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PCI Announces 2016 Awards for Private Prison Activism, Advocacy and News Reporting

On February 8, 2017, the Private Corrections Institute (PCI), a non-profit citizen watchdog organization, announced its 2016 awardees for individual activism, organizational advocacy and excellence in news reporting related to the private prison industry. PCI opposes the privatization of correctional services, including the operation of prisons, jails and other detention facilities by for-profit companies such as industry leaders Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, which recently rebranded as CoreCivic) and The GEO Group, which both trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

PCI’s 2016 award for excellence in news reporting on the private prison industry went to Shane Bauer, a senior reporter with Mother Jones magazine, for his extensive first-hand account titled, “My four months as a private prison guard.” His article described his experiences working undercover as a guard at a CCA-operated prison in Louisiana – the Winn Correctional Center, which is now managed by a different contractor. Shane’s reporting was accompanied by a number of related articles and video clips, as well as a follow-up piece about the tragic suicide of a prisoner he had met while employed at Winn. [See: PLN, Aug. 2016, p.54].

“It’s a great honor to receive this award from the Private Corrections Institute,” Shane stated. “Work like this is always a collective effort and I am extremely grateful to the many people who have long been researching private prisons as well as my editors at Mother Jones, and the fact checkers, lawyers, designers and many more who contributed to this story.”

Shane also received the 2017 John Jay Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting for his article, which CCA had challenged in a failed attempt to discredit him.

Stephen Raher was therecipient of PCI’s 2016 annual award for exceptional activism against the privatization of correctional services. Raher, an attorney in Oregon, has long engaged in activism against for-profit prisons, dating back to when he served as co-director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. Among other efforts, he filed and successfully litigated a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit to obtain federal private prison contracts.

“I’m particularly grateful to receive this award given its source. Over the years I have been working on this issue, PCI has been a consistent and valued ally,” Stephen said. “By assembling a diverse group of constituencies who have an interest in countering the pernicious effects of for-profit incarceration, PCI has been at the forefront of an important movement.”

Lastly, PCI’s 2016 award for outstanding advocacy against privatization of correctional services went to the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice. While not a typical “advocacy” organization, in August 2016 the OIG’s office released a scathing report titled, “Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring of Contract Prisons.” Among other findings, the report noted that in comparison to prisons operated by the BOP, private contract facilities had higher average rates of contraband cell phones, tobacco and weapons; higher rates of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults, prisoner-on-staff assaults and uses of force; and more lockdowns. [See: PLN, Oct. 2016, p.22].

The OIG report was cited by then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in an August 18, 2016 memo that announced the start of “the process of reducing – and ultimately ending – our use of privately operated prisons.” According to the memo, private prisons “simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and ... they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.” [See: PLN, Sept. 2016, p.28].

 The Private Corrections Institute’s 2016 awards were presented by PCI president (and Prison Legal News managing editor) Alex Friedmann, who served ten years behind bars in the 1990s, including six years at a CCA-operated prison, prior to his release in 1999.

“I am very pleased to issue this year’s awards,” he stated. “There has been increased awareness about the significant shortcomings of prison privatization – not only the privatization of facility management, but also the privatization of correctional medical care, mental health care, food services, commissary services, phone services, transportation services, probation and other ancillary services and programs. PCI’s awards recognize organizations and people who have worked to expose the problems inherent in a profit-based criminal justice system.” 

Source: PCI press release (Feb. 8, 2017)


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