This summer, MuckRock announced that it was beginning a longterm FOIA investigation into the shadowy space between the private prison industry and its government “partners,” who bankroll almost the entirety of this growing enterprise. These corporations are not subject to FOIA, though this year the good people at Prison Legal News added Texas to the list of states (Tennessee, Florida, Vermont) in which they’ve successfully filed suit to subject records to state public records laws. At the federal level, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) introduced the “Private Prison Information Act,” which has struggled in the past to make it past the initial committee. MuckRock has begun digging, but the surface has barely been scratched.
With inmate grievances and state contracts as the starting point, we’ve been able to begin looking more into how inmate voices aren’t heard and how past infractions are not cause for concern as long as there’s money to back it.
The many aspects of the prison industry obviously control all possible areas of inmate daily life — food service, healthcare, transportation, communication, construction, etc. — each incentivizing a system of “rehabilitation” and “correction” that doesn’t seem to be benefiting constituents on the inside or the outside. Recent tax restructuring by Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group has successfully rebranded the two biggest contributors as Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), something like apartment buildings. New questions have popped up through SEC filings and an understanding of corporate tax structure.
So as we go into a new year, MuckRock will continue requesting whatever it can — following contract threads for the due diligence that should have been conducted, asking about which companies are tangentially reaping rewards, and looking to our readers for tips, suggestions, and any advice about the workings of the private corrections industry.
Have a particular prison you’re curious about? Reach out, and we can help get you started filing your own requests.
Image via Wikimedia Commons