A former prisoner, now a shareholder in the country's largest for-profit prison operator, has won a battle with company management over his campaign to hold the Corrections Corporation of America accountable for reducing sexual abuse at its facilities. The Securities and Exchange Commission has ruled that the shareholder resolution, calling attention to the issue of prison rape, can be included in proxy materials sent to CCA investors in advance of the company's annual meeting.
Alex Freidmann, who served time at a CCA-operated facility in the 1990s and has since actively investigated prisoner rights abuses as an associate editor of Prison Legal News, introduced the resolution, which calls for biannual reports on the company's efforts to reduce the number of incidents of sexual misconduct at more than sixty prisons it operates across the country, housing 75,000 offenders.
Despite the passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003, sexual assaults in public and private corrections facilities remain greatly under-reported, including in Colorado's state system -- see last year's feature "The Devil's Playground," which recounts the ordeal of inmate Scott Howard and drew international attention to the issue. A Bureau of Justice Statistics report estimates that more than 200,000 adult prisoners endured some form of sexual abuse in 2008, roughly one out of twelve.
A supporting statement to Friedmann's resolution notes that some CCA facilities have been singled out in federal surveys as having exceptionally high rates of sexual victimization. Kentucky and Hawaii have removed female prisoners from one CCA lockup after a sex scandal involving six employees, and an ACLU lawsuit alleges sexual assaults against immigration detainees by a CCA employee in Texas.
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CCA objected to the resolution, characterizing it as a "personal claim or grievance" by an activist shareholder who was formerly incarcerated in one of its hoosegows. "I have no 'personal claim' or 'grievance' in wanting to reduce rape and sexual abuse at CCA facilities," Friedmann replied, "other than the concern that all people should share in wanting to reduce such incidents -- a concern that apparently is not shared by CCA."
Several national organizations have expressed support for the resolution, including the National Organization for Women, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants and the Justice Policy Institute. The most crucial support, though, has come from the SEC, which rejected CCA's objections and determined that shareholders should be allowed to consider the measure.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Prison rape: Sheriff compares it to UFO sightings, other 'cultural delusions.'"