By Prison Legal News Shrinking state budgets across the country are leading to prison closures that in turn have a negative impact on communities that depend on the facilities as a source of jobs and revenue. [See: PLN, June 2013, p.1; April 2009, p.1]. Small towns in Kentucky, Georgia and New York are among those…

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By Prison Legal News

On May 23, 2014, the Medical Examiner’s Office in Nashville completed an autopsy report on Tennessee state prisoner Jeffery Sills, 43, who was murdered at the South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton, Wayne County on March 28. The facility is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison company.

Sills’ death was classified as a homicide caused by “blunt and sharp force injuries.” He was allegedly beaten and stabbed to death by his cellmate, Travis Bess, who was later transferred to the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.

Jeffery Sills was at least the second prisoner murdered at the CCA-run prison since September 1, 2013, when Gerald Ewing, 28, was killed during a series of fights at the facility. Comparably, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction there were no homicides at state-run prisons in calendar year 2013 and to date this year.

Jeffery Sills’ death was particularly brutal, according to the autopsy report. He suffered lacerations, abrasions and contusions to his head and neck, fractured cheek and nasal bones, cutting and stab/puncture wounds, and hemorrhages in the “posterior cervical spinal muscles” and “skeletal muscle of back and intercostal muscles of posterior thorax.”

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By CAMERON LANGFORD of Courthouse News

AUSTIN (CN) – Prison Legal News sued the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private prison contractor, for records about its contracts in Texas and lawsuits filed against CCA there.

Prison Legal News, a subsidiary of the nonprofit Human Rights Defense Center, sued CCA in Travis County Court.

“Privately operated prisons and jails are notorious for their abhorrent conditions,” Prison Legal News says in its complaint. “Although they perform a government function, they are driven by a profit model that cuts costs for the benefit of shareholders and to the detriment of basic services, security, and oversight. Prison Legal News seeks to enforce its rights under the Public Information Act to investigate details about these facilities in Texas.”

Prison Legal News “publishes a 64-page monthly magazine with cutting-edge review and analysis of prisoner rights, court rulings and prison issues,” the complaint states. “Its circulation is approximately 7,000 hardcopies per month, and includes subscribers in all 50 states and abroad.

“The information offered by Prison Legal News enables prisoners, civil rights advocates, and organizations to protect prisoners’ rights at the grass roots level. It is in a unique position to investigate, document, and publicize the nationwide abuses of a corporation like CCA.

“Prison Legal News has sought and received public records from CCA in others states using those states’ open records laws, including in CCA’s home, Tennessee.”

The nonprofit claims that CCA blew off its March 1 public records request for records about “Contracts between CCA, the state, and local counties and municipalities … Petitions from lawsuits filed against CCA in Texas … Settlements, verdicts, and injunctive orders entered against CCA in Texas.”

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By Prison Legal News

Autumn Miller, the mother of the deceased baby, who was named Gracie, filed a federal lawsuit against CCA on March 8, 2013. See: Miller v. CCA, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Tex.), Case No. 3:13-cv-01022-L.

According to an investigative report by CBS 11, at least eight prisoners have died at the Dawson State Jail since 2004. One of those deaths involved diabetic prisoner Pam D. Weatherby, 45. An internal CCA document indicated that jail staff “did not follow proper procedures, in that they did not call a medical professional and advise them of the offender vomiting, prior to the medical staff arriving” at the facility. Weatherby died in July 2011; she was serving one year for drug possession. Her family has since filed a wrongful death suit against CCA. See: Alfano v. CCA, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Texas), Case No. 3:11-cv-01006-P.

“Private prisons siphon public taxpayer dollars into corporate profit,” noted PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann. “They slash [medical] services to funnel money to their shareholders and executives, and people die. Even when we don’t need these for-profit prisons, they are rarely shuttered until the scandals reach critical mass.”

“Prisons and jails operated by CCA and other profit-making corporations have been responsible for dozens of scandals around Texas,” added Bob Libal, director of Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit organization that opposes prison privatization. “In the last ten years alone, there have been instances of medical neglect, sexual abuse and preventable suicide in private facilities in Austin, Bartlett, Beaumont, Big Spring, Bronte, Dallas, Del Rio, Eden, Encinal, Falfurrias, Fort Worth, Henderson, Liberty, Littlefield, Pearsall, Pecos, Raymondville, Spur, Taylor, Texarkana and Waco.”

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