, pretended to be an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official to help out the fraud, investigators said. The company had a contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to supervise immigrants who were released from detention while deportation and immigration proceedings were pending against them. Pelaez and Baptiste were supposed to supervise immigrants, who were released under the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program. Many of the released immigrants had to wear electronic or GPS monitors. The program is designed to cut costs and reduce the number of people in detention, immigration attorneys said. It is designed for immigrants who are not considered a threat to public safety or national security, but are considered to be at risk of committing criminal acts or failing to appear at immigration hearings. Government contractors took bribes to remove immigrants' electronic monitors, feds say
. Pelaez and Baptiste admitted they told their co-workers to remove the electronic monitors after the bribes were paid. Pelaez previously worked as an investigator for Florida’s Department of Children and Families, records show. Before that, she worked as a special education teacher in New York City’s public schools system and completed training to be a police officer with the New York City police department. She was not hired for the NYPD job but later received a cash settlement in a lawsuit over the department’s decision not to hire her, according to the defense. Pelaez and Baptiste abused their positions to approach immigrants they supervised and offered to have their electronic monitors removed in exchange for cash payments, prosecutors said. The women carefully targeted people they thought had enough money and referred them to Cyriaque. Cyriaque, a car salesman and convicted felon with prior arrests for grand theft and possession of a firearm, acted as the “security” or “muscle” for the group, authorities said. Cyriaque is a Haitian citizen who has been a legal permanent resident of the U.S. for more than 30 years, according to court records. Investigators said he intimidated the victims by threatening them with deportation, telling some of them: “I can bury you.” U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas had Pelaez taken into custody in the courtroom immediately after she was sentenced Wednesday. Baptiste and Cyriaque, who are free on bond, are scheduled for sentencing in April.

Oct 17, 2017 sun-sentinel.com 
Government contractors took bribes to remove immigrants' electronic monitors, feds say
Two government contractors and a relative who posed as an immigration official are facing federal charges they took bribes in exchange for illegally removing electronic monitors from immigrants who faced deportation. Investigators say the trio requested and collected bribes of between $1,850 and $5,000 per person from several immigrants in Broward and Miami-Dade counties from November 2010 to April 2014. Elisa Pelaez, 54, of Miami Shores, and Miami cousins Ginou Baptiste, 48, and Fritz Cyriaque, 50, are all charged with conspiring to commit bribery. Cyriaque, a self-employed car salesman, is also charged with impersonating a federal officer. Pelaez and Baptiste worked for Behavioral Intervention Inc, a Geo Group company, which had a contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to supervise immigrants who were released from detention while deportation and immigration proceedings were pending against them. Company workers were supposed to supervise immigrants released under the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program. Many of the released immigrants were required to wear electronic or GPS monitors. Immigration attorneys said the program is designed to reduce costs and the number of people in detention. It is designed for immigrants who are not considered a threat to public safety or national security, but are considered to be at risk of committing criminal acts or failing to appear at immigration hearings. Pelaez and Baptiste, who have both been fired from their jobs, abused their positions to approach immigrants they were supervising and offer to have their electronic monitors removed in exchange for cash payments, prosecutor Francis Viamontes said. The women targeted people they thought had enough money and referred them to Cyriaque, who pretended to be an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official. After the victims handed over the money, Pelaez and Baptiste instructed their co-workers to remove the monitors. Investigators said all three of the suspects used intimidation to discourage the victims from reporting what happened. Cyriaque, a convicted felon with prior arrests for grand theft and possession of a firearm, acted as the “security” or “muscle” for the group, Viamontes said in court. She said he threatened the victims with deportation: “He would tell them things like ‘I can bury you.’” Cyriaque is a Haitian citizen who has been a legal permanent resident of the U.S. for 32 years and has eight children, his attorney said in court. Baptiste and Cyriaque have pleaded not guilty and are jailed, for now, in Broward County. Pelaez is due in court in the next several days. Authorities ask anyone with information to call Agent Erik Gonzalez at the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security at 954-538-7555

April 29, 2013 palmbeachpost.com

Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice has issued a report strongly criticizing the treatment of non-criminal immigrants at the Broward Transitional Center (BTC), which is operated by and GEO Group of Boca Raton, under the direction of the the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. “The BTC report features the cases of numerous detainees with no criminal or minimal criminal history needlessly subjected to abuse,” says the immigration advocacy group. According to the report, one female detainee told a BTC deportation officer she was scared to return to her homeland. “She should have been given an interview to determine whether she could apply for asylum,” says the report. “Instead, she was quickly deported.” A male detainee was diagnosed with a painful hernia but ICE “declined to pay for the surgery, yet detained him for six months while he suffered much pain,” according to the authors of the report. The report also documents three cases of alleged sexual assault. “As Congress works to reform an outdated immigration system, members would be wise to reform abusive detention facilities, including the Broward Transitional Center,” said Susana Barciela, spokesperson for AIJ. “Further, it makes no sense to detain immigrants who pose no danger. Alternatives to detention are effective and far cheaper.” Under the Obama administration, immigration authorities have said they are focused on deporting dangerous criminal aliens, not those with only immigration offenses, but immigration advocates have said many non-criminal immigrants are still being detained and deported. “If ICE truly focused on detaining and deporting dangerous criminals, it would save more than a billion dollars annually,” Barciela said. “These savings would help relieve the nation’s fiscal concerns.”


January 5, 2013 By Megan O'Matz, Sun Sentinel

DEERFIELD BEACH Hundreds of men and women who have committed minor offenses, such as driving without a license, or no apparent crime at all, are locked up for weeks and months in a little-known central Broward County facility run by a private company. They are immigrants, accused of entering the country without legal authorization or staying longer than permitted. Their treatment — at the hands of the federal government and the Boca Raton-based firm hired to keep them at the 700-bed Broward Transitional Center — has become a growing controversy since July, when a detainee went on hunger strike and activists staged protests demanding a halt to the confinement and deportation of foreigners with no serious criminal histories. In a daring move, two young adults, both illegal immigrants brought by their families to the United States as children, turned themselves in to gain access to the center and expose what they claimed were human rights abuses and policy violations by federal authorities. Once inside, they said they found people unjustly arrested and subjected to lengthy and unnecessary confinement, and reported incidents of substandard or callous medical care, including a woman taken for ovarian surgery and returned the same day, still bleeding, to her cell, and a man who urinated blood for days but wasn't taken to see a doctor. ICE denies any mistreatment. In a recent interview with the Sun Sentinel, the agency's Miami Field Office Director Marc J. Moore said conditions at the facility are excellent and that the "staff here treats people with respect." But the young activists' claims captured the attention of 26 members of Congress, who wrote to the nation's chief immigration official demanding a review of all detainees locked up at the Broward facility and an investigation into the quality of medical care there. "Some of the reports coming out of the center are horrifying," lawmakers, including South Florida Democrats Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson and Alcee Hastings, wrote U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton. ICE has yet to reply to the letter, written in September. Last week, Deutch sent a second letter, chastising ICE for its "excessive delay" and demanding it respond immediately to lawmakers' concerns. "It's certainly time for us to hear back, and it's well past time that these serious issues be addressed," Deutch, of Boca Raton, told the Sun Sentinel on Friday. If legislators continue to encounter silence from ICE, Deutch said they will investigate what actions can be taken to ensure that a review of the center is made and "these human rights abuses are stopped."

August 25, 2012 Palm Beach Post
For Nicaraguan immigrant Serafin Solorzano, being jailed for overstaying his visa was bad enough. Even worse: Solorzano said he was denied access to his asthma inhaler for part of a two-week stay at an immigration detention center in Deerfield Beach. Without access to his medicine, he felt as though he was suffocating. Solorzano, now 54, recovered from the asthma attack. But the experience two years ago led him to join the growing list of critics of GEO Group, the Boca Raton-based prison operator that owns the 700-bed Broward Transition Center where Solorzano was held. “This is something that has violated my human rights,” Solorzano told reporters in May as he and other critics protested outside the GEO Group’s annual meeting at The Breakers in Palm Beach. Solorzano’s gripes have been echoed by inmates, by civil libertarians and by state and federal regulators who have scrutinized GEO Group’s operations. They argue that GEO Group pads its profits by cutting worker wages, skimping on inmate health care and ignoring safety and sanitation. Despite the complaints, GEO Group (NYSE: GEO) continues to grow, thanks to rising prison populations and the federal government’s move to privatize detention of immigrants. GEO Group is on track to book $1.7 billion in revenues in 2012, its biggest year on record and a hundredfold increase from 1994, the prison operator’s first year as a publicly traded company. GEO Group launched as Wackenhut Corrections and was based in Coral Gables. After a move to Palm Beach Gardens in the 1990s, GEO Group landed in Boca Raton. Governments pay GEO Group to run nearly 80,000 beds in prisons and hospitals worldwide. Among the institutions operated by GEO Group are South Bay Correctional Facility, a 1,862-bed state prison in western Palm Beach County; the 700-bed Broward Transition Center, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility; and the Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center, a 223-bed state hospital in Stuart. GEO Group’s revenue — which has risen every year for nearly 20 years — and steady profits make it a financial success story. It’s the second-largest operator of private prisons, trailing only Corrections Corp. of America (NYSE: CXW) of Nashville. But investors clearly prefer CCA. While GEO Group’s revenue is similar to CCA’s, CCA is twice as profitable, and CCA’s market capitalization is twice GEO Group’s. A $10,000 investment five years ago in GEO Group would have dwindled to $8,667, while the same amount invested in CCA would have grown to $13,237. Meanwhile, GEO Group has been dogged for years by reports of sloppy — and sometimes gruesome — practices. One recent black eye: In June, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed fines totaling $104,100 for violations at a GEO Group prison in Meridian, Miss. Federal inspectors visited the prison in December and found too few guards on duty and broken cell locks. OSHA said GEO Group guards were stabbed, bitten, punched and kicked by inmates, and that the company did little to protect them. In one of the prison’s housing units, only three guards were on duty. GEO Group’s staffing plan called for eight officers to be on guard. Understaffing meant guards were more likely to be attacked by prisoners, OSHA said. What’s more, inmates tampered with cell doors so that they could be opened by prisoners from the inside but not by guards from the outside. “This employer knowingly put workers at risk of injury or death by failing to implement well recognized measures that would protect employees from physical assaults by inmates,” Clyde Payne, OSHA’s director in Jackson, Miss., said in a statement. GEO Group has contested OSHA’s findings. GEO Group has been on the receiving end of a laundry list of regulatory actions and lawsuits. Among them: •In 2011, an Oklahoma jury ordered GEO to pay $6.5 million to the family of Ronald Sites, an inmate who was strangled to death by his cellmate in 2005. •In 2011, Florida Department of Corrections investigators visited GEO Group’s prison in South Bay for a drug sweep and couldn’t get in. No one was stationed at the front gate, and no one responded when state employees pushed the alert button and shined flashlights at the prison surveillance cameras. •Also last year, the Florida Department of Children and Families said GEO Group’s neglect contributed to the death of a South Florida State Hospital patient. The man was being escorted by GEO Group employees to an appointment at Jackson Memorial Hospital when he hurled himself from the eighth story of a parking garage, the Miami Herald reported. A GEO Group employee should have stayed with the man at the first-story hospital entrance while the driver retrieved the van, DCF said. •In 2010, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued GEO Group for allowing sexual harassment of female employees at two prisons in Florence, Ariz. In one incident, a male GEO Group manager “grabbed and pinched the breasts and crotch of a female correctional officer,” the EEOC said. In another instance, a “female employee was forced onto a desk, where a male GEO employee shoved apart her legs and kissed her,” the agency claimed. •In 2009, a Texas appeals court upheld a $42.5 million verdict after a prisoner at a GEO Group facility was beaten to death four days before his release. • In 2007, Texas canceled an $8 million contract with GEO and closed the Coke County Juvenile Justice Center. Inspectors found feces on floors and walls, padlocked emergency exits and overuse of pepper spray on young inmates. A GEO Group spokesman didn’t comment on the regulatory findings and jury verdicts, but its defenders chalk up the litany of gripes to the nature of its business. GEO Group operates in what might be the messiest niche in American capitalism, an industry where shankings, riots and suicide attempts are routine. “We’re not talking about members of Congress or Boy Scouts here,” Robert Wasserman, an analyst at Dawson James in Boca Raton, said of the stream of complaints. “I think their goal is to operate these facilities as cleanly as they can.” Critics take a less charitable view of the company. Bob Libal, executive director of Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas, said he’s astounded that state and federal officials still do business with GEO Group. “In Texas, GEO Group had an absolute string of horror stories that resulted in having multiple contracts canceled,” Libal said. “They’re a very troubled corporation that exemplifies many of the problems with the for-profit prison industry. It’s mindboggling that companies like GEO continue to win contracts.” Proponents of private prisons say for-profit institutions operate more efficiently than public prisons. “Private prisons are providing quality services—while remaining cost-efficient and providing significant cost savings,” wrote Geoffrey Segal, a former adviser to then-Gov. Jeb Bush’s Center for Efficient Government, in a 2005 report. But some who have studied private prison finances say the savings are elusive. Florida law says that private prison contracts must yield savings of 7 percent compared to what the state would have paid to operate the facility. In a 2008 report, the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability looked at the state’s private prisons and concluded that operators save money by taking on fewer “special needs” prisoners with medical problems and mental health issues that make them expensive to house. “As special needs inmates are more expensive to serve than other inmates, the difference in the populations of public and private prisons results in the state shouldering a greater proportion of the cost of housing these inmates,” the report said. “As a result, the requirement that the private prisons operate a 7 percent lower cost than state facilities is undermined.”

March 17, 2009 Sun-Sentinel
A doctor says they need medicine to stop the palpitations, shortness of breath and the cries of drowning shipmates they hear in their nightmares. But in a federal lawsuit that echoes the complaints of immigrants detained across the country, two Brazilian migrants held at the Broward Transitional Center say they're not getting their prescribed medication. "We meet with detainees across Florida in jails and detention centers and the number-one complaint is the lack of medical care," said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigration Advocacy Center. Across the country, 90 detainees have died in custody in the past four years. One was the Rev. Joseph Danticat, who died at the Krome Detention Center near Miami in 2004 when officials took away prescribed medication for high blood pressure. In a congressional hearing last week, the special adviser to the Secretary of Homeland Security said the medical care provided to many of those who died didn't appear to meet Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement standards.

March 5, 2009 AP
Two Brazilian migrants have sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying they've been denied mental health care for post-traumatic stress disorder in a South Florida detention facility since their boat ran aground last fall. Jaime Miranda and Daniel Padilha were diagnosed with the disorder by a private physician in December but have not been given prescribed medications or treatments while being held at the Broward Transition Center in Pompano Beach, according to lawsuits filed Wednesday in Miami federal court. Their confinement without medical care has aggravated their mental health problems, violates their Fifth Amendment rights and mirrors persecution in Brazil that they sought to escape, the lawsuits state. "It would be inappropriate for ICE to comment on matters pending litigation," spokeswoman Nicole Navas said Thursday. Miranda and Padilha were both aboard a rusty 40-foot boat that ran aground Oct. 31 near Virginia Key, a small island east of downtown Miami. The boat had departed days before from the Dominican Republic, where Miranda and Padilha say traffickers held them for two months against their will, ordered them to work for the boat driver and forced them aboard a vessel that wasn't seaworthy. Both men had arrived in the Dominican Republic after fleeing mistreatment in Brazil; Padilha is gay, and Miranda's father was murdered. At least six people died after the boat hit a sandbar. Miranda and Padilha were among five Brazilians and 22 Dominicans detained by ICE. About 10 others were reported missing, but it was unclear if they drowned or made it ashore and fled. The man who allegedly piloted the boat faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of federal human smuggling charges. Miranda, 27, and Padilha, 24, persistently relive the accident and have nightmares in which the dead passengers ask them for food and water, according to the lawsuits. A doctor hired by their families diagnosed them and prescribed several medications to treat each man's insomnia, depression, anxiety and psychotic episodes. However, an officer at the center told Miranda and Padilha's attorney that the men had not been given the drugs and would need to be moved to another facility to receive treatment, the lawsuits state. Miranda and Padilha are seeking release or transfer to a facility that can provide mental health treatment, in addition to damages for pain and suffering. Each also seeks asylum to escape torture and persecution in Brazil, where they say they would not have access to psychological services if deported. Both men say they are eligible for a special visa granted to victims of certain crimes who cooperate with investigators because they provided U.S. law enforcement with names and details about the trafficking operation that brought them from the Dominican Republic to Florida. "The government has further victimized Miranda and Padilha by keeping them in custody without medical treatment despite repeated requests that they be released to obtain proper medical care and treatment," their Boston-based attorney, Jeff Ross, said Thursday in an e-mail. "The decision to keep Miranda and Padilha detained has been a discretionary decision and they should have been released by the government since they were cooperating witnesses in a federal case in Miami." The lawsuit also names the center's warden and the company that manages its operations, The GEO Group, as defendants. The GEO Group, which provides detention management services at the Broward Transition Center under contract with ICE, does not comment on litigation matters, company spokesman Pablo Paez said Thursday in an e-mail.

Broward Work Release Center
Broward County, Florida
Wackenhut Corrections

August 27, 2002 Miami Herald
U.S. immigration officials on Monday began the transfer of more than 50 female Haitian detainees, who have been living in the Miami-Dade County jail since December, into the privately run, residential work-release facility in Broward.  Many from the group are seeking asylum, INS spokesman Rodney Germain said.  On Monday, at least 15 women were taken by car to the Wackenhut Corp.'s work-release facility in Pompano Beach, Germain said.  INS and Wackenhut worked out a contract recently that gives the government agency 72 beds in the facility.  The transfer was welcome news to attorney Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, who has been fighting for the change.  She says she will keep a close eye on the Broward facility because she says several years ago a group of women alleged they were being sexually abused by the staff.  "I was initially pleased about the move." she said.  "But then it came to my attention that there were allegations of sexual abuse at the facility. 

August 16, 2002 Sun Sentinel
After a battle of more than a year by immigration advocates, dozens of Hatian women seeking political asylum will be transferred from a maximum security jail in Miami-Dade County to a facility with a more residential atmosphere in Broward County, Immigration and Naturalization Service officials said.  This week, officials from the Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which runs the Broward County Work Release Center in Pompano Beach, told INS that 72 beds would be opened for the women in the agency's custody.  Rodney Germain, an INS spokesman, said that would mean most of the women in their custody would be moving to the new facility.  The only ones who would not be transferred, are those charged with felonies.  "It's what everybody has been asking for," Germain said.  "It's a better environment."  "This is clearly a discriminatory policy directed only at Hatians," Little said.  "While the Broward facility is a lot better, we're [still] calling for their immediate release."

August 16, 2002 Miami Herald
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has agreed to move more than two dozen female Hatian asylum seekers held in a Miami-Dade county jail to a less-restrictive facility in Broward County.  The federal agency said Thursday that it would transfer non criminal female immigrant detainees, including the Hatian women, after months of pressure from congressional leaders and human rights watchdogs.  The INS will send 62 women at the end of August to a minimum-security residential center in Pompano Beach, said Rodney Germain, an INS spokesman.  The facility is operated by the Wackenhut Corporation, which will contract 72 beds to the INS for its female detainees.  The Hatian women have been held in Miami-Dade's Turner Guilford Knight correctional center since Dec. 3, when their ship, carrying a total of 187 migrants, grounded off Elliot Key.  The male migrants were taken to Krome immigrant detention center in west Miami-Dade.  The Bush administration changed its detention policy on Hatian refugees in December to discourage a feared mass exodus from the Caribbean nation.  Immigration attorneys sued the government in March, saying the new policy was racially biased.  U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard ruling in favor of the administration's decision in May.  Human rights advocates said the policy treats Hatians differently than asylum seekers from other countries, who are generally freed until their asylum requests are granted or denied.  Earlier this month, the INS sent 21 of the Hatian migrants from the Dec. 3 arrival back to Haiti.

April 18, 2001Sun Sentinel
A Broward Sheriff's detention deputy at the county's work-release center was suspended and a Wackenhut employee from the same facility was arrested after detectives said she went shopping with someone else's debit card.  The deputy gave the card to Gail Forrest, a job-verification specialist at the work-release center in Pompano Beach, because she didn't want to get in trouble.  Forrest, 34, then drove to Linens and things in Lighthouse Point where she bought a comforter for $190.79.  She signed the receipt, and left the store. She also tried buying $211 worth of merchandise at a Boca Raton Wal-Mart. When the card was denied; she left the store.  Forrest, who a Wackenhut spokesperson said had worked at the center since February 2000, was charged with the fraudulent use of a credit card, possession of a lost or stolen credit card and uttering a forged instrument. 

Charlotte County Jail
Punta Gorda, Florida
Prison Health Services
April 11, 2006 NBC2
A former Charlotte County inmate is demanding answers after two nurses at the Charlotte County Jail took drugs out of a bio-hazard trash bin and injected him with the drugs. William Parbus, a diabetic, was given a shot of insulin that could have cost him his life. The nurses have since been fired. Parbus is now out of jail. He was serving 15 days for driving with a suspended license. He may be out of jail, but he's a prisoner to fear. "I don't want to be with my wife. I kind of miss it already. Five months to go," said Parbus. Doctors told him HIV or hepatitis may be lurking in his system, but won't know for certain for six months. The concerns come after Parbus, a diabetic, was injected with outdated insulin from a bio-hazard trash bin while he was an inmate at the Charlotte County Jail. "I was outraged. For what reason could this person do this to me? What reason in the world? She's out of insulin, fine. I'm out of insulin," said Parbus. The two nurses worked for Prison Health Systems, an outside contractor hired by the jail. They said the nurses responsible were immediately fired. PHS officials and jail commanders alerted Parbus that his health could be at risk. "It's not anything we want to tell anybody. We had to be up front with it. Told him what happened and told him what we would do to rectify the situation," said Lieutenant Daniel Kacynski, Jail Support Commander. PHS told Parbus to send them his medical bills and they might pay them. But Parbus says that's not enough. "I think there should be an investigation. They just fired these ladies. Are they licensed nurses? Are they going to get a job at a hospital down the road? Is this going to happen again if they don't feel like going down the road for insulin?" said Parbus. Parbus claims he won't give up until he gets some answers. Until then, his thought will be on his health. Parbus says he is looking for an attorney. He says he wants to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else. PHS commented about potentially paying Parbus' medical bills through a statement they released through jail supervisors. We tried to reach the two nurses who were fired. Sheryl Staples declined to comment. Karen Helmick has not returned our call.

April 5, 2006 Herald Tribune
Two nurses charged with the care of inmates in the county jail were fired for giving an inmate expired medication taken from a biohazard disposal box. Karen Helmick and Sheryl Staples were both registered nurses with Prison Health Services Inc., the agency contracted to care for inmates' medical needs. They were fired March 14. "Unfortunately, it happened," said Linda Antuono, PHS health service administrator. "It was rectified immediately." A PHS doctor checked on the inmate the day after the incident, explained the risk factors to him and ordered testing for HIV and hepatitis, according to the incident report Antuono filed with the Sheriff's Office. According to the report, another nurse saw Helmick break open a sharps container -- a box used to dispose of glass medicine vials and used needles -- and remove a vial of expired drugs. Helmick gave Staples the medicine to administer to the inmate. Staples told authorities that the nurses had run out of the medication the inmate needed. The nurses should have called an outside pharmacy to order backup medication, the report states. "Sheryl stated to me that she did not want to cross Karen," Antuono wrote in the report. Karen Helmick said that she knew she was in a supervisory position, which made her responsible for retrieving backup drugs from the pharmacy, the report states. She told Antuono that "she just did not feel like driving and getting it," according to the report.

January 5, 2005 Sarasota Herald Tribune
A cook at the county jail was arrested Monday after she admitted having sex with an inmate in a kitchen closet, sheriff's detectives said. Victoria Ann Lopo, 46, a private employee on contract with the Sheriff's Office, said she had sex with 41-year-old Sylvester Bernard Camon two weeks ago. The arrest is the latest in a string of misconduct investigations at the jail, where several other employees have admitted to inappropriate relationships with inmates.

November 22, 2004 AP
A Charlotte County Jail inmate and his nurse girlfriend on Monday denied charges she smuggled drugs into the facility for him. Ruth E. Brodis, a nurse at the jail, was arrested Thursday and charged with introducing contraband into a correctional facility, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted. Brodis was working for Prison Health Services, a contractor which provides medical services to the county. But Brodis said she suffers from fibromyalgia and the pills found by detectives were hers and not intended for her fiancee, Tyler Schwartzkopf, who is currently in jail on a second-degree felony charge of grand theft.

November 20, 2004 Herald Tribune
A private health care nurse at the county jail smuggled prescription drugs to an inmate she planned to marry, according to the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office. The nurse, Ruth Ellen Brodis, was arrested Thursday at the jail when she arrived for her shift, sheriff's Detective Martha Faul said. The Deep Creek resident is charged with introduction of contraband, a felony.
Brodis works for Prison Health Services, a Tennessee-based company that provides health care to inmates in hundreds of jails, prisons and juvenile facilities across the country.

Citrus County Detention Center
Lecanto, Florida
Dec 2, 2022 chronicleonline.com
Florida: Corecivic still having staffing issues. County to work with jail on staffing issues

County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to continue assessing fines to the company managing the Citrus County Jail until it can bring employee staffing in critical positions up to acceptable levels. But the board, acting on a recommendation from Commissioner Rebecca Bays, agreed to revisit this at a future meeting to figure out ways the county can work matters out with CoreCivic – the Tennessee-based company that manages the detention facility. The county assesses CoreCivic a non-performance assessment of $3,750 per day if it fails to meet a required number of staff. In September and October, the assessments totaled $112,500 and $116,250, respectively. Sabrina Watson of Lecanto started the discussion going Tuesday when she told the board she’s been coming to commission meetings for two years and these assessments are being levied against CoreCivic every month. “How much money can they possibly be making in order to afford these hundreds (of) thousands in assessments every single month,” she asked. “And if this has been going on for two years, why aren’t we looking at it?” Bays said she also has “grave concerns” and it’s time to work with CoreCivic on a solution. “If we can’t find a resolution we’ll probably be in the jail business and I don’t think we need to be in the jail business,” she said. Bays suggested Fire Chief Craig Stevens sit down with CoreCivic, monitor the contract with the county and help the company come into compliance. “I think it is appropriate to put these penalties on hold for the moment in order to give us the opportunity to work this out,” she said. Commissioner Holly Davis agreed with Bays but wasn’t sure about stopping the fines. As for how CoreCivic can remain in business in light of the stiff fines: “That’s not our business, that’s their business,” Davis said. Davis said there needs to be further discussion on this matter. “We really are at a precarious point and we really don’t want to be handed the keys to that jail,” she said. Bays said companies nationwide are having trouble hiring employees right now and CoreCivic is working on the issue. “If we’re going to fine people for not having the right number of employees, we’d probably be fining ourselves,” she told the board. Commissioner Jeff Kinnard agreed that working with CoreCivic to find the right approach is good, but the fines should not be stopped “That’s their business to get this figured out,” he said. Commissioner Diana Finegan agreed. “If we take away the fines, what is their incentive to find people?” she asked. Former County Administrator Randy Oliver expressed concern over the latest numbers for October. “This report shows no recognizable improvement in the staffing levels of the required critical positions,” Oliver wrote in a Nov. 2 memo to Orlando Rodriguez, warden of the Citrus County Detention Facility.Oliver said these vacancies “are a concern for the county” because these positions are critical in operating the jail.“We ask that you continue to work on increasing your staffing levels and keeping required posts filled as contractually required,” Oliver wrote.

Here are the average staffing numbers from January 2022 through October 2022:

January 2022 staffing was 61.87 percent.

February 2022 staffing was 72.30 percent.

March 2022 staffing was 71.37 percent.

April 2022 staffing was 78.87 percent.

May 2022 staffing was 75.53 percent.

June 2022 staffing was 67.39 percent.

July 2022 staffing was 66.43 percent.

August 2022 staffing was 64.23 percent.

September 2022 staffing was 67.64 percent.

October 2022 staffing was 68.55 percent.

Feb 25, 2022 chronicleonline.com

County commission to get monthly staffing reports for detention facility

After hearing concerns, Citrus County's board of commissioners will start getting regular updates on whether the county's privately run jail and prison is being adequately staffed. Starting with the board's March 22 meeting, county staff will provide commissioners each month with the Citrus County Detention Facility's latest staffing report. County Administrator Randy Oliver said Thursday, Feb. 24, there's not enough time "to analyze the staffing" from Feb. 1-28 before the March 1 deadline to post the agenda for the commission's March 8 meeting. After the county began fining CoreCivic for contractually failing to fill the required posts at the detention facility in Lecanto, Commissioner Jeff Kinnard asked Oliver during Tuesday's board meeting to present those staffing figures to commissioners each month. "That's something that should be addressed on a monthly basis at a board meeting as to whether or not they're in compliance with the contract," he said. "It's a straight-forward question, and it needs to be answered publicly." CoreCivic spokesman Ryan Gustin told the Chronicle "our senior leaders are in regular communication with Citrus County officials and will be addressing their concerns directly." "Both public and private correctional facilities in Florida, and throughout the country, have faced similar staffing challenges," he said. "Even as we focus on addressing these challenges, we work hard to meet our daily staffing patterns, which are designed to ensure the safety of the facility." On Feb. 15, the county levied a $77,500 assessment against CoreCivic's purchasing requests from the county for failing to improve staffing and organizational issues dating back to March 2021. This assessment accounted for a daily fine of $2,500 for just throughout the month of January 2022 because the county gave CoreCivic a grace period to address its staff shortage. "CoreCivic has been trying to work to correct it," Oliver told commissioners Tuesday, "and, in my opinion, they didn't make significant enough progress, and that's why I took the action." Bret Touchton told commissioners he quit working for CoreCivic at the detention facility in November 2020 after 21 years because the company's corporate office in Tennessee ignored his repeated pleas for more and better-treated employees. "I know what they're doing, and it's wrong," said Touchton, adding he was the facility's chief of security for three years up until his departure. "It's time for them to wake up and do their job the way it's supposed to be done." Kinnard thanked Touchton for broaching the subject. "That sounds like something we definitely need to be paying attention to," the commissioner said. "It has obviously brought to the surface an issue that's been going on at our county jail."  Warden, three others 'no longer employed' at county detention facility Oliver told commissioners the closure of two state prisons decreased the weekly transfer rate of convicted inmates, creating a backlog at local jails. "That's put additional pressure on the system," he said, "as well as a number of other things." Oliver told commissioners questions have also been asked on whether the county's current contract with CoreCivic mandates a good standard of staffing requirements. Oliver said Matrix Consulting Group - a California-based firm with "a significant amount corrections experience" - helped develop the agreement, which was approved in July 2020 to expire in September 2030. Commissioners on Tuesday pulled a vote on whether to approve a separate and updated contract between the county, CoreCivic and the U.S. Virgin Islands to keep housing inmates from the U.S. territory at the county detention facility. Kinnard said he heard the facility's population of U.S. Virgin Island inmates was being transferred elsewhere. "Does that bring them into compliance with what they're supposed to be doing out there, staffing-wise?" he asked Oliver. "Until we go in and audit, I don't know," Oliver replied. "But yes, they told me they were going to be moving those inmates out for the time being." Gustin said "no decision has been made" on the transfer of the U.S. Virgin Island inmates. Managed since 1995 by CoreCivic - formerly Corrections Corporation of America - the Citrus County Detention Facility can house up to 760 inmates, who are either in local, federal or U.S. Virgin Island custody. U.S. Virgin Island inmates are serving sentences longer than a year. Oliver told commissioners in a Feb. 18 email CoreCivic "brought in a number of temporary/potentially permanent corrections officers, already certified," to alleviate staffing issues. CoreCivic informed Oliver then it had 94 percent of the detention facility staffed. Touchton cautioned commissioners about believing CoreCivic was staffing the facility with qualified employees. "They're playing you, and they're not doing the right thing. ... It's Band-Aids and duct tape," he said. "They should not be allowed to house additional inmates in that facility until they prove they have a full staff of certified correctional officers." Oliver said a CoreCivic executive informed him someone with correctional experience from outside the state can receive reciprocity from Florida to practice their profession in the state. Oliver told the Chronicle Thursday the county relies on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to approve a corrections officer and their certifications before they "can work in a safety-sensitive position." The FDLE had yet to respond to a Chronicle reporter's request for comment. According to Oliver and the county's contract with CoreCivic, not all positions at the county detention facility require a certified corrections officer. "It is up to the contractor (CoreCivic)," Oliver said, "to hire qualified and professional employees that can fulfill the terms of the contract."

Feb 22, 2022 chronicleonline.com
County fines detention facility manager for staff shortage

A staff shortage at the Citrus County Detention Facility prompted county officials to start fining the company managing the local jail and prison. In a Feb. 15 letter to acting Warden Jerry Wardlow, County Administrator Randy Oliver said the county began to issue CoreCivic an assessment of $2,500 a day, per month, for contractually failing to fill the "required fixed posts" at the county detention facility in Lecanto. "We realize that these are challenging times for staffing and that changes will be incremental in nature," Oliver wrote, "however, we need to see positive progress." These assessments, unless waived, are credited against CoreCivic's purchasing requests to the county, according to the contract between the county and CoreCivic. Oliver said in his letter the levied assessments accounted for the month of January, when CoreCivic's latest staffing report reflected "a continuous decline in staffing levels compared to prior month's levels." In a Feb. 18 email to county commissioners, Oliver said CoreCivic has accrued an assessment of $77,500 to be deducted from its invoice. Oliver told commissioners CoreCivic reacted to the assessment "and perhaps other facts" by sending a pair of executives from its corporate office in Tennessee. "More importantly," Oliver said, "they have brought in a number of temporary/potentially permanent corrections officers, already certified, to address those issues." Oliver said CoreCivic has 94 percent of the detention facility staffed, but the county is working to verify that before the commission's meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 22. A CoreCivic spokesperson was reached for comment Monday, Feb. 21, but they could not provide the Chronicle with a response by Tuesday's print deadline. Oliver told Wardlow the "staffing and organizational issues" at the facility dated back to March 2021, prior to Wardlow's transfer to the detention facility. CoreCivic named Wardlow acting warden earlier in February after Mike Quinn lost the job as a result of a CoreCivic investigation into the Nov. 2 death of inmate Valerie Bogle. Oliver told Wardlow the county first informed Quinn in May about the staffing shortfalls. "At the time, the county advised CoreCivic that although all required fixed posts were not filled," Oliver wrote, "fees would not be assessed, allowing CoreCivic a grace period to address the issue." Oliver said he sent another email to Quinn in August, continuing to express concerns about staffing, along with the delay in the county getting monthly status reports about the facility. "This information is necessary to ensure contract compliance," Oliver wrote. "The expectation was that these issues would be addressed and corrected." In November, the county sent another notice to Quinn about how the September staffing report showed no improvement since March. "In that letter, the county insisted that all required fixed posts be filled by Jan. 1, 2022," Oliver wrote, "or the county would begin to assess fines per the contract." According to the county-CoreCivic contract, which was approved in July 2020 to exist until September 2030, CoreCivic agreed to have at least 12 day posts, eight night posts and 13 40-hour-a-week posts filled. When the detention facility has all its housing units open, CoreCivic must fill 25 day posts, 20 night posts and 13 40-hour-a-week posts. Oliver told Wardlow the county expects "the addition of at least two positions per month until the staffing levels provided for in the contract are achieved." Otherwise, he said, the county's assessment against CoreCivic would increase. "The fines will be reevaluated on a monthly basis with increasing penalties if continued progress toward contractually required staffing is not made," Oliver wrote. "This could potentially include a $2,500 per day penalty per day per shift per post as set forth in the contract." In his letter to commissioners, Oliver said state and federal correctional institutions are also dealing with staffing issues. Oliver said the Florida Department of Corrections closed two of its facilities, which also decreased the rate of how many inmates could be transferred to prisons from local jails. Managed since 1995 by CoreCivic - formerly Corrections Corporation of America - the Citrus County Detention Facility can house up to 760 inmates, who are either in local, federal or U.S. Virgin Island custody. U.S. Virgin Island inmates are serving sentences longer than a year. Commissioners will vote Tuesday on whether to approve an updated contract between the county, CoreCivic and the U.S. Virgin Islands to keep housing inmates from the U.S. territory. Oliver informed commissioners about a handful of recent inspections the county detention facility underwent by outside agencies: A U.S. Marshals Service inspection from April 27 was "satisfactory." There was 100 percent compliance found during a March 28 inspection by the American Correction Association, and also during a Nov. 4 Florida Model Jail Inspection. A U.S. Virgin Islands site visit from December also reported no concerns, Oliver said.

Feb 5, 2022 chronicleonline.com
County jail's warden placed on leave after review of inmate death Autopsy report listed dehydration as cause of death

 Mike Quinn, warden of the Citrus County Detention Facility, was placed on administrative leave following the review of an inmate death from November. Ryan Gustin, a spokesman for CoreCivic, the Tennessee-based company managing the county jail in Lecanto, said Friday, Feb. 4, the investigation "indicated that several operational policies and procedures were not followed" while the inmate was at the facility. "Additional staff may be placed on administrative leave as part of our ongoing review of the matter," Gustin said. Gustin said senior CoreCivic leadership informed Citrus County government officials of the news. "Additional details are pending completion of our review, to preserve the integrity of our investigation and the due process rights of individuals placed on leave," he said. "We will continue to review this situation with our government partner and take all necessary steps to address areas where we fell short." Gustin said jail staff found the inmate unconscious and unresponsive at around 10:26 a.m. Nov. 2. Medical staff from the facility, along with local first responders, treated the person before they were pronounced dead at around 10:42 a.m. "We are deeply saddened by the passing of the individual who was in our care," Gustin said. "We express our deep and heartfelt sympathy to this individual's loved ones." Preliminary investigations showed the person died from natural causes, Gustin said. An autopsy report later listed dehydration as the cause of death, prompting further investigation into the incident. "Those efforts revealed that several operational policies and procedures were not followed during the time this individual was in our care," Gustin said, "As a result, the CCDF warden was placed on administrative leave while we continue to review this matter." According to CoreCivic, the county jail can house up to 760 inmates, who are either in local, federal or U.S. Virgin Island custody. Quinn was named warden of the county jail in June 2017 after coming into the facility as assistant warden in September 2015, according to CoreCivic and prior Chronicle reports. According to the county from January, six inmates died in 2021 at its privately operated jail -- five from natural causes, and one from suicide. In 2020, an inmate died from natural causes while another died from a homicide. Crystal River 34-year-old Demare Tavis Barnes II is due to stand trial the week of Feb. 14 on a second-degree murder charge connected to the Dec. 5, 2020, death of his fellow inmate, Crystal River 53-year-old Wayne Charles Washer. In 2019, according to the county, one inmate died from natural causes. COVID-19 was not responsible for inmate deaths in either 2020 or 2021, according to the county, which received its data from CoreCivic. "We're committed to providing comprehensive, compassionate care for every individual housed in CCDF," Gustin said, "and set high standards that, along with our government partner, we expect to be met at all times."

Aug 11, 2021 chronicleonline.com

Completed; work still active

Repairs to fix a broken air-conditioning system at the Citrus County Detention Facility were performed as planned over the weekend of Aug. 7. However, as of Tuesday, Aug. 10, maintenance crews were "still actively working" to finalize mending the cold water chiller, which malfunctioned July 16, according to Ryan Gustin, spokesman for the detention facility's manager, CoreCivic. "We are working with our government partner to evaluate the work that has been completed thus far," he told the Chronicle, "and make informed decisions on the next steps moving forward." Gustin said Friday nine of the detention facility's 30 housing units have been impacted, and there are between 16 and 22 inmates living in each unit. To help affected inmates combat the heat, facility staff brought them fans, ice and additional water. Based in Lecanto, the county detention facility can house around 760 inmates who are either in local, federal or U.S. Virgin Island custody.

Aug 5, 2021 chronicleonline.com

Repairs scheduled to fix broken air conditioner at county detention facility

Repairs to fix a broken air-conditioning system at the Citrus County Detention Facility have been slated for the weekend of Aug. 7. CoreCivic, which manages facility, and the county have been working since July 16 to mend a malfunctioning cold water chiller. Ryan Gustin, a CoreCivic spokesman, told the Chronicle Wednesday, Aug. 4, "tentative work" to address the issue was scheduled for the upcoming weekend. Gustin said nine of the detention facility's 30 housing units have been impacted. There are between 16 and 22 inmates housed in each unit, Gustin said. To help affected inmates combat the heat, facility staff brought them fans, ice and additional water. Based in Lecanto, the county detention facility can house around 760 inmates who are either in local, federal or U.S. Virgin Island custody.

July 27, 2021 chronicleonline.com
Air conditioning at county detention facility still in repair after over a week

Repairs continue to be made on an air-conditioning system at the Citrus County Detention Facility that's been broken for over a week, impacting almost a quarter of the jail's inmate housing units. CoreCivic, which manages the facility, and the county have been working since July 16 to fix a malfunctioning cold water chiller, which has affected six of the facility's 30 housing pods. Ryan Gustin, a CoreCivic spokesman, told the Chronicle Monday, July 26, work was ongoing. To help impacted inmates combat the heat during repairs, facility staff brought them fans, ice and water. Based in Lecanto, the county detention facility can house around 760 inmates.

Dec 8, 2020 chronicleonline.com

Crystal River man arrested for deadly attack against inmate

A Crystal River man jailed at the Citrus County Detention Facility on accusations of attempted murder was arrested again in connection to a deadly attack against another inmate. After reviewing jail camera footage and speaking with witnesses on the incident from the night of Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office detectives arrested 33-year-old Demare Tavis Barnes II early Sunday morning, according to Barnes’ arrest report. Barnes faces a charge of unpremeditated murder, and was booked back into the county jail under a $50,000 bond. A judge kept Barnes' bond amount the same during his first court appearance, according to the jail. Jan. 4 was scheduled as Barnes' arraignment. Barnes is still being held behind bars without bond for an unrelated felony, and is wanted by the Florida Department of Corrections for parole violations, according to the jail. He's has been in custody since his original arrest in early October for shooting at somebody driving away from the Circle K gas station on the corner of North Citrus Avenue and West Dunklin Street outside of Crystal River, according to court records. Prosecutors with the State Attorney’s Office charged Barnes with attempted murder involving a discharged firearm, and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Barnes’ next court hearing in that case is Feb. 2. Prior reports show Barnes was released from a five-year state prison sentence — to include time served — a few days before the alleged shooting. He had been sentenced in August 2016 for four felony convictions ranging from battery to fleeing and eluding police. Sheriff’s office investigators were notified of a fight just before 8 p.m. Saturday at the jail, where CoreCivic corrections staff were trying to revive an inmate the sheriff's office identified Monday afternoon as 53-year-old Wayne Washer. Washer was in jail custody awaiting the resolution of his assault and battery case from 2015. Nature Coast EMS later transported Washer to the emergency room in Citrus Hills, where he was pronounced dead at around 8:45 p.m. While looking over surveillance recordings of the housing pod, detectives spotted Barnes strike Washer while a separate scuffle between several other inmates was also happening, according to Barnes’ arrest report. Footage showed Barnes and Washer on different floors of the cell block. Barnes made his way downstairs while Washer stood near his bed, his back facing the pod. Barnes then approached Washer from behind and struck him in the head with a closed fist, causing Washing to fall down and not recover, according to the arrest report. Several inmates told detectives Barnes was upset over prior fights in the pod, adding Washer was intoxicated and threatening to fight other inmates. Inmates said Washer told Barnes “you’re next,” which led to Barnes' attack. In his statement to detectives, according to his arrest report, Barnes admitted to striking Washer because he was mad at him for wanting to start a fight. Barnes said he had nothing in his hands when he struck Washer, his arrest report shows, and did not intend for him to die.

Jul 2, 2020 chronicleonline.com

Citrus County jail guard arrested

A dispute over breakfast with an inmate led to the arrest and battery charges against a Citrus County jail guard. Pasco County deputies arrested Bradford Demone Diggs, 45, June 22, 2020, following a Citrus County warrant for his arrest after Citrus County deputies’ investigation concluded the guard hit an inmate repeatedly and threw him against a wall, according to CCSO reports. Diggs is now facing misdemeanor battery charges and bonded out of jail. The Citrus County jail is operated by the private company CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America. The investigating Citrus County deputy reported that he was called to the jail and, with a senior guard, reviewed security tapes of the incident and spoke with witnesses. Although much of the report is redacted to protect the victim and other inmate witnesses, the alleged battery began when one inmate did not want to eat breakfast and gave his food to another inmate. Diggs was in the jail pod and was in charge of breakfast distribution. The security tape showed that Diggs had become involved in a heated discussion with a second inmate and then Diggs walked over to the inmate victim seated at one of the tables, according to arrest documents. The victim told the investigating deputy that one of the inmates had given him his breakfast and that Diggs was angry about it, according to arrest documents. The victim told the investigating deputy that Diggs began cursing at him and the victim responded by asking Diggs not to curse at him. The victim told the investigating deputy that Diggs than said, “If you don’t like the way I talk, then (expletive) you honky,” according to arrest documents. Diggs is African American. The victim told the investigating deputy that once a racial slur was made against him he hurled racial slurs back at Diggs, according to arrest documents. The victim told the investigating deputy Diggs told him to get up from his chair and he refused until another guard arrived and told him to get up. The video showed the second guard placing his hands on Diggs’ chest in an effort to calm him, according to arrest documents. The victim got up and started walking away when the victim said, and the security video showed, Diggs going after the inmate victim and hitting him in the back of the head and shoving his face against a wall and then throwing him onto  the ground, according to arrest documents. The victim was on his hands and knees with Diggs standing over him and continuing to hit him on the head as the victim tried to cover himself from the blows, according to the arrest documents The investigating deputy also interviewed several other guards and inmates who witnessed the incident. The investigating deputy reported that guard captain Thomas Hare told him he relieved Diggs after the incident and sent him home. Following the investigation the State Attorney's Office issued a warrant for Diggs arrest. He was arrested in Pasco County. His bond was $1,000.

Feb 12, 2018 chronicleonline.com
Jail rape allegations headed to federal jury
CoreCivic is facing allegations that it failed to prevent the sexual assault of a vulnerable teenage boy who was housed at its jail in Citrus County. Filed in August 2017 at the U.S. District Court in Ocala, the civil lawsuit claims CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, was negligent in its screening of a minor, who has developmental disabilities, and for failing to protect him from being raped by inmates at the Citrus County Detention Facility in Lecanto. A U.S. District Court judge in November set a case plan in motion that would put these allegations in front of a federal jury in February 2019, a desire of both parties, according to court records. Neither the attorney for the plaintiff, the boy’s mother, nor CoreCivic’s attorney, wanted to comment about specifics of the case as it’s being litigated. In its court-filed response to the claim, CoreCivic’s lawyers admitted the boy was committed to its Citrus County detention center around May 18, 2016, but denied the allegations on a number of grounds, including that the boy’s injuries were part of a pre-existing condition. According to the complaint, a CoreCivic officer, who screened the boy at his intake for risks of sexual victimization, did not ask the necessary questions to determine how and where to house the boy. While the officer did make note of the boy’s vulnerability and his mental and physical disabilities, he did not ask about his prior history of sexual abuse, which the boy suffered at the hands of his biological father since he was 11 years old, the claim alleges. “Despite having the knowledge that (the boy) was mentally disabled and highly vulnerable to sexual assault, (the boy) was placed in an adult jail facility where other inmates were provided the opportunity to bully (the boy),” the complaint states. While the boy was custody between Oct. 3 and Oct. 5, 2016, at least one male inmate raped him during the course of several days, it’s alleged. The reported sex-assault offender or offenders were gang members who were arrested in August 2016 and should have been separated, the complaint alleges. Following the assaults, CoreCivic prevented the boy and his mother from seeing each other. No mention about the assaults were made to the boy’s mother, until she continued to ask about them, the complaint alleges. The plaintiff is seeking more than $75,000, according to the complaint.

Mar 11, 2017 dailyfreeman.com
Former Kingston resident kills self in Florida jail while awaiting murder trials
A former Kingston resident accused of killing two people in Florida has committed suicide in a jail there, a sheriff’s sergeant said Friday. Darren Decker, 42, of Ocala, Fla., died Thursday afternoon at the Citrus County Detention Center, a private jail in Lecanto, Fla., owned and operated by Correction Corp. of America, according to Sgt. John Bergen of the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office. Decker was pronounced dead at the Seven Rivers Hospital in Crystal River, Fla., Bergen said. Bergen would not say how Decker died. He said the investigation remained open. Decker was indicted on Dec. 20, 2016, by a Citrus County grand jury for first-degree murder and armed burglary, both felonies, in connection with the March 31, 2016, death of Don “Terry” Plumeri in Dunnellon, Fla. Decker faced the possibility of the death penalty in both that case and a Marion County, Fla., murder case. Pete Magrino, the tri-county homicide prosecutor for Florida’s Fifth Circuit Court, said previously that Plumeri, 71, a composer-musician, suffered “multiple blunt- and sharp-force” fatal injuries in the course of a home-invasion robbery. Decker’s partner, Jessica Baker, 45, also of Ocala and a former Kingston resident, was indicted Dec. 20 for first-degree murder and armed robbery in the Plumeri case and is facing life in prison if convicted, Magrino said in February. She also faces life in prison for burglary in the Marion County case. On Friday, Magrino said Decker’s death would have no effect on Baker’s case. Last May, Lauren Lettelier of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office told the Freeman that Decker and Baker lived in “Ulster County — Kingston ... for an extended period of time” but had lived in Florida for the past eight years. Baker is being held without bail in the Citrus County Detention Center. In the Marion County case, Decker was indicted for first-degree murder in May 2016 for the Jan. 25, 2016, death of Tamara Bedenbaugh, 57, of Ocala, Fla. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release last April that Bedenbaugh “was killed during the commission of a home-invasion robbery” during which jewelry and cash were stolen. Florida authorities said last May said Decker and Baker also were suspects in as many as 60 burglaries in the state. The burglaries came to be known as the “pillowcase burglaries” because all the crimes involved placing stolen items in pillowcases. Decker had a lengthy rap sheet in Ulster County that included numerous arrests for crimes ranging from passing bad checks to grand larceny, and he spent time in the Ulster County Jail as far back as 1991.

Jan 11, 2016 wesh.com
Inmates itching from scabies outbreak at Florida jail
CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. —Dozens of inmates at a Citrus County jail are itching after a scabies outbreak. Warden Russell Washburn said Friday that medical staff had been treating the outbreak for the past week. The facility is run by the Corrections Corporation of America. The Citrus County Chronicle reports the microscopic mites burrow in the skin and lay eggs causing intense itching and a skin rash. They tend to spread quickly by contact and are common at childcare facilities and shelters. Washburn said inmates in two of the jail's housing units were affected. He said 40 inmates received pills to treat the infestations. All inmates were inspected and their clothing and bed linens were also washed as a precaution. The infected inmates will be screened again in about two weeks.

Oct 22, 2015 chronicleonline.com

Adams calls out ‘two idiots’

Commissioner: Carnahan, Kitchen should support CCA probe

Scott Adams said Wednesday that fellow Citrus County Commissioners Scott Carnahan and Ron Kitchen are “idiots” for not backing his calls for investigations of Citrus County’s private jail contractor. During a fiery interview with the Chronicle Editorial Board, the commission chairman defended not telling other commissioners about a Florida Department of Law Enforcement letter in August which said there was not enough evidence to support an investigation of the Corrections Corporation of America jail contract. Carnahan and Kitchen, who Adams supported in the 2014 election, are partially to blame because they haven’t supported calls for investigations and state audits, he said. “I’ve got two idiots up there telling me nothing is wrong,” he said.  “Something is seriously the matter.” Reached separately for comment, Carnahan and Kitchen said Adams is alienating himself from board members with his behavior. “I think it’s a sad day for Citrus County for another commissioner to stand up there and do that to other people,” Carnahan said. “I don’t know why we’re going down this road. He went down this road with the last board and he’s going down this road with this board.” Kitchen said Adams’ comment shows a lack of respect for the office. “This is a high honor that voters elect people to, and they expect their commissioners to operate in a professional manner,” Kitchen said. “This is most distressing. Every time a vote doesn’t go Commissioner Adams’ way it’s personal to him. It doesn’t help anyone with name-calling.” Adams has enlisted the FDLE, FBI, Florida Auditor General and federal Office of the Inspector General to investigate what he believes are questionable contracts that CCA has with the U.S. Marshal’s Service and U.S. Virgin Islands for housing their inmates at the county jail. He has requested similar investigations or audits of the county landfill and water/sewer utilities. Sen. Charlie Dean, Adams’ friend and business partner, earlier this month asked the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee to approve an auditor general’s review of the CCA contracts and the county’s department of parks and recreation. The committee, without discussion or questions, voted unanimously to approve the operational audits. Adams wouldn’t say what actual wrongdoing he believes has occurred, only that investigations could prove the county is owed millions of dollars. With the landfill, for example, Adams said the county lacks the proper paperwork to prove that haulers are properly reporting their commercial accounts. Those accounts receive quarterly invoices from the county to pay solid-waste assessments, which is separate from the landfill tipping fee that haulers pay. Adams says the paperwork mixup is not accidental, and inferred that if documents are missing they were deliberately removed by current or former high-ranking county officials. “You ain’t got that many dumb---es making $100,000 a year,” he said. As for the CCA issue, Adams said he didn’t tell commissioners about the FDLE letter because he didn’t think about it, even as board members asked during the last commission meeting whether he had heard back from any of the investigating agencies. “This was the least of the my worries,” he said. Referring again to Carnahan and Kitchen, Adams said, “I suspect they’re trying to hide something,” and then added, “This isn’t a witch hunt.” Kitchen said Adams hasn’t shown any evidence of criminal wrongdoing with CCA or the landfill. “You can yell ‘Fire!’ in a movie house, and if there’s a fire, that’s a good thing. But you should at least have some smoke,” Kitchen said. “It’s become personal, and that’s when you start losing your credibility. He doesn’t like CCA, so therefore CCA has done something wrong.” Adams said it isn’t his job to investigate. “What’s the outcome? I have no idea,” he said. “I think things are coming to a head. Whether someone did something wrong or not, this is all coming out.” Kitchen, who is next in line to follow Adams as chairman during the board’s organizational meeting in November, said Adams’ approach is misdirected. “If you don’t agree with Commissioner Adams, you’re evil and the bad guy,” he said. “Just think how sad that is.” Adams said he is only doing what voters want him to do. “Nobody’s getting blamed,” he said. “Quit making me a villain. I’m not a villain.”

Oct 4, 2015 chronicleonline.com

Dean: State should audit CCA contract

State Sen. Charlie Dean is asking for the state auditor general to audit Citrus County’s 20-year contract with Corrections Corporation of America over operations of the county jail. Dean, R-Inverness, also is requesting a 10-year audit of the county parks and recreation division, in part because it showed up on a document as being the jail owner during the CCA’s jail expansion eight years ago. Dean will ask the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee for the audit when the committee meets Monday in Tallahassee. “In researching these matters, I have found many accounting discrepancies and potential legal issues,” he wrote in his request to committee co-chairmen Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, and Rep. Daniel Raulerson, R-Plant City. Dean’s requests mirror those of Citrus County Commission Chairman Scott Adams, a friend and business partner of Dean’s. Adams in April and May said he uncovered potential “fraud” within the CCA contract, but would never reveal details when pressed by fellow commissioners or the Chronicle. Adams sent an email to the auditor general requesting a state audit of the CCA contract, which includes separate contracts for housing prisoners from the U.S. Marshal’s Office and U.S. Virgin Islands. The board declined, by a 4-1 vote, Adams’ motion that the county fund an auditor general’s audit of the CCA contract. By the same vote, the board instead instructed County Administrator Randy Oliver to negotiate a five-year contract extension with CCA, which commissioners approved by the same 4-1 margin. Dean said in an interview he learned of the issues from Adams, but that Adams did not ask Dean to intervene. “He told me he was showing the documents to some people and I told him I’d like to see it,” Dean said. Adams, he said, sent the same documents to the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement. CCA has had the jail contract since 1996. In 2007, the company spent nearly $20 million expanding the jail, with the county to repay the company on a 20-year amortization schedule. The contract expired Oct. 1, 2015, but it allowed for a pair of five-year extensions. County officials learned that if they were to decline an extension, the county would need to pay CCA about $13 million remaining on the expansion. Adams said his review of paperwork also showed an oddity: One document during the jail expansion said that the county’s parks and recreation department owned the county jail. Another document said CCA owned it. In reality, Citrus County owns the jail. Dean said the parks and recreation mention caught his eye. That didn’t make a bit of sense to me,” he said. That discrepancy, combined with the recent case of a parks and recreation supervisor who received four years in prison for stealing more than $100,000 from the county, led Dean to request a 10-year audit of the parks department. Dean said the fact that two other counties — Hernando and Bay — had CCA contracts to run their jails but returned the jails to county oversight indicates the Citrus-CCA contract should be scrutinized. “We’re talking about a lot of money,” Dean said. “If there isn’t anything there, we have nothing to worry about. If there is, we should know about it.” Adams did not return phone calls seeking comment. County commissioners declined Adams’ call in May for state audit because, they said, whatever may have happened occurred in the past and the current contract extension actually saves the county more than $3 million. Commissioner Ron Kitchen said he thinks audits are a good idea in general. “Audits are a win-win,” he said. “If they find nothing, that’s great. If they do an audit and find something, that’s great too.” This audit request, though, has Kitchen wondering why it reached Dean’s level. “Why would a state senator who has many counties to worry about want to go against the wishes of four Citrus County commissioners?” Kitchen asked. Kitchen also said Adams has made vague accusations against the CCA contract that he hasn’t proven have merit. “To this day, nothing has come up,” Kitchen said. “If we do this audit and nothing comes up, will be do another and another?” Dean said the CCA contract raises too many questions to ignore. “I’m looking for the total answer to put this issue to light,” he said. “If everything is up to snuff, fine.”

June 16, 2008 ABC Action News
An Inverness attorney plans to sue the company the runs Citrus county's jail, claiming employees are treating inmates like human toilets. Attorney Greg Jones has called a news conference today to announce his suit against "Corrections Corporation of America and their employees regarding the urination and defecation in the food of a former inmate at the Citrus County Detention Facility located in Lecanto, Florida." The jail is not run by the Citrus County sheriff, but by a private company. The attorney did not return phone calls to ABCActionNews.com requesting information on whether this is an isolated incident or whether other inmates may be involved.

March 6, 2008 Bay News 9
A former guard is to blame after inmate James Coursey was allowed to walk out of the Citrus County Detention Facility, according to corrections officials. "Violation of policy and procedure," said Corrections Corporation of America spokesperson Julia Swart. "She knew the policy; she knew the procedure." Corrections Corporation of America is the private company that runs the Citrus County Detention Facility. They fired the guard because of mistakes the company said she made. According to CCA the guard allowed Coursey outside into a garbage port, and then allowed Coursey past the sally port gate to remove pallets. That's when Coursey made his move down the road. Swart said policy only allows sentenced misdemeanor inmates outside the fence. "Less risk with someone who is sentenced doing a minimal amount of jail time," Swart said. But the mistake by one guard cost the corrections company thousands. CCA has cut a check for $58,144.92 to cover the costs of the escape. Among the highlights, nearly $48,000 to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office for personnel and equipment costs and a little over $100 for food from the Homosassa Auxillary. CCA is also going to pay for the medical bills of Michael Mokszycki's, who was attacked by Coursey. "He was like a wild man," Mokszycki said. "Those eyes were a nightmare." As for Coursey, he's still awaiting trial in the Citrus County Detention Facility. A new camera has been installed near the sally port and the gates are in the middle of being retro-fitted so they can only be opened from a control room. Coursey had been in jail on grand theft and burglary charges.

January 14, 2008 St Petersburg Times
An escaped Citrus County prisoner attacked a homeowner with a hammer Sunday morning and continued to elude a 100-member search team after nightfall. James Coursey, 49, was being held on burglary and theft charges when he escaped from the Citrus County Detention Facility about 3:30 p.m. Friday. Throughout the weekend, Citrus County sheriff's deputies searched a 2-mile wide area near Leisure Acres, a subdivision near the jail complex off of County Road 491. They found no trace of Coursey. A homeowner identified only as a Leisure Acres resident found Coursey in his shed at 10:40 a.m. Sunday. Startled, Coursey grabbed a hammer and hit the man on the head before fleeing. The man suffered minor wounds and was not hospitalized. Citrus County sheriff's spokeswoman Heather Yates said Coursey fled southward on foot, still armed with the hammer. More than 100 officers were called in to help with the search. They included members of Citrus County sheriff's aviation unit aboard helicopters, K-9 deputies, bloodhounds from the Florida Department of Corrections and personnel from the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Citrus County Detention Facility spokeswoman Julia Swart said Coursey, jailed on charges of grand theft and burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, was in the Trusty Program and was assigned to work indoors and outdoors at the 760-bed facility. Yates said that the search was pared back as darkness approached, but authorities would continue looking throughout the night. "We want to find this guy and put the community at ease," Yates said.

January 12, 2008 AP
Authorities searched Saturday for an inmate who escaped from a detention facility in Citrus County. James Coursey, 49, fled the Citrus County Detention Facility on foot Friday afternoon, sheriff's officials said. After the escape, schools in the Lecanto area were locked down and deputies stopped cars on roads to search for Coursey, with no success, officials said. Deputies continued their search Saturday for Coursey, who was arrested in February on a warrant for grand theft. While jailed, Coursey was charged with unarmed burglary of unoccupied structures. By Saturday evening, the intensive ground search had been scaled down. "We searched grid by grid and he was not there," Citrus County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Heather Yates said of the 2-mile radius around the prison. Some officers will continue searching, but the focus will now be on talking to Coursey's family members and following leads that come in to the sheriff's office, Yates said.

July 21, 2007 Citrus Chronicle
Maria Puzino didn’t expect country club conditions during a recent two-week stay in the Citrus County Detention Facility. But the 46-year-old Inverness woman didn’t expect the treatment she said she received. Puzino, jailed on charges of violating probation, said corrections workers withheld her anti-depressant medication, openly discussed her medical condition with others and repeatedly harassed her. She said she spent four days on suicide watch because she wasn’t given her medication. During one of those nights, she said, a corrections officer gave her specific instructions as to the best way to kill herself. Puzino detailed the allegations in a letter to the Nashville, Tenn.-based headquarters of Corrections Corp. of America, the company that operates the detention facility for Citrus County. CCA is investigating the complaints, company spokeswoman Julia Swart said. “We take these allegations seriously they are being thoroughly investigated,” Swart said in a statement. “After the investigation is complete the findings will be immediately communicated with our customer.” The “customer,” she said, is the Citrus County government. Swart declined further comment. Charles Poliseno, Citrus County’s director of public safety, said he met with CCA officials Wednesday and concluded that nothing wrong occurred.

June 16, 2007 Ocala Star-Banner
Marion County Sheriff's Office brass say they can continue to staff and operate the county jail more cheaply than a contracted private firm. At the request of the County Commission, department officials recently checked with nearby Hernando and Citrus counties. They both contract with a national firm, Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, to run their jails. In a letter to County Commission Chairman Stan McClain, sheriff's Maj. Paul Laxton said that, at the rate CCA charges Citrus County, the cost to run the Marion jail would go from about $25.2 million to $38.3 million. Laxton wrote that the figure did not reflect the cost for off-site medical expenses for inmates. The county commissions in Hernando and Citrus counties pay for that as an additional cost, while the Marion Sheriff's Office includes it in the budget. That cost was $1.356 million in 2005-06, Laxton wrote. "We are the lowest cost-per-day jail in any of the counties I know of in Central Florida," Sheriff Ed Dean said. McClain said there is not a push on the County Commission to privatize the jail. He said commissioners asked for the cost comparison during a recent planning discussion as they looked for ways to trim the county budget as property tax reform loomed. "We had heard other counties were privatizing, but we didn't know what their cost was," he said. McClain said that, as far as he is concerned, the cost comparison ended that discussion.

January 11, 2007 Citrus County Chronicle
A civil rights law firm will take over a federal lawsuit accusing guards at the Citrus County Detention Facility of contaminating former inmates’ food with human waste. Inverness attorneys Bill Grant and Bo Samargya had been representing five former inmates in the lawsuit, filed March 10, 2006, in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. However, Grant said Wednesday he will hand the case over to a law firm that specializes in civil rights lawsuits. He said the “depth” of the case has forced him to get another firm involved. Grant did not name the law firm, which he said has offices in Tampa and Orlando, and that he planned to hand the case over soon. “It’s a document-intensive and time-intensive situation,” he said, adding his law firm is handling a murder trial in Pennsylvania in March, another one in February, a “major” civil trial in the summer and other cases. “It’s often so busy here that to do that one right, we’d have to shut down and do nothing but that case for a month.” The nine-count lawsuit accuses corrections officers at the county jail in Lecanto of urinating and defecating into the food and drink of inmates. Former inmates Javon Walker, Jeffrey Young, Gregory Platt, Larry Robbins and Matthew Pavlisin were named as plaintiffs in the initial lawsuit. The inmates accuse former guards of violating their civil rights, including accusations of torture and cruel punishment. In 2004, all were housed at one point in the jail’s segregation unit, a wing that houses inmates considered to be a safety risk. Corrections Corporation of America, the private Tennessee-based company that operates the jail, is also named in the lawsuit. It’s accused of negligent hiring and supervision, with Grant previously saying the corporation didn’t properly investigate the accusations. Two guards and a supervisor were fired before the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Citrus County Sheriff’s Office started an investigation March 21. Before the investigation began, former guard Kevin Hessler admitted to urinating in an inmate’s juice jug, according to documents. The FDLE investigation is still ongoing with interviews of witnesses taking place, spokeswoman Trena Reddick said earlier this week.

December 30, 2006 St Petersburg Times
How did a jail trusty manage to slip away from a work detail this week, elude a manhunt and get all the way to the east coast? He called his girlfriend. She drove over and picked him up. They headed out of town. That’s what Santana Schiedenhelm told investigators after they got caught Thursday. Her boyfriend wasn’t talking. The escape method, which authorities reported Friday, was one of the last mysteries left about this case. Jose Felix Malagon-Cervantes, 25, faces a charge of escaping while in transport or working on roads, a second-degree felony. An inmate at the Citrus County jail, Malagon-Cervantes worked as a trusty at the Kensington Fire Station just off State Road 44 and west of Inverness. Trusties are nonviolent, misdemeanor offenders who are permitted to work outside the jail, earning as many as 10 days off a sentence each month. Corrections Corporation of America, a private company that runs the jail, decides which inmates are considered trustworthy enough to work outside its gates.

December 29, 2006 St Petersburg Times
Authorities captured the escaped Citrus County inmate at 5 p.m. Thursday, more than 100 miles from the Kensington Fire Station where he walked off a work detail the day before. Jose Felix Malagon-Cervantes, 25, faces a charge of escaping while in transport or working on roads, a second-degree felony. He was found in Holly Hill, north of Daytona Beach. Also arrested was his 20-year-old girlfriend, Santana Schiedenhelm, who was charged on an unrelated count of filing false information to law enforcement.

December 28, 2006 St Petersburg Times
A Citrus County inmate trusted to work outside the barbed wire walls of the jail remained on the lam Wednesday night after he walked off a job at a fire station earlier in the day. Authorities launched an aggressive manhunt for Jose Felix Malagon-Cervantes, 25, in the nearby Withlacoochee State Forest using helicopters, all-terrain vehicles and canine units but called it off at 6 p.m. as darkness fell. The search will not resume today because the inmate is not considered dangerous, said sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney. He will likely face an escape charge if he turns up. Malagon-Cervantes was labeled a trusty, a designation awarded to nonviolent offenders who are permitted to work outside the jail. Trusties can earn up to 10 days off a sentence each month. Malagon-Cervantes was arrested in August for violating his drug offender probation. His arrest record includes charges of drug possession and larceny, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He was last seen working at the Kensington Fire Station in central Citrus County when he told his supervisor, a fire-rescue maintenance official, that he wasn't feeling well. The official, who is trained in inmate supervision, allowed him to lay down in one of the service vehicles, said Patty Jefferson, assistant fire chief. When the unnamed official went to check on him "a short time later," Malagon-Cervantes was gone, Jefferson said.

July 23, 2006 St Petersburg Times
He's been the warden of the Citrus County Detention Facility for five years, and now Carlos Melendez is getting a promotion. Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that runs the jail, is promoting Melendez to a managing director position on the business management team. It's not clear where he'll work once the promotion goes through, but it won't be in Citrus County. Officials say it's unknown when a replacement will be found. Until then, Melendez remains in charge of the jail. The process for finding Melendez's replacement will begin with CCA, officials said. According to Charles Poliseno, the director of the county's public safety department, after the company picks a candidate, local officials - possibly Poliseno or Assistant County Administrator Tom Dick - will interview that person and present a recommendation to the County Commission. Commissioners will make the final call, Poliseno said. CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the company is gathering and evaluating candidates. "We generally don't want to put a strict time line on this because we want to ensure we're making the best decisions possible," Owen said. Melendez has presided over the jail since March 2001. Earlier this year, inmates said guards had been putting human waste in their food, and several CCA employees were fired. Melendez previously has said that the inmates never complained of health problems and that the only evidence came from one of the terminated guard's statements.

April 16, 2006 St Petersburg Times
In 2003, county commissioners voted unanimously for an $11-million expansion of the Hernando County Jail. But before they cast their votes, Commissioner Robert Schenck had one question about the cost: "I was wondering if before we moved ahead you could do a cost analysis of what it would cost for (Corrections Corporation of America) to build that and then subsequently lease it back to the county and what it would cost us on our bond payments with interest and see how close we are with the numbers," Schenck inquired. The county's purchasing director, Jim Gantt, said that wasn't an option. CCA doesn't pay for expansions; it only pays to build new facilities, he explained. And besides, having CCA finance the expansion would be more expensive because private companies cannot borrow as cheaply as government, Gantt said. Citrus County had different ideas. Last fall, the Citrus County Commission voted to let CCA pay for the entire expansion of its jail. The county will not pay a cent as long as it continues its day-to-day operational contract with CCA for the next 20 years. "We found that it actually saves us from having to go out and borrow the money and have to construct the facility ourselves," Citrus Commissioner Vicki Phillips said. Fellow Commissioner Joyce Valentino said the benefit was obvious: "We don't have to use the taxpayers' tax dollars." How could neighboring counties get such different deals? According to Gantt, CCA never offered to pay for Hernando's expansion. CCA spokesman Steven Owen could not explain why, except to say that CCA doesn't take a "cookie cutter approach" to writing contracts. "Why we didn't offer that instead of this really isn't relevant," he said. The last time Hernando's contract came up for renewal, at an April 11, 2000, commission meeting, Commissioner Bobbi Mills said she preferred to renegotiate rather than rebid, as did Commissioner Pat Novy. They both said that significant research had been done to convince them that there was no reason to put the contract out to bid - that they could tell how CCA stacked up to its competitors without bidding. Commissioner Chris Kingsley also voted in favor of renegotiation rather than rebidding. "I can't remember the exact reason why," Kingsley said recently. "I would agree that on most circumstances, you would go out for bid just like we did for waste hauling. I guess maybe we assumed at the time that the competitors couldn't have beaten the services we had." Only three commissioners voted on the contract extension. Commissioners Nancy Robinson and Paul Sullivan were asked by the county attorney to recuse themselves because Robinson's daughter and Sullivan's wife were working at the Hernando jail. More than half of the officers at the Hernando jail are uncertified, working on "temporary employment authorization" status, which allows them to serve as guards while they go to school for the state certification. Hernando warden Don Stewart, who took over in February, said he planned to increase the number of certified officers at the jail. He said the high percentage of uncertified officers was a result of the hiring binge needed to keep up with the jail's recent expansion. However, records show that as far back as March 2000, 41 percent of the jail's guards were uncertified. Stewart said that he was proud of his staff and that the distinction between certified and uncertified officers wasn't important. "Are we in violation of any state statutes?" he asked. But a recent inquiry by the State Attorney's Office found that the large number of uncertified officers was "without question a contributing factor to the problems experienced by the (Hernando) jail." Retired Hernando Sheriff Thomas Mylander, who ran the jail before CCA took it over in the late 1980s, also criticized the heavy reliance on uncertified officers. "That's totally unacceptable," he said. "The county is paying for a service the individuals said they could run correctly for that amount. . . . I've never heard of any place that had half their employees uncertified."

April 4, 2006 Citrus County Chronicle
A recent lawsuit filed by four former Citrus County Correctional Facility inmates alleging prisoner abuse has placed Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which operates the facility, in the public spotlight. The lawsuit contends that at least two corrections officers urinated and defecated in inmates food and drink several times in late 2004. While CCA has acknowledged that one corrections officer admitted to spiking inmate juice with human urine on two occasions, it rebukes the claim of systemic torture and abuse by the plaintiffs lawyers as pure fabrication and without merit. Whether the claim of systemic torture and abuse being investigated by the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement proves to have merit or not, the mere admission that bodily waste was placed in the juice of inmates resurrects nagging questions about contracting out jail oversight to a for-profit company. The privatization of corrections wrongly entrusts that responsibility to the financial expectations of investors. With government ultimately responsible for both the inmates and the publics welfare, corrections operations must be publicly open and accountable. While privatized government services are subject to Florida's open-records laws, there's a greater tendency for private companies to distance themselves from public accountability. In the short term, county government needs to provide more aggressive oversight of CCA. Accordingly, it may want to consider the example of Hernando County, which last week appointed a former law enforcement officer to monitor CCA's operation of its correctional facility full time. In t