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Tenn. Supreme Court denies appeal by CCA in PLN public records case

Associated Press, March 5, 2010. http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?i...
Tenn. Supreme Court denies appeal by CCA in PLN public records case - Associated Press 2010

Private prison company loses appeal over records

By The Associated Press

03.05.10

NASHVILLE — A magazine that advocates for the rights of prisoners has won another round in the legal battle with private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has declined to hear CCA's appeal of a lower court's ruling that it must turn over some documents on lawsuits and complaints against the company.

Alex Friedmann, a former prisoner who is now an editor at Prison Legal News, asked for the information in April 2007 and sued Nashville-based CCA after the company refused to turn it over. CCA claimed that it was not subject to the state's open-records law because it is a private corporation.

Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman sided with Friedmann and ordered the company to turn over most of the records. CCA appealed, but the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled last year that CCA must comply with the law because it performs the equivalent function of a government agency by running state prisons.

"With all due respect to CCA, this Court is at a loss as to how operating a prison could be considered anything less than a governmental function," Appeals Judge D. Michael Swiney wrote in his opinion.

However, Friedmann did not get everything he was asking for.

The Appeals Court ruled that, due to peculiarities in state law, records available from one prison were limited. It also said Bonnyman's order to CCA to release records was overbroad. In remanding the case to Chancery Court it ordered her to consider if any of the records Friedmann is seeking are outside what is allowed by Tennessee's open-records law.

The ruling only applies to privately run Tennessee correctional facilities, not federal prisons or facilities in other states that the company runs.

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said in an e-mail he could not comment on the case because there were still outstanding legal issues.

Friedmann says the state Supreme Court's order is a positive development because taxpayers have a right to know how CCA is spending their money.