Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CCA ordered to comply with Tennessee's public information laws

CCA has promised to appeal, but for the moment, a welcome victory for public accountability in the private prison industry. From The Tennessean:

A Chancery Court judge ruled today that Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America has to follow the state’s public records laws and open their files for public viewing.

CCA, which operates the Metro Davidson County Detention Facility and six other detention facilities across the state, said they were a private company that did not have to comply with public records requests.

Alex Friedmann, vice president of the Private Corrections Institute and an adversary of a CCA attorney’s nomination to a federal judgeship, brought the lawsuit after the company denied a request for records about lawsuits and settlements they were part of.

Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled that CCA was a “functional equivalent” to a governmental entity, because their operation of jails and prisons are essential governmental functions and most of their revenues are taxpayer-funded.

Bonnyman ordered CCA to make all their records available for inspection during business hours so long as they still have them and they aren’t exempted from public records laws because of court orders or seals.

CCA attorney Joe Welborn said they plan to appeal the ruling.

For more on CCA, the private prison industry, and private corporations' role in immigration detention see: Texas Prison Bid'ness and The Business of Detention.