Senate approves Hylton as marshal

Critics note ties to private prisons

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The Senate has confirmed President Obama’s pick for U.S. marshal despite opposition from criminal justice and watchdog groups upset about the nominee’s ties to the private prison industry.

Retiring U.S. Marshal John F. Clark said he welcomed Justice Department veteran Stacia M. Hylton’s appointment late Wednesday and called her a “dedicated public servant with 29 years of law enforcement in the Department of Justice.”

“In addition to serving as our nation’s federal detention trustee, she was a deputy U.S. marshal for 24 years and served in a variety of assignments, which gave her profound insight into the service’s operations,” he said in a statement after the confirmation by unanimous consent.

But Ms. Hylton ran into sharp opposition from watchdog groups who said her consulting work this year for the GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies, posed a conflict of interest.

The GEO Group has held tens of millions of dollars in contracts with the Marshals Service.

“The opposition coalition is disappointed, of course, that the Obama administration nominated Hylton despite her obvious conflicts of interest involving the private prison industry, which she will be overseeing as director of the U.S. Marshals and in contradiction to the president’s own ethics guidelines,” said Alex Friedmann, associate editor of Prison Legal News, one of the groups opposing the nomination.

“We continue to hope for change, but see only the same revolving door and conflicts of interest between public officials and private industry that benefits from federal contracts under the Obama administration,” he said.

Others critical of the Hylton nomination included the 1.6-million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the Alliance for Justice; the National Lawyers Guild; the Detention Watch Network; Grassroots Leadership; the Human Rights Defense Center; International CURE; the Justice Policy Institute; Public Citizen; and the Private Corrections Working Group.

Ms. Hylton was backed by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and the National Sheriffs’ Association.

During her confirmation hearing, Ms. Hylton said she had recused herself from conversations about the private prison industry and that federal ethics officials had cleared her recent consulting work for the GEO Group.

“I did follow all ethics requirements and regulations and worked closely with the ethics office,” she said.

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