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

On February 6, 2018, the Private Corrections Institute (PCI), a non-profit citizen watchdog organization, announced its 2017 awards 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 CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) and The GEO Group, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange as CXW and GEO, respectively. PCI also opposes the privatization of prison and jail medical, mental health, transportation, commissary, telephone, food, probation and community corrections services.

The recipient of PCI’s 2017 award for excellence in news reporting on the private prison industry was Demetria Kalodimos, until recently an anchor and reporter for WSMV Channel 4, an NBC affiliate based in Nashville, Tennessee. Throughout 2017, she produced a number of hard-hitting reports about the CoreCivic-operated Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (TTCC). Her reporting covered allegations of inadequate medical care, violence, gang activity and criticism from former employees, as well as the results of a state audit that found serious deficiencies at the prison. [See: PLN, Feb. 2018, p.46]. She also reported on problems at the CoreCivic-operated South Central Correctional Facility in Tennessee.

“There have been few stories in my career that rival the scope and depth of problems presented by Tennessee’s continued reliance on private prisons operated by CoreCivic,” Demetria said. “Despite some very serious obstacles, I am proud of the reporting photojournalist Zina Bauman and I were able to present, with the help of some very brave inmates, their supportive families, current and former employees, legislators and advocates. The problems continue. A recent state audit validated nearly all the claims CoreCivic had publicly disputed in my reporting. State lawmakers have promised to make this issue a priority in the current session of the General Assembly. I look forward to picking up where I left off, for a new media outlet soon.”

Carl Takei was therecipient of PCI’s 2017 award for exceptional individual activism against the privatization of correctional services. Carl, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project, recently announced his move to the ACLU’s Center for Justice and Equality, where he will be working on police practices litigation. He has consistently opposed and spoken out against the private prison industry for many years.

“I am very honored to receive this award from the Private Corrections Institute, and grateful for the years of partnering with PCI to expose the realities of for-profit incarceration,” Carl stated. “Although the Trump administration is working to further enrich private prison investors, I remain confident that those efforts will delay, but not prevent, the end of this inhumane industry and the lock-em-up policies that fuel its profits.”

Finally, PCI’s 2017 award for outstanding organizational advocacy against the private prison industry went to MuckRock, a non-profit, collaborative news site that shares government documents to make “politics more transparent and democracies more informed.” Through its Private Prison Project and Freedom of Information Act requests, MuckRock has obtained thousands of records related to private prison companies, including “how for-profit prisons have leveraged the legal system to their advantage, letting companies pick and choose inmates to off-load costs, ignore complaints and concerns, and create dangerous conditions for prisoners and staff alike.”

“I’m honored that our work helping the public better understand the costs of prison privatization has been recognized for its role in moving the discussion forward,” declared MuckRock senior reporter Beryl Lipton. “After hundreds of public records, thousands of pages released, and years of research, we’re still just beginning to understand the impact these entities have, and we’re excited to continue that work, in partnership with other media organizations, researchers, and the public at large.”

 The Private Corrections Institute’s 2017 awards were presented by PCI president Alex Friedmann, who served ten years behind bars in the 1990s, including six years at a privately-operated prison, prior to his release in 1999.

“PCI is pleased to continue honoring individuals, organizations and reporters who work to educate the public about the evils and shortcomings of prison privatization,” said Friedmann, who also serves as PLN’s managing editor. “Especially now, under the Trump administration, there needs to be greater scrutiny of for-profit prison firms that seek to generate corporate profit by exploiting our criminal justice system.” 

Source: PCI press release


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