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Prison Path

A Requiem for Private Prisons




A Requiem for Private Prisons and a Last Call too.

Catholic readers of this site probably know the meaning of the word “requiem.” A Requiem Mass is celebrated for the souls of the dead. This month’s one – two punch for private prisons suggests that we will soon be singing funeral dirges for private prisons and the companies that run them… Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.

For anyone who hasn’t followed the news, the Justice Department announced it is winding down its prison contracts. The change won’t happen overnight but stock in the two largest private prison operators plummeted on the news. The other big news this month was the exposé published in Mother Jones. Award winning journalist, Shane Bauer, left the news room and became a corrections officer working undercover for 4 months in CCA’s Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana.

Many exposés have been written about private prisons but very few capture the attention of main stream media or the civilian population. Bauer’s story is the exception. And the story he paints is not very complimentary of the industry.

Now that the industry and the people employed in private prisons are beginning to assimilate the news, everyone is asking what next? No one expects that any facilities will close in the immediate future but hiring freezes and attrition will become common. Even without the Justice Department’s announcement, new incarcerations of undocumented aliens were already slipping and they are one of the largest “customers” of the private prison industry.

As a whistleblower lawyer, I represent individuals that wish to report misconduct involving government funds and earn an award. Many healthcare workers know of the huge awards paid under the federal False Claims Act – over $435 million in 2014. Private corrections officers and prison healthcare vendors largely do not, however. Those that do are often reluctant to come forward.

The code of silence in corrections isn’t as great as in the law enforcement community but for current corrections officers, it is actually stronger. No one wants to blow the whistle and soon find themselves put in an unsafe – make that dangerous – work situation because a pissed off supervisor decides to retaliate.

Yes, retaliation is against the law but is it worth the risk? Many answer “no.” (Although for the poor pay that private c.o. does earn, we wonder if the job is even worth it.)

Now that Bauer has shined a light on the mismanagement of our private prison system, we expect people will begin to come forward. Only the first ones to file, however, are likely to get an award. If you have inside knowledge of mismanagement within a private prison or prison healthcare provider, this could be your last call.

About the author. Brian Mahany is a whistleblower lawyer and former corrections officer. He has helped his clients collect over $100 million in award monies. He practices throughout the United States.

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