Heartless Hotel

Prison Contracts and Homeless Crisis Built Empire

Securities and Exchange Commission records show that Banks, a key Brooklyn political operative, was paid $222,000 by the corrections company in 1993—even more than the firm's president. After his indictment on state charges for taking monies from charities (he was later acquitted), Banks became a consultant to the firm, in charge—as described in SEC records—of "developing and implementing community relations." His compensation—pegged to the amount of business the firm did in New York State—continued to soar. SEC documents show that he hauled in $296,000 in 1996, $239,000 in '97, and $300,000 in '98.

During those years, the corrections company expanded its network of allies in Brooklyn and the Bronx, where it operated another halfway house. Frank Chris Jackson, a former Democratic district leader in Brooklyn's Fort Greene and ex-chairman of the local school board, served as the firm's liaison to Albany. Jackson was a constant presence in Albany, according to legislators, focusing his attention on assembly members Davis and Roger Green of Brooklyn, as well as former state senator and current City Council member Larry Seabrook. Jackson vanished from the scene, however, after his arrest on sex charges in the Dominican Republic—charges that were later dismissed.

Workers on the picket line at the Washington Jefferson have been closely following the breaking news on their employer's prison company. "It doesn't surprise us that he is big in prisons," said Mauro Arcos, a worker who was fired after trying to form the union. "It's how they treat their workers, too."

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