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Kate Connizzo, communications director, 802-223-6304 x111, kconnizzo@acluvt.org

September 10, 2018

Private prison company CoreCivic has long history of civil rights abuse, financial fraud

MONTPELIER, Vt.—The ACLU is calling on Vermont lawmakers to significantly reduce Vermont’s prison population in order to end the state’s reliance on out-of-state prisons, following the Department of Corrections’ decision to send Vermont inmates to the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Mississippi. More than 200 Vermont inmates will be moved to Mississippi next month from the Camp Hill prison in Pennsylvania, following reports of abuse, neglect, and multiple deaths in that facility in recent months.

But there is ample cause for concern about the new contract. The Tallahatchie prison is operated by CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private prison company with an extensive record of fraud and abuse and party to dozens of lawsuits nationwide. 

Mississippi’s prisons are known to be chronically overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed, and Mississippi prisons’ per-inmate health care spending is among the lowest in the nation. Last month alone, 16 inmates between the ages of 24 and 75 died in Mississippi prisons.

ACLU of Vermont executive director James Lyall: “They say the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. Vermont’s use of out-of-state prisons has a grim history, but this is a new low. The same concerns that motivated Vermont to terminate the Pennsylvania contract apply in full to this latest contract, and Vermonters should question the wisdom of moving inmates from an unacceptable situation to one that is likely to be even worse. State lawmakers must work to reduce Vermont’s incarceration rate so that Vermont doesn’t have to rely on out-of-state prisons in the first place.”

Vermont prisoners were housed in CoreCivic (then CCA) facilities in Kentucky and Arizona from 2004-2015. During that time, Vermont inmates were sexually assaulted by guards, and the company was fined for insufficient staffing and inadequate response to prison violence. The ACLU of Vermont filed suit against CCA in 2013 for the release of documents related to the mistreatment of Vermont prisoners.

CoreCivic has faced multiple lawsuits for poor or non-existent medical care resulting in preventable deaths. CoreCivic has been sued for strip searches conducted en-masse, forced labor of immigrant detainees, and holding prisoners in facilities without access to running water. The ACLU sued CoreCivic for its operation of an Idaho prison that became known as “Gladiator School” because it had four times the number of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults as the state’s seven other prisons combined.

CoreCivic also has faced lawsuits for falsifying records to cover for contractually insufficient staffing at its facilities. The company is being sued by its own investors for breach of fiduciary duties based on numerous violations of Federal Bureau of Prisons policy, including understaffing, underqualified staff, and failure to provide adequate healthcare to inmates.

Earlier this year, Vermont residents, lawmakers, and advocates voiced loud objections to a proposal for CoreCivic to build a 925-bed, $150 million prison “campus” in Vermont.

ACLU community organizer Nico Amador: “Just as it would offend Vermont values to bring CoreCivic to Vermont, it offends the same values to send Vermonters to CoreCivic. The company has shown time and again it is among the very worst corporate actors, defrauding clients and systematically cutting corners, resulting in preventable deaths and human suffering. It is disgraceful for Vermont taxpayer dollars to be lining the pockets of the private prison industry, and it is increasingly obvious that DOC’s reliance on out-of-state prisons is unnecessary and not in the best interest of the state or its inmates.”

In January of 2018, the ACLU of Vermont launched Smart Justice Vermont, a campaign to reduce Vermont’s prison population by 50% and eliminate racial disparities in Vermont’s criminal justice system. Over the last 40 years, Vermont’s population grew by 35% while its prison population grew by more than 300%, resulting in an annual cost to taxpayers of roughly $150 million, including millions spent to house more than 200 inmates outside of Vermont.

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This release was corrected on September 13th to reflect the fact that while CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) has been sued hundreds of times, it was not named in the lawsuit brought by the State of Mississippi against private prison companies and contractors in 2017. The private prison companies and contractors named in the suit were Management & Training Corporation; The GEO Group, Inc.; Cornell Companies, Inc.; Wexford Health Sources, Inc.; The Bantry Group Corporation; AdminPros, L.L.C.; CGL Facility Management, LLC; Mississippi Correctional Management, Inc.; Branan Medical Corporation; Drug Testing Corporation; Global Tel*Link Corporation; Health Assurance, LLC; Keefe Commissary Network, LLC; Sentinel Offender Services, L.L.C. and AJA Management & Technical Services, Inc.

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