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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

Managed Care Infects Prison Health Services

by Adrian Lomax

In September, 1996, Melody Bird complained to guards at Florida's Pinellas County Jail that she was experiencing severe chest pains and having trouble breathing. Nurses at the jail, finding no discernible blood pressure, concluded that Bird was suffering a heart attack.

An immediate call for an ambulance to transport Bird to a hospital emergency room would likely have saved the prisoner's life. Instead of calling 911, though, the nurses called the medical director of Emergency Medical Services Associates (EMSA).

Pinellas County had contracted with the private company to provide health care services to its county jail inmates. EMSA's procedures did not allow for its employees at the jail to send a prisoner to an outside hospital without prior approval from a company bureaucrat.

Thirteen hours after the nurses first contacted EMSA's medical director, they received permission to call an ambulance. But Melody Bird couldn't wait that long. Her pulse stopped before she reached the emergency room.

Bird, a 24-year-old jailed on prostitution charges, had a history of serious heart problems. Nonetheless, EMSA medical staff at the jail took her off previously prescribed heart medication.

The contract between Pinellas County and EMSA is ...

A Day at the Human Zoo

My husband and I toured the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center, a new "private prison" that is soon to open in Youngstown. Near the entrance there is a bulletin board with the words, "Yesterday's Closing Stock Price," a reminder that the Corrections Corporation of America is in business to make a profit.

Fifteen hundred prisoners will arrive from Washington, D.C. in the next few weeks. Eventually there may be more than three thousand housed here. Some will live here for the rest of their lives.

One of the first places we toured was the visiting room. Although this is a medium security prison -- not maximum security there will be no contact visits. On one side of a very large room there are about ten tiny stalls with phones. Prisoners will be on the other side of a thick glass barrier. There will be no hugs, no children on the knee as in the Trumbull Correctional Institution, a close security state prison where we visit.

The woman who was showing us around told us the prisoners will be dressed in orange, 'so you will know who the enemy is." If this is the attitude of staff before any prisoners arrive ...

CCA Prison Off to a Rocky Start

In its first five weeks of operation, the CCA-owned and operated Northeast Ohio Correctional Center (NOCC) in Youngstown was locked down three times. According to warden Willis Gibson, the first lockdown occurred on May 30 after 50 Washington D.C. prisoners, apparently unhappy about their transfer, had to be forced into their cells by guards using tear gas.

The prison was again locked down on June 16 after a guard was stabbed with an ice pick-style weapon while attempting to break up a fight in the gymnasium, Gibson said.

The last of the three lockdowns occurred June 20 after guards found a prisoner bleeding near his cell from three puncture wounds. The prisoner told guards he had fallen out of bed.

According to Youngstown police, CCA prison officials repeatedly obstructed police efforts to investigate the June 20 stabbing. A police report on the incident said that CCA prison officials hung up on the police twice and questioned the department's authority to probe crimes inside the prison operated by Nashville-based CCA.

Warden Gibson said he was unsure about the details. "Someone might have said that, but that's not correct," Gibson said. "They should not have said that."

Police say ...

U.S. Supreme Court: No Immunity for Private Prisons

The U.S. supreme court, in a five to four ruling, held that employees of privately owned and operated prisons are not entitled to qualified immunity from suit. In the January, 1997, issue of PLN we reported McKnight v. Rees, 88 F.3d 417 (6th Cir. 1996) where the court of appeals for the sixth circuit held that guards employed by private, for profit prisons were not entitled to assert a qualified immunity defense to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 suits for money damages. This was the first circuit court ruling to squarely address, one way or the other, the issue of qualified immunity for private prison employees. The district courts to consider the issue were split. Compare Citrano v. Allen Correctional Center, 891 F. Supp. 312 (WD LA 1995) and Smith v. United States, 850 F. Supp. 984 (MD FL 1994) (private prisons entitled to qualified immunity) with Manis v. Corrections Corporation of America, 859 F. Supp. 302 (MD TN 1994) and Blumel v. Mylander, 954 F. Supp. 1547 (MD FL 1997) (private prisons not entitled to qualified immunity).

On November 27, 1996, the supreme court granted review in McKnight to decide: "Are private parties performing traditional public functions ...

Failure to Remove Sutures States Claim

A federal district court in Maryland held that a prisoner raised a genuine issue of material fact, requiring a trial, because prison doctors did not remove wire sutures from his abdomen. Nicholas Jones, a Maryland state prisoner, underwent hernia surgery. Afterwards, suture wires remained in his abdomen causing him recurring pain and restricting his ability to move and preventing him from working and earning money and good time credits. After repeated complaints six different doctors recommended removal of the sutures but Correctional Medical Systems (CMS), the private business that held the MD DOC's medical care contract, refused to do so. The wire was eventually removed after four years of Jones' complaints. He then filed suit claiming prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.

The prison doctor defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court denied. Prison officials violate the eighth amendment when they are deliberately indifferent to prisoners' serious medical needs. A condition causing chronic pain, that significantly affects an individual's daily activities or which a reasonable doctor or patient would find important or worthy of treatment is a "serious medical need." In this case the court noted that six doctors recommended the ...

Jail Assault Requires Trial

The court of appeals for the sixth circuit held that whether a prisoner's question to a guard about what would happen if he assaulted another prisoner, required a trial to determine if the guard was liable when the questioner then assaulted another prisoner.

William Street was detained in the Metro Davidson County Detention Facility, a Nashville, TN jail run on contract by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). After arguing with Street prisoner Wendell Harris asked jail guard Dexter Stephen what would happen if he assaulted Street. Stephen replied the incident would be reported and Harris placed in segregation. Shortly afterwards Harris attacked Street with a metal lock in a sock, lacerating his eye and fracturing his facial bones, which required corrective surgery.

Street sued several guards and CCA over the attack and the district court granted summary judgment to all defendants, dismissing the case. The court of appeals affirmed dismissal of all defendants except Stephen and remanded the case for trial.

The court discussed the facts which must be proven for a prisoner to prevail on an eighth amendment claim involving deliberate indifference to his or her safety under Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 114 S.Ct ...

Florida Paradox of Prisons, Politics and Profits

For the past three years the Florida state legislature has surfed the get-tough wave, enacting laws to clamp down on Florida's 65,000 state prisoners. They have enacted laws to remove weights and recreation equipment, eliminate funding for prison TV sets, and were quick to follow Alabama's lead in resurrecting chain gangs.

Though state politicians garnered much acclaim from "No TVs in prison" sound bites two years ago, the reality of the get tough measures doesn't jibe with the political rhetoric. The state is forbidden to spend money on new TV sets for prisons, but prisoners still watch old sets that the state pays to have repaired.

Florida's deputy corrections secretary, William Thurber, acknowledges the department's interpretation has not always matched what lawmakers say they had in mind. But he said he sees the department's job as complying with the law while keeping safety risks to a minimum, adding that TVs are one of the cheapest methods he knows of keeping prisoners occupied, referring to them a "management tool."

New state prisons also manage to escape the letter of the law on televisions and weights. Though they cannot buy new equipment, prison officials point ...

Un-Happy Meal Provider Pulls Out of Kansas Prisons

In the March '97 Reader Mail section we printed a letter from a Kansas prisoner asking for information about a North Carolina corporation, Canteen Correctional Services, which had a contract to serve (un-happy) meals to (very un-happy) Kansas prisoners. An alert reader sent us a clipping from The Capital Journal (presumably a Kansas newspaper; there was no date on the clipping, though the letter was postmarked May 7, 1997) in which it was reported that Canteen (a division of Compass Group, USA) terminated its contract.

"Conditions of the contract signed with Compass Group provided for a one-year agreement with renewal options," said Kansas DOC secretary Charles E. Simmons. "Compass Group initiated recent discussions with officials from KDOC to terminate the food service contract, which resulted in a mutually agreeable decision to conclude that association."

There were "disturbances" at several Kansas prisons, reportedly caused by anger over the poor food service. Simmons told legislative committees after the uprisings that the food service contractor had "made some mistakes," like failing to provide ketchup and mustard at meals where hamburgers were served or syrup at meals where pancakes were served, and running out of the main menu item before all prisoners had been ...

Prisoners Roasted Alive

A van carrying prisoners burst into flames alongside a Tennessee interstate highway, killing all six prisoners shackled inside a wire mesh cage in the back of the van.

The prisoners were being transported in a van operated by Federal Extradition Agency, a private Memphis-based company that transports prisoners. The driver of the van suffered burns on his arms while attempting to open the rear door of the van.

"The driver could not get close to the back of the vehicle," said Tennessee highway patrol Lt. Mike Dover. "The prisoners were consumed in the fire."

Dover said the heat from the fire was so intense that it welded the van's back door shut. Another employee of the private transport company, who was riding shotgun, escaped without injuries.

The prisoners had spent the previous night, Wednesday April 2, 1997, in a Memphis lockup. The private transport company was ferrying them to various jails in the south.

Proponents of privatization laud the benefits of government downsizing and the efficiencies associated with market forces (i.e. the profit motive), but the "magic" of the market is illustrated by this tragedy.

No doubt the private transport company could move prisoners in a more cost-effective ...

Private Prison Disciplinary Action Subject to Colorado Court Review

The Colorado court of appeals held that state prison disciplinary codes apply to private prisons and are subject to judicial review. Patrick Murphy, a Colorado state prisoner, was placed in the Bent County Correctional Facility (BCCF), a privately owned and operated prison. Murphy was infracted for possession of heroin and found guilty at a disciplinary hearing. Murphy then filed an action seeking a state court review under CRCP 106(a)(4) of the disciplinary hearing. The trial court dismissed the petition holding that because BCCF is not a government agency, its employees are not government officers and hence are not subject to judicial review.

The court of appeals reversed and remanded. The court noted that all Colorado prisoners in the custody of the DOC's executive director are subject to the Code of Penal Discipline. Under state law, anyone sentenced to prison is deemed to be in the DOC director's custody regardless of where they are actually imprisoned. Therefore, disciplinary hearings must be conducted in accordance with the COPD.

"CRCP 106(a)(4) provides a vehicle for judicial review of the actions of 'any governmental body.' Because Bent county was imposing discipline pursuant to the COPD as an agent ...