NEFAC Renews Call for More Transparency Requirements for Privately Managed Prisons

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition recently reaffirmed its support for legislation that would strengthen accountability and oversight of privately-managed prisons throughout the country.

The Private Prison Information Act (S.1728) would apply the federal Freedom of Information Act to private prison, correctional and detention facilities working on behalf of the federal government.

In an Aug. 3, 2017, letter — drafted by Open the Government and sent again to U.S. senators earlier this month — NEFAC and more than 40 advocacy and media organizations wrote:

“Private prison companies that receive federal funding provide the same service as government agencies, but, by asserting their status as private entities, claim that they are not subject to public records laws such as the FOIA. As a result, the public is largely in the dark with regard to the functioning of the many of this country’s private prisons, and the industry operates with a lack of oversight and accountability mechanisms.This dynamic hinders the ability of the government and public to ensure private prison companies are living up to their contractual obligations and not wasting taxpayer dollars.”

There are three federal prisons in New England. Although none are privately managed, this legislation would provide the transparency needed to fully evaluate all prisons, said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director.

“By learning more about our privately-managed prisons, we can better understand the prison system as a whole,” Silverman said. “Contractors shouldn’t be operating in secrecy when they are performing a government functions with as much consequence as the federal prison system.”

NEFAC joined similar efforts in 2015, urging congressional leaders to open up privately managed prisons to the same level of scrutiny as federal prisons.

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.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.