Brooklyn Journal of Corporate, Financial & Commercial Law


Libbi L. Vilher


Private prisons are not subject to the same regulations as government prisons. Particularly, private prisons are exempt from the requirements set forth in the Freedom of Information Act and its state equivalents, which provide that the public has an enforceable right to request certain records from government agencies. Numerous efforts made by members of Congress to enact the Private Prison Information Act, a bill that would subject private prisons to disclosure laws found in the Freedom of Information Act, have been unsuccessful. Such efforts to strip the veil of secrecy that shades private prisons from public scrutiny are especially important because in recent years a great deal of corruption allegations and reports of unacceptable private prison conditions have come to light. As a result, in the summer of 2016, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates instructed the Bureau of Prisons to begin winding down its operations with private prisons, ultimately seeking to end all federal outsourcing of correctional services. Immediately after the announcement of this phase-out, shares of private prison corporations plummeted and the industry fell into disarray. This Note explains that with the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, and the new administration’s rescinding of the phase-out order, private prison corporations are allotted time to face the explicit need for transparency. This Note suggests that through the enactment of the Private Prison Information Act, and the subsequent allowance of greater transparency within the industry, private prisons can embrace the demand for public oversight. Such oversight would create a method through which the industry can improve its practices by becoming more accountable and efficient corporations. By doing so, the industry can strengthen its core, improve public relations, and ensure that it will continue to thrive beyond the Trump administration.