Vermont Judge Rejects Prison Company's Bid to Keep Records Secret | Off Message

Please support our work!

Donate  Advertise

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Vermont Judge Rejects Prison Company's Bid to Keep Records Secret

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM

An effort to learn more about the workings of a private prison company that houses 600 Vermont inmates scored a key legal victory last week.

A Montpelier judge rejected a request by Corrections Corporation of America, which has been paid more than $70 million by the state since 2007, to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to access records of its operations. 

CCA had argued that since it is a private company, it should not be subject to Vermont's public records law, which generally allows citizens to access records of government operations. The Vermont Department of Corrections, which has long grappled with a shortage of prison beds, sends long-term inmates to a CCA prison in Kentucky, among other prisons the company controls across the country.

A lawsuit seeking access to CCA records was filed by Prison Legal News, a monthly publication that has reported extensively about the private prison industry.

Prison Legal News sought records concerning the conditions inside the private prisons where Vermonters are housed, but its request in September 2012 was ignored by CCA, according to court records. In May 2013, Prison Legal News filed suit in Washington Superior Court in Montpelier, arguing that CCA should be subject to the same disclosure requirements as the Department of Corrections and other state agencies.

The Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Prison Legal News, said it was encouraged by the judge's decision.

“For the Vermonters who are under lock and key in Tennessee and Kentucky, CCA is interchangeable with the Department of Corrections,” said ACLU staff attorney Dan Barrett. “We, the public, should know how our state’s prisoners are being treated on our behalf in privately-run facilities."

The case will continue: Records still have not been turned over, and the judge has ordered further hearings. 

But Prison Legal News editor Paul Wright said he is optimistic.

“We think it’s a matter of common sense to treat the state’s private jailer as the functional equivalent of the Department of Corrections," Wright said.



Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

About The Author

Mark Davis

Mark Davis

Mark Davis was a Seven Days staff writer 2013-2018.

More By This Author

Latest in Off Message

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2024 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation