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PLN wins Tennessee public records suit against CCA

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2008.
Press Release - PLN wins Tennessee public records suit against CCA - 2008

Prison Legal News Prevails in Public Records Suit Against CCA

July 29, 2008 - Prison Legal News


For Immediate Release

PLN Wins Public Records Case Against Nation’s Largest Private Prison Company

NASHVILLE, TN – Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Claudia Bonnyman today issued a ruling in a lawsuit against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison firm, which is headquartered in Nashville. The suit was filed last May by Prison Legal News (PLN), an independent monthly publication that reports on corrections and criminal justice-related issues.

Last year PLN's associate editor, Alex Friedmann, submitted a public records request to CCA under the state’s public records law. In 2002, the Tennessee Supreme Court had ruled that private companies which perform functionally equivalent public services must comply with public records requests to the same extent as government agencies. Although CCA performs an equivalent government function by operating prisons and jails through contracts funded with taxpayer dollars, the company refused to produce the requested records. CCA claimed it was not subject to the public records statute despite the Tennessee Supreme Court's clear ruling to the contrary.

To obtain the records that CCA refused to disclose, which included audits and reports detailing contract violations by the company, Friedmann filed suit on PLN’s behalf. On July 29, 2008, Chancellor Bonnyman ruled in PLN’s favor, finding that CCA performed a functionally equivalent public service, was thus subject to the state’s public records law, and had to comply with public records requests.

In so ruling, the Court rejected CCA’s argument that it did not receive “funding” from the state but merely received contractual payments for services rendered to state and county agencies. The Court further rejected CCA’s position that the firm only obtained about 10% of its income from government agencies in Tennessee. As PLN’s attorney pointed out, almost all of CCA’s income is derived from government sources through taxpayer funds, including 100% of its operations in Tennessee. The records that PLN had requested were limited to CCA’s Tennessee facilities.

“This important ruling strips away a layer of secrecy that CCA has misused to conceal embarrassing and negative information from the public,” stated Friedmann. “CCA has fought tooth and nail to prevent the media and members of the public from obtaining information about the company’s operations, and has been successful until now. We will now be able to see what they’ve been hiding.”

With several limited exceptions, Chancellor Bonnyman held that CCA must produce the records requested by PLN – including verdicts, settlements and damage awards in lawsuits filed against CCA that were not sealed by court order. The Court stated it would rule on PLN’s attorney fees at a later time. CCA will likely appeal the ruling.

Friedmann is a former CCA prisoner, having served six years at the company’s South Central Correctional Facility in Wayne County, Tennessee before being released from prison in 1999. In addition to his position with PLN, he serves as vice president of the Private Corrections Institute – a watchdog group that opposes prison privatization.

The case is Friedmann v. CCA, Chancery Court of Davidson County, Tenn., Case No. 08-1105-I. PLN was ably represented by attorney Andrew Clarke of the Memphis law firm of Borod and Kramer, PLC.


Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Seattle, Washington, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. prisons. PLN publishes a monthly newsletter that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners' rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has over 6,800 subscribers nationwide and operates a website ( that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related court rulings, verdicts, settlements and other documents. PLN has successfully sued the Washington Dept. of Corrections and Federal Bureau of Prisons over access to public records.

For further information, contact:

Alex Friedmann, Associate Editor
Prison Legal News
5341 Mt. View Road #130
Antioch, TN 37013
(615) 495-6568

Andrew C. Clarke
Borod and Kramer, PLC
80 Monroe Avenue, Suite G-1
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 271-2723