This is a signal victory for openness in Tennessee, and a major shot across the bow of private prison operators. Seems CCA’s argument that it was not in the “official business” of running prisons didn’t hold water. Maybe it’s because they, well, run prisons?

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled that Corrections Corporation of America’s legal settlements are subject to the state Open Records law.

In a ruling filed on Feb. 28, the court said it disagreed with CCAs assertion that the company shouldn’t have to turn over settlement-related records because they aren’t part of the “official business” of running a prison.

The request for settlement agreements from CCA was part of a public records request made in 2007 by Alex Friedmann, the editor of Prison Legal News.

The company turned over some documents after a 2009 Appeals Court ruling that CCA is subject to the state’s Open Records law, but the legal settlements weren’t included.

CCA argued that the settlements didn’t fall under the statute’s definition of a public record and that because they were created for litigation — not the running of the prison — they weren’t subject to the law.

The court rejected both arguments.

“Settlement agreements have consistently been held to be public records by our courts,” the opinion stated.

More here.

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