CCA fires back with PR push

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 at 1:57am

Bedeviled this year by negative publicity on several fronts, Corrections Corp. of America late last week launched a public relations push to counter what it says are biased reports.

The Nashville-based company has been under the microscope since its general counsel, Gus Puryear, was nominated for the federal judgeship of the Tennessee Middle district in February.

At the same time, activists have stepped up their work against the company, seeking the company’s contracts and other papers under public-record laws.

CCA’s response includes an advertising campaign pointing people to a new Web site that promises an “unfiltered, full, 360-degree view of CCA.”

The company has bought advertising on NashvillePost.com and the Web site of its sister publication, The City Paper. The company also published an open letter in The City Paper’s Monday print edition.

The campaign, designed by local firm MMA Creative, accuses "a local daily paper" of ideological bias that CCA spokeswoman Louise Grant says has produced a media smear campaign.

“It’s completely baffling,” Grant said. “We definitely think there’s a bias that’s been there for years and years.”

Grant said the company was particularly stung by a recent Tennessean article that drew renewed attention to the unanswered questions surrounding the death of CCA inmate Estelle Richardson.

“There was no new news in it," she said. "It was a very editorialized article."

The article reiterated the details leading to Richardson’s death, featuring the comments of fellow inmate and friend Sharron Peterman, who called for the cold case to be solved.

The Web site, called The CCA 360, responded by dissecting the article line by line, linking to evidence Grant says the company believes has been withheld from public consumption.

She says accusations leveled against four prison guards were dropped because medical experts hired by both the prosecution and the defense found that Richardson sustained her injuries before the accused guards were in contact with her.

The site also claims The Tennessean printed allegations against CCA without publishing the company’s accompanying denials. Grant also said that the paper ignored the medical evidence and focused only on the negative side of the story.

“We have achieved excellence on American Correctional Association audits and our customers hold us in high regard,” Grant said. “That wasn’t a fair and balanced viewpoint.”

Grant also said Tennessean editors have told CCA representatives that they oppose private correctional facilities from an editorial standpoint.

Tennessean Editor Mark Silverman would only say that the paper stands by its article.

But Alex Friedmann, a prison reform activist and associate editor of Prison Legal News, dispute the Web site’s claim to a 360-degree view of the issue.

“They’re a corporation — their only responsibility is to their shareholders,” he said. “They’re interested in this incident because it causes problems with their stock price and shareholder confidence.”

Shares of CCA (Ticker: CXW) are down about 6 percent in 2008 and are up almost 10 percent from a year ago. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has dropped more than 11 percent since last summer.

Friedmann believes that, for the Web site to be considered balanced, it should have included a sheriff’s report excoriating CCA practices as well as an initial autopsy that conflicts with those conducted by the examiners during the trial.

Friedmann’s credibility is also questioned on the Web site, which points to his lack of academic expertise and refers to him as a “former inmate.”

Friedmann says everyone has an agenda and freely admits to his own.

“Obviously, I have a bias. I have been an inmate at a CCA prison,” he said. “But CCA, they’re a private, for-profit organization. They have a $1.45 billion bias.”

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By: randyalexander on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The convergence of corporate America running our legislatures and running America’s prisons is a stark reminder that the individual has lost power in this country. When the individual speaks out they better be careful, currently they are attacked for their opinions, but as corporate America keeps writing our legislation it may soon be a felony to disagree and point out the inequities, the corruption and the injustices perpetrated by corporate America.

By: againstpuryear on 12/31/69 at 6:00

CCA's new website is PR and damage control; it is little more than a commercial, and the product they're selling is CCA. E.g., see the banner ad running at the top of this page. :)For the Sheriff's report that CCA has NOT posted on their site, which they don't want the public to see (appended to this letter):http://www.againstpuryear.org/richardsonletter2.pdfFor the letter from TN State Medical Examiner Bruce Levy regarding the Estelle Richardson case and comments made by CCA's top lawyer, which is NOT posted on CCA's site:http://www.againstpuryear.org/Levyletter.pdfAnd, of course, to learn more about the opposition campaign against the judicial nomination of CCA general counsel Gus Puryear, please visit:www.againstpuryear.org

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Whenever the 'privatize the schools' crowd posts here, I like to point to CCA as a good example of why privatizing won't work.

By: CohenBros on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Alex Friedmann aka Against PuryearYou ought to be encouraging people to go to the CCA PR site. The more information about Estelle Richardson the better, you would think. Are you sincerely trying to help solve that mystery, or are you using it to attack Puryear and CCA? If you are sincere, you would want people to read everything that's out there--not just the anti Puryear anti CCA stuff you peddle. On the CCA PR site, there's links to tons of documents most of us have never seen on the web before. Examples:A comprehensive discussion of the media coverage of the Richardson matterhttp://www.thecca360.com/pdf/RichardsonFactSheet.pdfA joint statement given by CCA and the Court Appointed Conservator and Guardian of Richardson's kidshttp://www.thecca360.com/pdf/CCA_RichardsonJointPressRelease.pdfThe DA's press release, explaining why he dropped the homicide chargeshttp://da.nashville.gov/portal/page/portal/da/officeNews/newsReleases/newsReleasesContent/Dist%20Atty%20News%20Release%20-%20052407%20Estelle%20Richardson_0.pdfHonestly, Alex, if you keep discouraging people from reading these *other* documents, it's reasonable to ask whether your campaign is about Richardson or about YOU?

By: gallatin on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I'm happy to see that CCA is obviously feeling some heat! Any person who knows someone who has been in a CCA run facility knows that all of the facts written in the various articles about CCA and Puryear are true. I commend Alex Friedman and Denver Schimming for having the guts to get the truth out! Americans are so complacent that they just believe any advertising ploy that is put in front of their face.Puryear is just one of many CCA over paid attorneys that will do anything (moral or immoral) to sweep atrocities under the carpet, creating payoffs so that CCA and it's employees go unaccountable for the multitudes of horrors they are responsible for! It is horrendous that our tax dollars are being paid to CCA for their facilities but they are being held accountable to no one. I challenge the American public to educate themselves...you will be appalled. Bush was stupid enough to nominate Puryear but why should we expect anything any less from the "village idiot". Anyone with any sense would not even think about nominating him for a federal judge or just sit by idly while he slides in.

By: againstpuryear on 12/31/69 at 6:00

CohenBros, or Methadonepatient, Subprime, etc.:Since the CCA PR damage control website doesn't have the docs I mentioned -- the Sheriff's Dept. report or the State Medical Examiner's letter, I suppose neither site is complete; thus, people would have to go to both websites. But why wouldn't CCA include such impartial documents as the Sheriff's report or Medical Examiner's letter -- other than the fact that they make CCA look bad?When CCA links to the whokilledestelle.org and againstpuryear.org sites, then we'll consider linking to their PR site. That's only fair, right? Ummmm ... right?As for the "tons" of new documents on the CCA website, you cite only two that aren't self-created CCA PR pieces. One, the DA's press release, has been available on the 'Net since it was released. The other, the joint press release, was in fact never released by CCA -- might want to ask them why not.In any event, CCA is not interested in finding out who killed Estelle. In fact, if it weren't for the anti-Puryear campaign, Estelle's death would not have been brought up again, and her unsolved murder would have remained a cold case in a file somewhere.

By: CohenBros on 12/31/69 at 6:00

GallatinI can see how you support Schimming, but Friedmann is just another opportunist exploiting another opportunity. Consider these points:1. If Alex Friedmann really cared about resolving the Estelle Richardson matter, he wouldn't still be using it as a tool to whip Gus Puryear. Bizarrely, Alex's ESTELLE site has a link to the PURYEAR bashing page. Why? Because his main issue is attacking CCA and Puryear, not helping the Richardson family.Quote from Alex's page ABOUT ESTELLE RICHARDSON: "The Estelle Richardson case has become an issue in the pending federal judicial nomination of CCA general counsel Gustavus A. Puryear IV. For more information about both Mr. Puryear's nomination and the Estelle Richardson case, please visit: www.againstpuryear.org."http://whokilledestelle.org2. Alex's latest big score was a bunch of medical records from some heroin addicts trying to whip the heroin addiction at a Methadone clinic. He seized the opportunity to play "watchdog," but why was he there? According to the Scene, Alex Friedmann thought that the clinic might be performing abortions and, since Puryear was the owner of the building, he saw an opportunity to damage Puryear with his GOP pals. Nevermind the confidential and private medical services that he would screw up if this dream came true. Nevermind the women seeking health care there. He would have wrecked that whole operation if it helped him mess up Puryear.Quote: "Bruised and battered, Puryear's confirmation stalled. So one Saturday last month, Friedmann went looking for the knockout punch....Puryear owned a Nashville building occupied by a clinic. Friedmann hoped the clinic's work was controversial (read: abortion)."http://www.nashvillescene.com/2008-07-31/news/getting-trashed/3. Alex deceives. When he first went to the Tennessean with his Methadone records story, he intimated that he had been given the records. Only when he was sued by the clinic and was forced to turn the records over by the judge did it become clear that he was both the "watchdog" and the Dumpster diver.Quote:"Friedmann said the records were taken from the Dumpster on June 28 but wouldn't say who brought them to him."http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080709/NEWS07/807090397The bottom line is that the anti Puryear and anti CCA campaigns don't have anything to do with resolving the Estelle Richardson investigation. You can see from the publicly available documents that no one associated with the case blames CCA (the company) for the fact that this is still unresolved.Only those with an ax to grind and those who haven't read everything out there (on Friedmann's sites and the CCA PR site) are laboring under this misunderstanding.If Friedmann really wants to solve this (as I believe Schimming does) Friedmann needs to draw a line between his political agitation against Puryear and CCA and his purported pursuit of the facts in this case.

By: againstpuryear on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Only those with an ax to grind? Like yourself? The Estelle Richardson case was brought up as part of the anti-Puryear campaign. Bizzarely, you suggest that it should now be divorced entirely from that campaign and have nothing to do with it. Why? Not sure - you don't really say. If it weren't for Mr. Puryear's statements regarding the Estelle Richardson case, it never would have received the attention it has -- Mr. Puryear has himself to thank for that. However, recognizing that the Estelle case deserves its own forum (particularly for the $35k in reward money offered), a second website was created. Does it link to the Puryear site? Of course -- that's where most of the information about her murder is posted. Sorry that is confusing to you, or hard to understand. Let's make it even more clear:The Estelle Richardson case and the Puryear nomination are linked, due to Puryear's comments regarding her death at his nomination hearing, which resulted in the media attention that her case has since received (and deserves - it's an unsolved homicide, after all).No one associated with the Estelle murder case blames CCA for her unsolved homicide at one of their facilities? Spoken with Estelle's family lately? Read the letter from her sister-by-adoption, which is posted on the againstpuryear.org site? No? Then perhaps you shouldn't make such broad and obviously incorrect statements. Of course you don't care about what her family feels, just as you don't care about her death. If I'm wrong, let me know what (if anything) you've done to help find the truth behind her murder, other than complain.The rest of your comments aren't worth commenting on -- other than you apparently believe everything you read and assume reporters get everything right. Sometimes they do, but other times they draw their own incorrect conclusions from the answers they receive. Kind of like you. :)It must be frustrating to sit on the sidelines and comment without really knowing what's going on, and having to rely on the crumbs that CCA drops on your plate.