CCA Board Member Steps Down from Open Government Organization
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison firm, is also one of the least transparent government contractors despite performing an inherently governmental function – incarceration.
For example, CCA has vigorously opposed efforts to require the company to comply with state public records laws. In Tennessee, where CCA is headquartered, the company fought a public records suit filed by Prison Legal News managing editor Alex Friedmann for five years before conceding defeat after two appellate court rulings. [See: PLN, June 2013, p.14]. CCA also refused to comply with PLN public records requests in Texas and Vermont, resulting in litigation in those states. [See: PLN, April 2014, p.35; July 2013, p.42].
Additionally, the company has lobbied against the Private Prison Information Act – federal legislation that would extend the Freedom of Information Act to privately-operated facilities that house federal prisoners. [See: PLN, Feb. 2013, p.14].
Therefore, given the company’s lack of transparency and public accountability, it was both ironic and incomprehensible when CCA board member Charles L. Overby joined the board of directors of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG) in March 2014. TCOG, a non-profit organization, “seeks to preserve, protect and improve citizen access to public information and open government in Tennessee.”
Beyond his close affiliation with CCA, Overby is the former chairman of the Freedom Forum – a foundation that educates people about the news media and the First Amendment. He is also a former reporter and editor.
Journalist Beau Hodai examined Overby’s “dark history” with CCA in a 2010 article, noting that he “is a man who leads dual lives; a man who has each foot planted firmly in two very different worlds. In one world he is a champion of the free press. In the other, he is one of a group at the helm of a corporation that has worked hard to limit freedom of information and the ability of the press to inform the public.” [See: PLN, Feb. 2010, p.16].
Indeed, in 2012, Overby – along with other members of CCA’s board of directors – voted against a shareholder resolution that would have required the company to issue reports on what it was doing to reduce incidents of rape and sexual abuse at CCA-operated facilities, including statistical data concerning such incidents. Such information is available from public corrections agencies but not from CCA. [See: PLN, March 2012, p.18].
Therefore, Friedmann contacted TCOG executive director Deborah Fisher on April 16, 2014, stating “it is with some surprise that I learned Charles Overby has been named to TCOG’s board of directors, given that Mr. Overby simultaneously is a board member of CCA – one of the least transparent government contractors that regularly denies and opposes public records requests.” He added, “The fact that Mr. Overby now maintains dual loyalties to TCOG and CCA seems inappropriate to me.”
Friedmann also contacted TCOG board president Douglas R. Pierce to express concerns about Overby’s board membership, noting that he intended to contact other board members to ensure they were aware of Overby’s association with CCA when they voted to appoint him to TCOG’s board of directors.
While collecting additional information from TCOG as a prelude to an opposition campaign against Overby’s board membership, Friedmann learned on July 23, 2014 that Overby had stepped down from TCOG’s board. According to an inside source, he left the organization to avoid the controversy that would result from a campaign that drew attention to his affiliation with CCA.
Charles Overby remains on CCA’s board of directors.
Sources: www.tcog.info, emails to and from TCOG
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login