Open The Government, CREW applaud reintroduction of Private Prison reform Legislation

The bill addresses lack of accountability surrounding private prisons, jails, and detention centers that house federal inmates

Washington – Today, following Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Representative Jamie Raskin’s (D-Md) reintroduction of the Private Prison Information Act (S. 3164/H.R. 5853), Open The Government and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington continued to call on Congress to demand transparency from corporations that profit from operating prison and detention centers for the federal government. Currently, private prisons hold more than 20 percent of federal prisoners and over 80 percent of all immigration detainees, underscoring the need for stronger transparency and accountability measures to inform the public on whether private contractors are fulfilling their contractual obligations to contracting agencies.

Private prisons have been shown to be less safe and secure than government-run prisons, yet their status as private entities prevent the public from gaining access to information about them. The Private Prisons Information Act would amend the Freedom of Information Act to close this loophole by requiring private correctional and detention facilities to disclose records such as incident reports, staffing data and care information as is already required of federal prisons and correctional facilities.

“Private prisons perform a fundamental government function and should be required to comply with the same public access and information laws as their federal counterparts,” said Lisa Rosenberg, executive director of Open The Government. “The Private Prison Information Act will check waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars by strengthening oversight of contractors and holding them accountable for their contractual obligations to the federal government.”

“Despite their enormous cost to taxpayers and amid serious, longstanding concerns regarding their safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, private prisons are currently exempt from information access laws like the Freedom of Information Act, leaving taxpayers completely in the dark and powerless to be informed and hold their government accountable for these contractors,” said CREW president, Noah Bookbinder. “The Private Prisons Information Act would address these transparency loopholes and bring accountability mechanisms for privately operated facilities in line with their government-run counterparts. As long as our government continues to rely on profit-driven contractors to incarcerate and detain people, this legislation is urgently needed.” 

For years, Open The Government, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and a broad coalition of organizations committed to civil liberties, human rights, and civil rights, have advocated for greater accountability from private facilities because of the direct impact of their work on the lives of detainees. More than two dozen accountability organizations called on Congress to support the legislation that would strengthen transparency in federally funded private prison facilities. The Private Prisons Information Act was previously introduced in the House and Senate in 2019 following the coalition’s advocacy efforts on the issue.

 About Open The Government

Open The Government is an inclusive, nonpartisan coalition that works to strengthen our democracy and empower the public by advancing policies that create a more open, accountable, and responsive government.   

About Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

CREW is a non-partisan legal watchdog group, founded in 2003. In a political moment where profits are prioritized over ethics and anonymous money damages the democratic process, CREW highlights these violations of the law and abuses of power through aggressive research and legal action.