WASHINGTON – Senator Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., has introduced the Private Prison Information Act of 2007 in an effort to increase the transparency and accountability of the operation of private prisons.
The bill would impose reporting requirements on private prisons contracting with federal agencies similar to the reporting obligations required under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
“This legislation is intended to break down the wall of secrecy surrounding private prisons so that they can be held accountable to the public,” Lieberman said, in introducing the legislation Friday before Congress recessed for its August break. “As the federal government increasingly turns to private, for-profit companies to incarcerate federal prisoners, information about the operation of private prisons and detention facilities must be available for public scrutiny.”
Approximately 25,000 federal criminal prisoners are jailed in private facilities at any given time, and more than 20 percent of the 200,000 immigrants and asylum seekers detained annually by Immigration and Customs Enforcement are held in 33 private detention centers.
Studies by criminal justice groups have shown that correctional officers at privately run prisons are paid less, receive less training, and experience higher turnover rates than those at prisons run by government agencies. This can lead to greater rates of assaults on staff, inmate on inmate assaults, and escape attempts.
Immigration advocates report that private immigration detention facilities rely on psychotropic medication as a management tool for their non-criminal population. The Private Prison Information Act would help prevent abuse and unlawful conduct at private prisons by requiring public disclosure of information about the operation of these facilities.
The bill was endorsed by associations and unions representing law enforcement and correctional officers, including: Corrections USA; American Friends Service Committee; Connecticut AFSCME Local 1565; Alaska Correctional Officers Association; Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association; Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, Calif.; California Correctional Peace Officer Association; Florida State PBA Corrections; Kentucky FOP # 60 and #76; Fraternal Order of Detention Center Officers & Personnel CWA Local 2911, Md.; Prince George Correctional Officers Association, Md.; Association of Country Employees of Plymouth, Mass.; Bristol County members of Massachusetts Correctional Officers Federated Union; Dules County members of Massachusetts Correctional Officers Federated Union; Essex County Correctional Officers Association, Mass.; Massachusetts Correctional Officers Federated Union; Worcester County members of Massachusetts Correctional Officers Federated Union; Michigan Corrections Organization; Minorities in Law Enforcement; Nebraska UCW Local 22 Hall County Corrections; Nevada Corrections Association; New Jersey Middlesex County Youth Services AFSCME Local 325; New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association, N.J.; Oklahoma Public Employees Association; Association of Oregon Correctional Employees; Pennsylvania State Correction Officers Association; Rockland County Correctional Officers Benevolent Association, N.Y.; Sheriff Officers Association of Nassau County, NY.; Suffolk County Correctional Officers Association, N.Y.; and Westchester County Correctional Superior Officers Association, N.Y.
It is also supported by several government employees unions and public interest groups, including: AFGE; AFSCME; American Immigration Lawyers Association; American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; Amnesty International USA; Asian American Justice Center; Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition; Center for Constitutional Right; Episcopal Migration Ministries; Hispanic Development Corporation, Newark, N.J.; Hate Free Zone; Interfaith Refugee Action Team, Elizabeth, N.J.;; Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; Lutheran Immigration and refugee Service; Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition; National Immigration Law Center; New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee; New York Immigration Coalition; Prison Legal News; Southeast Asia Resource Action Center; Stop Prisoner Rape; and United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.