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ACLU v. CCA: The Private Prison Debate Challenge

A pair of hands in handcuffs
A pair of hands in handcuffs
David Shapiro,
ACLU National Prison Project
David Fathi,
Director, National Prison Project
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May 10, 2012

Even as for-profit facilities lock up nearly 130,000 prisoners and take in billions of taxpayer dollars each year, these prisons remain shrouded in secrecy. The time has come for a robust public debate about the role of private prisons in our society.

That’s why the ACLU just sent a letter to Damon Hininger, the head Corrections Corporation of America – the world’s largest private prison company – challenging him to a public debate on the merits of prison privatization. You can urge him to accept our invitation by taking action here.

The key question: Should private prisons exist? It’s a question being asked across America, in corrections departments and legislatures, in communities and churches. In January, the United Methodist Church divested itself of all private prison stock holdings; in February, Florida legislators killed a plan to privatize nearly 30 prisons; in April, the Illinois Senate passed a bill to block plans for a privately-run federal immigration lockup.

Here are some excerpts from our letter:

On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, we invite you to participate in a public debate on the merits of prison privatization.

In recent months, CCA has repeatedly criticized the views of the ACLU regarding for-profit incarceration. If you truly believe that private prisons are right for our country, we see no reason why you would be unwilling to defend that position in a public debate. As John Milton wrote, “Let [truth] and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?”

We believe that the taxpayers who finance private prisons; the families whose mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters are incarcerated in these facilities; and the communities where for-profit prisons are situated deserve more than sound bites. They deserve a full, fair, and public examination of for-profit incarceration.

Read the letter in its entirety here and read our our op-ed on Huffington Post here.

If you want to know the truth about private prisons being run with your money, urge CCA’s president to accept our invitation to debate. It’s time to air this issue in a public forum.

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