Private Prisons Want You to Mind Your Own Business

In the past few years, the issue of accountability has permeated news stories ranging from the collapse of the housing market to police shootings.  Why did these events occur and where does the accountability fall? 

Too often, the question of accountability only arises when a mistake or choice has been made that has harmed individuals or communities.  It’s a reactionary strategy that only seeks change after tragedy strikes.

Yet even under this strategy, the private prison industry – which has seen a number of tragedies and scandals – has not been held accountable.  Why?

True Accountability Requires Transparency

True (and effective) accountability doesn’t wait for an economic collapse, or unconstitutional prison conditions, or any other horrible outcome.  It has to start from the beginning. 

Accountability requires information and transparency.  The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows individuals to obtain access to federal agency records with some limited exclusions. 

But currently, non-federal agencies that receive significant federal funding – a group that includes private prison corporations – are exempt from FOIA.  

What’s more, private prison corporations that receive over 40% of their revenue from federal contracts have openly opposed past legislative attempts to allow transparency and public accountability. 

Don't Wait for an Even Bigger Tragedy

This isn’t merely an issue of receiving federal funding.  Private prisons owned and operated by entities like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group are an extension of our federal and state prison system, one that is government funded, operated, and controlled. 

They are, in fact, acting as an arm of the federal agency and are governed by the same laws and regulations.   

Considering the scandals and lawsuits that plague corrections systems all over this country, why should private prisons be allowed to operate behind a veil of secrecy to the detriment of the men, women, and youth in their custody?  Mistreatment, abuse, and death have already been documented in private prisons.  What else needs to happen?

Private prison corporations should not be allowed to circumvent policies that protect the health and safety of their prisoners and keep their practices accountable. 

Demand Accountability for Our Tax Dollars

Join us in urging Representative Sheila Jackson Lee to reintroduce the Private Prison Information Act to keep private prisons accountable.  

If your organization is interested in supporting the reintroduction of this critical bill, please contact co-organizers Christopher Petrella and/or Alex Friedmann.  

No organizational affiliation?  Make your voice heard by contacting Rep. Jackson Lee's Washington D.C. office directly at (202) 225-3816.