by Bob Sloan
Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 04:13:31 PM PST
I have been exposed to both prison and prison industry over my lifetime. I personally experienced what it's like to be falsely arrested and behind those fences and working in prison industries. Because of that I was open to questions posed by inmates working where I had once been. What I discovered is not only unbelievable, it is shocking and hard to stomach.
In 2002 I was unfortunate enough to have to return to Florida in response to an old probation case I had there in 1981. My attorney said no problem we'll go down and straighten this out and get you right back to Indiana. Well that fiasco lasted nearly two years and I was finally able to resolve the case and return to my home. I won't go into large detail on this, as it isn't important to the issues involved in this series.
What is important is that during my stay in the Florida correctional system waiting on the court to rule, I was assigned to work in the PRIDE prison industry at Union Correctional Institution. Thankfully I was only there for a brief few months before coming home, but that was enough time to be dumbfounded as to the products made, the private sector customers purchasing the products and other disquieting observances.
Bob Sloan's diary :: ::
Due to numerous requests here are links to the previous segments of Insourcing:
INSOURCING - A new concept about private sector job losses
INSOURCING-II-The Wheel of Money and Sorrow...
INSOURCING-III - Corporate Wheel of Profit Rolls On...
INSOURCING-IV - More Profits Through Monopolies...-
INSOURCING - The Real Reason your jobs MUST go to prison and what they do with the money saved...
INSOURCING - Why this Investigative series began...
INSOURCING - Florida Corruption Exposed
While there I began to ask questions about the industry and how they could sell prisoner made products to the public? My questions were not well received and the answers provided did nothing to dispel an uneasiness about the legality of what was going on.
The court finally ruled, the case ended and I was released and sent home. I immediately filed a civil case in Indiana's federal court for my false arrest (outdated and expired warrant) in '02 here in Indy on the Florida case. Due to the legal mix-up I had lost two businesses and we were out more than $35,000.00 in attorney fees - not to mention two years of my life wasted on a "mistake".
In mid 2004 while I was in the midst of litigating the false arrest case, I received letters from some of the inmates working in the PRIDE industry where I had briefly been. They were posing questions about the prison industry's PIE program. They were still being worked to manufacture goods for the private sector under the program and asked what the program was, knowing I had asked these same questions when I was among them. They also wanted to know if their work was legal and if it affected work on the outside.
These were good questions and as a prison rights activist (yes, I was that before and after my trip back to Florida), I began to research this PIE program and found it is actually the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) run by the federal government. That was easy enough to find out.
I discovered the program was run by the Bureau of Justice Assistance from within the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs. I copied down the contact information for the Bureau of Justice Assistance and sent off a cursory email, asking about the particulars of the program and information on products manufactured and possible impact upon private sector jobs. In response I got a brief email answer advising me that I would have to contact the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA) for information on the program.
The foregoing response left me scratching my head, wondering why I needed to contact a non-profit corporation for information on a government run program. Once I'd become nearly bald - from the scratching - I sent off a similar request to the NCIA. At the same time I visited the website operated by the NCIA and tracked down the actual PIECP program Overview and read it. That left me with more questions so I read the entire 1999 Final PIECP Guidelines and finally downloaded it to try and understand it. The formatting was all screwed up and it was difficult to determine where one topic ended and another began.
More confused by my reading and lack of comprehension about this PIECP I made copies of the guidelines and sent them to the prisoners who had contacted me. I explained what I knew about the program and that the information they had related to me in their letters was not exactly the way the program read. I asked them to provide more information and I'd find the time to look into it.
The next letter I got from these inmates in Floria advised that they had been "caught" in possession of the PIECP Guidelines by industry supervisors. Two of them were terminated for possession of contraband and a third had been suspended without pay for a week. The guidelines I'd sent were confiscated and destroyed.
Then I was really confused trying to understand how a federal program guideline used to work inmates could be considered "contraband" by prison authorities when found in possession of the workers. I contacted Florida authorities and was informed contraband was just about any item not issued by the state or on an approved list of items inmates were allowed to have in their possession.
I contacted PRIDE headquarters in Clearwater, Florida and asked them about the program. Again I was referred to the NCIA for answers to my questions. Okay, I was starting to get really uneasy as well as peeved at the difficulty I was having just getting reasonable questions answered.
Before contacting the NCIA a second time, I sat down and read the PIECP guidelines through and through - three times. From what I could determine there were nine mandatory criteria that had to be met prior to the start-up of any prison industry program. The state department of Corrections had to apply for "certification" in the program to participate and one factor that jumped off the page was the requirement that any inmate working for a prison industry under PIECP must be paid the prevailing wage for his/her labor! Okay...that was just not happening in PRIDE's industries. So I had a valid question of non-compliance. My wife and I both contacted the NCIA and explained that our reading of the document provided at their site informed that inmates in the program were to be paid the prevailing wage for their work. We explained that this was not happening in Florida and asked them to initiate a review of the program's operation in that state.
We received immediate and short responses. We were informed that a completed review of PRIDE's industries by the NCIA was performed in 2004 and they were in full compliance and paying the inmates the proper wage.
Before I could study on this disparity between the "official" finding and what I knew was going on - having been there for a brief period of time and seeing it first hand, I received a phone call from a businessman in Atlanta, Georgia. He had read some of the articles my wife had published about PRIDE on one of the activist sites and wanted to talk to her about a situation he was involved in with PRIDE. She turned the phone over to me and from that moment on, my life was completely changed - as well as all my preconceived knowledge about corporations and the U.S. prison situation in Toto.
The man who called me was the owner of a food processing business in Atlanta (ATL Industries). He had been approached by PRIDE marketing personnel in 2001 and informed he could double or triple his profits by partnering with PRIDE under the PIECP program and using inmate labor and PRIDE's facilities to process his bulk meat products. As a business owner, the prospect of increasing profits so substantially attracted ATL to further discuss the use of inmates in food processing. ATL was told that using inmates was legal under the PIECP laws and to participate they needed to transfer all of ATL's equipment to the Florida Food Industry location in Raiford, Florida. They would be required to provide the raw bulk meats, recipes, procedures and provide personnel to train the inmates and prison industry staff on the proper preparation and disclose company proprietary technology to PRIDE so the finished products would remain the same as those previously made in the private sector. In addition PRIDE needed a complete list of ATL's customers for purposes of shipping the finished goods.
PRIDE negotiated and in 2002 ATL moved all of their equipment to Florida and began operations under a contract with PRIDE. There were minor problems from the beginning, but that's to be expected when new partnerships were getting off the ground. ATL provided a supervisor to oversee the operations in Florida and for a while business progressed smoothly. ATL's gross sales of goods was approximately $20 million annually during this period.
After two years of the three year contract, ATL discovered several bookkeeping discrepancies and when they approached PRIDE about the matter, asking for an independent audit, ATL was thrown off the industry and prison property. PRIDE filed suit against ATLand claimed theyowed them money.
PRIDE seized all ATL equipment to offset their claim of money owed, they hired ATL's onsite supervisor away from ATL and continued to manufacture their products under ATL label and sold them to ATL's customer and client list as if the business was operating normally.
Trying to keep ATL open and liquid, the owner paid what amounted to extortion to get some of ATL's products released. At the same time he offered to post a non-refundable surety bond to guarantee PRIDE that if they were correct and ATL owed them money, they would get it. In the meantime he wanted his products to continue being made and shipped. PRIDE took the money he sent, refused to allow an audit or to accept the surety bond and instead went after the owner personally.
PRIDE's President, Jack Edgemon's son-in-law was involved with the food processing facility and once ATL was refused entry to the plant, he financed the formation of two for-profit corporations in Florida and picked the former ATL supervisor to head them both as President. The companies took the place of ATL and continued to operate and realize the profits that should have gone to ATL under the existing contract. They used the materials, raw bulk meats, packing and dry ingredients as well as the equipment belonging to ATL and kept the profits made.
I became aware of this in 2004 and went to work researching the situation, reading some of the court files available (PRIDE had secured a "gag order" in the civil case, so much of the information was unavailable.
In 2005 my research revealed that ATL was not the first private sector company to be taken over by PRIDE in the same manner. There was Fresh Nectar (a company partnered with PRIDE to process and ship citrus and fruit juices and citrus products), Man-Trans, llc (a company that refurbished transmissions and engines), Custom Converter Sales, Inc. (CCA refurbished transmission torque converters) and a second company that was also owned by the CCS, Valueline Converter, Inc. In each case PRIDE had done the same thing; partnered with the companies, requiring them to provide all of their equipment, stock, materials and unfinished products and technology to PRIDE and relocate behind prison fences. Once this was accomplished, within months PRIDE would throw the company owners off the property and instruct FDOC to not allow them back onto prison property, keeping the equipment, materials unfinished and finished products. PRIDE then continued the operations, selling the products to the customers of the private partners. PRIDE's attorney then filed suit alleging money owed and tied the companies up in court until the owners ran out of money to fight the legal battle (they all had no way of generating income as PRIDE had all of their equipment and stock).
I advised ATL and their attorney of the other companies and sent them documents demonstrating that this appeared to be a normal business practice of PRIDE.
During this same period 2004-2005, PRIDE came under investigation by the Florida Governor's IG office. The state wanted to audit PRIDE's books and PRIDE refused, arguing that as a private corporation they had no duty to open their books. After a long battle PRIDE was forced to allow the audit and in 2005 the IG issued a report that was scathing (Audit #2004-4). PRIDE had created nine illegal spin-off companies that was owned and operated by PRIDE Board members and/or PRIDE's CEO, Pam Davis, CFO Robert Smith or family members of the Board members. Money from these spin-offs was being dumped into a single account mixed in with the non-profit income of PRIDE. PRIDE's Board met and passed resolutions to loan these spin-offs as much as $37 million dollars (to themselves, really) with no loan repayment schedule or clauses. They then went to their spin-offs and received the money and paid themselves huge salaries, bonuses and in general used the money as they saw fit.
PRIDE then handed out no bid contracts to the spin-offs to do PRIDE's work and issued huge checks to the corporations for the "work". In the end, the CEO, President and several other PRIDE personnel were forced to resign their positions. The state of Florida did not pursue criminal action or inform the IRS of the manipulations by a registered 501 (C)(3) exempt corporation. PRIDE was forced to sever all ties to the spin-offs and reclaim the money paid out to those spin-offs. Of course, the money was gone, spent or otherwise dispersed prior to the report being issued. In the end PRIDE was able to recover less than $500K of the multi-millions it had loaned out.
In the next segment Friday, I will include links to the previous series and segments that preceded this one and will conclude the PRIDE saga and turn to the multiple violations occurring under PIECP and how the program participants are so easily able to take our jobs - and get away with it.
Happy Thanksgiving to all Americans. Enjoy your Holiday and I would ask that you add a little something in your saying of grace this year to include those who are away from friends and family overseas in our military - and sitting behind bars making the equipment the military uses. Thanks