Mother Jones Response

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Get the Facts on the Mother Jones Report

The conduct of Mother Jones in its coverage of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) reveals a deliberate effort by an activist reporter, Shane Bauer, to advance a predetermined premise at the expense of numerous laws, widely accepted journalistic standards, a fully informed readership and even the safety and security of a correctional facility. Time and time again, Mother Jones engaged in reckless, dishonest and illicit conduct and failed to demonstrate a serious interest in a genuine and productive exchange of information about the complex issues at hand.

Bauer’s conduct while employed by our company was reckless and could have jeopardized the safety and security of the facility, its employees and the surrounding community.

  • Bauer admits openly in the published piece that he failed to perform many of the security duties of his position, which were intended to ensure the safety of the inmates and his colleagues.
  • Bauer has alleged conduct by others that could have impacted facility safety and security — actions he was required to report under CCA’s Code of Conduct, which he signed as an employee.
  • His decision not to report these alleged incidents while he was employed by CCA, and his failure to report them in the more than yearlong period following his employment, is another sign that he sought this job simply to damage the company’s reputation, and he was willing to jeopardize the safety of others in pursuit of that goal.

CCA appointed an independent investigator that Bauer refused to speak to.

  • Even though many of the claims presented by the reporter in the more than six months since he first reached out to CCA’s public affairs team were vague, poorly sourced and contained egregious factual inaccuracies, our company always takes allegations of this nature seriously.
  • We appointed an independent, outside investigator to the matter and, as part of the process, encouraged Bauer, through his legal counsel, to share his concerns with the investigator. He never reached out.

Mother Jones’ claim that the reporter sought employment under false pretenses because it lacked access to our facilities is an outright falsehood.

  • Not once had Bauer or any other reporter from Mother Jones reached out to CCA to ask to visit a CCA facility.
  • What’s more, prior to Bauer’s December 2015 inquiry following his employment with CCA, no one from Mother Jones had even asked for so much as an interview from our company.
  • In reviewing our records over the past several years, we believe the only request we’ve ever received from Mother Jones was from a writer named Jim Ridgeway in May 2012. He asked for a statement, and we promptly responded.

Bauer obtained employment at CCA under false pretenses and was disingenuous in his portrayal of his profession and employer.

  • When Bauer reached out to CCA to request an interview in December 2015 — more than a year after seeking employment with our company — he identified himself as a “senior reporter” for “Mother Jones magazine.” He lists his position and employer in the same way on numerous public sites, including his publication’s webpage, his Twitter account and his personal website.
  • It was therefore evasive and deliberately misleading when he characterized his profession as “writer” and listed his employer as a nonprofit foundation that contained no mention of the name of his publication on his job application for CCA.
  • While employed at Winn Correctional Facility, Bauer also willingly signed CCA’s Media Guidelines Policy, which he violated in his publication of this piece. Moreover, the fact that Bauer signed the CCA Media Guidelines Policy in the first place further discredits the absurd claim by Mother Jones leadership and its legal representation that Bauer did not purposefully conceal his profession or employer.
  • All CCA correctional officers go through a background check that verifies important information such as criminal history. However, the background service CCA uses — and we would assume this is true for most companies and organizations — doesn’t run a specific check to see if a person is a working member of the media. Candidly, if transparency and ethics are important to a journalist, that shouldn’t have to be part of the process.

The actions of Bauer’s colleagues at Mother Jones further demonstrate a lack of transparency and indicate an unwillingness to present a factual and fully informed story to the publication’s readers.

  • Bauer’s Mother Jones colleague, James West, was arrested for trespassing on the land surrounding Winn Correctional Facility while Bauer was employed there.
  • At the time, West was in possession of a drone, which poses significant security risks to any correctional facility. A recent Associated Press article outlines the serious safety risks drones pose in correctional settings, including their ability to drop in contraband. The article also discusses the efforts by several states to criminalize such conduct because of significant safety concerns.
  • The media statement Mother Jones leadership issued following West’s arrest is also false and indicates an effort to mislead the publication’s readers and the general public regarding both West and Bauer’s conduct. It first claimed that West was stopped by police “while news gathering in a public place.” This is false. The land around the facility is not public for obvious safety and security reasons. Secondly, it stated that he was arrested when “he refused to show the contents of his camera.” This is also false. He was arrested because he was trespassing. Finally, it stated that Bauer “did not conceal his identity or employment history from CCA.” This, too, is false for the reasons outlined above.

Bauer’s conduct since leaving his job with CCA underscores that he has no interest in fostering a genuine and productive exchange of information and would rather force onto Mother Jones' readers a rehashed and predetermined premise instead of a factual and informed story.

  • There were numerous, egregious factual errors in Bauer’s questions and comments to our company in the months leading up to the story.
  • We previously asked the reporter for additional details and clarification around a number of issues he raised, but he chose not be transparent with much of that information. For example, of the 16 requests for additional clarifying information we submitted on Feb. 8, 2016, he only addressed two. The detail Bauer did provide in many cases shows his reporting to be careless and even reckless.
  • While several of Bauer’s questions asked for responses to “critics” of CCA, there was not a single inquiry suggesting that he spoke to a person supportive of our company and the solutions we provide. We offered to provide Bauer contact information for such third parties to provide balance and context to his coverage, but he did not respond.


CCA's Media Statement Regarding Mother Jones

This story, how it was developed and what ultimately was published says more about the reporter’s activist agenda and the publication’s low journalistic standards than it does about our company or the very real challenges facing our criminal justice system in America.

From the start, Mother Jones clearly intended to publish a deliberate hit piece to advance a predetermined premise at the expense of numerous laws, widely accepted journalistic standards, a fully informed readership and even the safety and security of a correctional facility. This point is underscored by the numerous examples in the piece in which the reporter clearly admits failing to perform the security duties of his job, which were intended to keep inmates and his colleagues safe.

Time and time again, Mother Jones engaged in reckless, dishonest and illicit conduct and failed to demonstrate a serious interest in a genuine and productive exchange of information about the complex issues at hand:

  • In the process of being responsive to Mother Jones, it was clear that the reporter was making numerous, egregious factual errors in the questions and comments he posed.
  • Even the final published piece included errors such as the number of family detention centers CCA operates and the nature of an FBI investigation in Idaho. These errors exist despite the editor-in-chief publicly praising at least four people who “spent months fact-checking” the story. We submitted a letter to Mother Jones with more than 18 requests for corrections and clarifications.
  • The reporter obtained employment with our company under false pretenses and was disingenuous in his portrayal of his profession and his employer. How the publication has characterized his actions continues to be misleading.
  • Mother Jones’ claim that the writer sought employment under false pretenses because it lacked access to our facilities is an outright falsehood. Not once prior to Bauer’s employment had any reporter from Mother Jones reached out to interview anyone from our company or requested to visit one of our facilities for this story or any other story.
  • The reporter’s conduct while employed by our company, which he freely admits in the published piece, could have jeopardized the safety and security of the facility, its employees and the surrounding community.
  • The actions of the reporter’s colleagues at Mother Jones, including the arrest of James West for illegal trespassing on the land surrounding Winn Correctional Facility, further demonstrate a reckless disregard for safety and indicate an unwillingness to present a factual and fully informed story to the publication’s readers.
  • The reporter’s conduct since leaving his job with CCA underscores that he had no interest in fostering a genuine and productive exchange of information and would rather force onto Mother Jones readers a predetermined premise instead of a factual and informed story.

During our interactions with Mother Jones, even though many of the writer’s claims were vague, poorly sourced and contained egregious factual inaccuracies, CCA took his allegations seriously, as any responsible company would. We appointed an independent, outside investigator to review the matters and, as part of the process, encouraged Mr. Bauer to share his concerns with the investigator. He never reached out. If any of Mr. Bauer’s allegations are substantiated by the investigation, we will work diligently and expeditiously to address them.

If the writer’s concerns were genuine, he had an obligation to report them under CCA’s Code of Conduct, which he signed as an employee. He also could have shared them in the more than yearlong period following his employment. His failure at any point to share his alleged concerns calls into question both their validity and his motives. At every turn, Mr. Bauer chose to advance his own unchecked ideology at the expense of the safety of others, the facts surrounding these issues and a fully informed readership.

As has been publicly reported, CCA chose to cease management of Winn last year. The Louisiana Department of Corrections had been a long-time partner of ours, and we worked closely with them through several years of state budget challenges to operate the facility as well as possible under the circumstances. We worked especially hard in the last year of the contract, including bringing in temporary duty staff and making security improvements to the facility. However, we felt that Winn ultimately could not be managed to our company’s standards within the budget constraints.

Please see our fact sheet for more information.


Resources

Get the Facts on Mother Jones (PDF)

Mother Jones Media Statement (PDF)

CCA's Corrections Request to Mother Jones (PDF)