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PLN files public records lawsuit against CCA in Vermont

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2013.
Press release - PLN files public records lawsuit against CCA in Vermont 2013


Human Rights Defense Center
and ACLU of Vermont

For Immediate Release – June 7, 2013

Prison Legal News and ACLU of Vermont Sue Corrections Corporation of America for Failing to Disclose Public Records

MONTPELIER – The ACLU of Vermont has filed a public records lawsuit on behalf of Prison Legal News (PLN), a publication of the non-profit Human Rights Defense Center, after PLN submitted a public records request seeking information about legal settlements involving Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) – the nation’s largest for-profit prison company. The Vermont Department of Corrections contracts with CCA to house Vermont prisoners in out-of-state facilities.

PLN reports on prison conditions and on prisoners’ rights and developments in prison litigation. As part of its reporting on conditions in private prisons such as those operated by CCA, PLN submitted a public records request to CCA in the fall of 2012 that requested information about lawsuits filed by Vermont prisoners housed in CCA-operated facilities. CCA ignored the request, as well as a subsequent administrative appeal.

“The public needs to know how prisoners are treated and to understand how the for-profit prison industry works,” said PLN editor Paul Wright. “By reviewing CCA’s litigation settlements, Prison Legal News can report on the ways in which Vermont prisoners are being injured at CCA facilities and suffering violations of their constitutional rights, and how much CCA is willing to pay for the misconduct of its employees.”

“This is an important case for Vermont public records law,” stated Allen Gilbert, the ACLU of Vermont’s executive director. “States and municipalities are contracting out more and more of their responsibilities, and it’s vital that Vermonters don’t lose the ability to see what’s being done in their names and with their tax dollars.”

Wright noted that Prison Legal News has pursued similar cases in other states. PLN successfully sued CCA in Tennessee, where the company is headquartered, for failing to comply with that state’s public records statute, and recently filed a similar suit in Texas. “As far as we’re concerned, a private corporation that is playing the role of a state agency through a privatization contract is the functional equivalent of a state agency and is thus accountable to the public,” Wright said.

ACLU of Vermont staff attorney Dan Barrett, who represents Prison Legal News in the public records suit, agreed. “A contractor cannot exercise the power of the state to hold human beings in prison cells and then turn around and say that the company is not subject to public scrutiny. We think that Vermont’s public records law applies equally to CCA when it stands in the shoes of the state Department of Corrections.”

The lawsuit, filed in the Vermont Superior Court’s civil division in Montpelier, seeks a court order requiring CCA to disclose the requested records to Prison Legal News. Pleadings in the case can be accessed on the ACLU of Vermont’s website.


The Human Rights Defense Center, founded in 1990 and based in Brattleboro, Vermont, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. Prison Legal News has around 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website ( that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents.

For further information, please contact:

Lance Weber, General Counsel
Human Rights Defense Center
(603) 903-3410 (cell)

Dan Barrett, Staff Attorney
ACLU of Vermont
(802) 223-6304 (office)