West Texas County Should Comply With State Attorney General Rulings and Public Information Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   

Contact:  Dotty Griffith, ACLU of Texas, (512) 478-7300 x 106 or (512) 923-1909; dgriffith@aclutx.org 

AUSTIN -- The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas has intervened in litigation concerning Reeves County’s refusal to disclose documents related to medical care, staffing, and the deaths of several prisoners at the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC), a privately-managed prison owned by the county. 

The Attorney General recently ruled that Reeves County must disclose this information pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act. In response, Reeves County filed suit to challenge the Attorney General’s determination, arguing that the County is entitled to withhold the documents.  RCDC’s private prison contractors claim that the documents are their “trade secrets.” The ACLU of Texas is intervening in this suit to seek a court order releasing the requested documents.

The federal Bureau of Prisons pays as much as $68 million annually to house approximately 3,000 prisoners at RCDC.  The ACLU of Texas submitted open records requests to Reeves County after prisoners at RCDC rioted twice – in December 2008 and January 2009 – to protest poor conditions and medical care.

“We are asking the Court to side with the State of Texas, and require Reeves County officials and their private contractors to turn over these public documents,” said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director of the ACLU of Texas.  “Taxpayers have a right to know what our tax dollars are being used for.”  

“The private prison industry resists transparency and accountability because huge profits are at stake,” said Adrienna Wong, Legal Fellow.  “The county and its contractors are not protecting ‘trade secrets,’ they are hiding harmful secrets that should come to light.”

Attorneys with Vinson & Elkins LLP represent the ACLU of Texas as pro bono cooperating counsel in the April 28, 2011, filing in the 353rd Judicial District Civil Court in Travis County, Austin.

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