MuckRock’s “Private Prison Project” and the Need for Transparency

MuckRock announces "Private Prison Project." Here's why it's so badly needed.

MuckRock announces “Private Prison Project.” Here’s why it’s so badly needed.

Last week, announced it was launching the Private Prison Project: a long-term investigation of the use of for-profit prison companies to accommodate America’s exploding incarceration rate.

According to the website, which helps the public through the process of filing records requests to government agencies, the first step of the Private Prison Project will be to focus on the procurement and execution of private prison contracts:

We’re beginning our inquiry by requesting the contracts that every state has with private correctional prisons and the required corresponding contract monitoring reports. New Mexico has successfully issued fines due to breaches of contract, and it’s likely many others can do the same. We’re after the marketing materials these companies provided and the bids they placed; a questionable study done by Temple University, in part founded by the private prison corporations the study supports, argues that competition between these corporations is a good thing, but monopolies and single bid contracts are not uncommon.

Public disclosure is not just a powerful tool for reform, it’s an essential democratic right that applies to private prison contractors as much as it does the government that hired them to take over some of their work. Incarceration is inherently the duty of government, and just as we expect transparency in government, we should expect transparency from contractors that use taxpayer money to provide identical functions to that government.

If MuckRock is successful, public disclosure would remove the shroud of secrecy that allows private prisons to avoid public scrutiny and resist reform.

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