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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

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 ...

America's Private Gulag

What is the most profitable industry in America? Weapons, oil and computer technology all offer high rates of return, but there is probably no sector of the economy so abloom with money as the privately-run prison industry.

Consider the growth of the Corrections Corporation of America, the industry leader whose stock price has climbed from $8 a share in 1992 to about $30 today and whose revenue rose by 81 per cent in 1995 alone. Investors in Wackenhut Corrections Corp. have enjoyed an average return of 18 per cent during the past five years and the company is rated by Forbes as one of the top 200 small businesses in the country. At Esmor, another big private prison contractor, revenues have soared from $4.6 million in 1990 to more than $25 million in 1995.

Ten years ago there were just five privately-run prisons in the country, housing a population of 2,000. Today nearly a score of private firms run more than 100 prisons with about 62,000 beds. That's still less than five per cent of the total market but the industry is expanding fast, with the number of private prison beds expected to grow to 360 ...

Strange Bedfellows; CCA's Political Connections

CCA's connection with local politics began when the Nashville-based company was formed during Governor Lamar Alexander's administration. When CCA made a bid to operate Tennessee's entire prison system in 1985, the governor's wife, Honey Alexander, was criticized for owning $5,000 of CCA stock. She realized a substantial profit ($100,000) when she converted the stock to a blind trust in order to avoid an apparent conflict of interest.

CCA chairman emeritus Thomas Beasley, who co-founded the company in 1983, was previously a chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.

Among CCA's board members is Clayton McWhorter, an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Tennessee governor in 1994.

From 1994-96, Doctor Crants, CCA's chief executive officer, and CCA's chairman emeritus Thomas Beasley donated at least $60,491 to Tennessee lawmakers -- including $38,500 to Sundquist's re-election campaign (this includes donations from Beasley's wife, Wendy). In 1996 alone, Crants donated $22,450 to 46 state political candidates, including $2,000 to Rep. Randy Rinks, House Democratic Caucus chairman; and $1,350 to Senator Jim Kyle, chairman of the Select Oversight Committee on Corrections. CCA has seven registered political lobbyists in Tennessee.

In 1995, Governor Sundquist ...

Book Review - Privatization and the Provision of Correctional Services: Context and Consequences

Edited by G. Larry Mays and Tara Gray; Anderson Publishing (1996)

This 185 page overview of prison privatization issues presents a thorough examination of the topic without coming down on one side or the other of the privatization question. With that said, the many problems and pitfalls revealed in its pages are all the more outstanding.

Among the chapter topics are: The role of government in a civil society; ideology and the calculation of efficiency in public and private correctional enterprises; legal considerations in prison privatization; privatization and conjugal visitation; and two chapters on prison labor: the role of corporate America in prison industries, and expanding prison industries through privatization.

The chapters on corporate exploitation of prison labor offer a revealing look at the bottom line of prison industries. The book succinctly states: "In order to best reduce the staggering costs of prisons, prison industries must operate efficiently, which means producing the most output for the least possible cost."

Why are prisoners ideal workers to achieve this goal? You'll find the answer later in the same chapter: "[T]here is a certain logic behind the principle of lesser eligibility: convicted criminals should not receive advantages [decent wages, working conditions ...

Do the Math

I read an article in the Wisconsin State Journal about Wisconsin sending prisoners to Texas. There are going to be 700 prisoners shipped there (40 per week, which will take 17.5 weeks) at a cost of $39.36 per day for their housing once they are there.

Using a progressive accumulation formula, the per diem housing cost will be $1,879,046.40 for the 17.5 weeks it takes to transport all 700 prisoners, and $192,864 per week thereafter. This brings the total housing cost to $8.5 million ($1.9 million for the first 17.5 weeks and $6.6 million for the remaining 34.5 weeks) for housing 700 Wisconsin prisoners in Texas for one year.

Yet the money budgeted for this ridiculous project amounts to only $3.8 million. If you compare this to the true cost, you will notice a short fall of $4.7 million.

But then you also have to calculate the cost of transporting the prisoners to and from Texas to fully appreciate how erroneous the $3.8 million budgeted (and publicized) figure is. The article states that the transportation cost is $5,600 per trip, for a total of ...