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Temple University takes action on PLN managing editor's ethics complaint

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 16, 2014.

Temple completes probe of profs' prison study


Temple University has completed its review of an ethics complaint on a study conducted by two professors that described economic savings from private prisons - without disclosing that they had received funding from the prison industry. The university, however, will not disclose the findings or say whether any action was taken against the authors.

"It's a personnel matter," Brandon Lausch, a Temple spokesman, said Wednesday. "I can't go into details."

He said the examination was concluded July 2.

"They are fairly close-mouthed about their investigation," said Alex Friedmann, managing editor of the Prison Legal News and associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, who filed the ethics complaint with Temple in June 2013.

He alleged that when economics professors Simon Hakim and Erwin Blackstone released a working paper in April 2013, they did not properly disclose that they had received financial support from private prison operators, including the Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America, the nation's largest private corrections company.

In op-ed newspaper articles, the professors wrote that their research had found that privately run prisons worked as well as or better than government-run institutions and could provide long-term savings to taxpayers of 12 percent to 58 percent.

Neither of the longtime Temple faculty members could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Friedmann said he received a letter this month from Michele Masucci, Temple's interim senior vice provost for research, informing him that she had completed her review of his complaint. She said the university would "address its conclusions, including any action" to Hakim and Blackstone individually.

Masucci told Friedmann that the professors' working paper had been withdrawn and was no longer widely available, and that the research had received no university grant money.

Last month, Hakim and Blackstone told an Inquirer reporter that they had been conducting similar research for decades and always disclose funding sources when they publish their final report.

Lausch, the Temple spokesman, said the final version of their report, "Prison Break, A New Approach to Public Cost and Safety," was published last month by the nonprofit Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. The report says the study was funded in part by the private corrections industry.

ColorOfChange, an online civil rights organization based in Oakland, which recently mounted a campaign in support of Friedmann's ethics complaint, said Wednesday that nearly 25,000 of its members had sent e-mails to Temple.