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Poor Oversight of the Private Prison Industry

2:45 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Poor Oversight

One of my constant gripes about the private prison industry is the lack of oversight and transparency.  Briefly, private prisons in all but 2 states are not required to comply with public records / Freedom of Information laws, as they are private entities.  Many have argued that, because the industry performs an inherently governmental function, that it should be subject to the same sort of transparency that the government must abide by.  Which is certainly a reasonable argument.

The natural consequence of the opacity of the industry is a weak oversight structure.  If the public cannot review information about the way a private prison operates, then that public is ill-equipped to challenge issues that arise within the prison.  Which brings me to this quick link from The American Independent.  The title pretty accurately sums up the main point; “Expanding Private Prison Industry Benefits From Weak Oversight Structure.”  It’s a really well-written and detailed article that lays out the problem in better terms than I can.  Enjoy!


Transparency Issues in a Florida Private Prison

1:35 pm in Uncategorized by WhyIHateCCA

Transparency Issues

How’s this for a joke?  A man walks into a prison and asks to see records of its operations.  Standard stuff like expenses, staffing levels, and the visitors’ log.  He cites a statute that allows for public review of the records of government agencies, similar to Freedom of Information / Public Records laws in states across the country and the federal government.  Only, this prison is a private one, run by a private, for-profit company, performing an inherently governmental function (as had been previously determined by the state’s Supreme Court), and officials at the prison tell this man he can’t have access to the very documents that he has a clearly-established right to see.

This is the story of Joel Chandler, who requested information from the Moore Haven CF in Florida.  Florida is one of two states that requires private prison operators to comply with public records laws (called the “sunshine law” in the state), because it has determined they perform an inherently governmental function.  In any of the other 48 states, Mr. Chandler would have no legal recourse because private prisons are rarely if ever forced to turn over records to the public – their only reporting duties are to the state they contract with.  But thankfully Mr. Chandler has filed a lawsuit against CCA for this violation of the law and his rights.
This is one topic I don’t cover often enough on here, but oversight of prisons, especially privately operated, for-profit facilities, is crucial to ensuring public safety and contract compliance.  The industry is notorious for skirting regulations and effective oversight, so it particularly troubles me that in a state that has expressly told private prison operators they must abide by such regulations, CCA still sees fit to so brazenly ignore the law.