[House Hearing, 110 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
PRIVATE PRISON INFORMATION ACT OF 2007 (PART II)
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CRIME, TERRORISM,
AND HOMELAND SECURITY
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS
JUNE 26, 2008
Serial No. 110-190
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
Available via the World Wide Web: http://judiciary.house.gov
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COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan, Chairman
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California LAMAR SMITH, Texas
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr.,
JERROLD NADLER, New York Wisconsin
ROBERT C. ``BOBBY'' SCOTT, Virginia HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina ELTON GALLEGLY, California
ZOE LOFGREN, California BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
MAXINE WATERS, California DANIEL E. LUNGREN, California
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts CHRIS CANNON, Utah
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida RIC KELLER, Florida
LINDA T. SANCHEZ, California DARRELL ISSA, California
STEVE COHEN, Tennessee MIKE PENCE, Indiana
HANK JOHNSON, Georgia J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
BETTY SUTTON, Ohio STEVE KING, Iowa
LUIS V. GUTIERREZ, Illinois TOM FEENEY, Florida
BRAD SHERMAN, California TRENT FRANKS, Arizona
TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin LOUIE GOHMERT, Texas
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York JIM JORDAN, Ohio
ADAM B. SCHIFF, California
ARTUR DAVIS, Alabama
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, Florida
KEITH ELLISON, Minnesota
Perry Apelbaum, Staff Director and Chief Counsel
Sean McLaughlin, Minority Chief of Staff and General Counsel
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
ROBERT C. ``BOBBY'' SCOTT, Virginia, Chairman
MAXINE WATERS, California LOUIE GOHMERT, Texas
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr.,
HANK JOHNSON, Georgia Wisconsin
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
ARTUR DAVIS, Alabama DANIEL E. LUNGREN, California
TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
BETTY SUTTON, Ohio
Bobby Vassar, Chief Counsel
Caroline Lynch, Minority Counsel
C O N T E N T S
JUNE 26, 2008
H.R. 1889, the ``Private Prison Information Act of 2007''........ 6
The Honorable Robert C. ``Bobby'' Scott, a Representative in
Congress from the State of Virginia, and Chairman, Subcommittee
on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security..................... 1
The Honorable Louie Gohmert, a Representative in Congress from
the State of Texas, and Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Crime,
Terrorism, and Homeland Security............................... 9
Mr. Michael Flynn, Director of Government Affairs, Reason
Oral Testimony................................................. 11
Prepared Statement............................................. 13
Mr. Alex Friedmann, Vice President, Private Corrections Institute
Oral Testimony................................................. 21
Prepared Statement............................................. 23
Mr. Tom Jawetz, Immigration Detention Staff Attorney, The
American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project
Oral Testimony................................................. 56
Prepared Statement............................................. 58
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record........................ 75
PRIVATE PRISON INFORMATION ACT OF 2007 (PART II)
THURSDAY, JUNE 26, 2008
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism,
and Homeland Security
Committee on the Judiciary,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 1:05 p.m., in
Room 2237, Rayburn House Office Building, the Honorable Robert
C. ``Bobby'' Scott (Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Scott, Gohmert, Coble, and Chabot.
Staff Present: Bobby Vassar, Subcommittee Chief Counsel;
Kimani Little, Minority Counsel; Jesselyn McCurdy, Majority
Counsel; Rachel King, Majority Counsel; and Ameer Gopalani,
Mr. Scott. The Subcommittee will now come to order.
I am pleased to welcome you today to the hearing before the
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security on H.R.
1889, the ``Private Prison Information Act.''
H.R. 1889 requires prisons and other correctional
facilities holding Federal prisoners under a contract with the
Federal Government to make the same information available to
the public that Federal prisons and correctional facilities are
required to release under the Freedom of Information Act, or
On November 8, 2007, the Subcommittee held a hearing on the
bill in conjunction with a hearing on the Prison Litigation
Reform Act. Representative Tim Holden, the lead sponsor of the
bill, was the only witness to testify before the Subcommittee
on the panel regarding H.R. 1889. Neither majority staff nor
minority staff was made aware of any opposition to the bill, so
at the time of the November hearing H.R. 1889 did not appear to
be controversial amongst Subcommittee Members, or anyone else
for that matter.
Shortly after the hearing, the Corrections Corporation of
America contacted Subcommittee staff to express its strong
opposition to the legislation and question the necessity of the
bill. However, organizations such as the advocacy group,
Private Corrections Institute, PCI, and the American Civil
Liberties Union supported the legislation, claiming it was
difficult for them to obtain information from private prisons
through the regular FOIA process of seeking the desired
information through the request to the Federal Bureau of
We decided to hold an additional hearing now to allow all
parties to put their positions on the record and to give
Members more information on the pros and cons regarding the
Unfortunately, CCA has chosen not to testify today even
though it has been the organization most vocally opposed to the
legislation. They have submitted a written statement noting
their opposition. And, without objection, I have made that part
of the hearing record.
[The information referred to follows:]
Mr. Scott. So what started out to be an easy,
straightforward bill has turned out to be more complicated and
controversial than we first knew. And there seemed to be a
general distrust of private prisons, and many believe that they
purposely hide information from the public. In addition to PCI,
the ACLU has put together a number of examples of how private
prisons escape oversight by not being required to respond to
On the other hand, CCA asserts that it complies with FOIA
through the Bureau of Prisons or other Federal agencies, and
the current system works. They also point out that to pass H.R.
1889 would have the effect of putting private prison
contractors in a different position vis-a-vis other Federal
contractors, which could significantly change the FOIA process
in ways that may not have been intended by this bill.
With that, I will now recognize the Ranking Member of the
Subcommittee, the gentleman from Texas, Judge Gohmert.
[The bill, H.R. 1889, follows:]
Mr. Gohmert. Thank you, Chairman Scott.
And this is, as you said, our second hearing on this
legislation. Our first hearing was held in November of last
year. On that date, the Subcommittee also considered H.R. 4109,
the Prison Abuse Remedies Act, a bill that made substantial
changes to the Prison Litigation Reform Act. H.R. 4109
commanded most of the Subcommittee's attention that day, and I
believe it overshadowed our consideration of H.R. 1889.
Since last November, I have had an opportunity to review
the testimony of the sponsor of H.R. 1889, Mr. Holden. In his
testimony, he describes the need to ensure that information
regarding private prisons is readily available to the public.
He proposed H.R. 1889 as the proper means to accomplish that
Since November, I have also had the opportunity to hear
from other advocates that support this legislation, as well as
others who oppose it. After reviewing all the available
information, I, too, have my serious concerns.
H.R. 1889 extends the Freedom of Information Act reporting
obligations imposed on Federal agencies to private companies
that contract with Federal agencies to house prisoners. These
companies, obviously, are commonly called private prisons.
I support the Freedom of Information Act. It has done a
great deal of good. I support the goal of providing information
to the public. However, I think that the existing Freedom of
Information Act framework does accomplish that goal. It is
normally unnecessary and unwarranted to impose Freedom of
Information Act obligations directly on private companies
because of contracts with the Federal Government, and actually
opens a gate that could, and I believe would, become a
Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act to ensure
open government. FOIA, as its initials cause it to be called,
allows the public to gather information, upon request, from
Federal Government agencies unless that information is properly
withheld because of privacy, law enforcement, trade secret,
national security or other concerns.
It was the intent of Congress to allow the public to peek
behind the curtain of the Federal Government and to let people
see how their tax dollars are being spent. Congress determined
that FOIA was a reasonable burden for Federal agencies to bear.
Foisting those same burdens on private entities certainly
Proponents of H.R. 1889 attempt to justify singling out
private prisons to bear the burden of FOIA obligations by
asserting that housing prisoners is a core and a unique
governmental service. However, this limited test, providing a
core and unique government service, could be used to impose
FOIA on every class of Federal contractors, including those who
take out the Government's trash and recycling.
This is a dangerous precedent, I believe, that we should
not set without careful consideration of the likely
consequences. Chief among those likely consequences is
increased costs. If passed, the bill would cause every private
prison with a Federal contract to hire lawyers to receive and
reply to FOIA requests. These costs will be passed along to
Federal agencies. That will occur even though these same
agencies already have offices that exist specifically for the
purpose of processing FOIA requests.
Imposing FOIA on private entities will create a duplicative
process that will waste taxpayer dollars. This certainly seems
unwarranted, especially when one considers that it is yet to be
demonstrated that information about private prisons cannot
already be obtained through a FOIA request to the responsible
There is not a single example, that I am aware of, of a
FOIA request regarding a private prison that was properly made
to the appropriate Federal agency which was refused. If someone
has evidence to the contrary, we will welcome seeing that, as
We should not create legislative fixes to address problems
that do not exist. Without clear evidence of the failure of the
existing FOIA regime to properly work, it is difficult to
support legislation that would take the huge step of imposing
FOIA obligations on potentially all private entities.
So, at this point, I am in opposition to the Private Prison
Information Act, and will yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. Scott. Thank you.
Our first witness on the panel will be Mike Flynn, the
director of government affairs for Reason Foundation, the
nonpartisan think-tank whose mission it is to advance a free
society by developing, applying and promoting libertarian
principals, including individual liberty, free markets and the
rule of law.
He is a graduate of the University of Iowa, where he
studied English and Economics. He has more than 15 years of
experience in the development, implementation and analysis of
public policy. He has provided his expertise to a number of
He began his public policy career in the Illinois General
Assembly, where he worked as an analyst, both in the Capitol
and in the Assembly's Washington, D.C., office.
The next witness will be Alex Friedmann, vice president for
Private Corrections Institution, Incorporated. He is the
associate editor of Prison Legal News, a monthly publication
that reports on corrections and criminal justice-related issues
nationwide. Prison Legal News has been published since 1990 and
has extensively covered the private prison industry.
He also serves in the voluntary, noncompensated capacity as
vice president of the Private Corrections Institute, a
nonprofit organization that opposes prison privatization.
He is presently a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed against
CCA due to CCA's refusal to comply with Tennessee's public
Our final witness will be Tom Jawetz, who is the
immigration detention staff attorney for the National Prison
Project of the ACLU Foundation.
He graduated from Yale Law School in 2003 and served as a
law clerk for the Honorable Kimba Wood, United States District
Court, Southern District of New York. He works on a wide range
of issues dealing with the conditions in which immigrant
detainees are housed, and has co-counseled several lawsuits
involving issues ranging from overcrowding to poor medical
Prior to joining the ACLU, he worked in the Immigrant and
Refugee Rights Project of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for
Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
I welcome all of our witnesses to us today, and thank you
for joining us today.
Your written statements will be entered into the record in
their entirety, but I would ask you to summarize your testimony
in 5 minutes or less. And there is a timing device where the
light will be green and turn yellow with 1 minute left and red
when your 5 minutes have expired.
We want to recognize the gentleman from North Carolina, Mr.
Coble, who has joined us today.
We will start with Mr. Flynn.
TESTIMONY OF MICHAEL FLYNN, DIRECTOR OF
GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, REASON FOUNDATION
Mr. Flynn. Chairman Scott, Ranking Member Gohmert, Members
of the Subcommittee, thanks for this opportunity testify today.
I am especially grateful for this opportunity because this
issue touches on a lot of areas of Reason's work.
For 40 years, we have conducted research showing how the
market and competition can improve the delivery of government
services. We have also worked to reform the criminal justice
system. We, for example, propose a number of initiatives that
would reduce or even eliminate jail time for nonviolent drug
offenders as a way to reduce our very high incarceration rate.
We also publish Reason Magazine, an award-winning magazine
where we address public policy through journalism. And so we
use the FOIA process quite a bit. Most recently, we used it to
expose some prosecutorial misconduct in Mississippi. You would
be hard-pressed to find bigger champion of the FOIA process
than Reason Foundation.
That said, to extend the FOIA to private companies, whether
it is private correctional companies or other Federal
contractors, we believe is at best misguided and at worst it
would create a host of unintended consequences.
First, we find that extending the FOIA process to private
prisons is unnecessary. Currently, right now, when a Federal
agency contracts with a private prison, they have employees who
are on-site who monitor the contracts. There are a number of
contracts and reports and audits that are submitted to the
Federal agencies. All of those can be FOIA'ed. You can use the
FOIA process to look at all that information.
Now, I know proponents of this legislation say there are
some other aspects that we can't get to. We can't find out
about training for prison staff or find out about wages or
experience or turnover. But there is a very simple solution to
that: Require it in the contract.
There is no prohibition on what the Federal agency can put
in the contract with a private entity. They can stipulate
certain training levels. They can stipulate certain
compensation levels. They could actually make a contract that
would require disclosure of more information than you would
have under a FOIA. Only the imagination of Federal officials
keeps us from having this information.
Second, this would set a very dangerous precedent. I mean,
governments have incredible sovereign powers to tax us, to
regulate us, to prosecute us. Because of this, we have the FOIA
process so that we can look at how the government is doing its
work and make sure that they are acting in an honest and open
and fair manner. Private companies do not have this power. So
it is a very different place.
Now, there is no reason, if you extend this to private
prison companies that you should, that it could not also be
extended to any other Federal contractor and, by extension,
their contractors and their suppliers. Thousands of
individuals, small and large businesses, provide services to
the government and products to the government at great
efficiency for the taxpayers. All of that could be opened up to
the FOIA process. Competitors could use it to find out trade
secrets. You know, you could find out proprietary software
code. You could use it as a tool to poach staff. It is an
invasion of privacy that we think just isn't warranted in this.
And, finally, I think the real problem with this--and let's
be honest that--and it should be pointed out that most of the
organizations that support this are primarily against prison
privatization, against contracting out for prison services. And
if FOIA is in place, I think a lot of companies would probably
remove themselves from that industry, from that market. And in
doing so, we would lose out on a lot of innovation and a lot of
Again, you know, we have a dysfunctional correctional
system. We have among the world's highest incarceration rates.
Our recidivism is very, very high. And the problem is, we are
just managing the system, rather than trying to manage the
With a Federal bureaucracy, it is very, very hard to get
different outcomes. But with contracting, you can build
different outcomes into the contract. You could make the
payments contingent on, say, how many prisoners are in GED
programs, how many prisoners are getting substance treatment. I
mean, we can create contracts that get the outcomes we need.
And you cannot do that without that. It is a very, very
powerful tool that we can use. And, again, it is only the
imagination of the Federal agencies that don't do this.
So I think, in looking at any public policy, I mean, this
fails three critical tests. It is unnecessary, because we can
get the information we need. It sets a very dangerous
precedent, because there is no reason to think it wouldn't be
extended across the board of Federal contractors. And it
stifles innovation by removing a powerful tool, which is
contracting to get better outcomes in our correctional system.
Because, ultimately, we need to have a better correctional
system, not just a place where we warehouse inmates.
Thank you. I would be happy to take any questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Flynn follows:]
Prepared Statement of Michael Flynn
Mr. Scott. Thank you.
We want to recognize the gentleman from Ohio has joined us,
TESTIMONY OF ALEX FRIEDMANN, VICE PRESIDENT,
PRIVATE CORRECTIONS INSTITUTE
Mr. Friedmann. Thank you, Chairman Scott, Ranking Member
Gohmert, Members of the Subcommittee.
With respect to Mr. Flynn, regarding public access to
information related to privately operated prisons that house
Federal prisoners, he has painted somewhat of a rosy picture.
Unfortunately, that picture is more a work of abstract art. I
prefer the school of realism, and the testimony I am going to
give relates more to how the real world works.
In December 2005, Prison Legal News, the publication that I
worked for, filed suit against the GEO Group, the nation's
second-largest private prison company, under Florida's public
records law. Florida has a unique public records law in that it
expressly applies to private companies that contract with the
State. Regardless, GEO Group failed to respond to our records
request, which led to our litigation. GEO is in the process of
producing our requested records, but only after we filed suit
and only after the Court granted multiple motions to compel.
I am going to discuss some examples related not only to
FOIA but also to State public records laws. And the reason for
that is that most public contracts with private companies
relate to State and county prisoners, not Federal. FOIA, on the
Federal level corresponds to the State public records laws on
the State level. And these companies' failure to respond on the
State level is comparable to their failures on the Federal
On April 3, 2007, on behalf of Prison Legal News, I
submitted a records request to CCA under Tennessee's public
records law. Tennessee Supreme Court had specifically ruled
earlier that private companies that perform functionally
equivalent government services were subject to the State's
public records law. Regardless, CCA refused to answer our
records request. A copy of CCA's refusal is attached to my
written statement as Exhibit 1.
As a result, last month, I filed suit, personally, against
CCA to ensure that the company complies with Tennessee's public
records law, as interpreted by our Supreme Court in that State.
That case is presently pending.
In 2007, the Private Corrections Institute, of which I
serve as vice president, submitted a public records request to
CCA under Florida's public records law. We were seeking a copy
of the after-action report related to a September 2004 hostage-
taking and shooting at the company's Bay County jail. CCA
refused to produce a copy of the report, claiming attorney-
client privilege. A copy of CCA's refusal letter is attached to
my statement as Exhibit 2.
At that time, CCA's general counsel, Mr. Gustavus Puryear,
was cited in a News Herald article as stating that report would
never become a public record.
This past April, I sent public records requests to a number
of government agencies that contract with CCA, requesting
records related to the private prisons and jails that they
contracted with. Of the 16 agencies that responded, only nine
could provide the information I requested, which included the
number of inmate-on-inmate assaults, inmate-on-staff assaults,
and use-of-force incidents. Four jurisdictions stated they had
no such records whatsoever.
This is one example of how contracting government agencies
simply do not have all the data provided from private prison
contractors that would be available from comparable publicly
run facilities, because the private prison companies do not
supply those records to the agencies they contract with. If the
contracting government agencies do not get data from private
prison companies, they cannot then turn that data over to the
public through FOIA or public records requests.
Regarding FOIA, on May 8, 2008, Paul Wright, the editor of
the publication that I work for, submitted a FOIA request to
CCA's corporate office. That request is attached as Exhibit 3
to my written statement.
Our FOIA request encompassed data concerning CCA-operated
facilities that house Federal prisoners. We asked for records
related to inmate-on-inmate assaults and use-of-force reports,
as well as other FOIA requests that CCA had received. All of
this information would be available from federally operated
prisons through FOIA.
To date, CCA has not responded to our FOIA request. Mr.
Wright has left five messages; they will not call us back. FOIA
allows 20 days to respond, which has long since passed. CCA has
completely ignored our FOIA request.
The reality is that CCA and other private prison companies
simply do not provide the public with records or information
concerning their privately operated prisons. Their internal
records are labeled proprietary and copyrighted or attorney-
client privileged. Prisoners who are held in private prisons
have greater access to internal documents than members of the
My written statement includes a description of how I tried
to obtain a copy of the CCA policy concerning the company's
mail policy in an Arizona prison. My request was denied. CCA
stated that policy was proprietary and they could not provide
I would like to give a visual example of the difference
between publicly operated prisons and private. Earlier, I
mentioned a 2004 shooting and hostage situation. This is the
public report regarding that incident from Bay County
officials. This is the CCA report. And if you can't see it, it
is because it is not here, because CCA refused to produce it,
either to ourselves, Private Corrections Institute, the county,
or the newspapers who requested it. That is the difference--
[The prepared statement of Mr. Friedmann follows:]
Prepared Statement of Alex Friedmann
Mr. Scott. Thank you.
TESTIMONY OF TOM JAWETZ, IMMIGRATION DETENTION STAFF ATTORNEY,
THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION NATIONAL PRISON PROJECT
Mr. Jawetz. Good afternoon. I would like to thank Chairman
Scott and Members of the Subcommittee for inviting me to speak
about the critical need for oversight and accountability over
the private prison industry and the importance of the Private
Prison Information Act.
There are many different ways to measure the value of this
bill. By increasing the public's access to information in the
hands of for-profit prison companies, Congress would empower
the public to monitor unacceptable risks to public safety and
police fraud and abuse of government funds. The bill also would
help to shine a light into the darkest recesses of our society,
because, while our Nation's prisons too often lack the
necessary transparency, private prisons are open to even less
My work puts me at the center of two important trends in
incarceration: the incredible growth in the detention of people
facing administrative immigration charges, and the Federal
Government's increasing reliance on private prison companies to
house those immigrants.
Since 2001, the number of people held in administrative
immigration detention has tripled. Meanwhile, private prison
companies have received lucrative contracts to house tens of
thousands of immigrants in these facilities. For instance, the
Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, recorded nearly
$1.5 billion in revenue last year, 13 percent of which came
from contracts with ICE.
At the ACLU, we routinely hear about problems faced by
immigration detainees, and we sift through these complaints to
identify particularly egregious facilities. It is therefore
striking that all three immigration detention lawsuits filed by
my office over the last 18 months have involved CCA facilities.
Immigration detainees are held throughout the United
States, but the privatization boom appears to be focused
heavily on our southern border. Last month, I visited two
privately run facilities in south Texas.
The Willacy County Detention Center, also known as
``Ritmo,'' is run by Management and Training Corporation, a
Utah-based company whose former director was tapped to set up
the now-infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Willacy houses over
3,000 immigration detainees, 2,000 of whom live in tents. Until
recently, the tents had no windows, and detainees were
completely deprived of natural light.
Walking through the compound during my tour, it was clear
to see that tears and rips in the walls of the tents had been
repaired with tape. So I was not surprised when I learned later
that detainees routinely complain of water seeping into their
living quarters when it rains. Yet records pertaining to how
MTC maintains or repairs the tents are unavailable to the
Last year, a local news station obtained reports showing
that dozen of detainees had complained they were being fed
rotten food crawling with maggots. Copies of MTC's logbooks
recording those complaints were obtained directly from security
guards who went to the media. Had the guards not come forward,
those records might never have surfaced under our current FOIA
The South Texas Detention Complex is run by GEO Group. I
also visited that one. It houses just over 1,900 detainees.
Last month, actually just a day before my visit, a local news
station uncovered evidence that GEO guards were sexually
assaulting female detainees. GEO guards reportedly pressured
the women by threatening to have them deported. At least one
GEO guard and one ICE officer reported that they were fired
after they complained internally about the assaults.
Now, while most ICE records pertaining to sexual abuse at
the facility would be available under the FOIA Act, any records
possessed by GEO Group, which told a reporter that it had no
knowledge of sexual assault complaints, may never be released
The issue that has gained the most public attention when it
comes to immigration detention is poor medical care and
avoidable deaths. Back in June 2007, the New York Times
revealed that over 60 people had died in immigration custody
since 2004. I think this is a relevant point for Representative
The day after that story broke, the ACLU filed a FOIA
request seeking records pertaining to detainee deaths,
including any reports of investigations into such deaths. In
January of 2008, ICE produced approximately 800 pages of
documents, which included a list containing the names and
locations of last detention for 66 deceased detainees.
According to that list, 19 of those 66 detainees, their
location of last detention was a facility run by a private
prison company. And yet, only a single piece of paper produced
to the ACLU by ICE appears to have been generated by one of the
for-profit companies running these facilities. We got nothing
from CCA. We got nothing from Corrections Corporation. We got
one piece of paper from GEO.
It is inconceivable that not one of these 19 in-custody
deaths resulted in an investigative report. So the question
becomes whether ICE failed to produce records in its possession
or whether private prison companies, as we know, routinely
failed to turn over records to ICE.
Yesterday, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in Federal court
against ICE to answer the first half of that question. But the
second half of the question that goes to the heart of the
Private Prison Information Act is that, without the ability to
demand such records directly from private prison companies, how
can the public ever be confident that it is receiving all of
the information to which it is entitled?
In my written testimony, I detail one change to the bill
that I believe is entirely consistent with the drafters'
intent. Namely, the bill speaks exclusively to Federal, quote/
unquote, ``prisoners,'' but the more than 300,000 people
detained in ICE custody each year pursuant to contracts with
ICE are detainees, not prisoners. And that is throughout the
U.S. Code. Unless the bill is amended, there is a risk that
private facilities housing Federal immigration detainees
pursuant to a contract with ICE will not be included and will
not be required to comply with the bill.
On behalf of the ACLU, I would like to thank the
Subcommittee and the Ranking Member. And I am happy to answer
[The prepared statement of Mr. Jawetz follows:]
Prepared Statement of Tom Jawetz
Mr. Scott. Thank you.
We will now ask you to respond to questions under the 5-
And I recognize myself for 5 minutes.
One of the things that we are trying to do is have some
consistency. Either we are going to do the same for prisons
that we do for all other contracts, or we will do the same for
private prisons that we do for public prisons. I mean, either
way, I guess we could be showing some consistency. And so let's
try to determine which makes more sense.
The difference with prisons is that, with incarceration, we
delegate to the private prisons authority that most contractors
don't have: the right to shoot prisoners, when and when not to
use fatal force, how to feed people. People who are sent to
these facilities have no choice. Other contracts, you can deal
with them or not deal with them as you please.
So, Mr. Flynn, why shouldn't we be able to get information
on prisons that are private that we can get from prisons that
Mr. Flynn. Because we can get that information. That
information, we can get it. As I said, there is no reason that
the Bureau of Prisons cannot make disclosure of some of these
items a contingent part of the contract. You don't need to
extend the FOIA process into an entirely new area to get at
I mean, we have heard a number of anecdotes about problems
in certain prisons. We know about those problems, I mean, and
these things do come up, and we do get information about them.
The great thing about, with the contract, is that if there are
problems in the facility you can terminate that contract.
You know, we make it sound like only private prisons have
problems within the correctional system----
Mr. Scott. Well, let me ask Mr. Friedmann.
Most of your examples were with state prisons. Is that
Mr. Friedmann. Correct, yes.
Mr. Scott. State prisons would not be affected by this
legislation unless they also house Federal prisoners.
Mr. Friedmann. That is correct. CCA and GEO Group, the
private prison industry primarily houses State and county
prisoners. CCA, for example, houses around 11,000 or 12,000 out
of their total 70,000 to 75,000 prisoners. But our experience
with these State public records laws and State prisoners is
very representative of how we can expect CCA to behave with
Mr. Scott. Well, why can't you submit your freedom-of-
information requests to the Bureau of Prisons and let them get
the information, rather than going to the private contractor?
Mr. Friedmann. We have tried that with other government
agencies, State and county, and that has failed.
We currently have a request into ICE to see if they can
produce information from their private prison contractors that
we specifically asked for and that we know that the private
contractors already have. To date, ICE has not been able to
produce that information. I am still waiting to get their final
result, or I would have brought that with me.
Mr. Scott. Why would you be more likely to get the
information from the private prison than through the Bureau of
Prisons getting it from the private prisons? If they don't have
it through the Bureau of Prisons, why would they have that
information available to you?
Mr. Friedmann. The Bureau of Prisons, ICE and other Federal
agencies only have records that they get from their private
contractors. If the private contractors do not give them those
records, they do not have them, and I can't request them. We do
know that private prison companies have these records----
Mr. Scott. Wait a minute. You can only request records that
are on file at the Bureau of Prisons?
Mr. Friedmann. Or that they can obtain.
Mr. Scott. Or that they can obtain. Okay, that is the part
of the question we are trying to get at. If they can obtain
them, why isn't that just as efficient a process as anybody,
everywhere, off the street, sending in these requests to the
Mr. Friedmann. Well, partly because that information is not
available. Mr. Jawetz testified he has produced a number of
records for ICE, and they produced the records but only one
page from a private prison contractor, which is very
unrealistic, that they only have one page.
Mr. Scott. Can a freedom-of-information request require the
Bureau of Prisons to obtain whatever information they may have,
even if it is not on file at the Bureau of Prisons?
Mr. Friedmann. I take it that would be interpreted by the
BOP or ICE as to whether they can do that through their
contract, depending on how their contract is written.
But when those contracts are written, they are not written
with FOIA in mind. BOP, ICE and other Federal agencies that
house prisoners and detain them, their responsibility, first
and foremost, is to detain those prisoners, whether in public
or private prisons. They are not as much worried about FOIA. So
when they draft their contracts, they are more concerned about
security and operational-related issues.
Mr. Scott. And how would this bill change that?
Mr. Friedmann. This bill would require private prison
companies to comply with FOIA to the same extent as Federal
agencies already do.
Mr. Scott. Mr. Gohmert?
Mr. Gohmert. Thank you, Chairman.
I do appreciate everybody being here.
It never ceases that, whether it is a courtroom hearing or
a legislative hearing, that credibility is always an issue.
Mr. Jawetz, you know, you made the statement in here that,
most importantly, for purposes of your testimony, you said the
bill also, quote, ``would, for the first time, shine a light
into the darkest recesses of our society,'' unquote.
Are you talking about the private prisons being the darkest
recesses of our society?
Mr. Jawetz. Yes, that they are among the most dark
And I think the point that I would like to make--and this
does respond to Mr. Flynn's point. I don't think, in general,
it is our experience at the National Prison Project that we
want to suggest that publicly run facilities smell like roses.
I mean, a number of the cases that we file----
Mr. Gohmert. Okay. Well, that is not my question. My
question is regarding your statement.
We have had testimony regarding gangs, MS-13. We have had
organized crime testimony. There are just all kinds of issues.
And so it may not affect anybody else, but when you come in
before this Committee and say that the private prisons, your
words are, are the darkest recesses of our society, then it
causes me credibility problems for you.
Why would you come in and say that?
You are trying to get information directly from these
private prison entities. And frankly, Mr. Jawetz, I have had
concerns since my days as an attorney and as a judge and chief
justice about the use of private prisons, and this jury is
still out on their propriety. I was thinking this was something
that perhaps would be better addressed by oversight hearings
from the Federal standpoint, from our standpoint, be open to
those kind of things.
But, boy, what is being pushed here in this bill is going
to create an additional burden for those private entities that
is going to open the door, as I see it, to the same FOIA
requests being laid on private entities, as I said in my
opening statement, that could include, you know, who carries
out the trash. But----
Mr. Jawetz. Can I respond to your question, Representative
Mr. Gohmert. Well, my only question I have asked so far is
about your belief that the private prisons are the darkest
recesses of our society. So if you have further comment on that
Mr. Jawetz. Sure. I think the purpose of my statement was
to note that the public's ability to access information in the
possession of private prison companies is incredibly limited.
But, even more specifically, I can't walk up to a private
prison on any given day and say that I want to walk around,
look through their facilities, take a look through their
records and try and get a sense of what it is that they are
doing behind closed doors.
Mr. Gohmert. Have you talked to your Member of Congress
about going with him or her through a tour of a prison
facility? I have taken grand juries on tours of both public and
private facilities as a judge.
Yes, I wouldn't want public or private facilities to have
Tom Jawetz or Louie Gohmert just come walking up out of the
blue and say, ``I want in to look around, and let me in.'' I
think that would be a huge mistake. That would be
counterintuitive to their mission. And I am surprised, once
again, that you would expect that.
But, again, credibility is important to me. And when you
come in and use ``darkest,'' the superlative, not ``darker'' or
``dark,'' but just ``darkest,'' then it sounds to me like you
are prone to exaggeration, which affects your credibility.
How many private prisons have you been in?
Mr. Jawetz. I have been in three, at this point.
Mr. Gohmert. And how did they come to let you in?
Mr. Jawetz. The ACLU is a credible organization, and it is
also an organization that is a credible threat. That really
goes to the point of this litigation.
Mr. Gohmert. So the ACLU has made requests to go on tours,
and they were allowed?
Mr. Jawetz. In some cases, we have made requests to go on
tours and they have been allowed. We have gone into
facilities--I mean, I don't know what sorts of tours you have
had. Perhaps you have had all-access passes. But I can say that
the experience of walking through a facility in a 2-hour period
of time is quite different from the experience of living in
that facility. And I can also say that the experience of
walking through that facility blind, as compared to the ability
to look at records from the facility, review serious injuries
reports, or do things like that, is quite different.
Mr. Gohmert. Well, there is a way to have an opportunity to
live in a facility.
My time is running out, but I was going to ask----
Mr. Scott. The gentleman's time has expired. We will have a
second round of questions.
Mr. Gohmert. All right. Thank you.
Mr. Scott. Let me just ask a couple of quick questions.
I guess, Mr. Flynn, does present law allow FOIA requests to
any private contractors now?
Mr. Flynn. Not Federal law. There has been litigation at
times, and you could find decisions to go both ways on this. In
some very, very narrow specific situations, the courts have
allowed a FOIA process to a private contractor. But that is in
a specific situation. It is not a blanket thing like this would
be in statute.
Mr. Scott. Do you agree with that, Mr. Friedmann?
Mr. Friedmann. My research has been narrowly on private
prison contracts with State and Federal Government. And I have
found no cases where, in the Federal level, they provided
access to private prison contract records.
Mr. Scott. Well, there are a lot of private contractors out
there doing government functions. Is there any precedent for
requiring a private contractor to respond to a FOIA request?
Mr. Friedmann. I can speak only to the private prison
contracts; I am sorry.
Mr. Scott. We are not aware of any.
Mr. Jawetz. I am not aware of any.
But I can certainly say that I think the job that we are
asking private prison companies to do is really not comparable
in any way to the job that we are asking private trash
collectors to do. And the kind of authority that we are giving
to private prison companies over depriving someone of liberty,
of holding disciplinary hearings, of using force, is really
quite different from the experience that most other private
Mr. Scott. Including deadly force. That was the point I
made in my opening statement.
Mr. Flynn, what additional cost would there be to a private
contractor if they had to respond to FOIA requests directly,
rather than FOIA requests to the Bureau of Prisons? If someone
were to send the request to the Bureau of Prisons, wouldn't it
not be the same cost?
Mr. Flynn. No, because the Bureau of Prisons absorbs that
cost as part of their compliance with FOIA. The private
Mr. Scott. If the information is at the private prison, and
that is where you are going to get the information, why would
it be any more difficult to get that information from the
private prison if you send the initial request to the Bureau of
Mr. Flynn. Because I think you can expect a--because there
are--you could expect an avalanche of FOIA requests that go
beyond just that particular information. And I think, you know,
given the stridency that this issue raises and the emotions
behind this issue, I think it would be used by several
organizations as a tool against private prison companies, and
they would be deluged with FOIA requests.
Mr. Scott. Mr. Friedmann, if we allowed the requests to go
directly to FOIA, and then if there would be additional costs,
who would absorb the additional costs?
Mr. Friedmann. Most likely the private contractors. It
would therefore reduce the costs that are currently being paid
by the Federal agencies that have to handle those requests. Of
course, contractors are responsible for handling whatever costs
are associated with their contracts. So that would possibly
result in a reduction of costs at the Federal agency level and
an absorption of cost by the private prison contractors.
Mr. Scott. So the private contractor would have to absorb
the additional cost in responding to FOIA requests?
Mr. Friedmann. That is correct. To the extent they say they
already do that, however, and if that is an accurate statement
from the industry, presumably it would result in no additional
cost, if they say they already do it.
Mr. Scott. Okay.
The gentleman from Texas.
Mr. Gohmert. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I have received a copy of a letter here from Keith
Nelson, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General. It looks
like you have the same copy. It is addressed to Howard Coble,
an outstanding Member on our Subcommittee. But I would ask that
this letter of the Justice Department's reaction, at least
their Office of Legislative Affairs, about the bill be made a
part of the record.
Mr. Scott. Without objection.
[The information referred to follows:]
Mr. Gohmert. Thank you.
And then I haven't had a chance to read the whole letter,
but, anyway, it sounds like they have some questions regarding,
if this were to become law, things that would need to be
rectified within it.
But I want to go back to the issue of these dark recesses
in our society. And, Mr. Friedmann, you had mentioned that you
have made numerous requests for information from private
prisons, and your organization, you mentioned, had made
numerous requests. Did I understand those to be State private
Mr. Friedmann. The majority of them, yes. We have put in a
FOIA request both to ICE and to CCA seeking records related to
private prison companies that contract with the Federal
Government. Most of the examples I cited were with State or
county government agencies.
Mr. Gohmert. All right. And before making those directly of
the private entities, did you make the same requests regarding
those facilities through the appropriate or the governing body
controlling those facilities?
Mr. Friedmann. No, partly because some of the information
would have only been available from the private prison company.
And it was our understanding that they stated that they
complied already with FOIA. In fact, we called the company, and
I spoke with their----
Mr. Gohmert. Wait, wait, wait, I want to get this. You made
requests, and they say they had already complied with FOIA,
which seems to indicate that there were prior requests made. So
had you made prior requests and then subsequent requests of the
Mr. Friedmann. Allow me to clarify. We have submitted one
FOIA request directly to Corrections Corporation of America and
an additional separate FOIA request to ICE.
It was my understanding that the private prison industry
has stated or claimed that it already complies with FOIA
requests, which is why we submitted a request directly to the
company's corporate office. After speaking with CCA's general
counsel's office, they stated that we could submit that request
to one of their assistant general counsels, which is what we
Mr. Gohmert. With regard to all these other requests that
were made from State and local entities, did you go through the
governing body controlling those facilities first, or did you
make them directly to the private facilities?
Mr. Friedmann. All of the other requests that I cited were
made to the contracting government agency or to CCA. It depends
on the request. I am sorry to----
Mr. Gohmert. So the contract or government facility, the
one that made the contract with the private facility; is that
Mr. Friedmann. Correct, or the contractor themselves.
Mr. Gohmert. And were you turned down in making that
request of the government entity?
Mr. Friedmann. The government entity we have been--I have
been turned down by four agencies which indicated they could
not provide the records because they did not have them.
Mr. Gohmert. That they were in part of the private
Mr. Friedmann. Correct. They did not have the information I
Mr. Gohmert. What caused you to select those facilities you
did? I believe at one point didn't you mention, like, six
facilities that you had made requests of?
Mr. Friedmann. Right. Actually, we submitted a request to
all of CCA's contracting government agencies, which number
around 30. We received responses from around 16 of those
agencies. And of those agencies, four had absolutely no records
that they could provide. Six had some records.
Mr. Gohmert. Well, my time is running out. What caused you
to go after CCA particularly?
Mr. Friedmann. Mainly because there was a news report in
Time magazine which indicated--this was published in March of
this year--that the company had a policy or practice of not
disclosing information to government agencies.
Mr. Gohmert. Well, Mr. Jawetz said he has been in three
private prison facilities. Have you been in any private prison
Mr. Friedmann. Just one, which is the South Central
Correctional Facility in Clifton, Tennessee.
Mr. Gohmert. Okay. Was that a request made at the site that
you go on a tour of the facility, or how was that occasion?
Mr. Friedmann. Not exactly. Actually, I spent 6 years at
that facility while I was incarcerated, from 1992 to 1998.
Mr. Gohmert. Was that a CCA facility, or who owned it?
Mr. Friedmann. It was. CCA operated under contract with the
Tennessee Department of Correction.
Mr. Gohmert. That seems to shed a little more light on
motivation, anyway. Nonetheless, if there are issues that need
to be resolved, I am for resolving them.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Scott. Just another question. Mr. Friedmann, are their
privacy concerns that may be generated with direct FOIA
requests to private agencies?
Mr. Friedmann. Absolutely. But those privacy concerns are
addressed to the same extent that privacy concerns are
addressed to Federal agencies. In other words, FOIA already
encompasses exceptions and exclusions for information that
would infringe on privacy, security and so forth, things that
cannot be disclosed, things such as security operations at
prisons, you know, the layout of how their locks work and so
forth. Those things aren't subject to disclosure under FOIA
already to Federal agencies.
So by extending FOIA to private prison companies, you would
also extend the exceptions and the exclusions that FOIA already
has. That would not create additional or new privacy concerns.
Those are already addressed.
Mr. Scott. And you have indicated that you have made a FOIA
request and could not get information. Can you be specific as
to the information you have requested that you couldn't get?
Mr. Friedmann. Certainly. The FOIA request that we
submitted to CCA, based on their statement that we should
submit it to their general counsel's office, requested specific
information. We examined the number of FOIA requests that CCA
itself has received over the past 2\1/2\ years. We requested
the last 20 FOIA requests that CCA has received and their
responses to those requests. We have requested specific
statistical information regarding CCA prisons that house
Federal prisoners, and that included inmate-on-inmate assaults,
inmate-on-staff assaults, use-of-force reports, disciplinary
reports and other related statistics.
All of that information, had we submitted that request to
any public facility, would be subject to FOIA. Our FOIA request
to CCA has not yet been responded to.
Mr. Scott. Mr. Flynn, why shouldn't that information be
available if it's a private prison as it is with a public
Mr. Flynn. Well, what Mr. Friedmann just explained is a
Mr. Scott. Let's ignore the request for FOIA requests and
get to the information about the assaults and that information.
Mr. Flynn. I think that should be available, that should be
available information. And that is up to the bureau who is
making the contract to say that information must be disclosed.
But, again, this bill which Mr. Friedmann just discussed,
and I do think it is important, is to have this avalanche of
FOIA requests on a private company that is unrelated to any
specific incident or any specific problem is what you want to
Mr. Scott. Any other questions?
Mr. Gohmert. Just briefly.
Mr. Scott. Gentleman from Texas.
Mr. Gohmert. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Flynn, I hadn't had a chance, I hadn't made the chance
to ask you questions, and I did have some of you. You know, I
agree with your approach in general; basically, liking the idea
that less government is usually better than more government.
But you had made the comment that we should be managing
outcomes instead of process. And I agree with your concerns
about the potentially unnecessary dangerous precedent. As I
have already indicated, I am leaning against this type of
legislation. But as I also indicated, I have my own concerns
about contracting out certain governmental functions. So I am
struggling somewhat with your idea of managing outcomes only,
without regard to process.
You surely wouldn't want prisons that used significantly
mind-altering drugs or beating a guy about the head or letting
other inmates beat him until they are beat into submission and
they come out this docile, mindless human being or remnant of a
human being. I mean, I am sure you agree with that, right?
Mr. Flynn. Absolutely, yes.
Mr. Gohmert. So it is more than just managing outcomes. I
mean, we would be concerned about the process, wouldn't you
Mr. Flynn. Absolutely. And what I mean by managing outcomes
is, you know, right now, we have a correctional system that is
very dysfunctional. And we have very, very high recidivism
rates. You know, we put oftentimes nonviolent criminals in jail
for a long time, and they get basically on-the-job training for
criminal behavior. In our current system, we just house them.
We should be moving in some direction toward rehabilitating
them, making sure they get an education or job skills, so that
when they leave the prison system they have an alternative that
just doesn't put them back in there.
Through contracting, by the use of private prisons, you can
move in that direction, because you can make the contract
contingent on these things. With the Federal bureaucracy and
Federal employees, who cannot be fired essentially, you can
never start to get those outcomes within the institution. You
know, if there is a riot at a public facility, maybe somebody
gets fired. If there is a riot at a private facility, you can
pull the contract.
That is a tool that we should use and we should--you know,
it is the competition that makes them run better. And if you
incentivize and say ``Okay, yeah, we are going to pay you X
amount; and if you get X percent in substance treatment of your
inmates, we will pay extra.'' And so that is what I mean by
managing outcomes; not that you do it at the expense of the
process. But right now we just pour money into the system and
don't even look at what comes out on the other end.
Mr. Gohmert. All right. Thank you.
Mr. Scott. Thank you.
And that is certainly an indictment of the prison system,
that we can't use common sense and good practices, whereas we
can contract to get those services; that maybe we ought to be
looking at the public prisons to see if we can't get some
Mr. Gohmert. Is that our next hearing?
Mr. Scott. If you insist.
Any other questions?
Mr. Coble. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will be brief. I had
two other meetings that I had to go to, and I am sorry I missed
most of the testimony.
Mr. Flynn, would imposing FOIA obligations on private
companies that have government contracts, could that lead to
higher costs for the government?
Mr. Flynn. Oh, absolutely.
Mr. Coble. Proponents of the legislation have argued that
private facilities operate under a shroud of secrecy and, thus,
should be subject to FOIA.
Reason Foundation, your group, has conducted significant
research into the operation of private correctional facilities.
How did Reason come into access of this information?
Mr. Flynn. Through public sources.
Mr. Coble. Pardon?
Mr. Flynn. Through FOIA requests and other means.
Mr. Coble. Do you want to elaborate on that a little bit?
Mr. Flynn. Yeah. I didn't do the actual requesting, so I
don't know what they did. But we looked--and what we also did,
which I think is even more interesting, is we looked at a bunch
of studies, I think about 18 or 20 studies, going back to 1989,
kind of a meta analysis, and found that in about 16 of those 18
cases, of those studies, the private prisons were at least as
good as the public prison in terms of quality of service and
So, I mean, it is too much--I mean, this is a very specific
bill about the whole private prison industry. But there has
been a lot of misconception about how the private prison
industry runs. And they make it sound as if, you know, the
public prisons are these wonderful daycare centers where
everything is nice and light and the private prisons are some
kind of, like, dark gulag. But the data does not show that at
Mr. Coble. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Friedmann, the Freedom of Information Act was enacted
to provide greater transparency into the operation of our
Federal Government. I am not aware of any precedent whereby the
statute has been extended beyond the government and to private
entities. Are there such precedents?
Mr. Friedmann. To my knowledge, and my research has mostly
been in the private prison contracting area, no, which is what
H.R. 1889 would do.
Mr. Flynn. Just to clarify, there have been very, very
limited, maybe, like, two or three, instances of private
contractors being subject to FOIA as a result of litigation.
But those were very particular and specific. But there is no
Mr. Coble. Thank you, gentlemen.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Scott. Thank you.
Gentleman from Texas?
I would like to thank all our witnesses for their testimony
Members may have additional written questions for our
witnesses, which we will forward to you and ask that you answer
as promptly as you can so that your responses may be made part
of the record.
Without objection, the hearing record will remain open for
1 week for the submission of additional materials.
And, without objection, the Subcommittee now stands
adjourned. Thank you very much.
[Whereupon, at 2:01 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
Prepared Statement of the Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, a
Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, and Member,
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening this hearing on the H.R.
1889, the ``Private Prison Information Act of 2007.'' The way the
United States treats its prisoners reflects greatly on the values of
our nation. I have long been an outspoken advocate for the rights of
detainees and feel today's hearing is incredibly important. I would
like to thank our distinguished witnesses, the Alex Friedmann, Vice
President, The President Corrections Institute, Inc.; Tom Jawetz,
Immigration Detention Staff Attorney from The American Civil Liberties
Union National Prison Project; and Mike Flynn, Director of Government
Affairs, Reason Foundation. I look forward to their testimonies.
H.R. 1899 ``THE PRIVATE PRISON INFORMATION ACT OF 2007''
This important piece of legislation, introduced by my distinguished
colleague, Representative Tim Holden, addresses the release of
information to the public regarding prisoners, an important step
forward in the way of transparency. This legislation ``requires prisons
and other correctional facilities holding federal prisoners under a
contract with the federal government to make the same information
available to the public that federal prisons and correctional
facilities are required to do by law.'' In effect, this ``good
government'' legislation will require private prison vendors who
contract with the Federal Government to make the same information
available to the public as is required of public correctional
For years, private prison vendors have hid behind their ``corporate
veil'' to keep damaging information from becoming public. H.R. 1889
would put an end to this practice once and for all.
Recently, Time magazine exposed Corrections Corporation of
America's practice of keeping two sets of internal audit reports: one
for public release and another, hiding possibly damaging information
from public scrutiny under the guise of ``attorney-client privilege.''
Studies have shown private prison guards receive less pay and
benefits, and experience higher rates of turnover than those in the
public sector. As a result, employees, inmates, and surrounding
communities near private correction facilities are exposed to great
risks. At the very least, private contractors should reveal the same
information about their hiring, training, and management practices
which public facilities do.
While the for-profit private prison contractors, the Department of
Justice and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement feel that private
vendors currently supply information to the Federal Government, this is
not the point. The public has a right to know what is going on inside
these facilities, regardless of the limited amount of reporting
required by the federal government.
As more and more stories are revealed of the horrific treatment of
prisoners both within the federal prisons and contracted prisons
emerge, it is imperative that we hold these facilities accountable.
Concerns about internal problems within private prisons have been
raised by a myriad of organizations and even Representatives from
within this Congress. One such organization, the Private Corrections
Institute, recently voiced its concerns stating, ``there are more
safety concerns and more escapes in private prisons where guards are
not well trained, are poorly compensated, and where this is rapid
turnover of personnel.''
Mr. Chairman, because we are sending our federal prisoners to these
private facilities, there must be some sort of mechanism with the
capability of holding them up to the same federal standards mandated to
federal prisons and correctional facilities. It is our obligation to
know under what conditions federal prisoners are living, whether they
are living in a privately-owned facility or a government-owned
facility. This bill is an important step toward guaranteeing that
federal prisoners--whether they are housed in a government-owned
facility or in a privately-owned facility contracted by the
government--be treated the same.
Mr. Chairman, we must address the shortcomings of FOIA when it
comes to private prisons. Modification is long overdue and I look
forward to working with the committee to see these issues addressed.
This bill is about accountability, fairness, public safety, and
transparency. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back the balance of my