Report on conflicted campaign contributions names Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri

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The D.C. watchdog group, Common Cause, and Communities for Sheriff Accountability released “The Paid Jailer: How Sheriff Campaign Dollars Shape Mass Incarceration.” The report is the culmination of one year of research, documenting 48 sheriffs across eight states. Donations they say are ethically conflicted, often came from businesses that stand to gain from elections.

Beth Roman, director of money, politics and ethics for Common Cause, says this system encourages higher incarceration.

“This is a system that has incentivized jailing more people,” Rotman says, “and giving enormous contracts, including healthcare contracts and contracts to build more jails and contracts for health care that provide inadequate care.”

Deaths under G4S supervision

The report highlights Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and the company G4S contracted to transport inmates. G4S is a Florida-based para-military private security firm that donates to Guiltier through the Wackenhut PAC. The company’s late founder George Wackenhut was a former FBI agent. In 2013, G4S transported inmate Thomas Morrow, who was beaten by another Pinellas inmate during transport until he went into a coma and later died.

Max Rose, one of the reports researchers, spoke more about Gualtieri.

“G4S does transportation for Sheriff Gualtieri between the jail and the courthouse,” Rose said. “And at least two people have died in their custody under really suspect circumstances.”

Gualtieri gets donations from G4S

Image of G4S transport after Morrow was attacked in 2013. Credit: Pinellas County Sheriff Department

A 2019 USA Today interview with Morrow’s wife Sharon notes that she holds the company and police responsible for her husband’s death. During last year’s elections, Wackenhut PAC donated $1,000 to Gualtieri’s campaign and $5,000 to a supporting committee. That’s after another Pinellas inmate, Luis Nieves, died under G4S supervision in 2018. Rose says that didn’t stop Gualtieri from contracting with them again.

Thomas Morrow in a coma before his death after being attacked under G4S care in 2013. Credit: USA Today

“So despite very questionable conduct, reports that have not been released or made transparent,” Rose said. “From what we can tell G4S remains under the employee of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.”

Sheriff Gualtieri declined to comment for this story. To learn more about the report, visit thepaidjailer.org.

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