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NASHVILLE – Over 23,000 people have signed a petition urging Governor Bill Haslam to end Tennessee’s contracts with the Corrections Corporation of America because of its track record of mismanagement and abuse in its prisons. The ACLU of Tennessee delivered the petition to the governor today, during CCA’s annual shareholder meeting.
"CCA promised us better, cheaper and safer prisons, but time and again they’ve broken that promise, putting the bottom line ahead of the public good," said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director. "Tennesseans and people across the country are sending our elected officials the clear message that they are done funding CCA’s prison profiteering at the expense of our communities."
The petition states:
For far too long, Tennessee has given tens of millions of tax dollars to the Corrections Corporation of America. Our scarce public resources shouldn’t be going to a for-profit prison company with a horrific track record of abuse, neglect, and mismanagement.
Texas, Idaho, Mississippi and Kentucky have ended their contracts with the Corrections Corporation of America. Tennessee must do the same.
Nashville-based CCA, the country’s oldest and largest private prison corporation, has contracts to operate seven facilities in Tennessee, at a cost of nearly $100 million annually to Tennessee taxpayers. CCA is also under criminal investigation by the FBI for falsifying thousands of hours of staffing records at an Idaho prison. At an Ohio prison, prisoner-on-staff assaults increased more than 300 percent between 2010, when it was a state-owned prison, and 2012, after CCA took the facility over from the state. An Ohio state investigation found that CCA had violated 47 state standards, including prisoners being forced to defecate in bags because they lacked access to running water.
The company, which reported $1.7 billion in gross revenue in 2012, has been condemned by a wide range of religious groups, citing the inherent conflict between the justice system’s goal of rehabilitation and the private prison industry’s profit motive. Additionally, three major companies recently publicly pledged to divest more than $60 million from CCA and other private prison companies for financial and ethical reasons.
The petition is the culmination of ACLU-TN’s "Who is CCA?" public awareness campaign outlining the private prison giant’s history of human rights abuses, campaign contributions, political lobbying, and lack of transparency, both locally and nationwide. Campaign elements include an infographic, video, op-eds, blog posts, and a policy report.
The number of petition signers continues to grow online here.