Thursday, September 2, 2010

Keeping Secrets

CCA has announced that they spent $240,000 lobbying the federal government in the last quarter (the last 3 months).  This is right on par with their typical lobbying expenditures, which have averaged out to about $250,000 every 3 months for the past few years. So aside from all the lobbying they do in state legislatures in places like Arizona, Texas, and California, they spend $1 million per year lobbying the federal government.  And what exactly are they trying to do with all that lobbying?  In particular, they have worked extensively to try to defeat legislation that would simply require any prison contracting with the federal government to be bound by public records laws. 

Private prisons are currently not bound by FOIA or public records laws nearly anywhere they operate (with the exception of Tennessee and Florida), despite the fact that they perform an inherently governmental function.  So they are able to escape the same sort of public oversight scrutiny that any other government entity must endure; they aren't required to report things like rates of escape or violence, staffing ratios, and other information critical to the safe and humane operation of a prison.  This is the core reason why statistics on things like escapes from private prisons are nearly impossible to come by (try finding stats on it if you don't believe me).  So all sorts of abuses and negligence go unchecked because private prisons don't even have to live up to the same standards as government-run prisons.

For as much as CCA likes to talk about how they don't lobby to increase criminal penalties (which is technically true; they just use the American Legislative Exchange Council as a front group, as do all other major corporations looking to circumvent scrutiny for screwing over the American public), they still lobby for the wrong reasons, to the detriment of the taxpayers who support them and the poor souls who have to live in their prisons.

Oh and for the icing on the cake, Charles Overby, the director of the Freedom Forum, which is "dedicated to free press," sits on CCA's Board of Directors, effectively directing the censorship of the information the public, and the press, has access to.

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