Prison Legal News – For Immediate Release
July 29, 2009
PLN INTERVENES IN LAWSUIT AGAINST CORRECTIONS CORP. OF AMERICA TO UNSEAL CLASS ACTION WAGE/HOUR SETTLEMENT
Nashville, TN – On July 27, 2009, Prison Legal News, a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, filed a motion to intervene in a nationwide class-action lawsuit against Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), a private prison company based in Nashville.
The suit, brought in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas under the Fair Labor Standards Act, affects all CCA employees who worked in specified job positions from December 2005 to February 2009. The suit alleges that CCA failed to compensate its employees for pre-shift and post-shift work, including roll call, obtaining weapons and equipment, attending meetings and job assignment briefings, and completing paperwork. CCA employees were not paid for these work-related activities, which they were required to perform as part of their job duties.
The class action suit was settled on February 12, 2009; however, the settlement was sealed by the court upon motion by the parties. Thus, the exact terms of the settlement are unknown, including the maximum monetary amount that CCA will have to pay.
Prison Legal News (PLN) moved to intervene in the suit for the sole purpose of unsealing the settlement agreement. As a matter of public policy, documents filed in federal court should be open to inspection by the public. This is particularly true for CCA, since almost all of CCA’s income is derived from taxpayer funds through government contracts.
Further, private prison firms, including CCA, often claim they can save money. Since about 80% of prison operating expenses are related to staffing costs, it is noteworthy and newsworthy that CCA apparently “saved” money by failing to pay its employees the wages to which they were entitled, in violation of federal labor laws. The settlement would reveal details regarding how CCA “saved” money by shorting its own staff members.
“By unsealing the settlement in this case, PLN can publicly report the terms under which CCA agreed to settle class action claims accusing the company of violating labor laws and failing to pay its employees their full wages,” stated PLN associate editor Alex Friedmann. “The public has a right to know how its tax dollars are being spent when government agencies contract with for-profit companies like CCA to operate prisons and jails, especially when such companies are accused of violating the law to increase their profit margins.”
The class action suit against CCA is Barnwell, et al. v. Corrections Corp. of America, U.S.D.C. (D. Kan.), Case No. 2:08-CV-02151-JWL-DJW. PLN is represented in its motion to intervene by Stephen Douglas Bonney, Chief Counsel and Legal Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. Other than its motion to intervene, PLN has no part in this lawsuit.
Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Seattle, Washington, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. PLN publishes a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners' rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has almost 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website (www.prisonlegalnews.org) that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents. PLN is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center.