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ACLU Challenges Secrecy In Private Prison Lawsuit on Behalf of PLN

KC Tribune, Aug. 6, 2009.
ACLU Challenges Secrecy In Private Prison Lawsuit on Behalf of PLN - KC Tribune 2009

ACLU Challenges Secrecy In Private Prison Lawsuit


Published 08/06/2009 - 11:17 p.m. CDT

On July 27, 2009, The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri arbitrated on behalf of Prison Legal News, a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, in a class-action lawsuit against Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), a private prison company based in Nashville.

ACLU moved to intervene in the suit for the sole purpose of unsealing the settlement agreement. As a matter of public policy, documents filed in federal court should be open to inspection by the public. "It is important to ensure the availability of court records for public accountability. It serves the interests of the 1st Amendment", said Doug Bonney, Chief Counsel for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.

The class action suit was settled on February 12, 2009; however, the settlement was sealed by the court upon motion by the parties. Thus, the exact terms of the settlement are unknown, including the maximum monetary amount that CCA will have to pay.

Private prison firms, including CCA, often claim they save money. Since about 80% of prisons operating expenses are related to staffing costs, it is noteworthy that CCA apparently saved money by failing to pay its employees the wages to which they were entitled, in violation of federal labor laws. The settlement would reveal details regarding how CCA saved money by shorting its own staff members.

The class action suit against CCA is Barnwell, et al. v. Corrections Corp. of America, U.S.D.C. (D. Kan.), Case No. 2:08-CV-02151-JWL-DJW. PLN is represented in its motion to intervene by Stephen Douglas Bonney, Chief Counsel and Legal Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.

The ACLU conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

For further information, please contact:

Dan Winter, Executive Director or
Doug Bonney, Chief Counsel
ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri
3601 Main Street
Kansas City, MO 64111
Tel. (816) 756-3113, Ext. 228
Fax (816) 756-0136



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