As taxpayers we entrust the government to utilize our hard earned wages wisely. Commonly, when we believe our tax dollars are misused, we exercise the rights afforded to us as a democratic society to hold those with power - lawmakers, leaders of agencies, etc. - to account. One of the tools of our democracy’s accountability measures is the Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA), a law that give us the right to access information from the federal government. FOIA requests are often used to uncover corruption, scandals, mismanagement and other shortcomings in the functioning of our public systems.
However, our ability to hold the government accountable becomes compromised when it outsources core functions, like incarceration, to private companies. Currently, federal U.S. agencies (Bureau of Prisons, ICE, and the U.S. Marshalls) have outsourced the management of prison and immigrant detention facilities to private, for-profit companies like Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, and MTC (Management and Training Corporation). Private corporations are not subject to FOIA laws even though they assume the role of the federal government in the administration of U.S. federal carceral facilities and are compensated with public tax dollars. This fact creates tremendous barriers to justice for those who are incarcerated in privately-run federal facilities because the people who are tasked with protecting their rights do not, in this moment, have the right to request information about what is happening inside of these facilities. This lack of transparency contributes, in our opinion, to the rampant cases of mismanagement, neglect, and other types of prisoner abuse that we have tracked for decades in private facilities, such as those documented in our Dirty 30 report.
Read more about U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced the Private Prison Information Act