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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

Jewish Prisoner Denied Kosher Meals Settles with Arizona Prison Officials

by Christopher Zoukis

Officials at Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, a private prison operated at the time by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private prison company now known as CoreCivic, agreed to settle with a prisoner who was denied kosher meals required by his religious beliefs in Judaism. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

     During certain periods in 2010, the Saguaro facility was on lockdown, meaning the prisoners remained locked in their cells and would have their meals brought to them. Robert S. Cardines Jr., who was incarcerated at Saguaro at this time, was allegedly given bologna and other processed meats, and his requests for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were denied. Because the meat and dairy products provided were not kosher, they violated his religious dietary laws, and he couldn't eat them.

     On September 2, 2010, Cardines filed a pro se complaint in federal court against CCA Regional Director of Operations Daren Swenson, Warden Todd Thomas, and Assistant Wardens Ben Greigo and J. Bradley. Cardines argued that his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated, as well as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). He filed another claim for ...

Corrections Corporation of America Settles Medical Neglect Suit with Louisiana Prisoner

by Christopher Zoukis

 Emmett Ellerbe, a prisoner at Louisiana's Winn Correctional Center who was allegedly denied adequate medical treatment, reached a settlement with the prison, the warden and the medical staff. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

     Winn Correctional Center is a private prison operated at the time by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private prison company now known as CoreCivic. While at Winn, Ellerbe maintained that he was suffering from bleeding hemorrhoids, and that numerous requests for treatment were rejected by Medical Director Pat Thomas, prison Doctor Alphonso Pacheco and Warden Tim Wilkerson. Ellerbe was able to obtain a treatment recommendation from an outside specialist, but prison officials refused to follow the prescribed treatment. Instead, Ellerbe asserted that he was prescribed medication that caused his condition to worsen, developing an infection that required surgery.

     On May 6, 2010, Ellerbe filed a pro se civil rights complaint in federal court against Thomas, Pacheco, Wilkerson and CCA, arguing that they acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs. He claimed that he was denied medical treatment and subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Ellerbe sought an order requiring the ...

Trinity Services Group Faces Complaints Due to Inadequate Prison and Jail Food

by Ed Lyon

A tide of complaints has surfaced around Florida-based Trinity Services Group, one of the largest food service providers to correctional facilities in the nation. At issue is the provision of adequate, nutritious and healthy meals, since one study has found prisoners are six times more likely to contract a food-borne illness than non-prisoners. But prison safety is also a factor, considering that prisoners sometimes riot or protest due to poor food.

For example, describing their watered-down meals as “soupy,” hundreds of Michigan prisoners at the Kinross Correctional Facility staged a hunger strike in March 2016 to protest the substandard food served by Trinity. Other strikes followed the next month, involving prisoners at the G. Cotton Correctional Facility and the Chippewa Correctional Facility. Another on May 24, 2016 involved over 700 prisoners at the Marquette Branch Prison.

The protests failed to improve Trinity’s food service, however. A riot broke out at the Kinross prison in September 2016, in which poor food was a factor. Late in 2017, officials found maggots in three separate incidents at the Cotton facility, where prisoners also complained about “crunchy dirt” in potatoes. [See: PLN, Feb. 2017, p.48].

After switching in 2015 from Aramark ...

Idaho DOC and Corizon Held in Contempt in Long-standing Lawsuit

by Derek Gilna

The Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) and its contracted private medical care provider, Corizon Health, were held in contempt of consent orders entered in 1984 and 2014 in a class-action suit. The original November 1, 1984 order required prison officials to adopt a special dietary program for medically infirm prisoners, create 24-hour emergency medical care, hire a full-time physician, provide a properly staffed medical delivery system and establish a psychiatric care program. See: Balla v. Idaho State Board of Correction, 595 F.Supp. 1558 (D. Idaho 1984).

In the decades following the original consent order, numerous court hearings were held as court-appointed monitors and the IDOC clashed over the execution of the order and its progeny. Due to those conflicts, starting in 2011 the federal district court appointed a special master to determine whether there was substantial non-compliance by Idaho prison officials.

As previously reported in Prison Legal News, the special master found the IDOC and Corizon were not in compliance, and the parties agreed to institute a mediation process to avoid the time and expense of a trial in the case. In 2014, “The parties crafted the Modified Compliance Plans (collectively, ‘MCP’) in and after the ...

Kansas Prisoner Who Warned “Something is Eating my Brain” Dies of Untreated Brain Infection

by Derek Gilna

The family of Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) prisoner Marques Davis filed suit in federal district court in October 2017, alleging that officials at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility and the prison’s for-profit medical care provider, Corizon Health, failed to treat his fatal brain infection.

Davis died on April 13, 2017 when, after months of unsuccessfully seeking treatment from Corizon employees, he began to exhibit bizarre behavior. Earlier he had told the prison’s medical staff, “It feels like something is eating my brain.”

According to the Denver Post, shortly before Davis’ death, “An MRI done at the facility showed widespread fungal infection throughout his brain. A CT scan conducted later at a hospital revealed it was so swollen that the upper part of Davis’s brain was forced down to the lower part.”

The lawsuit claims that Corizon’s inattention to Davis’ symptoms caused his “staggeringly slow, physically and mentally excruciating death.” It accuses prison officials, Corizon, and three doctors and 11 nurses of negligence and federal civil rights violations.

Prison Legal News has reported dozens of lawsuits and millions of dollars in damages paid by Corizon Health in cases across the country, mostly related to failure ...

California: A Prison by any Other Name is Still a Prison

by Ed Lyon

The City of Adelanto in San Bernardino County, California owns a detention center – not a prison – according to Pablo Paez, a spokesman for the GEO Group, a private prison firm. “The ICE Processing Centers operated by our company are very different than local jails and prison facilities and we strongly reject that [prison] characterization,” he said.

GEO Group operates the facility for the city, which in turn is paid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees waiting for asylum and deportation hearings – proceedings that can drag out for years.

GEO receives up to $112 per day per detainee, and described Adelanto as a “state-of-the-art, culturally responsive residential center” with “artificial soccer fields, flat-screen televisions and modern classrooms with up-to-date technology.” The 409,000 square foot “not a prison” is surrounded by barbed wire fences.

Adelanto also offers “around the clock medical care,” according to GEO.

But in April 2015, Sergio Alonso Lopez died after being taken to the infirmary when he began vomiting blood. The following month, Vicente Caceres-Maradiaga died en route to a hospital from “acute coronary syndrome.” On December 23, 2015, Jose Azurdia-Hernandez had a fatal ...

Who is in Private Prisons? New Study Provides Surprising Answers

by Christopher Zoukis

The election of pro-business and law-and-order candidate Donald Trump to the presidency has been a boon to companies that operate for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers. So perhaps now is a good time to ask a question that has seen surprisingly little attention: Who is in private prisons, in terms of both detainees and staff members?

In a December 2017 study published by the International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, sociology professor Brett C. Burkhardt, Ph.D., provided answers to this seemingly simple question. Burkhardt, with Oregon State University’s School of Public Policy, analyzed data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to provide a demographic breakdown of both prisoners and employees in the private prison industry, which he then compared to their counterparts at government-operated facilities.

The most startling of Burkhardt’s findings concern who is employed in for-profit prisons. According to the BJS data, private prisons employ guards that are disproportionately female and black in comparison with state and federal prisons. Specifically, Burkhardt found that women comprise nearly half the staff in privately-operated prisons, compared to about 25 percent in government facilities. Blacks make up about 40 percent of private prison workers but only 22 ...

Protest Results in Three Arrests at CoreCivic’s Annual Shareholders Meeting

On May 10, 2018, drumbeats echoed and faux “blood” flowed through the parking lot at the Nashville, Tennessee headquarters of CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), as activists staged dramatic street theater to represent the sorrow, suffering and deaths of prisoners at the hands of the for-profit prison operator.

“Over the past decade, this protest, outside of CCA’s shareholders meeting, has become an annual event,” said Jane Hussain, an organizer with the Nashville Peace and Justice Center. “But this year there was a mood of increased desperation and fury over the continued growth and increasing injustices of America’s incarceration industry.”

The vocal crowd of demonstrators consisted of representatives from the Nashville Peace and Justice Center, Mercy Junction, Women of Faith Collective, Short Mountain community, Appalachia Antifa Airborne Division, Nashville Antifa, Nashville Anarchist Black Cross, Face to Face Knox, No Exceptions Prison Collective, and several other groups and individuals. The protesters erected a shrine as well as dozens of crosses, banners and cardboard tombstones to commemorate the names of people who have died in CoreCivic’s custody. Two former prisoners, “Chris H.” and the poet James Floyd, spoke to the crowd despite a sudden drenching downpour.

After a small ...

Lawsuits Filed Against GEO Group for Wage Violations at Detention Facilities

by Christopher Zoukis and Matt Clarke

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit in superior court against The GEO Group in September 2017, alleging the private prison contractor had violated the state’s minimum wage laws by paying immigrant detainees $1 per day to perform work at the company’s Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma.

NWDC houses up to 1,575 immigrant detainees until the resolution of their deportation cases; GEO has operated the facility under a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since 2005. The lawsuit demands that GEO pay the state minimum wage to detainee workers and divest any ill-gotten gains.

According to Ferguson’s suit, the company uses a “voluntary” work program at the facility that “rewards” detainee for their labor at a rate of $1 per day. In some cases, snacks and food are provided in exchange for work. ICE’s most recent National Detention Standards, released in 2011, require that detainees be paid at least $1 per day if they perform work at detention facilities. Ferguson argues that GEO Group must pay such workers the state’s minimum wage, which is currently $11 per hour.

“A multi-billion dollar corporation is trying to get away with paying ...

Incorrect Cause of Tennessee Prisoner’s Death Reported by CoreCivic Employees

According to the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), state prisoner Edward Ray Gilley, Jr., 54, died on November 5, 2016 at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, a facility owned and operated by CoreCivic – previously known as Corrections Corporation of America.

In response to a public records request filed by Prison Legal News, on February 13, 2018 the TDOC’s director of communication, Neysa Taylor, reported that Gilley’s death was due to “natural causes.”

Unless overdosing on meth is “natural,” however, that cause of death was incorrect – though it evidently was not scrutinized or questioned by TDOC officials.

A previous news report by WSMV Channel 4 in Nashville indicated that Gilley had died of an overdose, though he wasn’t mentioned by name in the report. PLN obtained a copy of the autopsy results from the medical examiner’s office, which concluded that Gilley’s death was caused by “toxic effects of methamphetamine complicating hypertensive cardiovascular disease.” The report noted that a toxicology screen was “significant for methamphetamine” at almost four times the reporting threshold, and the cause of death was ruled accidental – as in an accidental overdose.

It was not listed as due to natural causes.

Yet “natural ...