If only I had a dollar for every time this type of abuse occurs!
Excerpts from the Article:
A federal corrections officer in Alabama agreed to plead guilty to charges that he had sex with a female inmate in a laundry room and asked a co-worker to lie about it, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Eric Todd Ellis was a guard at The Federal Correctional Institution in Aliceville when he had intercourse with the inmate in the prison’s laundry room on June 11, 2020, AL.com reported, citing court records made public Wednesday.
Ellis is charged with sex abuse of an adult ward in custody and intimidation or force against a witness, the website reported. The charges and plea agreement were filed simultaneously in the North District of Alabama, AL.com reported.
According to charging documents, Ellis previously admitted the sex act to a co-worker in a recorded call. On Sept. 5, 2020, during an investigation by the Office of Inspector General, authorities alleged Ellis told his co-worker, “Just tell (the OIG agents), ‘Yeah, we’re friends but, I mean, you hadn’t really talked to me about it and when you have, it’s — I’ve just told you nothing happened.’”
A judge still must accept the plea; upon acceptance, a sentencing date will be set, AL.com reported.
Ellis faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the sex abuse charge, and up to 20 years in prison and a fine of no more than $250,000 on the witness intimidation charge, the website reported.
No kidding! NO jail or prison in America has reasonable medical care, which they legally are required to have 3 different ways!
Excerpts from the Article:
A Colorado Springs man filed a lawsuit earlier this year against Larimer County jail officials alleging he was injured by his cellmate and then denied appropriate medical care last year.
Dustin Napier filed a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in March. According to court documents, Napier found out he had a years-old warrant out for his arrest for a nonviolent offense during a firearms background check last spring. He was arrested and booked into the Larimer County Jail on March 12, 2020, in connection to a five-year-old misdemeanor case.
The lawsuit alleges two unnamed correctional officers failed to perform a threat assessment on Napier and his cellmate, which resulted in Napier being housed with a violent individual with an extensive criminal record, including several assaults. Court records show Napier’s cellmate has a criminal history including charges of kidnapping, felony and misdemeanor assault and theft.
Napier repeatedly asked to be moved to a different cell because he feared for his safety, according to the lawsuit. His cellmate allegedly “made comments and gestures that made Napier feel as if his life was in danger,” but jail staff ignored his requests, the lawsuit says.
Less than a week after Napier was booked into the jail, his cellmate “brutally attacked Mr. Napier, fracturing his jaw,” according to the lawsuit.
A correctional officer then took Napier to the hospital where a doctor said Napier needed a surgical consult within the following two days. The lawsuit claims that Armor Correctional Health Services — the medical care service provider for the jail — “had an obligation” to get Napier an off-site surgical consult, and/or begin the process to get Napier the recommended consult.
But instead, the jail’s medical staff “knowingly left Mr. Napier in his cell, bleeding from his mouth, in agony, unable to sleep and constantly drinking his own blood for four days,” according to court documents.
Napier wasn’t able to receive the recommended medical care until he posted his bond days later, according to the lawsuit.
Jails have a duty to provide inmates necessary medical care, and the Larimer County Jail and Armor medical services failed to fulfill that duty, facing pressure to lower off-site medical costs for the jail, according to the suit.
The lawsuit was filed against the Larimer County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff Justin Smith, Capt. Timothy Palmer, two unnamed corrections officers, another corrections officer, Armor health services and four of its employees.
The lawsuit claims Napier’s 8th and 14th Amendment rights were violated and alleges the named defendants failed to provide him medical care and failed to adequately monitor the inmates.
Here it is, ten great articles. It has been called “The best overall criminal justice newsletter in America – sensible, witty, and informed”. Check it out and subscribe!
An end to some of the cruelty created by tRump, the worst president EVER! It was the idea of that tRumpster fruckwad, Stephen Miller, to rip small children from their parents, with NO plan for reunification!
Excerpts from the Article:
A detention facility in Georgia where women claim they were subjected to unwanted medical procedures and a Massachusetts jail that has drawn complaints of inhumane conditions will no longer be used to detain immigrants, the Biden administration said Thursday.
The Department of Homeland Security said it would terminate contracts with the local government agency that runs the detention center in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and with the private operator of the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a part of DHS, has already significantly reduced the detainee population at both facilities. Any detainees the U.S. believes should remain in custody will be transferred elsewhere, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in announcing the move, which had been sought by immigrant advocates.
“Allow me to state one foundational principle,” Mayorkas said, “We will not tolerate the mistreatment of individuals in civil immigration detention or substandard conditions of detention.”
Mayorkas said ending the use of the facilities is part of an effort to make “lasting improvements” to a detention system that advocates have long argued detains people for civil immigration offenses for too long and in inappropriately harsh conditions.
It also reflects a broader effort to roll back the anti-immigrant policies that characterized U.S. policy under President Donald Trump.
ICE holds about 19,000 noncitizens for removal at about 200 facilities around the country, down about a quarter from a year earlier. About 73 percent of those in custody have no criminal record and many others have only minor offenses, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data-gathering organization at Syracuse University.
DHS suggested additional detention facilities could close in a statement that noted that it would “review concerns” about other centers.
“Today’s announcements show the Biden administration’s willingness to decisively break from the immigrants’ rights abuses of prior administrations,” said Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, which recently called for the closure of 39 immigration detention centers around the country.
The ACLU has called for an end to the “default incarceration” of immigrants and an end to the agreements with state and local authorities that enable prisoners who are noncitizens to be transferred into ICE custody for deportation upon release.
Mayorkas has led an effort to soften some immigration policies but has insisted that noncitizens who pose a threat to the public and have committed serious crimes should be detained pending their removal from the country.
The Bristol County Sheriff’s Office operated the Massachusetts immigration detention center jail under an agreement with DHS. The Georgia facility was run by a private company under contract with the government.
Members of Congress and advocates have called for the closure of the Georgia facility since last year after women held there told of being forced into unnecessary gynecological procedures amid unsanitary conditions.
“Given its extensively documented history of human rights violations, Irwin should have been shut down long ago,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director for Project South, an advocacy group that has pressed for ICE and the company that runs the facility to compensate any women subjected to unwanted procedures there.
The facility in Ocilla, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of Atlanta, has been used to house men and women for ICE as well as inmates for the U.S. Marshals Service and Irwin County. It’s run by the private LaSalle Corrections, a Louisiana company.
ICE declined to say how many people are currently being held at Irwin. It has had an average daily population of just under 300 detainees so far in fiscal year 2021, down from an average of over 500 detainees a day two years ago, according to an ICE spokesman.
Immigrants held at the Massachusetts jail, known formally as the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center, have also complained about a lack of COVID-19 precautions as well as overcrowding and excessive use of force.
The Massachusetts attorney general’s office issued a scathing report in December, determining that officers violated the rights of detainees and used excessive force during a disturbance there earlier in the year.
“Sheriff Hodgson has inflicted grievous harm on vulnerable immigrants in his custody for years,” said Espinoza-Madrigal. “And we enthusiastically applaud the Biden Administration’s decision to put an immediate end to the abuse.”
Great news. They have proven to be disastrous!
Excerpts from the Article:
Washington Governor Jay Inslee in April 2021 signed House Bill 1090, which bans private, for-profit detention facilities in the state. According to the text of the bill, this includes “any facility in which persons are incarcerated or otherwise involuntarily confined for purposes including prior to trial or sentencing, fulfilling the terms of a sentence imposed by a court, or for other judicial or administrative processes or proceedings,” according to an April 14, 2021 story by the Tacoma-based immigrant rights group La Resistencia. Notably, the bill exempts some private facilities and cases of involuntary detention — such as in-patient treatment centers or public health quarantines.
Currently, there is only one private, for-profit detention camp in the state, the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma. The facility is operated by the GEO Group on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As a result of the new law, it will close when the GEO Group’s contract comes to an end in 2025. Crucially, the law will also prevent any other private facilities from opening in the future.
There were a few major objections to the law — mainly from Republicans — about whether the government had the authority to take the action. Some suggested that a better approach would simply be more oversight. But one critique of HB1090 is compelling: is it hypocritical for the state to enact such a bill, given the countless problems and abuses in its own prisons?
It is a fair point — especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no such thing as safe or fair incarceration.
But as the text of the law notes, those confined in private prisons usually face particularly unsanitary and dangerous conditions. Private companies have been known to cut corners in order to maximize their profits. “The United States Department of Justice office of the Inspector General found in 2016 that privately operated prisons ‘incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than 5 comparable BOP [Federal Bureau of Prisons] institutions,” the law states. Private companies also operate with far less oversight and fewer resources.
According to a March 31, 2021 article in the Seattle Times, the NWDC is known for maggots in the food, a complete lack of medical care, and extended use of solitary confinement, with an average of 70 days in isolation. Those detained in the facility have coordinated countless hunger strikes, and are still organizing closely with La Resistencia.
House Bill 1090 was largely an instrumental move, aimed at closing a particular detention center in a way that was legislatively feasible. It’s far easier to convince a state legislature to close private prisons and detention centers, as at least 22 other states have already done to some extent, than to prohibit contracts with ICE.
In light of widespread calls to abolish prisons outright this past summer, the state legislature was more willing to pass this legislation than in years prior. Just last year, a similar bill was pushed to the legislature by La Resistencia and other advocacy groups, but only passed after significant amendments were added that largely checked the bill’s intended impact.
Importantly, those held at the NWDC are being civilly detained — meaning it is a matter of their immigration status, rather than any criminal charges or sentencing. So La Resistencia, which has been organizing to close the facility since 2014, is pivoting to focus on the transition period between now and 2025. They are calling for Governor Inslee to stop any Washington Department of Corrections transfers, and instead free prisoners to return to their homes and communities as soon as possible.
Three Inmates Killed in Less Than a Week in Alabama Prisons The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state last year, charging that its Department of Corrections did not provide adequate protections for inmates.
My good friend and great lawyer, Steve Hampton, sent me this article. It seems that prison officials in Alabama have never heard of their primary duty: to protect the inmates. The situations we see here generates lawsuits for “failure to protect”, costing you, the taxpayers, millions of dollars.
Excerpts from the Article:
Three Alabama prison inmates died in less than a week this month from injuries that resulted from encounters with other inmates as the state faces continued scrutiny by the U.S. Justice Department over its prison conditions.
The men died in separate episodes at different prisons in five days, Kristi Simpson, a spokeswoman with the Alabama Department of Corrections, said in a statement on Tuesday. The deaths were results of apparent inmate-on-inmate assaults, she said, and are being investigated by Department’s Law Enforcement Services Division.
Ms. Simpson said that the “exact causes of each of these deaths are all pending full autopsies.”
The Department of Corrections identified the three inmates who were killed as: Ian Rettig, 23, who died on May 4 and was an inmate at Fountain Correctional Facility, serving an 18-month sentence for multiple convictions; Jody Potts, 58, who died on May 6 and was an inmate at the Limestone Correctional Facility, serving a life sentence for murder; and Regial Ingram, 32, who died on May 8 and was an inmate at Bullock Correctional Facility, serving a 21-year sentence for second-degree robbery.
Mr. Rettig was scheduled to be released from prison the day after his death, according to The Associated Press.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the actions that the perpetrators have taken against these victims,” Ms. Simpson said in her statement. “Each of these incidents are being investigated thoroughly, and appropriate enforcement action — to include referring the perpetrators in question for prosecution — will be taken upon the completion of our investigative process.”
Alabama has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, and its prison system has long been under the scrutiny of the Justice Department, which cited overcrowding and understaffing as major problems in a scathing report released in 2019. The report found that the state was “deliberately indifferent” to the risks inmates face and that “deplorable conditions within Alabama’s prisons lead to heightened tensions among prisoners.”
The Justice Department also found that prisoner-to-prisoner violence and sexual abuse were common within the system and that prisoner-to-prisoner violence was much higher “compared to other similar systems,” according to the report.
Another report, released in July 2020 by the Justice Department, found that correctional officers often used excessive force on inmates, infringing on their Eighth Amendment rights, which protect them from cruel and unusual punishment.
In December 2020, the Justice Department sued Alabama, charging that it violates inmates’ constitutional rights and “fails to provide adequate protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, fails to provide safe and sanitary conditions, and subjects prisoners to excessive force at the hands of prison staff.”
Wanda Bertram, a communications strategist for the Prison Policy Initiative, said in an interview on Tuesday that it was necessary for the federal government to step in when state prison agencies continue to have major issues and atrocities within their system.
“Oversight is a critical mechanism for improving conditions behind bars, and it’s also, you know, a mechanism that’s used less today than it has been before,” Ms. Bertram said.
Andrea Armstrong, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans whose expertise includes criminal justice and incarceration, said that violence accounted for a low percentage of deaths in prisons and jails, according to national data, making the recent deaths in Alabama “atypical.”
“By and large the leading causes of death are first, medical-related issues, particularly in prisons where you’re dealing with older populations on average,” said Professor Armstrong, who also cited suicide and drug overdose as other leading causes of death in prisons.
From 2001 to 2018, the annual mortality rate for inmates in Alabama state prisons who were killed by someone else was 10 inmates per 100,000 prisoners, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The death rate is higher with causes like heart disease, respiratory illness, cancer and liver disease.
Alabama currently has over 24,000 inmates in its Department of Corrections facilities, according to the department’s website.
Chris England, an Alabama state representative and Democrat, said the conditions within the state’s prisons were “horrendous,” and he has called for Jeff Dunn, commissioner of the state’s Department of Corrections since 2015, to step down.
The Department of Corrections did not immediately respond on Tuesday to a request for comment about the call for him to step down.
“Our system is rotten to the core,” Mr. England said on Tuesday, discussing deaths within the state’s prison system.
Mr. England recently sponsored legislation that would require the Department of Corrections to send quarterly reports to the Legislature’s Joint Legislative Prison Oversight Committee that would include details on officer retention and data on inmate deaths and causes.
The Whole Story:
Every jail and prison in America is woefully failing on mental health care!
Excerpts from the Article:
A two-year federal investigation into the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (MDOC) found that prisoners’ constitutional rights had been violated in regard to mental health care.
Investigators cited hundreds of instances of MDOC employees failing to prevent suicide or other self-harm among prisoners who had been designated for mental health watch. The more grievous examples involved staff purposefully ignoring signs of potential harm, and the report highlighted a general absence of “clear and uniform training” inside the department.
The investigation was conducted by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts. In a statement released in November 17, 2020, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said, “The conditions at MDOC facilities show how systemic deficiencies in prison facilities can compound each other and amount to constitutional violations.”
Federal charges were not announced, but the MDOC was given seven weeks to implement required minimal changes to the department’s operations. These included improved training, reducing isolation of the prisoners to a minimum, keeping implements out of their possession that could be used for self-harm while on mental health watch, and employing enough clinicians that out-of-cell mental health assessments could be conducted daily.
A lawsuit could be brought against the state by the U.S. Attorney General if these requirements were not fulfilled. MDOC was working with the investigators to institute some of the necessary reforms, and at the time the report was released a spokesperson for the department, Jason Dobsom, said “significant progress” had already been made.
Both critics and Congressmen have disputed those claims. “As far as we can see through interviews with our clients, I don’t know that any significant changes have actually been implemented yet,” Elizabeth Matos of the watchdog group Prisoner’s Legal Services said.
Senator Cindy Friedman also expressed doubt that MDOC had made substantive reforms.
“And if you’re telling me that the thing you did was take a razor away from somebody who was seriously ill or suicidal, that’s what you think is providing people with good care. You’ve got to be kidding,” she said.
One of the reforms yet to be addressed was the hiring of additional mental health clinicians, an issue likely tied to a shortage of available funds. Governor Charlie Baker had asked for $730 million for MDOC’s 2020 budget but received less than $688 million. With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking even further havoc in 2021, Massachusetts is but another on the lengthy list of states with prison systems too bloated to benefit the public or those it incarcerates.
Yes, these unions spend a fortune fighting many needed changes, primarily because the changes will cost them jobs. For every 1 person arrested, 29 benefit financially! And most of them are not helping anyone – neither society nor an individual.
What these articles do not tell you is that, in fact, guards frequently make up false “write ups” in order to place inmates in solitary to shut them up! They do not want inmates to communicate to “the outside world” all of the abuses and medical neglect! As much as 80% of those in isolation cells need not be there for any security reason.
Excerpts from the Article:
The union for New York’s corrections officers has brought a federal lawsuit against the Cuomo administration, alleging a new law restricting the use of segregated confinement of inmates reflects a “deliberate and callous indifference” to the lives of prison staffers.
The law, which takes effect next April, will cap the period of time for which an inmate can be held in disciplinary housing at 15 days. Inmates will also get counseling in rehabilitation units to aid when they return to the facility’s general population.
The measure also prohibits segregated confinement for individuals less than 21 years old, those who are 55 and older and any person who has a disability.
The union, New York State Corrections Officers Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA) argues the law violates the constitutional rights of corrections officers by creating a “dangerous living and working environment” that leaves them vulnerable to inmates who have shown a propensity to commit violent assaults.
Michael Powers, president of NYSCOPBA, told CNHI that assaults behind the walls of state prisons have escalated even as the prison population has decreased.
“They all know they can get away with it,” said Powers, predicting prison violence will further escalate once the new law, the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act, goes into effect next April.
“While the Department cannot comment on pending litigation, DOCCS has a zero tolerance policy with respect violence in our facilities and pursues both disciplinary charges and criminal prosecution for any assault,” Mailey said. He noted a new felony conviction would result in a consecutive term of imprisonment.
The push to limit putting inmates in isolation was backed by New York State Catholic Conference, representing the state’s Catholic bishops, as well as the New York Civil Liberties Union and a host of criminal justice reform advocates.
An organizer with a group called the #HALTSolitary campaign, Jerome Wright, argued curbing the use of solitary as a disciplinary tool will improve safety behind bars.
The legislation, he said “will protect people from the terrible harms of long-term solitary, including severe psychosis and suicide, while still allowing the department to separate people for extended periods of time in secure environments with therapeutic programming proven to actually address dangerous behaviors.
While critics of putting inmates in solitary confinement argue the practice is inhumane, Powers said the housing units “are not dark, dungeon-like atmospheres.”
“They see nurses, they see their counselors, they see clergy,” he said of inmates. “They’ve got iPads, tablets, phone services to their family.”
Corrections officer Chloe Hayes, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she was attacked by an inmate at a maximum security prison.
“He viciously attacked me, punching me several times in the face, ripping my shirt open to remove all equipment that would have helped me,” she said of the incident at Greene Correctional Facility. “If it wasn’t for someone hearing my screams, I don”t know how this situation would have turned out.”
The inmate, she said, “has been protected for his unprovoked actions while my life has been interrupted.”
The lawsuit states the percentage of inmates serving time for violent offense in maximum and medium security facilities has increased markedly over the past decade.
It also states the number of inmate assaults on staff doubled from 2010 to 2020, and inmate assaults on other inmates has also increased substantially.
Another of dozens of serious prison abuse articles I see every week!
Excerpts from the Article:
A Vermont civil rights chapter is attempting to pry open the cover of secrecy between a health-care contractor and the state of Vermont.
Earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Vermont filed an amicus brief in support of the Human Rights Defense Center’s (HRDC) effort to look into the state of Vermont and a corrections health-care contractor. HRDC is a nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to advancing the rights of prisoners.
Behind the brief is the issue that some Vermont prisoners have alleged inadequate health care by Wellpath, a firm contracted by the state.
By legal definition, amicus briefs (literally, “a friend of the court”) are filed “by people who typically take the position of one side in a case, in the process of supporting a cause that has some bearing on the issues in the case.”
The ACLU of Vermont’s brief is supporting an effort by the Florida-based Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) “to obtain records of legal claims filed against Vermont’s former prison healthcare provider over a period of five years.”
Is it legal for a state contractor to withhold public records involving a core government function, in this case, the provision of healthcare in Vermont prisons? That’s what the ACLU and HRDC are attempting to ascertain.
The issue has been presented to the Vermont Supreme Court to consider in the hopes of a ruling this year.
The most notable official supporting the ACLU and HRDC is Secretary of State Jim Condos, a long-time outspoken advocate of government transparency. Along with Condos, Vermont State Auditor Doug Hoffer, the Vermont Prisoners’ Rights Office, and the New England First Amendment Coalition have joined the amicus
According to a March 23 news release, ACLU of Vermont Senior Staff Attorney Lia Ernst said, “Vermonters expect their government and its contractors to be accountable. For that to happen, we can’t allow private corporations performing traditional, core government roles to evade our public records laws. Transparency is especially important in this context, given the continuing failures of our prison healthcare system and the resulting harms to incarcerated Vermonters and their families. The state can choose to outsource its work, but its legal obligations do not just disappear.”
The ACLU brief essentially outlines that, from 2010 to 2015, private for-profit Correct Care Solutions/Wellpath, contracted with the state to provide health care for all people incarcerated in Vermont prisons. “In return, the state paid Wellpath roughly $94 million,” according to ACLU Vermont. “HRDC…requested copies of settlements of the lawsuits filed against Wellpath. Wellpath refused to disclose those records, prompting this lawsuit.” Vermont’s Department of Corrections “contractually delegated to Wellpath a function that the DOC is both constitutionally and statutorily mandated to undertake and argues that, because it was operating as a ‘functional equivalent’ of the government, Wellpath took on the government’s transparency obligations under the state’s public records law.”
The ACLU of Vermont litigated the same issue in 2013. At that time, the Vermont Supreme Court ordered the Corrections Corporation of America to disclose records ACLU Vermont requested.
ACLU of Vermont stated, “that the Public Records Act’s purpose of ensuring governmental accountability cannot be achieved if agencies can outsource their core responsibilities – but not their transparency obligations – to private entities.”
The text of the amicus brief may be read online at https://www.acluvt.org/sites/default/files/2020-308_hrdc_v._ccs_secretary_condos_et_al._amicus_brief.pdf.
This has been an ongoing battle in many states. Because our prisons are so out of control, they try to hide everything with a blanket of secrecy. They say it is for “security” reasons, but that is total BS!
Excerpts from the Article:
Exacerbating the alarm for civil and human rights organizations is the record of malpractice that private prison companies in Florida have. Human Rights Defense Center is appealing to the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami, arguing that by working in prison on a state contract, Armor must comply with Florida public records laws. “Any lawyer who represents people in prison can tell you that it’s incredibly difficult to get information on what is going on behind bars,” said Kelly Knapp, senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
African Americans comprise about half of the more than 100,000 inmates in Florida prisons and jails.
Black males ages 30 to 34 have the highest incarceration rate of any race, age, or gender group in the Sunshine State, which boasts the third-largest prison population in the United States.
Against that backdrop, an amicus brief filed this week in the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami is critical.
The First Amendment Foundation, ACLU of Florida, and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed the brief supporting the plaintiffs in Human Rights Defense Center v. Armor Correctional Health Services Inc.
According to a news release, the organizations filed the brief because of their “longstanding interest in preserving an open and transparent government and protecting the public’s right to access public records, including public records held by private companies that provide services to Florida’s incarcerated population.”
The Human Rights Defense Center filed a public records request with Armor Correctional Health Services, which provides medical care in Florida prisons, seeking details of its treatment of incarcerated people.
The release noted that the trial judge dismissed the case because Armor is a private company, and any request for information needed to go through the Florida Department of Corrections.
Human Rights Defense Center is appealing to the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami, arguing that by working in prison on a state contract, Armor must comply with Florida public records laws, the release further stated.
“Any lawyer who represents people in prison can tell you that it’s incredibly difficult to get information on what is going on behind bars,” Kelly Knapp, senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, stated.
“Organizations like ours rely on Florida’s public record laws to make sure that the law is being followed. But with the privatization of so many prison functions, it has become harder than ever to uncover what is happening to people inside. Private companies getting public money should be required to answer to the public.”
The organizations have argued that the steady increase of privatization in administering medical care provided to incarcerated people naturally calls for robust monitoring of prison conditions.
“The public must be able to access information about the government in an open and transparent way,” Benjamin Stevenson, staff attorney at the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement emailed to NNPA Newswire.
“Our democracy depends on the public’s right to know what the government is doing, and access to public information is a constitutional right that must be protected,” Stevenson determined.
In 2013, Florida entered into a five-year, $1.2 billion contract with Corizon, a Tennessee company, to provide medical care to thousands of incarcerated people in Florida. Reportedly, in the five years before Corizon’s partnership, the private company faced over 600 lawsuits stemming from allegations of malpractice.
In December 2012, the Florida Department of Corrections also entered into a $240 million contract with Wexford Health Sources, a Pennsylvania-based company, to provide medical services to incarcerated people in nine institutions throughout South Florida.
Reports indicated that between January 2008 through 2012, Wexford faced over 1,000 claims of malpractice from people in prisons.
The organizations argued in their brief that the sheer number of lawsuits against private contractors providing prison services underscores the need for effective monitoring in prisons.
“Access to records of government contractors is critical as more prison services are privatized. These records are necessary for the public and the press to oversee the conditions of Florida prisons and jails,” Pamela Marsh, President of the First Amendment Foundation, argued.
“Forcing the public to sue a government entity, rather than a contractor acting on behalf of an agency, unnecessarily drags out the enforcement of a public records request and increases the costs of enforcing the constitutional right of public access.”