If public prisons are bad, what about private prisons?

If the VDT can’t get a public prison already in Lowndes County to comply with Georgia’s quite strong open records law even with years of requests, why would we want a private prison in Lowndes County, which wouldn’t have any open records requirements at all?

Dean Poling and Kay Harris wrote a long article about weapons in prisons for the VDT 28 August 2011, An eye for an eye: Life behind bars, concluding:

Inmates are intelligent. All they have is time. Why? Because there is no rehabilitation anymore. They are merely being housed. The prison programs don’t work, especially for lifers with nothing else to lose. So they have plenty of time to figure out ways to beat the system.
The VDT has been trying to find out more since at least 2009, when Malynda Fulton wrote 9 November 2009, Department of Corrections says records are ‘state secrets’ or destroyed,
Information regarding the violent attacks at Valdosta State Prison remains guarded, with no records made available by the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Access to documents pertaining to the 2007 attack of former Valdosta State Prison correctional officer William Bond through an Open Records request has been denied by the Department of Corrections, which indicated that this incident was part of an internal investigation.

“Internal Investigations have been declared privileged and confidential state secrets, as a matter of law, Official Code of Georgia Annotated Section 42-5-36(b), and, therefore, pursuant to Official Code of Georgia Annotated Section 50-18-70(b), said records are exempt from being open to inspection under the Open Records Act,” Rhoda McCabe, senior assistant counsel at the Georgia Department of Corrections’ legal office, explained.

In response to a request for documents pertaining to the July 2005 and June 2006 attacks of former officer William Lewis, the Valdosta State Prison advised McCabe that records concerning the July 2005 incident have been destroyed. McCabe stated that copies of the incident report from the June 2006 have been forwarded to the Department of Corrections’ legal office and will be made available. The Times continues to await this information.

Records privileged, confidential, destroyed, or just never made available. By the same Department of Corrections that wants to privatize Georgia prisons.

Ah, even longer than that, said Kay Harris 17 July 2011 in Times makes another request for info on violent incidents at Valdosta State Prison,

Numerous incidents of violence inside Valdosta State Prison (VSP) have prompted an investigation by The Times, the third such investigation in the last four years.
DOC did come up with yet another excuse:
The DOC provided information to The Times this week with answers to some, but not all, of the questions posed in the most recent Open Records filing on June 10. The DOC is restricted by HIPPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws, which makes it illegal for the state to release information related to medical treatment of an inmate unless the injuries are fatal, in which case records can be released post mortem.
HIPAA is generally a good thing, but after all the other excuses, one has to wonder whether that’s DOC’s real reason for not wanting to release information.

OK, now look at what happened in Florida, which is ahead even of Georgia on the prison privatization path. By Steve Bousquet, wrote for the Tampa Bay Times 1 September 2011, A cautionary tale about private prison shift,

A citizen walks into a prison and says, Hello, I’d like to look at the visitors’ sign-in log, which is a public record under state law.

No, a prison official says.

Things rapidly go downhill from there. Police are called, the citizen is given a trespass warning notice and now the citizen has filed a lawsuit, claiming his constitutional rights were trampled upon.

That’s right, he didn’t even ask to see records about inmate violence, or guard corruption, or expenditures. He asked to see the visitors’ sign-in log. And for that they called the police on him.

This is even though Florida has a law that says:

“Any person shall have the right of access to public records for the purpose of making photographs of the record while such record is in the possession, custody, and control of the custodian of public records.”
Who runs that prison?
Moore Haven’s warden, Laura Bedard, referred questions to CCA corporate headquarters in Nashville. “This was not a typical public records request,” CCA spokesman Steve Owen said. “They came in with a videocamera.”
Well, that’s an excuse DOC hasn’t used on the VDT yet, but DOC is probably taking notes.

Apparently ‘Florida is one of two states that requires private prison operators to comply with public records laws (called the “sunshine law” in the state), because it has determined they perform an inherently governmental function.’

Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Georgia is the other state, so in Georgia private prisons aren’t even required to provide what would be open records for a public prison. And we see how well public prisons comply with Georgia’s open records laws.

And remember there is no federal requirement for open records about private prisons.

The CCA that called the cops on a citizen for requesting an open record is the same CCA that wants to build a private prison in Lowndes County, Georgia. Spend those tax dollars on rehabilitation and education instead.