August 6, 2012

Michigan Representative Introduces Prison Privatization Bill, Top Donor Is Private Prison Exec

Jon Bumstead

In Michigan, State Rep. Jon Bumstead (R) introduced a bill that would send the state back down the path of prison privatization. House Bill 1574 would re-open a private youth prison that was operated by GEO Group (then Wackenhut) that was shut down in 2005 and allow it to house adult inmates. The bill would once again give GEO the right to operate the prison.

This proposal has faced fierce protests from civil liberties and civil rights groups, which note that the prison was one of the most expensive to operate in the state when it was previously operated by GEO, and that it was also notorious for abuse of prisoners.

One thing that has not been significantly highlighted in the renewed debateover the bill is what factor other than sincere belief in the merits of private prisons may have motivated Bumstead. Nine days before he introduced the bill, he received a $500 contribution from Cloid Shuler, a GEO Group executive based in Florida. This makes Shuler tied with one other individual as Bumstead’s top individual donor, giving about 2 percent of his total campaign funds in this election cycle. Bumstead was recently asked about the contribution from Shuler. He replied, “they could have come to a fundraiser, I don’t know.” Considering that Shuler lives 1400 miles away, it would’ve been a long trip.

Although the bill has stalled in the legislature, Bumstead stands by it. He will, however, be facing a primary challenge on August 7th, where he will no doubt be using GEO Group’s money to try to keep himself in office.