Keefe Group, which began in 1975, is a subsidiary of the Centric Group LLC, and through its many affiliate companies, it is responsible for the provision of various services to correctional facilities across the country ranging from supplying food products to clothing to personal care products, and much more. The company is also responsible for processing inmate deposits, handling of debit cards and inmate trust funds, and selling of music players to inmates.
In many of these services, the company has exclusive rights to them, and its contracts were awarded and renewed severally through no-bid contracts. Incidentally, this is what led to the resignation and eventual indictment of Commissioner Chris Epps and Cecil McCrory. Epps was accused of awarding McCrory’s company, G.T. Enterprises, a no-bid contract in 2007 to provide inmate commissary services in 2007. He also renewed the contract severally during the course of the next few years. The Keefe Group acquired the G.T. Enterprises company in 2008 after buying it from its owner McCrory and hence receiving the contract as well.
The commissary system allows inmates to receive money from their friends and families and order essential items which are delivered to after a few days. The company has turned this into a lucrative business by hiking the prices of the things to get a specific commission on them and retaining some of the money intended to be for the inmates as a policy. This has made the items to be costly, and families of the inmates are feeling the pinch as the cost is burdensome and some have even complained to the courts.
A five-member task force sat and came up with some recommendations to make sure the practice does not continue in the future. They suggested that correction departments should replace all no-bid contracts with competitive contracts. They also proposed that any vendor with a state agency contract would have to file a disclosure form bearing the name of any consultant that assisted them to get the contract and any amount paid to them. State agencies would then be required to post on a public website requests for bids and also state reasons why it awarded a contract to a particular vendor. With the implementation of these recommendations, it is expected that monopoly by companies such as Keefe Group, and instances of bribery in awarding of contracts will be significantly reduced.