Friday, April 29, 2011

GEO Group and the Big Prison industry

What happens if you privatize prisons is that you have a large industry with a vested interest in building ever-more prisons.” -- Molly Ivins (Pulitzer prize-winning Reporter and author), 2003

I have never cared much for the stock market. I am usually more concerned with ERAs than IRAs, and Fox Sports than Fox Business. However, two things piqued my sudden interest in that otherwise dull subject: crooked lobbyist Ron Book lobbying for expanding private prisons in South Florida, and seeing billboards in Texas advertising for GEO Group.

What is GEO Group? GEO Group, once known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, is a private prison business. A for-profit industry. A private prison with stock you can buy. Amazingly enough, GEO Group's stock is actually on par or higher than many other high-profile companies that many of us actually use every day:

Stock Quotes as of April 29, 2011
GEO Group, Private Prison Industry -- 26.68
GE, Appliance and mechanics industry -- 20.45
Pfizer, Prescription drugs -- 20.97
Ford, car maker -- 15.47
Microsoft, computer software -- 25.92
Yahoo! Search engine -- 17.46
Kroger, grocery stores -- 24.31
(as an aside, GEO is beating Corrections Corporation of America, its larger rival -- 24.89)

Interestingly, GEO Group's stock jumped significantly from about 5.00 back in 2003, spiked over 30.00 in late 2007, dropped as low as 14.00 in 2009, and now it is nearly at 30.00 again as of writing this article.

What's the big deal about privatizing prisons? You ask? Think about that quote by Molly Ivins.

First off, in any industry, there are businesses available that compete for your money. Now, I admit economics is not my forte. However, I know that Wal-Mart has been given a reputation of being the big bully company that wipes out small town businesses and imposing a monopoly in many small towns across the USA. GEO Group is growing. It has acquired Correctional Service Corporation in 2005, Cornell Corrections in 2010, and Behavioral Interventions (an electronic monitoring company) in 2011.

Being the lowest bidder generally means cutting corners. GEO Group has amassed over half a million in fines alone while maintaining a severely understaffed facility and paying guards just a cut above minimum wage. There have been been numerous complaints of inmate abuse and poor conditions in the private prisons, but since they are "just prison inmates, who cares, right? Getting back to Ron Book's South Florida, when GEO Group was known as Wackenhut, the state was overcharged by millions, which all came out of taxpayer wallets. In fact, the former Florida head of Wackenhut was recently arrested for racketeering. Considering Ron Book's track record of corruption and controversy, it is no surprise he lobbies for such a group. What's next? Maybe he'll represent the Bad News Bengals next.

Who cares, right? Think about it. The US has the largest prison population in the world in terms of numbers and per capita rates. An astounding 3.1% of adults in the US have criminal records, and one out of every 99 US adults are incarcerated right now. It is little wonder why prison is a big industry; after in, in many states, spending on prisons compete or exceed the funding for education. Most of these people are going to get out only to be socially ostracized to the point where committing crimes become almost a necessary survival component. There is no incentive to rehabilitate the offender, because no repeat customers is bad for the industry. You merely make a prisoner a better criminal. That, my friends, is Capitalism at its finest.

Feel free to check out the following sites for more on the pitfalls of privatization of the prison system:

As an aside, I wonder why the USA only tends to rank high on the bad stats. We are getting beat in many positive areas by European nations. Norway's prisons are so much unlike America's prisons. I wonder why Norway's crime rate is so much lower than ours. Could it be tough on crime is backfiring?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mismatch dot com: How Carole Markin hoodwinked America

I have been writing constantly over the past few years about how when you put the words "sex" and "offender" side by side, it kills any rationality of otherwise rational people. The recent story of Carole Markin is just another prime example of this example. Markin was formerly known as the "Jane Doe" in the lawsuit claiming the man she met online sexually assaulted her, and later discovered he was on the sex offender registry. It came as no surprise amidst the usual "kill/castrate/banish all sex offenders" comments was the typical fear mongering over internet predation. As a result, announced it will match new and existing customers against the national sex offender registry. saves face, crisis is averted, customers feel safer, and Carole Markin raises awareness of another fear. Case closed, right? Not hardly.,0

I always wondered why the accuser in the lawsuit was listed as a "Jane Doe" but announced she was a Hollywood executive. So the moment she revealed herself as Carole Markin, I was interested enough to run a Google search on her. I was amazed at what popped up. The first thing I found was a press release written by Markin herself:

Information contained on this page is provided by companies via press release distributed through PR Newswire, an independent third-party content provider. PR Newswire, WorldNow and this Station make no warranties or representations in connection therewith.
SOURCE Carole Markin
NEW YORK, April 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Media Giants -- HMR -- The "Hollywood executive Jane Doe" in the Jane Doe v. civil suit [L.A. Superior Court Case BC458927], took a very heroic step forward this morning, as she appeared unmasked while revealing her identity on NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America." Jane Doe's real name is Carole Markin. Ms. Markin, a Harvard College graduate, is a former executive, a film and TV producer, screenwriter and published author. She asserts she was brutally sexually assaulted by another member named Alan Paul Wurtzel, who had been convicted six separate times for sexual battery. Felony charges against Mr. Wurtzel are pending in Los Angeles Superior Court [Case # BA373188]. Today, Ms. Markin is being hailed widely as the "Erin Brockovich of Online Dating" for her valor and key role in's purported move to begin checking existing and new subscribers against the national sex offender registry within the next 60-90 days.

I thought comparing herself to Erin Brockovich was ironic, since the movie conjures images of Julia Roberts in a push-up bra using sexuality to advance her career (which is somewhat true, as Erin was a former beauty queen). Brockovich is also a shameless self promoter. Says Brockovich of herself:

Say the name Erin Brockovich and you think, strong, tough, stubborn and sexy. Erin is all that and definitely more. She is a modern-day “David” who loves a good brawl with today’s “Goliaths”.

Must just be the norm in Hollywood. At any rate, I also found it interesting that she put a resume in a press release:

About Carole Markin
Carole Markin is a producer, screenwriter and author with more than 20 years experience in entertainment. Ms. Markin served as producer on "Accumulations" and associate producer on the series pilot "Trying Times," both directed by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme. Her film, "From Harlem to Harvard," which she produced and co-directed, won a Cable Ace Award and an NEA grant. Her work in television also included the role of Manager of National Program Development for KCET. From 1989 to 1991 Ms. Markin held the titles of Vice President and then President of the Independent Feature Project/West and was also Chairman of the "Spirit Awards" nominating committee. Ms. Markin is creator and executive producer of a reality series currently optioned by Conrad Riggs, which is being sold internationally and set up in China, as a joint venture. Markin is a Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard College. She earned her MBA at the Anderson School at UCLA. Ms. Markin was also a directing fellow at the American Film Institute.

It is funny with all those "accolades" her work as an author was glossed over. I'm curious about her reality show, but there isn't much info on it yet. However, she has two books out in the market. Both focus on stories about dates from hell--Bad Dates: Celebrities and other talented types reveal their worst nights out, and a sequel, More Bad Dates: And Other Tales of the Dark Side of Love. It seems a little too coincidental if you ask me. Maybe I'm missing something here but how many rich Hollywood types both with internet dating? I hate to speak ill of internet dating, but most people use it out of desperation.

While she attributes the revelations of Wurtzel's identity via a Google search, he is NOT listed on the public sex offender registry. It is odd that Markin claimed on the Today Show that now she got the info through the LA Sheriff's Office rather than the Google search (CA Megan's law does not list low-level offenders publicly). Then she mentioned she didn't have his full name later in the Today show interview. How did she Google him without a full name? There are a lot of holes in her testimony.

Markin does mention a LA Sheriff's Office investigation as a reason for not stepping forward sooner, yet the LA Sheriff's Office has made a habit of sending press releases requesting info leading to conviction of those accused of sex crimes.

A friend of mine raised a good point with me yesterday--why was she really going by a Jane Doe in the first place? Markin claims it was because of the ongoing LA Sheriff's Department investigation, yet the early reports already shed light on the accuser's background as a "Hollywood Executive." Perhaps she knew the skepticism would have come sooner if we all knew she writes stories of bad dates and is trying to get a reality show. It still reeks of Erin Brockovich-like self-promotion.

Her testimony is suspect at best. There should be an investigation into her as much as Wurtzel just to be fair. While the media is slowly revealing this information to the public, it seems modern journalism has skipped the old tenants of the trade-- check the facts, rechecking them, and after that is done check them a third time. To Markin's credit, however, it is amazing what a simple Google search can reveal about a person. In this case, two people with a questionable history.

More info on false accusations from the "Erin Brockovich of sex offender laws":