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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

University Professor Shills for Private Prison Industry

Much of the statistical and academic information regarding prison privatization that is reported in the media (and consequently relied upon by lawmakers deciding whether to contract with private prison companies) comes from Charles W. Thomas, director of the Private Corrections Project at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

The Private Corrections Project is funded by grants from the private prison industry including CCA, Wackenhut, Cornell, U.S. Corrections Corporation and Correctional Services Corporation that amount to $50,000 to $60,000 annually. The money is channeled as unrestricted donations through the University of Florida Research Foundation. Documents supplied by the university indicate that the Project received over $250,000 between 1990 and 1996; according to Dr. Thomas the amount is more than $400,000. Although Thomas's salary is paid by the university his expenses and summer salary ($26,845 in 1997) are funded by the Research Foundation.

In an interview with The National Times Thomas admitted he had money invested in "substantially all" of the private prison companies, but refused to say how much. On April 25, 1997 the Wall Street Journal reported that Thomas was being named a board member of the CCA Prison Realty Trust; he receives an ...

Abuse of Prisoners Confirmed at CCA Facility

On August 5, 1998, Jerry Reeves, a guard at Tennessee's Whiteville Correctional Facility (WCF), suffered near-fatal injuries in an altercation with prisoners. WCF, which houses prisoners from Wisconsin, is owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

In the days following the assault on Reeves, CCA employees investigated to determine which prisoners had attacked the guard. The investigation included intensive interrogation of any prisoners the CCA officials suspected might have information about the attack.

Wisconsin DOC administrators soon began receiving complaints from prisoners and the families of prisoners who'd been interrogated at WCF, claiming CCA employees had physically abused prisoners during interrogation in order to coerce the prisoners into answering questions. In October, after consulting with WCF managers, WDOC Secretary Michael Sullivan denied that any Wisconsin prisoners were abused during the interrogations.

Not satisfied with Sullivan's denial, the families of several prisoners retained attorneys to look into the abuse allegations. As those lawyers began turning up evidence to support the prisoners' claims, the WDOC decided to conduct its own investigation. WDOC officials travelled to Whiteville, where they questioned 51 prisoners and prison employees.

On November 10, the WDOC held a press conference, announcing that its ...

Juvenile Crime Still Pays -- But at What Cost?

Juvenile Crime Still Pays – But at What Cost?

by Alex Friedmann

[Last February, PLN published a cover article, "Juvenile Crime Pays," concerning the proliferation of for-profit juvenile justice services. This month we revisit the topic following recent reports of abuse and mis- management at privately operated juvenile prisons.]

The National Juvenile Detention Association estimates that 5 percent of the nation's juvenile detention facilities are privately operated, and the construction of for-profit prisons, jails and boot camps for youthful offenders is a rapidly expanding industry. By slashing operating costs and providing subsistence level services, companies can reap handsome profits from the millions of dollars they receive through largely unregulated government contracts.

As a result of this profit-margin mentality, however, an increasing number of privately operated juvenile detention facilities are being cited for abusive conditionsincluding recent reports of misconduct and mismanagement at for-profit juvenile facilities in Louisiana, Arkansas and Colorado.

Fear and Loathing in Louisiana

The Justice Department filed suit November 5, 1998, against the state of Louisiana for failing to protect juvenile prisoners from brutality and providing inadequate education, medical and mental health care.

"It's incredibly unusual," said David Utter, director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, which ...

Rehabilitation or Corporate Profit

Peaceful efforts, by Alaskan prisoners, on August 30, 1998, to address grievances and concerns repeatedly ignored at the Central Arizona Detention Center, in Florence, Arizona, were mercilessly squashed following a sit down demonstration in the prison exercise yard.

What was initially a peaceful, sit-down demonstration turned ugly when prison officials at this private prison (a for profit business owned by Corrections Corporation of America) assaulted prisoners with rubber bullets, smoke tear gas, and percussion grenades. Further assault was inflicted by club wielding CCA personnel in protective riot gear, armed with hi-tech shock/stun shields. CCA officials over-reacted using unauthorized force to inflict punitive retribution rather than listen to prisoner concerns.

Initially, 50 prisoners refused to leave the exercise yard until the warden heard their complaints. However, Assistant Warden Luna met with prisoners and issued an ultimatum to disperse. When two dozen prisoners opted to remain, they were sealed off and assaulted with potentially lethal force. No violence was initiated by prisoners in their efforts to draw attention to conditions at this private facility.

Alaska has been warehousing prisoners with CCA in Arizona since February 1995 to ease overcrowding in Alaska's prison. Prisoner issues were related to food quality, health ...

Ex-Prisoner Sues Over Phony Jail Dentist

When Timothy Stanley, 32, was in the Marion County (FL) Jail in January, 1997, facing drug charges, he needed some dental work done. According to the jail's medical log, Sheriff Ken Ergle's "dentist", Illya Fitzgerald Hathorn, pulled one of Stanley's teeth. Now Stanley is suing the jail because Hathorn was not a licensed dentist.

Carrie Proctor, the sheriff's senior staff attorney, said Hathorn had attended dental school but didn't graduate. She said the quality of his work was never questioned. "This guy was a good dentist," she said.

Gainesville lawyer Horace Moore Sr. is representing Stanley, who is asking for $15,000 in damages. Moore said 37 other former jail detainees are prepared to join the suit if a judge certified it as a class action.

"A criminal background check would have shown that [Hathorn] had been convicted of doing this before," said Moore.

Hathorn, 30, began working at the jail on September 27, 1996, as an employee of Correctional Medical Services (CMS), which had a contract to provide medical services to the jail.

Sheriff Ergle cancelled the CMS contract on January 1, 1997, and began hiring his own medical staff, including Hathorn.

Medical logs ...

Medical Cost-Cutting by Private Care Provider Opens Liability

Afederal district court in New York held that a jail prisoner had stated a claim for violation of his Eighth Amendment rights when he was denied medical care as a part of the county's effort to cut medical costs by contracting the jail's medical care to a private business. Raymond Llanes was imprisoned in the Westchester County jail in New York. He repeatedly sought medical care after experiencing intense abdominal pain but none was provided. Eventually Llanes was admitted to the jail infirmary and after a cursory examination a doctor told him he had "caught a draft."

Llanes was later readmitted to the infirmary and examined by a different physician who had him taken immediately to a local hospital where he had surgery for a peptic ulcer. Llanes was hospitalized for a month. The treating physician ordered that Llanes be provided with a "soft" diet which the jail refused to provide. Llanes refused to eat many of the meals he was served, until his release from jail, because they were not consistent with what the doctor had prescribed. As a result, he became weak, dizzy, fell and fractured 12 ribs and his head. Llanes filed suit claiming that ...

New Mexico CCA Disturbance Not Reported for Hours

The warden of a private prison in New Mexico said that prison staff may have delayed notifying state police about a disturbance that sent five guards to a hospital August 7, 1998.

"It may be my fault we didn't respond quickly enough," said Donald A. Dorsey, warden of the Torrance County Detention Center, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

Darren White, head of the state police, was critical of the delay in calling state police. "We're a little disappointed that our (public information officer) was first informed of any situation at the prison by a local media person," White said. "Until then, we were unaware of the situation."

Details of the "situation" are sketchy. Prison officials said only that some unarmed prisoners from Washington D.C. jumped the guards while being returned from a recreation area. Officials said the attack was unprovoked.

Apparently CCA officials did contact the New Mexico Corrections Department, which dispatched a 15-man tactical team to the CCA prison. But White said that his department should have been notified so that state police could have been dispatched to secure the prison's perimeter.

"The down time it takes to bring in additional resources ...

Youngstown Break-Out Leads to Political, Financial Fall-Out

On July 25, 1998 a half-dozen prisoners, including four convicted murderers, cut through two fences and escaped from the CCA-operated Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown, Ohio. According to Warden Jimmy Turner the successful break-out was due to errors by prison employees -- including guards leaving their posts, not watching their designated areas and not promptly responding to motion sensor alarms.

The escape was the latest in a series of embarrassing incidents at the problem-plagued facility, which houses approximately 1,500 prisoners from Washington, D.C. [see PLN , Oct. 1997; June 1998]. CCA previously had been under a court order to remove maximum-security prisoners from the medium-security prison. Michael Quinlan, the company's director of planning, promised that CCA would learn from its mistakes and would improve staff training at the facility.

Ohio lawmakers, however, weren't interested in apologies or excuses. State Senator Jeff Johnson observed that the escape highlighted a major distinction between privately-operated and public prisons. "I've been to Ohio prisons, and we have some problems," he said. "The difference is if the manager screws up and lets six people escape in broad daylight, we have the authority to get him out of there."

Also of concern ...

Abuses Continue at Private INS Facility

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) continues to experience problems at a privately -operated detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In June 1995 detainees rioted at the facility, which was then run by Esmore Correctional Services. The detainees mostly asylum-seekers who had not been charged with any crime complained of severe abuse and human rights violations by the poorly-paid and under-trained Esmore staff. [ PLN , Sept. 1995]. The company lost its contract to operate the center, changed its name to Correctional Services Corporation and relocated to Florida.

The INS facility reopened in 1997 under the management of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), and was soon lauded as a national model for privately-operated detention services. But now the former assistant warden at the center, Steve Townsend, has filed suit claiming he was fired by CCA after informing the INS that detainees were forcibly sedated and improperly restrained. Townsend said that both his supervisor and CCA corporate office ordered him to "illegally cover up and conceal such actions."

Initially the INS denied that detainees had been involuntarily sedated, but later admitted the allegations were true after reviewing medical records from the facility. The agency then decided the failure to report the sedation's ...

No Qualified Immunity for Private Health Care Provider

Afederal district court in Florida denied qualified immunity to a private provider of health care services to a county jail. Health care personnel failed to give a prisoner with a history of heart attacks her heart medication and ignored her complaints of chest pains until she suffered a fatal heart attack.

Diane Nelson was arrested around 11:00 p.m. on March 6, 1994. Having suffered a heart attack the previous October, she was prescribed twice daily Procardia XL and given nitroglycerine. However, when arrested, she was unable to locate her medications which she had last taken at 6 p.m.

When booked into the jail, Nelson informed medical personnel of her heart condition and the medications needed. The nurse noted this and that the medications needed to be continued if verified; however, it was too late at night to verify them. Over the next thirty hours, Nelson repeatedly attempted to get medication from multiple nurses. Her condition deteriorated. Her skin became pasty and she began sweating profusely. She complained of difficulty breathing, chest pains and shooting pain in the arm. The nurse refused to interrupt her breakfast at a nearby diner to check Nelson. An hour later, she collapsed ...