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PLN Prevails in Public Records Suit Against GEO Group

In May 2010, Prison Legal News announced that it had prevailed in a public records lawsuit filed against Florida-based GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections), the nation’s second-largest private prison company.

PLN filed the suit in 2005 under Florida’s public records law after GEO failed to produce documents related to contractual violations and litigation against the company that resulted in settlements or verdicts. [See: PLN, Dec. 2005, p.25]. Under state law, F.S. 119.01(1), GEO is required to comply with public records requests.

Over the past five years of litigation the Circuit Court granted four motions to compel against GEO, ordering company officials to produce the records. GEO finally did so just before a summary judgment hearing in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, providing a spreadsheet of successful litigation against the company and agreeing to pay $40,000 for PLN’s attor-ney’s fees. GEO also produced copies of the complaints and settlements in the ten lawsuits that had resulted in the larg-est monetary payouts.

“While we are pleased with the eventual outcome of this case, we are disappointed that GEO decided to drag it out over five years, which was clearly a delaying tactic,” stated PLN editor Paul Wright. “The public, which funds GEO’s for-profit prison operations through taxpayer dollars, deserves better in terms of compliance with Florida’s public records law.”

PLN’s attorney, Frank Kreidler, who specializes in public records and Sunshine Law litigation, agreed. “This was a long, tough case in which GEO failed to produce the requested records years ago, which would have made them avail-able to the public through PLN’s reporting. It is a disservice to the public when GEO fails to comply with the state’s public records statute.” See: Prison Legal News v. The GEO Group, Inc., Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida for Palm Beach County (FL), Case No. 50 2005 CA 011195 AA.

In other recent private prison-related news in Florida, a report by the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy re-leased in April 2010 found that it was uncertain whether private prisons produce savings of at least seven percent as re-quired by state law. The report further concluded there was insufficient data to determine the efficacy of education and rehabilitation programs provided by private prison companies.

Also, on April 13, 2010, Florida officials announced that GEO Group was losing its contracts to operate the Graceville and Moore Haven correctional facilities; those prisons will now be managed by Corrections Corporation of America.

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Related legal case

Prison Legal News v. The GEO Group, Inc.