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March 12, 2010

Notable new ACLU suit against private prison in Idaho

Thanks to TalkLeft, I saw this notable press release from the ACLU, which is titled "ACLU Lawsuit Charges Idaho Prison Officials Promote Rampant Violence."  Here is how the release starts:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Idaho today filed a class action federal lawsuit charging that officials at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) promote and facilitate a culture of rampant violence that has led to carnage and suffering among prisoners at the state-owned facility operated by the for-profit company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, the lawsuit charges that epidemic violence at the facility is the direct result of, among other things, ICC officials turning a blind eye to the brutality, a prison culture that relies on the degradation, humiliation and subjugation of prisoners, a failure to discipline guards who intentionally arrange assaults and a reliance on violence as a management tool.

"In my 39 years of suing prisons and jails, I have never confronted a more disgraceful, revolting and inexcusable case of mass abuse and federal rights violations than this one," said Stephen Pevar, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU. "The level of unnecessary human suffering is appalling. Prison officials have utterly failed to uphold their constitutional obligation to protect prisoners from being violently harmed and we must seek court intervention."

The 81-page complaint in this case is available at this link.

March 12, 2010 at 04:31 PM | Permalink


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These described conditions were what was behind the infamous 1980 New Mexico prison riot in which 33 inmates died and more than 200 inmates were treated for injuries.
(guards were taken hostage, but none were killed). These causes, as well as the prison administration's use and manipulation of a "snitch" system, are outlined in Roger Morris book "The Devil's Butcher Shop: The New Mexico Prison Uprising."

Posted by: t | Mar 12, 2010 5:50:20 PM

If we are going to let private corporations run prisons, there has to be vibrant tort litigation against them when they violate prisoners' rights. Unlike governments, which at least in theory have an independent obligation to respect rights and constitutional/societal norms, the CCA is structured to respect nothing but market incentives. If it allows egregriously tortious/unconstitutional/cruel conduct to take place on its watch, it needs to pay on the bottom line. If these allegations are true, it is a classic case where substantial punitive damages are warranted (although it would be interesting to see if they are actually awarded, as prisoners are not usually the most sympathetic class of litigants -- which is one reason why privatizing prisons and relying on the tort system to regulate civil wrongs is a bad idea, but I digress).

Posted by: Anon | Mar 12, 2010 6:02:46 PM

I strongly urge the judge to make the ACLU dumbass serve as a guard and as a guard supervisor. Let the dumbass show how it should be done. If this suit proceeds, then it is unjust to obstruct litigation against all government jails.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 12, 2010 11:06:35 PM

That would be really cool post here. i feel happy being here.

Dui Attorney

Posted by: Shaniatwain | Mar 13, 2010 4:55:18 AM


There's no doubt that being a prison guard is difficult work, but that doesn't mean that prisoners don't have rights. And it certainly doesn't mean that just because someone's in jail they can be treated anyway those looking after them want to. That's why guys like this deserve what's coming to them: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2010/02/18/sheriff-joe-vs-the-feds/

Posted by: Tragger | Mar 13, 2010 10:32:55 AM

Tragger: Would you support repeal of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, obstructing prison liability with a lot of bureaucratic run around?

I do not object to litigation against guards, or prisons. I object to easy litigation against private providers, and virtual immunity for government prison management, when they allow rapes and murders or actually promote them within their walls. It is the differential treatment, not the litigation that is inappropriate.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 13, 2010 12:04:34 PM

i'm with you here SC if a private prison can have it's employees liable for their actions. so should govt employee's in the same jobs!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 13, 2010 3:08:56 PM

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