Published on:

Florida Correctional Officer Convicted for Selling Contraband to Inmates at Private Prison

In Florida, bribery is a second degree felony crime. It is defined by giving or offering a public servant any unauthorized money or other benefit to get the public servant to do something, or fail to do something, within his/her official discretion as a public official. A person can be convicted of bribery by offering to bribe a public official even if the public official does not intend to follow through with the request or does not even have the ability to perform the request. Offering such a deal to the public official can be bribery even if it goes no further. Both sides of the equation can be convicted of bribery- the person making the offer and if applicable, the public servant who agrees to the unlawful request.

In a recent case case near Jacksonville, Florida, a corrections officer at a private prison was arrested for bribery for bringing contraband into the prison and selling it to inmates. The defendant did not defend the case by arguing he did not commit those acts; he argued that he could not be convicted of bribery because, as an employee of a private prison, he was not a “public servant” as required by the bribery statute.

The court agreed with the argument, but the defendant was convicted anyway. Since it was a private prison, his employer was a private company, even though the private prison had a contract with the state to operate the prison. Under the Florida law, a “public servant” is defined as an officer or employee of a state, county, municipal or special district agency or entity. The defendant did not fit into that definition. However, most likely due to the emergence of private prisons, Florida law includes a provision to cover this kind of situation. The Florida Correctional Privatization Act basically says that if the act would be a crime if committed at a state run prison, it is also a crime if committed at a private prison.

The criminal defense lawyer made a good argument to get the defendant out of the bribery statute but must not have known about the Correctional Privatization Act which brought the defendant back under the bribery law.