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2018 Awards for Activism, Advocacy Against the Private Prison Industry

On March 5, 2019, the Private Corrections Institute (PCI), a nonprofit citizen watchdog organization, announced its 2018 awardees for individual activism and organizational advocacy against the for-profit prison industry.

PCI opposes the privatization of correctional services, including the operation of prisons, jails and other detention facilities by companies such as Nashville, Tennessee-based CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) and Boca Raton, Florida-based GEO Group, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbols CXW and GEO, respectively. PCI also opposes privatization of prison and jail medical, mental health, transportation, food, commissary and probation services, under the rationale that criminal justice should not be profit-driven.

Therecipient of PCI’s 2018 award for exceptional individual activism against the privatization of correctional services was Judy Greene, director of Justice Strategies (www.justicestrategies.org).

An expert on prison privatization, Judy has long advocated for an end to for-profit prisons. Justice Strategies, founded in 2003, is “a nonprofit research organization dedicated to providing analysis and solutions to advocates and policymakers pursuing more humane and cost-effective approaches to criminal justice and immigration reform.” It has produced a number of reports, including studies related to privatized immigration detention centers and prisons.

“I am very honored by this award from PCI, the independent ‘watchdog’ group that is tireless in its efforts to spotlight the disgraceful record of the private prison industry in this country and abroad,” Judy said in a statement. “Prison privatization has played a key role to advance mass incarceration in the U.S. These companies wield great influence as they lobby for an ever-expanding market share. The profit motive operates as a perverse incentive to cut operational costs, endangering the health and welfare of the people subject to confinement in their sub-standard prisons, jails and detention centers. I look forward to a day when this shameful industry will be dissolved.”

PCI’s 2018 award for outstanding organizational advocacy against the privatization of correctional services went to the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization that “promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action.” AFSC has long been active in criminal justice reform efforts, including opposition to the private prison industry. 

The award was accepted by Caroline Isaacs, program director for AFSC’s office in Arizona. 

“AFSC-Arizona has been fortunate to have worked closely with PCI for decades to expose the utter failure of for-profit incarceration in Arizona and nationwide,” she stated. “Their courageous leadership, in-depth research and tireless advocacy are crucial contributions to the field. AFSC-Arizona is deeply honored by this award, and we look forward to continuing to working with PCI and other partners around the country to transform our justice system.”

In previous years, PCI also issued an award for excellence in reporting on the private prison industry. That award has been discontinued, though not for lack of informative and quality reporting on issues related to prison privatization. Rather, the proposed 2018 awardee expressed concerns – which had been raised in prior years – that private prison companies accuse journalists who receive such awards of bias, even when their reporting is fact-based and accurate. Therefore, due to this unwarranted pushback from private prison companies, PCI will no longer offer an annual award for excellence in reporting on the private prison industry.

The 2018 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. He is now the associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center and managing editor of Prison Legal News. He serves as PCI’s president in a volunteer capacity.

“PCI is pleased to continue honoring organizations and individuals who work to educate the public about the many problems inherent with prison privatization,” Friedmann said. “Especially now, under the Trump administration, there needs to be greater scrutiny of companies that seek to exploit our criminal justice system in order to generate profit. Justice should not be for sale and prisons should not be run for the purpose of making money.” 

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Source: PCI press release (March 5, 2019)

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