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This site contains over 2,000 news articles, legal briefs and publications related to for-profit companies that provide correctional services. Most of the content under the "Articles" tab below is from our Prison Legal News site. PLN, a monthly print publication, has been reporting on criminal justice-related issues, including prison privatization, since 1990. If you are seeking pleadings or court rulings in lawsuits and other legal proceedings involving private prison companies, search under the "Legal Briefs" tab. For reports, audits and other publications related to the private prison industry, search using the "Publications" tab.

For any type of search, click on the magnifying glass icon to enter one or more keywords, and you can refine your search criteria using "More search options." Note that searches for "CCA" and "Corrections Corporation of America" will return different results. 


Articles about Private Prisons

Justice Department and GEO Group Challenge California’s Ban on Private Prison and Detention Facilities

Signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2019, A.B. 32 bars any entity with a prison, jail or detention facility in the state from signing or extending a contract for its operation with a private firm after January 1, 2020. It also prohibits the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) from entering into any new contract to house prisoners outside of the state in privately operated detention facilities. However, the law allows exemptions necessary to comply with a court-ordered population cap.

According to the DOJ complaint, five of eight exceptions provided for in A.B. 32 apply only to California’s contracts and not to those entered into by the U.S. government. They cover facilities that:

• provide services to a juvenile pursuant to a state juvenile court order;

• provide mental health evaluation or treatment to a person under a state court commitment order;

• ...

Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign Files Suit Seeking to Sever University’s Financial Ties With Prison Industrial Complex

On February 25, 2020, student members of the Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign (HPDC) filed suit in the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County, Massachusetts, seeking to force the university to divest its charitable trust investments from entities that directly or indirectly profit from the “prison-industrial complex” (PIC) – a sprawling group of privately owned firms that provide management and staffing, as well as food and health services to American prisons and jails.

Prompted by a similar student action in 2015, New York City’s Columbia University became the first American institution of higher education to restrict its PIC investments. Since then, the University of California system, Georgetown University, and more than a dozen other prominent universities have followed suit.

With nearly $40 billion invested, Harvard University holds the nation’s largest endowment for a learning institution. Students have been able to uncover specifics related only to about $400 million of that amount, but it includes at least $3 million invested in an equity fund that owns shares in the country’s two largest private prison operators, Florida-based GEO Group, Inc. and Tennessee-based CoreCivic, with 2019 revenues of $2.48 billion and $1.98 billion, respectively.

“Both my own parents have been incarcerated,” ...

Eleventh Circuit Holds Trafficking Victims Protection Act Applies to CoreCivic “Voluntary Work Program”

Plaintiffs Wilhen Hill Barrientos, Margarito Velazquez-Galicia, and Shoaib Ahmed are current and former immigration detainees who were held at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, a facility owned and operated by CoreCivic as an immigration detention facility under contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE requires CoreCivic to follow the Performance-Based National Detention Standards, one of which requires that it offer detainees an opportunity to participate in a “voluntary work program.” The standards allow detention centers to require detainees to “maintain their immediate living areas in a neat and orderly manner,” but specifically states that they “shall not be required to work” and that all other work assignments are voluntary.

The plaintiffs filed a federal complaint alleging the “voluntary work program” at Stewart was anything but voluntary. They alleged CoreCivic coerced detainees into performing labor by “the use or threatened use of serious harm, criminal prosecution, solitary confinement, and ...

ACLU Files Lawsuit Against CoreCivic Prison in Arizona over COVID-19 Failures

by Dale Chappell

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a federal lawsuit against a private prison run by CoreCivic in Florence, Arizona, claiming that staff has failed to protect its prisoners and the community from the coronavirus, according to a story in The Appeal and court records.

According to papers filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on May 9, 2020, CoreCivic has made it impossible for prisoners to adhere to state-mandated “social distancing” because of overcrowding, failed to properly quarantine prisoners suspected of having the coronavirus and new prisoners coming into the prison, failed to test prisoners who have shown symptoms for coronavirus, lied to prisoners about there being no COVID-19 cases in the prison, refused to give prisoners masks and made them share masks, and continues to use prison labor to run CoreCivic’s factory without any precautions.

The five prisoners who filed the lawsuit said they have numerous medical conditions putting them at high risk of death from COVID-19. Some also have cancer that CoreCivic has left untreated since their incarceration months ago, putting them at further risk of serious illness. Some of the prisoners are sitting in jail on minor charges, ...

Orleans Parish Sheriff, Wellpath, Sued Over Louisiana Jail Prisoner’s Fatal Overdose

by Matt Clarke

The mothers of three children of a prisoner who died of an overdose of fentanyl while incarcerated at the Orleans Justice Center, the Parish’s jail, have filed a lawsuit against employees of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office (OPSO) and Wellpath (the jail’s contract provider of prisoner medical and mental health services), alleging they caused the prisoner’s death.

According to court documents, Edward Patterson was arrested on attempted murder charges in January 2015 and booked into the jail. On November 26, 2018, while still at the jail awaiting trial, he engaged in “abnormal behavior” after he was seen smoking an “unknown substance” and was taken to University Medical Center. By the time he arrived at the hospital, he had stopped displaying symptoms, so he was returned to the jail and to the same tier where he had obtained the drugs.

Five days later, another prisoner told jail staff that Patterson was unconscious on the floor of his cell. Instead of calling an ambulance, staff administered naproxen and performed CPR for a half-hour. Finally, they summoned emergency medical transportation. It was too late. He was pronounced dead after arriving at the hospital.

Aided by Metairie, Louisiana attorneys Wesley J. ...

NaphCare, Oregon Jail’s Private Healthcare Provider, Required to Disclose Records in Detox Death Suit

by Mark Wilson

An Oregon federal court in January 2020 compelled NaphCare, Inc., the private medical care provider for the Washington County Jail (WCJ) in Hillsboro, to disclose lawsuits and financial records in a wrongful death action stemming from the June 2017 detox death of a detainee.

County officials terminated a jail health-care contract begun in 1998 with Corizon Health, Inc., following a $10 million damage award against the county and the Tennessee-based firm for the 2014 withdrawal-related death of a jail detainee. [PLN, May 2019, p.35]. Since then, the contract has been awarded to Alabama-based NaphCare, Inc., a private, family-owned company providing health care to more than 80,000 prisoners in 53 city and county jails and federal prisons throughout the nation.

On June 25, 2017, Dale Thomsen was booked into the WCJ, and NaphCare registered nurse Kathy Dement conducted an intake medical screening. She did not identify any signs of alcohol abuse or possible detox, court records show. But that evening Tammy Thamsen, wife of the 58-year-old, called the jail to warn that her husband had previously suffered a brain injury and currently suffered from a seizure disorder and alcoholism.

Tammy Thomsen made additional attempts to warn ...

Texas Attorney General Finds GEO Documents Are Public Information

On May 1, 2020, the Texas Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion holding that all records related to a private prison contractor’s operations in the state were public information subject to the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA). The opinion bars an effort by the GEO Group to shield some of its Texas records from scrutiny by the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), the Florida-based nonprofit that publishes PLN and its sister publication, Criminal Legal News.

In January 2020, TPIA was amended with language to clarify that “public information” from a “government body” includes records from a “confinement facility operated under a contract with any division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice” (Texas Government Code § 552.003(l)(A)(xii)).

HRDC filed its request February 6, 2020, seeking information on any payments totaling at least $1,000 that GEO Group had made since 2010 on claims or lawsuits related to its operation in the state, now totaling more than a dozen jails and prisons.

But GEO Group refused the to honor the request for records predating the 2020 TPIA amendment, arguing that before that time it was not considered a government body and so it did not have to comply with ...

Former CoreCivic Nurse in Colorado Claims Sex Discrimination, Retaliation After Filing Complaint About Poor Medical Care

A former CoreCivic nurse who worked at the private, for-profit company’s Bent County Jail in Colorado filed a federal lawsuit March 18, 2020, claiming sex discrimination by her supervisors after she filed complaints about the lack of medical care to prisoners.

CoreCivic workers at the Bent County Jail go by pseudonyms to protect their identity. When it was revealed that Danette Karapetian, who went by “DJ,” was using her old stage name from when she was a Hawaiian Tropic bikini model 25 years ago, her supervisor harassed her about it, her lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado says. Within the next four months, nurse Supervisor Angie Turner reportedly set on a path to get Karapetian fired, and when that happened she sued.

Karapetian’s lawsuit raised three inter-related issues that she says were the bases for her termination: (1) “sex discrimination” by supervisors; (2) “retaliation for engaging [in] protected activity in opposition to sex discrimination”; and (3) “wrongful discharge in violation of public policy” after Karapetian filed complaints about poor medical care at the jail.

The first claim stemmed from Turner’s admission to coworkers that she was “angered and upset” about Karapetian’s ...

GEO Jail in New York City Sees Rapid Spread of Coronavirus

A GEO Group-run jail in Queens, New York City, saw coronavirus cases surge in the facility in May 2020.

The 222-bed medium/minimum-security federal Queens Detention Facility, New York City’s only privately run jail, reported 25 prisoners and 10 staff members tested positive for the virus, according to the Queens Daily Eagle in an April 15, 2020 report. It cited a “court-ordered report” issued April 15 by GEO Group.

Meanwhile, at the nearby state-run Queensboro Correctional Facility, Leonard Carter, 60, died on April 14 of complications of COVID-19 just six weeks from his scheduled release date. His passing renewed calls to release more prisoners from the jail.

 “It is a horrifying and preventable tragedy that Leonard Carter passed away from COVID-19 a mere six weeks from his release date and having been already granted parole,” said Katie Schaffer, director of advocacy and organizing at the Center for Community Alternatives. “For those within a year of release and those — like Mr. Carter — who have already been granted parole, there is no legitimate argument for making people complete these sentences, only a hunger for maximum punishment that will increase the death toll of this pandemic.”

GEO Group, which reported $2.48 billion in revenue last year, ...

CoreCivic Detention Center Demanded Detainees Sign Liability Release to Receive Masks

by David M. Reutter

Detainees at CoreCivic’s Otay Mesa Detention Center (OMDC) in California were enthusiastic when told they would be issued face masks to protect themselves from COVID-19. The mood changed quickly when employees conditioned that issuance on the signing of a contract that held CoreCivic “harmless” from wearing the mask.

OMDC holds immigration detainees for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and criminal defendants for the U.S. Marshals Service. As of April 11, 2020, at least 16 detainees at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19. One of those was a woman in “A” pod, which holds immigration detainees.

The women in that pod had been anxious to protect themselves, and made handmade face masks with rubber bands, panty-liners, and cut-up T-shirts. The detainees complained they lacked personal protective equipment and soap to wash their hands, so when they learned they were being issued facemasks, it was seen as good news.

Then, however, CoreCivic’s profitability took precedence over protecting the detainees from a deadly disease. Prior to passing out the masks, the unit manager handed out contracts written in English, telling the women they must sign before they were issued a mask.

The document included a section saying ...