NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today challenged the chief executive officer of the nation’s largest private prison company to a public debate on the merits of prison privatization.
The challenge, timed with Correction Corporation of America’s annual shareholders meeting today in Nashville, Tenn., comes after CCA has repeatedly criticized the views of the ACLU regarding for-profit incarceration.
“We would welcome the opportunity to defend our views on for-profit incarceration in a public debate – one that also gives you a full and fair opportunity to express your views,” reads the ACLU’s letter, delivered today to CCA’s CEO Damon Hininger. “CCA’s recent public criticisms of the ACLU and others make clear that you disagree with many of our views on privatized incarceration. Your criticism, however, has taken the form of written statements which, unlike a public debate, do not allow for refutation or further discussion.”
Exempted from the Freedom of Information Act, CCA and other private prison companies are shielded from public scrutiny by a veil of secrecy, despite locking up nearly 130,000 prisoners and an additional 15,000 immigration detainees each year while receiving billions of taxpayer dollars.
CCA in recent years has voted down shareholder resolutions demanding accountability in political contributions, and the company’s management this year is seeking to kill a shareholder proposal for greater transparency in efforts to curb prison rape.
In March, CCA sent a letter to officials in 48 states announcing what it called a “corrections investment initiative,” in which CCA offered to purchase prisons from states so long as they contain at least 1,000 beds and the states agree to pay CCA to operate the prisons for at least 20 years and keep the prisons at least 90 percent full.
A report released by the ACLU last year revealed how private prison companies have capitalized on the nation’s addiction to incarceration to achieve gigantic profits. All the while, according to the report, mass incarceration wreaks havoc on communities by unnecessarily depriving individuals of their liberty, draining government resources and bringing little or no benefit to public safety.
The report also found that despite serious questions about the wisdom of privatizing prison systems, some members of the for-profit prison industry use shrewd tactics, including extensive lobbying, lavish campaign contributions and efforts to control information, to garner more and more government contracts and lock up ever-increasing numbers of people.
“We believe that the taxpayers who finance private prisons; the families whose mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters are incarcerated in these facilities; and the communities where for-profit prisons are situated deserve more than sound bites,” the ACLU’s letter to Hininger reads. “They deserve a full, fair, and public examination of for profit incarceration.”
A copy of the ACLU’s letter is available online at:
aclu-letter-corrections- corporation-america- invitation-public-debate
The ACLU’s report on prison privatization is available online at: