Sheriff Ira Edwards, up for re-election this year, has raised $9,300 from bail bondsmen and contractors of the private prison industry.
Edward’s largest campaign donor is James Owens, owner of Double “O” Bonding company, who donated $2,000 in 2019.
In Georgia, corporations and PACs are allowed to give directly to candidates running for state or local office. In the past year, Edwards has received campaign contributions from a number of corporations which provide services for jails and Sheriff’s Offices, including Wellpath PAC ($600), Securus Technologies ($450), Global Tel Link ($600) and Apps Auburn ($600).
Securus Tech and Global Tel Link are two of the largest providers of telephone services to inmates in the country. Both companies have contracts with the Sheriff’s Office currently. Both have also been criticized by prison reform advocates for charging inmates exorbitant rates and for providing kickbacks to local governments who use their services. Securus Tech’s current contract, which expires next year, pays back 80% of the fees it charges for inmates’ calls to Athens-Clarke County, something which has been criticized by local progressive group Athens for Everyone.
Beyond criticism for its exorbitant fees and kickbacks, Global Tel Link faced an accusation in 2017 that it, along with about a dozen other companies, bribed former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps in exchange for contracts awarded by the state. The company settled this lawsuit by paying the state of Mississippi $2.5 million, although they admitted no wrongdoing.
Edwards has also accepted the following donations over the years:
- $1,000 from Derek Strickland, CEO of Legacy Commissary Services (another prison contractor)
- $500 from Nathan Owens, owner of Liberty Bonding
- $250 from the VP of Cash Bond Online (a jail bond payment company)
- $250 from John Elliot, owner of Aaron Bonding company
- $500 from a sales representative of Cash Bond Online
- $500 from John Elliot, owner of Aaron Bonding company
- $750 from Five Point Solutions (a company who first received a contract with the ACC Probation Office in 2012 and is still employed by that agency)
- $300 from John Elliot, owner of Aaron Bonding company
Campaign finance records from January show that Edwards had raised $51,500, with $27,590 of that saved from previous election cycles when he did not have an opponent.
This election, Edwards is not so fortunate: two candidates have filed to challenge him, one Republican and one Democrat. Robert Hare is running on the Republican side; he’s a former deputy of Edwards’. Edwards is also facing a challenge in the Democratic primary from ACCPD Sergeant John Q Williams.
Williams himself had raised just slightly over $2,500 as of January 31, none of it from prison contractors or bail bondsmen. Hare has not yet filed a campaign financial disclosure.
Sheriff Edwards was not available for comment on this story.