Humpday Hall of Shame: GEO Group Journeyman Joe Williams

Welcome to the Humpday Hall of Shame: every Wednesday we highlight the private prison industry’s influence on public policy through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the revolving door of public and private corrections.

This week's inductee into the Humpday Hall of Shame is Joe Williams.  Williams' revolving door career demonstrates how the industry profits at taxpayer expense.  Williams is a former GEO Group warden who became the New Mexico Secretary of Corrections under Governor Bill Richardson.  Now, Williams is back at GEO Group as the head of that company's U.S. Corrections arm.

According to a recent article in the Albuquerque Tribune:

Williams came under scrutiny from New Mexico legislators last year for his decision not to fine GEO and another private prison operator for understaffing. A report by the Legislative Finance Committee at the time said there were potentially millions of dollars to be collected.

The administration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who took office in January, has decided to collect some penalties for this year. Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said last week that GEO has agreed to pay $1.1 million for understaffing at the Hobbs prison during 2011 and to put another $200,000 into recruitment.  (Deborah Baker, "Ex-Prison Official Back at Firm," November 20, 2011)

As Secretary, Williams failed to collect up to $18.6 million in fines from private prison contractors.  Incredibly, Williams even coordinated with the GEO Group to develop his arguments against understandable angry law-makers who discovered the lack of oversight, according to the Tribune:

“Because the private prisons are operating safely and securely, I have chosen to exercise my executive power, as have all secretaries before me, not to penalize the private prisons for staff vacancies caused by factors largely beyond their or anyone else’s control," Williams wrote in the November letter.

Williams had solicited GEO’s help with making his case a few months earlier, urging company officials in an August letter to give him staffing data as well as information about how much GEO paid in taxes and inmate transportation and how much it had contributed to communities and schools.

“This information could help me defend my position” to lawmakers, Williams wrote."

Now, Williams' defense of the private prison industry (and against the interests of New Mexico taxpayers or the incarcerated) is paying off - for him.  There is a dire need for state's to adopt laws prohibiting employees from bouncing back and forth between private prison corporations and state agencies that oversee them.