On Dec. 2, 2005, Prison Legal News (PLN) sued the Geo Group, Inc. (formerly Wackenhut Corrections), a private corrections company, under Florida’s public records law (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 119.01) in the Circuit Court for Palm Beach, Florida. Plaintiff had sought access to records held by the ...
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On Dec. 2, 2005, Prison Legal News (PLN) sued the Geo Group, Inc. (formerly Wackenhut Corrections), a private corrections company, under Florida’s public records law (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 119.01) in the Circuit Court for Palm Beach, Florida. Plaintiff had sought access to records held by the defendant company; that request was declined, and so plaintiff sought injunctive and declaratory relief.
The suit was filed because Geo failed to produce documents related to contractual violations and litigation against the company that resulted in settlements or verdicts. Under state law, Geo was required to comply with public records requests. Plaintiffs filed their complaint when an April 2005 request by Prison Legal News for records (related to lawsuits that resulted in settlements or verdicts against the defendant company, as well as contract audits, violations and court-ordered injunctions) resulted in what it regarded as an insufficient response.
In its lawsuit, Prison Legal News alleged that the Geo Group, a for-profit company, operated privatized prisons, including two Florida correctional facilities, and that its contract-based fees were paid with public (taxpayer) funds. The complaint labeled Geo's failure to provide the requested public records illegal, malicious and willful. It said that the defendant sought to delay Prison Legal News from obtaining the records because they are critical of Geo's operation of privatized prisons. The requested records, it was alleged, would likely reveal details related to sexual harassment claims, riots and other disturbances, staff-on-prisoner attacks, prisoner-on-prisoner attacks, inadequate medical care, contract sanctions and other penalties, and court orders and injunctions against the company. Prison Legal News was represented by private counsel.
In April 2010, PLN reached a settlement with Geo. PLN reported
:"As part of the settlement, the court ordered the company to produce litigation-related documents pursuant to PLN's public records request four times before it finally complied, on the eve of a summary judgment hearing. The court also ordered the company to pay $40,000 in attorneys' fees. GEO also produced copies of the complaints and settlements in ten lawsuits filed against the company that had resulted in the largest monetary payouts."Mike Fagan - 06/02/2008
Lakshmi Gopal - 02/01/2016