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

Florida Private Prison Criticized

by Glenn Wright and Dan Pens

Louisville, Kentucky based private prison vendor U.S. Corrections Corporation (USCC) was sharply criticized by Florida's Auditor General in three separate reports issued by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA). The reports were the result of state audits of Gadsden Correctional Institution, a 768 bed adult female prison in Quincy, Florida. USSC constructed the prison and has operated the facility under contract with the state of Florida since it opened in March, 1995.

Some of the most serious problems cited relate to staffing. Starting pay at Gadsden is about $18,000/yr, or 7% lower than a state operated starting guard's salary. USCC also offers a much leaner benefits package to its employees than what is offered to state prison workers. Consequently, the average employee turnover rate in state prisons is 22 percent, compared with a staggering 200 percent at Gadsden. During one ten month period, according to the State Auditor, 424 different individuals had held the 223 total staff positions at the institution.

Florida Statute 944.714(2) mandates that "correctional officers" must be certified by the state, with the exception of guards on "temp" or "trainee ...

Canteen Corp. Info Wanted

The Canteen Corporation of North Carolina has a five-year contract with Kansas to provide food services state-wide. After mere months in operation, Canteen Corp. has caused trouble by starving Kansas prisoners and serving shit for food. [See: "Un-Happy Meals in Kansas," PLN Vol.7 No.9.]

In an unexpected mass showing of unity, prisoners in many Kansas prisons held demonstrations for two weeks in October, 1996. Because of the lockdown it has been hard to get news and details of what all has occurred state-wide are sketchy.

I have heard that the governor has gotten into the act. He is calming the public's fears over the disturbances in the prisons and playing politics by calling for an investigation. I'm sure it will be the prisoners who are investigated and not Canteen Corp., the cause of the problems.

Would you ask your readers to send me any information they have on Canteen Corp. of North Carolina? Lawsuits, problems, termination of contracts, history and present situation involving their operations in other states would all be helpful. Please reply to: Anthony Palacioz, 7425 NE Silver Road, Topeka, KS 66617.

No Qualified Immunity for Private Prisons; Supreme Court Grants Review

The court of appeals for the sixth circuit held that guards employed by private, for profit prisons are not entitled to qualified immunity from suit. This is the first circuit court ruling to squarely address whether private prisons are entitled to qualified immunity. Until now only district courts had ruled on the issues, reaching different results.

Qualified immunity is an affirmative defense available to government employees sued for money damages in civil rights suits. (See June, 1996, PLN, Pro Se Tips and Tactics). In general, government defendants won't be held liable unless they violate rights that are clearly established. With the rise of privately operated, for profit prisons, the number of civil rights suits against them has increased.

Ronnie McKnight is a Tennessee state prisoner housed in a prison run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). McKnight filed suit claiming his eighth amendment rights were violated by CCA employees when they used tight restraints to transport him to a different prison. The tight restraints caused him serious medical injury requiring hospitalization. McKnight's protests were ignored by two CCA guards, who taunted him after he complained of the tight restraints. The CCA guards filed a motion to dismiss the ...

Private Prison Liable for Wrongful Imprisonment

A federal district court in Florida held that a private corporation which ran a county jail under contract was liable for a detainee's wrongful imprisonment. Thomas Blumel was arrested without a warrant after being accused of violating a restraining order. Blumel was then placed in the Hernando County Jail which was operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) under contract. After spending the night in jail Blumel appeared before a judge who did not appoint counsel or determine bail, instead the judge said he was in the "wrong court." Blumel spent another 30 days in jail before eventually appearing before a judge who dismissed the charge for lack of evidence and ordered Blumel released. Blumel then sued the county and CCA claiming his right to due process was violated when the county and CCA violated their constitutional duty to ensure that warrantless pre-trial detainees are detained only after a judicial determination of probable cause within the first 48 hours of arrest. He also claimed CCA was liable for negligence and false imprisonment.

CCA filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and the court denied the motion. The court held that jail and prison officials can ...

Un-Happy Meals in Kansas

On May 19, 1996, the Kansas DOC turned over the kitchens of all the prisons to Canteen Correctional Services (CCS), a private for-profit contractor. It is worth noting that despite the contract to feed the prisoners, prisoner labor is still required, and the prisoner kitchen workers are paid from 60ยข to $1.05 to do all of the dirty work, while the CCS employees receive big paychecks for a minimal amount of work.

The Warden, Michael A. Nelson, and his deputy nazis made a video and played it via the prison movie channel, asking that all prisoners be patient and cooperate with the staff during the transition, and what a wonderful program this was going to be.

The prisoners fell for his lies, and as a result we now have portion control. We lost the salad bar that prisoners fought for many years to obtain. We get small amounts of food, no more than the "Happy Meal" for kids served at McDonalds. We get one pack of salt & pepper, two slices of bread one pack of ketchup (if we have the 3 oz. hamburger w/fries). You get one napkin, etc. Get the picture?

Grown men are going hungry. Kansas ...

Private Prison Executive Sentenced in Fraud Scheme

In 1993 Clifford Todd, 68, was chairman of Kentucky based U.S. Corrections Corporation, a private prison firm. In March of this year he was sentenced by a federal judge to a 15-month prison term.

Todd pleaded guilty to mail fraud last year for his part in a bribery and extortion scheme. Also convicted in the scheme was Richard Frey, former Jefferson County corrections chief. Frey was convicted in November of extorting $198,000 in bribes from Todd, in exchange for the corporation getting and keeping a lucrative county jail contract.

In addition to the 15-month prison sentence, Todd was fined $40,000, and in an ironic twist, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn ordered Todd to pay for the cost of his incarceration.

According to a 1995 report by the University of Florida, U.S. Corrections Corp. operates four private facilities, all in Kentucky, with a total population of 2,198 prisoners. They are the third largest private prison corporation, with a 6.42% market share. In comparison, the two largest prison corporations (Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut Corrections Corp.) control 30.48% and 25.82% of the U.S. market share in private prison beds.

It is ...

Texas Rent-A-Cells Burn

The February issue of PLN featured "Kidnapping and Extortion Texas Style." Several county jails in Texas are scrambling to pay off the "junk munis" (municipal bonds) they used in the late 1980's to build rent-a-jails. Their clientele of Texas state prisoners dried up after the state spent $2 billion to build new prisons. The counties stuck with the empty jails and facing payments on their bonds looked to Dominion Management, Inc. of Oklahoma, a private brokerage firm dealing in state-to-state prisoner transfers, to help them fill their empty cells. So far nearly 8,000 prisoners from 11 states have been exiled to shoddily built county jails in Texas.

One of those jails, the Crystal City Detention Center in Zavala County, discovered the hard way that kidnapping- for-hire can be a risky business. At 3:00 AM on Tuesday, February 21, about 200 frustrated and disgruntled out of state prisoners erupted, seizing control of the jail and setting fires. The uprising was not quelled until dawn. As of this writing no injuries were reported, and damages were being assessed.

The prisoners, mostly from Missouri and Utah, claimed they were angry because of a lack of black guards, the fact that ...

More Trouble in Texas Rent-A-Jails

by Bryon W. Ferguson

Hawaii prisoner Larry Earl Pagan decided he'd had enough of Texas hospitality. Pagan, shanghaied from a Hawaii state prison [See: "Kidnapping and Extortion Texas Style" in the Feb '96 PLN], escaped in February from the Newton County Correction Facility in Southeast Texas.

Pagan made a non-violent exit from the facility and then decided to do a little kidnapping of his own. He hijacked a local citizen and her automobile and made for the border. The driver and car were released unharmed in Mexico.

Two Oklahoma female prisoners made good their escape from another rent-a-jail in Odessa, Texas and three New Mexico prisoners were caught climbing down the exterior wall of yet another Texas county jail.

In addition to these and several other escapes by out-of-state "guests" of the Texas rent-a-jails, there have been a number of disturbances resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to the Texas jails.

The Tarrant County (Ft. Worth, TX) Commissioners, proprietors of a county rent-a-jail, voted in February to terminate their rent-a-cell contract with New Mexico and return 90 prisoners to that state. Tarrant County officials expressed dismay over their perception that they had been "receiving New Mexico ...

Private Prisons Get Qualified Immunity

As the number of privately run, for profit, prisons grows, so too will litigation involving them. There is little case law involving private prisons. In this case a federal district court held that employees of a prison (run by the Wackenhut Corporation) in Louisiana were entitled to qualified immunity as well as eleventh amendment immunity.

Two prisoners at the Allen Correctional Center (ACC) filed suit claiming they were beaten by prison employees and then denied medical treatment for their injuries. All the defendants were. Wackenhut employees and they sought dismissal of the suit under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failing to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and claiming qualified immunity and eleventh amendment immunity.

Prison officials are entitled to qualified immunity from money damages. See: Procunier v. Navarette , 434 US 555, 98 S.Ct. 855 (1978). There is little law as to whether employees of private prisons are entitled to qualified immunity and what law there is, is in conflict. Manis v. Corrections Corporation of America , 859 F. Supp. 302 (MD TN 1994) held there was no immunity while Smith v. United States , 850 F. Supp. 984 (MD FL 1994) and Tinnen v ...

Kidnapping and Extortion, Texas Style

In the dead of the night, they come to your cell. You wake up with a flashlight shining in your face. You hear the rattle of chains. "Roll 'em up, boy... you're goin' for a ride.' The next day you get a bed roll and make your new bunk... in a county jail in some God-forsaken town in... Texas! "Why me?" you ask. In a word, the answer is: "Money.''

In 1989 Texas state prisons were severely overcrowded and 9,500 state prisoners were backed up in county jails. The District of Columbia was under court orders to ease overcrowding, and was actually polling jailers by telephone prospecting for beds. Houston developer, N-Group Securities, Inc., smelled a profit.

Job-starved small Texas towns were approached by developers with the sales pitch: prisons as an economic development project. It seemed like a no-lose situation. The promoters offered the prospect of a stable, growth industry with no pollution problems. Wall Street Investment firms, such as Drexel Burnham Lambert, offered to underwrite the development schemes by selling high-yield "junk munis" to finance construction.

The "market" looked solid. In a 1989 press release, N-Group Securities expressed the optimism of the day, "Counties and state ...