The Mississippi Department of Corrections should abolish its non-bid contracts and start a competitive bidding process to get better deals according to Keefe group. The company released the statement amid a review of prison systems after Christopher Epps, a former prisons commissioner, and businessman, Cecil McCrory, were accused of corruption charges. A five-member task force agreed on initial proposals to give to Governor Phil Bryant and legislators ahead of the legislative session. The two pleaded not guilty and awaited trial to begin in April 2017.
Andy Taggart, a lawyer co-chairing the task force, said that the recommendations should encourage transparency in government. The Department of Corrections currently has six no-bid contracts that require cancellation and later will be put up for competitive bids if the task force recommendation from the officials is accepted. One of the contracts is for The Keefe Group, in Missouri, to supply commissary services in Mississippi penitentiaries.
In a report by Prison Censorship, the Keefe Group officially began the supply of commissary services contract in 2008 after Centric Group, its parent company, bought G.T. Enterprises. Among the services offered are delivering candy bars to facilities and facilitating the transfer of money from loved ones to incarcerated inmates.
Bribery in Prison Service Delivery
Two Gainesville businessmen admitted to paying bribes to Keefe Commissary Officers, the St. Louis Company providing personal items and snacks to Florida’s prisoners. Former Corrections Secretary, James V. Crosby, accepted kickbacks from businesspeople looking to do business with the correctional facility. Crosby introduced the two businessmen, Edward Dugger and Joseph Deese, to Keefe executives who then offered them a percentage of the prison business.
The two men launched a company in 2004 to provide canteen services for persons visiting their loved ones housed in all Florida prisons. In return, Edward and Joseph paid the prisons officials monthly kickbacks ranging from $1,000- $13,000. They also paid Jack Donnelly, a former Keefe Commissary president and a Keefe executive $260,000 of the roughly $1.4 million a year they expected in sales.
Crosby and Clark were forced to resign as a result of the bribery investigations, but Keefe Commissary officials did not receive any corruption charges. Gainesville lawyer Gil Schaffnit, representing Deese, said that Keefe Commissary has powerful political connections.