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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

Wexford Handbook Warns That Illinois Prisoners “Can Be Very Manipulative”

A “Provider Handbook” for “Physicians, Psychiatrists, Dentists, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants” employed in Illinois state prisons by Wexford Health Sources warns that “[i]nmates can be very manipulative,” so healthcare workers are advised to “[n]ever take anything from or bring anything to an inmate.”

“Do not authorize special privileges,” the handbook continues. “Anything that raises a question about inmate relationships should be discussed with your healthcare unit administrator, or the responsible assistant warden.”

The handbook would have remained hidden from public view if Wexford had its way, but the firm lost a 2021 motion to seal the handbook after it was admitted in evidence as part of a prisoner’s lawsuit filed in federal court for the Southern District of Illinois. See: Russell v. Wexford Health Sources, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6340 (S.D. Ill.).

Wexford holds the contract to provide healthcare to the state Department of Corrections (DOC) and the 29,245 people it held at the end of June 2023. After collecting over $1 billion in payments, the firm’s 10-year contract expired in 2021, but DOC continues to extend it, despite a federal class-action that led to a 2019 consent decree—amended in June 2022—mandating improvements in prisoner healthcare. [See: PLN, Jan. ...

After Spate of Deaths, Vermont Contracts Prisoner Healthcare to Wellpath – Again

Vermont’s Department of Corrections (DOC) announced in April 2023 that Wellpath LLC would replace VitalCore Health Strategies to provide healthcare in state prisons. Wellpath corporate predecessor Correct Care Solutions (CCS) held the contract from 2010 to 2015. Then Centurion took over until 2018, after which CCS/Wellpath returned, only to be replaced in 2020 with VitalCore. The latest spin on this merry-go-round is costing DOC, too; its new $33,799,902 annual contract with Wellpath is $13 million more than the state was paying VitalCore.

The last time the state dropped CCS/Wellpath, the firm was blamed for the 2018 death of prisoner Andrew Leighton, 51, whose fatal asthma and sepsis was treated by medical staffers with nothing more than antibiotics and ibuprofen, as PLN reported. [See: PLN, Mar. 2022, p.1.]

So why is the state going back to the healthcare profiteer yet again?

Perhaps because so many prisoners are dying that it has to do something. Just before DOC announced the new contract, on March 14, 2023, Alexander Kelley, 34, was found unresponsive in his cell at Southern State Correctional Facility. A half-hour later, after lifesaving efforts failed, he was pronounced dead. State police said that “Kelley’s health was being monitored,” but no ...

Tennessee Private Prison Gets State’s First LGBTQ+ Group

As reported in Filter Magazine on July 26, 2023, Tennessee’s South Central Correctional Facility (SCCF) has become the birthplace of “Be the Change” (BTC), the first known openly LGBTQ+ community in any of the state’s 14 prisons.

A private medium-security prison operated for the state Department of Corrections (DOC) by CoreCivic, SCCF is where prisoner Tavaria Merritt came out as gay in 2014. At once she became aware of the harms faced by queer and trans prisoners – targeted by both prison gangs and staff. In a letter, Merritt outlined her vision of a safe and accepting community for LGBTQ+ prisoners and distributed 100 copies, sparking the birth of BTC.

The group now counts 60 members, though it operates informally since CoreCivic does not permit prisoner-led organizations. Partnership with Unitarian Universalists allows BTC to secure regular meeting slots in the chapel, where members get LGBTQ+ updates, opinion talks and life skills programs. There are also support groups for trans prisoners and harm reduction classes, the latter vital due to the prevalence of drugs.

Merritt credits the group’s collective strength for recognition from gang leaders in the prison, allowing for conflict resolution between the groups. She also said that staff had ...

Wexford Faces Liability for Indiana Prisoner’s Delayed Specialist Referral

by David M. Reutter

On March 3, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana only partly granted a motion for summary judgment filed by prison medical profiteer Wexford Health Sources, Inc. and its employees in a state prisoner’s civil rights action over a nearly three-year delay in providing specialty care for his painful skin lesions.

Kenneth Zamarron sought redress from Wexford and its subsidiary, Wexford of Indiana, LLC, the contracted medical provider at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (WVCF), along with Wexford employees Dr. Samuel Byrd and two nurses, Kim Hobson and Amy Wright. Proceeding under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he alleged they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of his Eighth Amendment guarantee of freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

Zamarron’s pro se petition said he saw Dr. Byrd for the first time in 2016 about painful lesions on his scalp. On March 17, 2017, Dr. Byrd administered a steroid injection into four scalp cysts, noting his “hopes that this would decrease size and pain associated with lesions.” But those hopes were dashed, and two weeks later Dr. Byrd prescribed Cleocin T solution.

Because he had previously been prescribed the medication and it ...

Naphcare’s Lack of Care Leads to $26.75 Million Verdict for Washington Jail Death

“The jury sent a strong message that Naphcare’s conduct was completely unacceptable,” said attorney Edwin Budge of the Seattle law firm of Budge & Heipt, PLLC.

He was responding to a federal jury’s July 2022 award of nearly $27 million to his client, the daughter of Cindy Lou Hill, a 55-year-old mother, sister and aunt, who died at Washington’s Spokane County Jail in 2018 after being denied medical care for a ruptured intestine that led to a fatal infection.

Hill had been booked into the jail for heroin possession on August 21, 2018. Over the next four days she experienced withdrawal symptoms. She complained about extreme abdominal pain the morning of August 25, 2018. Hanna Gubitz, a registered nurse employed by Naphcare, the Alabama-based company contracted to provide jail medical care, found Hill in a fetal position and screaming on the floor of her cell.

Unable to stand or walk to the door, Hill had to be dragged across the floor on a blanket by another prisoner in order to see Gubitz. After an initial examination, Hill was moved to a medical watch cell. But she received no treatment. She reportedly refused another examination later that day, according to Gubitz. ...

CoreCivic Fails to Defeat California’s Anti-SLAPP Law at Ninth Circuit, Must Pay $45,630 in Attorney Fees

In November 2022 the federal court for the Northern District of California shot down a suit by private prison giant CoreCivic which sought to weaponize anti-defamation law against one of the company’s more vocal critics.

As previously reported by PLN, CoreCivic took exception to remarks made by Morgan Simon in three articles she published in Forbes and sued her for defamation. [See: PLN, Sep. 2021, p.56.] In the articles, Simon said CoreCivic managed immigration detention centers “that have been at the heart of the controversy over the separation of families and incarceration of individuals for crossing the U.S. border.” She further wrote the company had “a long history of profiting from mass incarceration: they make money when beds are filled, justly or unjustly, which is why they’ve spent $25 M[illion] on lobbying over the past three decades to push for harsher criminal justice and immigration laws.”

CoreCivic shot back that it didn’t house any immigrant children separated from their parents. Simon updated two articles to include clarifications, but CoreCivic filed suit in March 2020 anyway, claiming she had intentionally made statements that were “demonstrably false.” In addition to Simon, it sued the company she co-founded, Candide Group LLC, an investment advisory ...

Sixth Circuit Revives Blind Tennessee Prisoner’s Suit Against DOC and CoreCivic

On March 22, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit revived a suit filed five years earlier by a Tennessee prisoner who is legally blind. In his March 2018 complaint, Corey Tarvin accused the state Department of Corrections (DOC) of failure to accommodate his visual disability, and he accused DOC contractor CoreCivic – the massive private prison operator formerly known as Corrections Corp. of America – of failure to protect him from being stabbed by other prisoners.

Due to his blindness, Tarvin informed the federal court for the Middle District of Tennessee that he had “difficulty participating in the litigation process,” so counsel was appointed to represent him. When he later asked to remove his appointed counsel due to “a lack of results and responsiveness,” his motion was granted; but no other attorney was appointed, thus forcing him to proceed pro se.

CoreCivic served discovery requests on Tarvin, including interrogatories and requests for admission, then claimed he failed to respond. The company filed a motion to compel responses, and a magistrate judge imposed a deadline for Tarvin to reply. Instead he sent several letters to the district court explaining that he was legally blind, that CoreCivic already ...

JPay Denied Motion to Compel Arbitration in Suit Over Debit Release Cards

On March 1, 2023, prison financial services profiteer JPay hit a legal wall in a challenge to fee-laden debit cards issued to prisoners on release. As PLN has reported, former California state prisoner Adam Cain — represented by the Seattle law firm of Sirianni Youtz Spoonemore Hamburger PLLC, California attorney John Burton and the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), publisher of PLN — filed a class-action lawsuit in September 2021 against JPay, a company that provides money transfer and other financial services at prisons and jails nationwide. [See: PLN, Oct. 2021, p.28].

Cain’s challenge involved one of those services: prepaid debit cards provided to prisoners at release that contain funds from their prison or jail accounts, plus any “gate money” they receive. The debit cards, which JPay contracts with prisons and jails to provide, include numerous fees that quickly reduce the card balances. When Cain was released from the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, his debit card had a balance of $213.50, including $200 in “gate money” provided by the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR); however, within months the balance had been reduced by fees to $4.87, without any money released to Cain.

The suit raised claims under the ...

Insider Trading Charges Dropped Against JPay Founder

by Matt Clarke

On December 5, 2022, federal prosecutors moved to dismiss insider trading charges against JPay founder Ryan Shapiro, 45. For a hefty fee, the firm provides financial and communications services to people incarcerated in jail and prisons. JPay was acquired by Securus Technologies in April 2015. Both are now subsidiaries of Dallas-based Aventiv Technologies.

Shapiro was charged with financial securities crimes in a Boston federal court in January 2022, along with his friend, founder and manager of the hedge fund Sakal Capital Management, Kris Bortnovsky, then 40, and David Schottenstein, then 38, whom the Miami Herald called “a member of one of America’s richest families.” [See: PLN, Mar. 2022, p.10.]

Schottenstein signed an affidavit swearing, under penalty of perjury, that he provided the other two men with insider information so they could illegally profit from the stock market. Schottenstein received the information from a relative, a member of the board of DSW and Green Growth Brands. The information included a pending merger not yet announced between Albertson’s and Rite-Aid, as well as a planned hostile takeover attempt by Green Growth Brands of marijuana distributor Aphria. Both the merger and takeover ultimately failed but not before their announcements briefly ...

No Summary Judgment for Private Transportation Company in Maryland Detainee’s Suit Alleging “Horrific” 2,000-Mile Journey

by Keith Sanders

Over nine days in December 2015, during transport from Maryland to South Carolina to face charges he skipped child support payments, William Karn endured a grueling trek stretching more than 2,000 miles while shackled to a metal bench in a van owned and operated by Prisoner Transport Services (PTS) and Brevard Extraditions.

Karn, who was arrested in Maryland’s Montgomery County on a warrant out of Horry County, South Carolina, spent much of that time in handcuffs so tight that he was left with injuries to his wrists, he said. He also alleged deplorable conditions inside the van, with discarded refuse, human waste and flies.

The trip could have been completed in eight hours, but it lasted many times that long, meandering across five states to pick up and drop off other detainees along the way. During one infrequent bathroom stop, Karn fell out and injured his shoulder. But transporting guards refused him medical attention he said. When a fight erupted in the van, all the detainees were sprayed with a chemical agent and not allowed to wash it off afterwards.

On September 16, 2016, Karn filed a federal civil rights action in the U.S. District Court for ...