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PLN associate editor quoted in article re campaign against US Marshals nominee Hylton

Washington Times, Jan. 1, 2010.
PLN associate editor quoted in article re campaign against US Marshals nominee Hylton - Washington Times 2010

Watchdog groups rip marshals nominee

Conflict of interest issue raised as an objection

By Jim McElhatton
The Washington Times

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Eight prominent human rights and prison industry watchdog groups Tuesday announced their opposition to U.S. Marshal nominee Stacia Hylton, a longtime Justice Department veteran who recently worked as a consultant to one of the nation's largest private prison companies.

The organizations raised conflict of interest charges concerning Ms. Hylton's consulting work earlier this year for the Florida-based GEO Group, which has held of millions of dollars in contracts with the Marshals Service.

"It is extremely worrisome that Ms. Hylton is nominated for a position where she would be directly involved in overseeing contracts with private prison companies to house federal detainees, given her cozy relationship with the private prison industry and her acceptance of funding from the GEO Group through her consulting work," said Ken Kopczynski, director of the Private Corrections Working Group, a nonprofit watchdog group.

Citing a report last month by The Washington Times, the groups pointed out Ms. Hylton's acceptance of $112,500 in consulting fees from the GEO Group after leaving her post earlier this year as federal detention trustee.

"This is a prime example of the revolving door between the public and for-profit private sectors turning full circle," said Alex Friedmann, associate editor of Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center that reports on criminal justice issues.

"After cashing in on her experience in public law enforcement by taking a consulting job with GEO Group, Ms. Hylton has now been nominated for a high-level federal position where she will oversee detention services for the U.S. marshals, including services provided by private prison firms such as GEO," he said.

The organizations plan to discuss their concerns with the White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee. They said neither the White House nor the GEO Group responded to their questions about Ms. Hylton's relationship with the company. Among the organizations opposing the nomination are the Alliance for Justice, the National Lawyers Guild, International Cure, the Detention Watch Network, Grassroots Leadership and the Justice Policy Institute.

Last month, a White House official said Ms. Hylton would not require a waiver from Mr. Obama's ethics rules, which bar appointees for two years from working on matters involving recent clients. So far, more than two dozen high-level appointees have been given full or partial waivers.

"After review, it was determined ... she could easily be recused from participating in particular matters in which that client was a party," said the official. "This recusal, along with the Obama administration's ethics pledge and other ethics restrictions, will ensure that she can serve ably and effectively as director of the U.S. Marshals Service."

Ms. Hylton wasn't working as an employee of the company, but provided services to GEO Group through her consulting company, Virginia-based Hylton Kirk & Associates. GEO Group was the only client on her financial disclosure form, for whom she said she did "consulting services for detention matters, federal relations and acquisitions and mergers" from March through July of this year.

Marshals Service contracts generate an important source of revenue for the GEO Group.

Ms. Hylton has supporters, including the National Sheriff's Association, which told the Judiciary Committee of her "extraordinary qualifications, experience and expertise."

Ms. Hylton said if she is confirmed, her consulting firm would remain dormant except to comply with any legal and tax requirements while it's inactive. She also said $105,000 in annual retirement pay would end upon her appointment.