Skip navigation

News Articles

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

Georgia DOC Turns to Private Prisons

According to a report by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, by July 2003 the state will have just 42,000 prison beds for a projected 55,000 state prisoners. This imbalance is primarily due to a "two strikes" law that took effect on January 1, 1995 and a new parole policy requiring felons convicted of any of 20 specific crimes to serve at least 90% of their sentences.

The parole board estimated the state will need to spend $1 billion to address the bed space shortage, and urged the Department of Corrections to include 13 new prisons in its next budget request.

Georgia Corrections Commissioner Wayne Garner disputed the board's findings, stating they were politically motivated. Garner claimed the report was a "scare tactic to try to convince people that if they do anything further to restrict the Board of Pardons and Paroles through mandatory sentences or abolishing the board, it's only going to cause them to spend billions and billions of dollars."

Georgia's prison population has more than doubled from 18,000 in 1989 to 38,000 in 1998; the state spends $700 million a year on its corrections system.

To increase the amount ...

Wisconsin Transfers Spark Protest

On Sunday June 28, 1998, prisoners at the Fox Lake Correctional Institution staged a protest against the scheduled transfer of 160 Wisconsin prisoners to a private prison in Oklahoma.

According to eye-witnesses, about 155 prisoners refused orders to return to their cells from a recreation area. Emergency response [goon] units were brought in and the prisoners were again ordered to clear the yard. All but about 25 complied. The remaining prisoners complied after yet another order.

After the three-hour standoff ended, state prison chief Michael Sullivan said only 12 of the prisoners involved were scheduled for transfer. "The rest just wanted to demonstrate," he said.

As of late July, the state of Wisconsin had exiled about 1,600 prisoners to Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Minnesota; another 3,000 are expected to be shipped to other states.

Families and prison rights activists staged a protest outside the state capitol July 13. Many criticized the policy, saying it severs family ties. During the protest, state Rep. Scott Walker (R) held an impromptu news conference.

"I wish some of these family members had shown the same level of interest in their loved ones before they were sent to prison," Walker pontificated. "If they ...

Four Indicted in Videotaped Brazoria Jail Beatings

FBI agents arrested three current and former Brazoria County jailers indicted July 29, 1998, on charges stemming from the infamous videotaped shakedown of Missouri prisoners in the Brazoria County "Rent-A-Jail." The three, Lester Arnold, David Cisneros and Robert Percival, along with former Capital Correctional Resources Inc. (CCRI) guard Wilton Wallace, are charged with one count of aiding and abetting the assault of Missouri prisoner Toby Hawthorne.

Hawthorne was kicked, shocked with a stun gun and bitten by a police dog. The abuse was graphically portrayed in a 30-minute CCRI "training video" recorded September 18, 1996. The tape later surfaced (as a result of discovery conducted in litigation initiated pro se by a Missouri prisoner) and was nationally televised in August, 1997. [ PLN , Nov. 1997]

Wallace was previously arrested June 8, 1998, and charged with another attack not caught on tape. In that indictment, Wallace is accused of slamming jail prisoner Clarence Fisher's face into a wall on November 7, 1996.

Wallace had been hired by CCRI despite a criminal record for beating prisoners while employed by the Texas prison system. [See: U.S. v. Wallace , 673 F.Supp 205 (S.D. Tex. 1987)]

On August 4, 1998, Wallace and ...

Private Health Care Providers Denied Qualified Immunity

Afederal district court in Alabama held that private party doctors and health care providers are not entitled to qualified immunity when sued by prisoners for Eight Amendment violations. The court further held that the existence of an on-going class action involving similar claims did not preclude the plaintiff's individual claim.

Correctional Medical Services (CMS) provides mental health care for Alabama state prisoners. In order to cut costs, in other words to boost profits, CMS initiated a policy to get as many prisoners as possible off psychotropic drugs, to eliminate transfers to state psychiatric hospitals, and to underuse psychiatric care units.

Billy Roberts was a state prisoner in the custody of the Alabama DOC since 1978. Roberts suffered severe and recurrent psychiatric illness, including profound suicidal tendencies. In September 1995, Roberts was taking massive doses of Thorazine, plus other psychotropic medications. On September 19, 1995, CMS abruptly stopped Roberts' medications. Five days later he hung himself.

The following year, Roberts' son filed suit against the Alabama DOC, its commissioner, CMS, and three CMS employees. The CMS defendants subsequently moved for summary judgment claiming, inter alia, that they were entitled to qualified immunity, and that Roberts' claim was barred by res ...

Tennessee Prison Privatization Bill Fails to Pass

Adramatic confrontation between the private corrections industry and opponents of prison privatization played out in Tennessee earlier this year, ending in an embarrassing defeat for the prison profiteers. Similar struggles can be expected in other states as privatization continues to expand across the nation's corrections systems -- and the Tennessee scenario provides valuable insight into how advances by private prison companies can be successfully challenged.

In April 1997 Tennessee Rep. Matt Kisber announced that the legislature was taking a hard look at privatizing the state's entire prison system, and that lawmakers had been holding closed-door meetings attended by lobbyists for the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Kisber, the influential chairman of the House Finance Committee, joined L.t. Governor John Wilder in sponsoring a system-wide prison privatization bill.

The legislation was drafted by a CCA lobbyist, and CCA cited potential budget savings of up to $100 million a year. As a not-so-subtle incentive the company offered to pay an additional $100 million "franchise fee" for the privilege of operating all of Tennessee's prisons. Republican Governor Don Sundquist, a privatization proponent, endorsed the bill; he previously had stretched state law to the breaking point so CCA could operate ...

CCA Sells Self; Wackenhut Creates REIT

In July 1997 the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) spun off a related company, the Prison Reality Trust, which was formed to purchase CCA's prisons under a lease-back arrangement [ PLN Dec. 97]. Prison Realty is a real estate investment trust, or REIT, which offers certain corporate tax advantages. Nine months later, on April 20. 1998, CCA stunned investors by announcing it planned to sell itself to Prison Realty Trust in a $3 billion stock swap that would create a combined "super REIT."

There had already been controversy regarding the inter-connected corporate directorships of CCA and Prison Realty Trust: Doctor R. Crants, CCA's C.E.O., is also chairman of Prison Realty: his son is Prison Realty's president, former CCA officers sit on Prison Realty's corporate board, and both companies share the same Nashville office. Crants & company deny there is a conflict of interest.

The proposed merger would split CCA into three companies, all under the CCA name, with two managing prisons and jails not owned by the REIT and the third handling contracts for REIT-owned facilities. This convoluted arrangement is necessary to squeeze the CCA Prison Realty merger into IRS regulatory guidelines, which limit the types of revenue that REITs can receive. Prison Realty also plans to buy out the real estate assets of U.S. Corrections Corporation, the third largest private corrections company in the United States, thereby adding to CCA's market share of the for-profit prison industry.

Apparently Wall Street didn't appreciate the incestual marriage between CCA and its sister corporation -- in the weeks following the announced merger CCA's stock dropped almost 25%. Several investment analysts downgraded their ratings of CCA stock, and one firm, Paine Webber, criticized the merger and stated it would result in a "shell corporation with very little capitalization behind it." At least nine investors have filed shareholder suits against CCA, claiming the proposed merger puts the personal gain of corporate officers before the interests of stockholders. Following the merger Crants would own 1.9 million shares in the combined companies.

Meanwhile, Wackenhut, the nation's second ranking for-profit prison contractor, announced that it was creating a REIT of its own, the Correctional Properties Trust, which would purchase eight of Wackenhut's privately-owned facilities. Although Correctional Properties Trust will be run by two former Wackenhut executives. Wackenhut C.E.O. George Zoley made it clear that his company didn't plan to follow in CCA's footsteps by pursuing a merger. Eager investors looking to cash in on the profitable private prison industry took him at his word; while CCA's stock plummeted, shares in Wackenhut's newly-formed REIT rose 15% on its first day of trading.

Sources: Palm Beach Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Tennessean

Union County, NJ, Jail Guards Convicted

In June, 1995, twenty-five political asylum seekers were hauled in chains from a federal INS Detention Center in Elizabeth, NJ, to the nearby Union County Jail. The 25 immigrant detainees many of whom are refugees who escaped religious and political persecution in their home countries were forced by guards to chant "America is number one!" while crawling through a gauntlet of jeering guards, who punched, kicked and beat them.

As a result of this brutal "welcome wagon" twelve Union County jail guards faced criminal charges. Four were convicted in jury trials, six others pleaded guilty to lesser charges, one was acquitted, and another died in an auto accident before his case went to trial.

The 25 asylum seekers were among 300 immigrants held at the privately-run Esmor Immigration Detention Center. Conditions at the crowded, windowless Esmor facility a converted warehouse were nightmarish. On June 18, 1995, the 300 detainees chased out the 12 poorly-trained and underpaid guards and proceeded to demolish the hated facility. [See: "INS Detainees Trash Private Prison," PLN Vol. 6, No. 5]

Five hours after the Esmor rebellion began, a contingent of local, state, and federal law enforcement agents stormed the facility in a hail of flash ...

Jailers Charged in Bribery, Kickback Schemes

Asenior administrator in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and an independent contractor face felony bribery charges involving padded contracts for millions of dollars in jail food. And, in Texas, a McLennan County grand jury indicted a county sheriff's Sgt. on misdemeanor charges stemming from "unethical [food procurement] practices and procedures due primarily to a lack of written policies."

Frederick Gaio, second in command of the L.A. Sheriff's $20 million food operation, and food contractor Rick Hodgin were arraigned in L.A. Superior Court on accusations that they participated in a pattern of corruption spanning at least two years. Prosecutors say that Hodgin paid Gaio bribes totaling more than $20,000 beginning in 1995 while working for a Florida-based company called Joy Food Service, which at the time was the beneficiary of millions of dollars in food contracts from the L.A. County Jail. When Hodgin later became sales director for California-based Harvest Farms, that firm suddenly captured much of the lucrative jail food business.

On a somewhat smaller scale, Sgt. Martha Warren Normen, a 17-year veteran and former supervisor of the McLennan County Jail kitchen, was accused of improperly accepting unspecified "gifts" from a vendor ...

Sexual History Evidence Limited in Rape Suit

Afederal district court in New Mexico held that private prison officials were limited in what questions they could elicit about a prison rape victim's sexual history. Tanya Giron is a prisoner who was forcibly raped by private prison guard Danny Tor2ez while in a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) facility in New Mexico. During discovery the defendants asked Giron to list all persons with whom she has had sex after the rape occurred; that she describe the manner, type, date and location of all sexual contacts and other, similar information. Giron refused to answer the interrogatories and the defendants moved to compel answers.

The court sustained Giron's objections. The court held that Fed.R.Evid. 412 informs the proper scope of discovery in limiting inquiry into the sexual past of sexual assault victims in criminal or civil proceedings. Torrez argued he shouldn't be held liable for past injurious sexual contacts Giron may have had. The court agreed, but held that inquiry into her sexual past would be limited to only those contacts that were violent or damaging.

"Defendant bears the burden to establish that the evidence he seeks is probative and outweighs the danger of harm to ...

Mis-Managed Health Care in Texas Prisons

In 1993, Texas state prisons over-flowed with 70,000 prisoners. But the state was nearing completion of a $1.5 billion prison construction program that would more than double the number of state prisons. State Comptroller John Sharp appreciated what few Texans knew: the $1.5 billion prison construction price tag would be dwarfed by annual operating costs.

Prison health care was of particular concern to Sharp. For the previous half-decade, those costs had risen at a rate of 6 percent annually. The solution, according to a three-page recommendation tacked onto a massive 1993 state prison audit released by Sharp: managed health care.

Later that year, the Texas Legislature passed a bill that wrenched control of prison health care away from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and gave the responsibility for most of the medical care of the state's prisoners to the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center in Lubbock.

The bill passed with little debate and almost no opposition. After all, plenty of people in the free world hate their HMOs. What sane Texas politician would deprive prisoners a taste of managed care, especially when the plan promised ...