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BOP Official Who Ordered More Prisoners Sent to Private Prisons Hired by GEO Group

by Scott Grammer

Frank Lara was the Assistant Director of the Correctional Programs Division for the federal Bureau of Prisons when, on January 24, 2018, he sent a memo to all Chief Executive Officers of the BOP. The memo required them to “submit eligible inmates ... for transfer consideration to private contract facilities.” 

The prisoners to be moved to the private prisons had to be male, non-U.S. citizens with good health and low security classifications, with 90 months or less left on their sentences. More specific criteria were included for prisoners to be sent to one specific prison: the Rivers Correctional Institution in North Carolina, owned and operated by GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies.

Shortly before Lara’s memo was issued, the BOP warned facility administrators that there would soon be a 12 to 14 percent reduction in federal prison staffing levels, meaning a projected loss of some 5,000 to 6,000 jobs. But Lara didn’t have to worry about his own job. By August 2018 he had retired from his position and gone to work for GEO Group; he is now the company’s Director of Operations, according to his profile.

Prior to issuing the private prison memo, Lara and other BOP officials had attended a conference hosted by the American Correctional Association that was sponsored in part by GEO Group and other private prison firms. Travel expenses for the BOP attendees amounted to $153,000.

Eric Young, president of the union that represents BOP guards, was quoted as saying Lara’s employment with GEO was “The biggest damn conflict of interest that I’ve ever seen.”