Government Law

Prison Co.'s Settlement Records are Public, Tenn. Judge Says

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Corrections Corp. of America, a private company that runs state prisons in Tennessee, is subject to the state’s open records law, a Chancery Court judge has ruled, because it is the “functional equivalent” of a state agency.

The company now plans to appeal. But if the ruling is upheld and applied, it is expected to reveal how much is being spent to settle claims of prisoner mistreatment, reports the Tennessean.

The case was brought by Alex Friedmann, an ex-offender who was released in 1999 after serving six years. He is now vice president of Private Corrections Institute, a prison advocacy group. Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman hasn’t yet decided whether to award him attorney fees.

As discussed in prior posts, critics say substandard medical care in a number of prisons throughout the country is costing lives—and, in some cases, hefty legal fees and settlements.

“When the private sector says, ‘We can do this cheaper and better,’ people don’t think about what happens if things go wrong,” says attorney Michele Deitch, an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “Who pays for that? In fact, it does come back to the taxpayers and the government. We need that information for a fuller picture of the true cost of these prisons.”

Earlier coverage:

The Atlantic: “The Prison-Industrial Complex” “Worse than Prison Inmate Medical Care: Detained Immigrants’ Medical Care” “Receiver Shakes Up CA Prison System”

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