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PLN sues CCA over public records access in Tennessee

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2008.
Press release - PLN sues CCA over public records access in Tennessee - 2008

Prison Legal News Sues CCA to Obtain Public Records

May 20, 2008 - Prison Legal News

P R E S S R E L E A S E

For Immediate Release


Lawsuit Seeks to Hold Nation's Largest Private Prison Firm Accountable to Public Records Law

NASHVILLE, TN – On May 19, 2008, Prison Legal News (PLN), an independent monthly publication that reports on corrections and criminal justice-related issues, filed suit in Davidson County Chancery Court against Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), the nation's largest private prison firm, which is headquartered in Nashville.

Last year PLN's associate editor, Alex Friedmann, submitted a public records request to CCA under Tennessee's open records law. In 2002 the Tennessee Supreme Court had ruled that private companies which perform functionally equivalent public services must comply with public records requests to the same extent as government agencies. Although CCA performs an equivalent government function by operating prisons and jails through contracts that are funded with taxpayer dollars, the company refused to produce the requested records. CCA claimed it was not subject to the state's public records law despite the Tennessee Supreme Court's clear ruling to the contrary.

PLN had requested records related to successful litigation against CCA, as well as "reports, audits, investigations or other similar documents which found ... that CCA did not comply with one or more terms of its contracts" with government agencies.

The lawsuit filed by PLN is to ensure that records maintained by CCA as a private prison contractor are available to the public to the same extent as from government agencies, in order to ensure accountability and public oversight of CCA's prison and jail operations. “Public agencies cannot contract away the public's ability to review records that otherwise would be publicly accessible under the state's open records law. The public's right to know is not delegable to private corporations,” said Paul Wright, PLN’s editor.

In a 2007 news article, Steven Owen, CCA's Director of Marketing, was quoted as saying prison privatization was "one of the most transparent industries out there." As CCA has refused to comply with Tennessee's public records law, PLN's lawsuit will put the company's self-proclaimed transparency to the test.

The case is Friedmann v. CCA, Chancery Court of Davidson County, Tenn., Case No. 08-1105-I. PLN is represented by Andy Clarke of the Memphis law firm of Borod and Kramer, PLC.


Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Seattle, Washington, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. prisons. PLN publishes a monthly newsletter that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners' rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has over 6,800 subscribers nationwide and operates a website (www.prisonlegalnews.org) that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related court rulings, verdicts, settlements and other documents. PLN has successfully sued the Washington Dept. of Corrections and Federal Bureau of Prisons over access to public records.


For further information, contact:

Paul Wright, Editor
Prison Legal News
2400 NW 80th St., Box 148
Seattle, WA 98117
(802) 257-1342
pwright@prisonlegalnews.org

Andrew C. Clarke
Borod and Kramer, PLC
80 Monroe Avenue, Suite G-1
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 271-2723
aclarke@borodandkramer.com


 


 

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