NEFAC Calls for Correctional System Transparency, Reintroduction of Private Prison Information Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 | justin@nefirstamendment.org

The New England First Amendment Coalition joined 54 civil rights and media organizations today to call for the reintroduction of the proposed federal Private Prison Information Act.

The legislation requires federal prisons managed by private contractors to disclose the same information under the Freedom of Information Act as publicly managed prisons. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) introduced the legislation last year but it failed to garner enough support to become law.

In a letter to Lee, NEFAC and fellow supporters of the legislation called the lack of transparency within private federal prisons “indefensible” and requested she reintroduce the bill:

“With respect to for-profit, private prisons, we are deeply troubled by the secrecy with which the contract corrections industry continues to operate. Whereas the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and state departments of corrections are subject to the Freedom of Information Act and state public records statutes, respectively, private prison firms that contract with public agencies generally are not . . . . The time to reintroduce and pass this bill is now.”

There are three federal prisons in New England. None of them are privately managed. Still, explained NEFAC’s executive director Justin Silverman, those prisons cannot be compared to their privately run counterparts because the data needed to do so isn’t currently available.

“This bill intends to make that data available,” Silverman said. “But more broadly, by reintroducing this bill, we are making a strong statement: Contractors should not be able to operate in secrecy if they are performing a government function with as much consequence as the federal prison system.”

The Prison Legal News drafted the letter to Lee, which can be read here. Those joining NEFAC in support of the letter and the reintroduction of the Private Prison Information Act include Muckrock, American Society of News Editors, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, and Media Alliance.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.