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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

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 has ...

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 not known at this time where Todd will serve his ...

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 many of the ...

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's most ...

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. Corrections Corporation of ...

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 and federal ...

NC Prisoners Riot in Tennessee

On October 28, 1995, more than 100 North Carolina prisoners at the Corrections Corporation of America owned private prison in Mason, TN rioted, demanding to be returned to North Carolina. The prisoners smashed toilets and sinks and knocked a hole in a dormitory wall. Guards at the prison ended the riot by pumping pepper gas into the two dormitories that had been seized by the prisoners. No injuries or deaths were reported at the prison.

The medium security prison houses 455 state and federal prisoners on a contract basis. The 111 North Carolina prisoners had been sent to the prison involuntarily by the NC DOC and they complained about being separated from their families. Tipton County Sheriff Buddy Lewis said: "They are very unhappy because they are over here and they want to go back to North Carolina. They totally demolished the dormitory areas they were in." After the uprising the prisoners were moved to the Shelby County jail in Memphis.

Contract Physicians Entitled to Qualified Immunity

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit has held that physicians hired by a prison to provide medical care are entitled to qualified immunity when sued by prisoners. As more and more prison systems attempt to cut medical care costs by contracting the care out, prisoner suits against the contracted medical care providers are likely to increase. This case involves Derrick Williams an Illinois state prisoner who claimed he was given inappropriate care for a bone infection in his leg. The prison doctors he sued, claiming they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs thus violating his eighth amendment rights, were employees of a company called Correctional Medical Systems (CMS). The district court granted the defendants summary judgment, holding they were entitled to qualified immunity from suit. The district court held that the physicians were entitled to qualified immunity from liability for repeated acts of medical malpractice.

The court of appeals for the seventh circuit affirmed dismissal. On appeal Williams claimed that the defendant doctors were not entitled to raise the affirmative defense of qualified immunity because they were not government officials. The appeals court rejected this argument. "In cases involving 'a private party acting under government contract ...

Alaska Prisoners in Exile

I would like to respond to a News in Brief segment of your February 1995 issue of PLN concerning the shipment of Alaska state prisoners to the Penal Detention Center [a private prison operated by the Corrections Corporation of America] in Florence, AZ, supposedly to ease overcrowding and avoid fines levied by the court for violating population caps.

Briefly, some history... Prior to 1988, Alaska had no facilities for housing long-term felons, and the DOC routinely shipped prisoners with ten years or more to serve on their sentences to prisons outside of Alaska. Most, like myself, were designated to federal prisons, although some went to other state's facilities in accordance with the Western Interstate Compact Agreement.

This policy of exile for long-term prisoners ended in 1988, with the completion of the Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward. Spring Creek, Alaska's only maximum security prison, was built in response to a 1986 Partial Settlement Agreement (Cleary, et al. v. Smith, et al., 3AN-81-5274 Civ.) in which the DOC agreed to return all Alaska state prisoners in federal custody who desired to return. This was the same agreement containing population caps that the DOC was found to be violating and was fined ...

INS Detainees Trash Private Prison

On June 18, 1995, some 300 im migrants being held at the privately-run Esmor Immigration Detention Center in Elizabeth, New Jersey, chased out the guards, trashed the facility and held off federal, state and local law enforcement agents for nearly six hours. Police finally threw a flash grenade into a barricade the detainees had set up and stormed the facility. Twenty detainees were injured in the melee.

The Esmor facility was hastily set up in a converted warehouse just over a year ago when the U.S. government decided to "crack down" on immigrants who land at Kennedy and Newark airports with no papers.

The 240 men and 60 women detainees at the 300-bed center included Romanians, Cubans, Chinese, Russians and Sikhs, most of them seeking political asylum in the U.S. None of the detainees had been convicted of a crime. They had not even been accused of a crime. Many of them had been forced to flee their homelands due to poverty or persecution. They came to this country seeking the "American Dream" of freedom and democracy. What awaited them, however, was a nightmare of concentration camp imprisonment and brutal mistreatment. One young Somali woman told of being tortured and ...