Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Dan Rather on Private Prisons

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Though I doubt anyone will catch this post in time, I just noticed that tonight’s episode of “Dan Rather Reports” on HDNet focuses on the private prison industry. The episode will re-air at 8 PM PST/11 PM EST, and then be available for purchase via the website or iTunes. Not having seen the show, I can’t vouch for its quality, of course, but thought I’d let readers know about it. From the HDNet press release:

The focus of Rather’s investigation is the case of a 32-year-old illegal immigrant named Jesus Galindo, who died in December 2008 of an epileptic seizure while in solitary confinement at the Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, Texas. Reeves is a low-security facility run by the private prison giant The GEO Group. Galindo was a federal inmate whose death sparked a series of riots with prisoners demanding better medical care. The case and riots drew the interest of human rights advocates. Was the death of Jesus Galindo due to a lack of medical attention? Why had inmates at a detention center receiving millions of federal dollars every year complained of medical neglect?  And will the full story of what’s happening at this prison, and others like it, ever be known?

The answer, according to David Shapiro, an attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project, is no, unless federal law is changed. He says that’s because private prisons are immune from one of the most powerful tools for the American public to learn what is being done in its name. “They’re not subject to the Freedom of Information Act like other federal prisons,” Shapiro said. “And the Freedom of Information Act is an information lifeline that lets us know what’s going on behind the prison walls.”

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