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Nominee for U.S. Marshals director has ties to GEO

W

hile I'm admittedly not a regular Washington Times reader by any measure, this story ("Marshals Service nominee may have a client conflict," October 25) did jump out at me.  According to the story,

Between leaving her post as federal detention trustee and her recent nomination as the next U.S. marshal, Justice Department veteran Stacia Hylton got a consulting contract with one of the largest private correctional companies in the country, records show.

The arrangement with the Florida-based GEO Group Inc., which has carried out tens of millions of dollars in contracts for the U.S. Marshals Service, was disclosed in a recent financial report obtained by The Washington Times through the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

One prominent prison industry observer said the ties raise concerns about conflicts of interest.

"The massive conflicts of interest with Ms. Hylton having been employed by GEO Group typify the revolving door of corporate lobbyists and government employees that President Obama promised to end if elected," said Paul Wright, editor and co-founder of Prison Legal News, which covers the prison industry.

Mr. Wright said he was concerned that Ms. Hylton would "be in a position to further reward the GEO Group with taxpayer money and little accountability or oversight." "The real and apparent conflict of interest is as massive as it is obvious," he said.

I tend to agree with Paul Wright.  The U.S. Marshals are one of the biggest contractors with the private prison industry, out-sourcing nearly all of their beds in Texas and around the country.  As the story notes,

In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company noted that about 13 percent of its consolidated revenues for the fiscal year that ended Jan. 3 came from U.S. marshals. The company reported consolidated revenues for the year of $1.1 billion.

Here in Texas, the U.S. Marshals have contracts with at least 15 private lock-ups, including GEO's massive Rio Grande Detention Center in Laredo.  Dubbed the Laredo "superjail" in the local media, this facility was constructed, despite local and statewide opposition (including by my organization, Grassroots Leadership, after a ramp-up in criminal prosecutions of non-violent border-crossers. 

A report by Grassroots Leadership this summer entitled Operation Streamline: Drowning Justice and Draining Dollars Along the Rio Grande, demonstrates how criminal prosecutions of border-crossers, a relatively new phenomena expanded by a policy called Operation Streamline.  The report estimates that the policy has been a $1 billion give-away to the private prison industry in Texas alone. 

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