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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

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 manner than ...

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 of the DOC, CRCP 106(a)(4) is ...

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 360,000 during the next decade. ...

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 endorsed a controversial arrangement whereby CCA could contract with Hardeman County, TN, to construct and ...

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, etc.] beyond ...

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 $98,000 to move all 700 prisoners. Double that, and you have the cost of transporting them ...

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" status whose employment must not exceed 180 ...

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 suit, claiming ...

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 be ...