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PLN associate editor issues open letter to Hawaii lawmakers for audit of mainland private prisons

Hawaii Reporter, Jan. 1, 2010.
PLN associate editor issues open letter to Hawaii lawmakers for audit of mainland private prisons - Hawaii Reporter 2010

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Posted by Hawaii Reporter

Mainland Private Prisons Should Be Audited: Open Letter to Hawaii Lawmakers - Override Governor's Veto of HB 415

BY ALEX FRIEDMANN - I am the associate editor of Prison Legal News, a non-profit publication that reports on criminal justice issues, and I am contacting Hawaii lawmakers in reference to HB 415, which was recently vetoed by Governor Lingle.

HB 415 would, among other provisions, require that the State Auditor conduct an audit of Hawaii’s contract to house over 2,000 prisoners in mainland facilities operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

I ask that you vote to override the governor’s veto, to ensure that an audit is conducted into the state’s $60 million annual contract with CCA to house Hawaii inmates on the mainland.

As you are likely aware, last year the State of Hawaii withdrew its female inmates from CCA’s Otter Creek Correctional Facility in Kentucky following a sex scandal in which at least six CCA employees were charged with sexual abuse or rape, including the prison’s chaplain. I was quoted in the New York Times concerning that egregious situation; a copy of the article is enclosed.

You are also likely aware that two Hawaii inmates recently were murdered at the CCA-operated Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona – Clifford Medina was strangled to death on June 8, while Bronson Nunuha was stabbed to death on February 18, 2010. Two homicides within a four-month period is unusual in any prison system and is indicative of major problems.

Most importantly, an audit of the State’s contract with CCA is necessary because CCA can not be relied upon to assess itself. Although CCA conducts its own internal audits, according to a March 13, 2008 TIME magazine article based on the reports of a corporate CCA whistleblower, the company produces two types of internal audit reports: A general audit report is provided to contracting government agencies, while an audit with specific comments and notations by the CCA auditors is retained for in-house use only. A copy of the TIME article is enclosed. In fact, the company’s then-General Counsel Gus Puryear admitted, in response to questions by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, that CCA “did not make customers aware of these documents,” and specifically said CCA does not share “the separate commentary made by auditors.” An excerpt from Mr. Puryear’s written responses is attached; the full document is too large to fax but can be accessed at the following web link or I can email you a copy upon request:

Based on the sex abuse scandal at CCA’s Otter Creek facility, in which a number of Hawaii inmates were sexually abused, as well as the recent murders of two Hawaii prisoners at CCA’s Saguaro facility, and CCA’s admission that it does not share all of its internal audit documents with its customers, I ask that you vote to override Governor Lingle’s veto of HB 415. An audit of the State’s $60 million contract with CCA is necessary to ensure that Hawaii taxpayers are getting the value they are paying for when housing inmates in mainland private prisons.

For full disclosure purposes, I also serve as president of the Private Corrections Institute, which opposes prison privatization, and am a former prisoner who served six years at a CCA-operated facility in the 1990s. Since my release in 1999 I have extensively researched private prisons, and have testified before legislative committees in two states and the U.S. House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security in regard to that topic.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Alex Friedmann is the Associate Editor of PLN

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