A damning new report alleges that women incarcerated in a Florida private prison endured squalid conditions for months while facility management billed the state for millions.
According to the Miami Herald, 284 women in a dorm at the Gadsden Correctional Institution had no hot water or heat for months despite management promises to lawmakers that they would fix the water heater.
The report adds that when there was water, inmates were literally inundated with it. Indeed, on occasion, inmates had to use bathrooms flooded with water. On other days, inmates had no water at all because inmates were instructed to throw away food waste into septic tanks, causing them to overflow.
The transgressions are coming to light thanks to the efforts of Florida state Rep. David Richardson, who made a series of surprise visits to the prison over the last year and a half.
According to Richardson, Florida granted the private prison operator, the Utah-based Management Training Corp., approval to replace the $10,000 water heater at taxpayer expense, but the warden never signed off on it.
“I’m a policymaker. I’m not a monitor. I’m not their auditor. Why is it that I’m out there fixing water heaters?” Richardson told the Miami Herald.
Richardson also found that while Management Training was charging Florida $2.3 million a year for education programming for the inmates, few teachers and no supplies made it to the prison classrooms.
“We’re paying them a lot of money for education and programming, and I can’t get anywhere near $1 million when I walk around classrooms and observing, let alone $2.3 million,” Richardson said. “This is a waste of taxpayer dollars, and you’re saying you can’t buy some basic supplies … I’ve got a problem with that.”
Richardson returned to the facility last Thursday with investigators from the Florida Department of Corrections and found that there are still over 495 open work orders for repairs. Inmates also told them that prison officials were pressuring them to keep silent and not talk about the prison’s problems to the investigators — or else.
According to Richardson, one simple principle explains the facility management’s actions:
“If they cut costs,” said Richardson, “they are increasing their profitability.”