JULY 05, 2006
The nation’s third-largest prison system has been plagued by scandal and corruption for years and now its top official, a governor appointee, has finally admitted that he took thousands of dollars in bribes from a state contractor over two years.
A wide-ranging investigation into rampant criminal activity among prison system employees found enough evidence to force James Crosby to resign as Florida’s Secretary of the Department of Corrections earlier this year, though he has maintained his innocence until this week. Crosby pleaded guilty to a federal charge of accepting kickbacks from a subcontractor and seven other prison employees have been charged in state court with theft and another with accepting bribes.
Crosby’s plea agreement will allow him to escape arrest, indictment, a hefty fine and even prison time (he could have faced 10 years in federal prison). Apparently it pays to have friends in high places, like the governor’s mansion. When Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced Crosby’s appointment with great fanfare in 2002, he said that he was “honored to have Jimmy join my leadership team” and “confident he will serve the citizens of Florida well.”
As Secretary of the Department of Corrections, Crosby was in charge of more than 26,000 employees that operate 128 prisons and 151 probation and parole offices statewide. Bush had no choice but to ask for his friend’s resignation earlier this year amid mounting evidence of criminal wrongdoing. In the final months of Crosby’s tenure, the department of corrections was scandal-plagued with arrests of drug-abusing prison guards, accusations of sexual assault and the bribery matter.
A report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded that Crosby tried to shut down an investigation into criminal activity among many employees in the prison system. One Florida newspaper wrote that Crosby’s administration was under federal and state scrutiny for nepotism, cronyism, steroid use, alleged misuse of inmate labor and state property, and employee clubs and vendors operating with little oversight while handling large amounts of cash.
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