Reporters Imprisoned

Mother Jones did something remarkable: they sent Shane Bauer — one of their reporters — to become a guard for a privately-run prison for four months. It’s a shocking article, and a brilliant piece of journalism.

In a complementary piece, Mother Jones’ editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery explains why they chose to investigate private prisons, and how they went about it. But there’s a critical note in her explanation:

When CCA (which runs 61 prisons, jails, and detention centers on behalf of US taxpayers) learned about our investigation, it sent us a four-page letter warning that Shane had “knowingly and deliberately breached his duty to CCA by violating its policies,” and that there could be all manner of legal consequences. The letter came not from CCA’s in-house counsel, but from the same law firm that had represented a billionaire megadonor in his three-year quest to punish us for reporting on his anti-LGBT activities. When he lost, he pledged $1 million to support others who might want to sue us, and, though we won the case, were it not for the support of our readers the out-of-pocket costs would have hobbled us.

Recall Peter Thiel’s proxy campaign against Gakwer and note the similarities. The freedom of the press has always been challenged, but an increase in income disparity and a decrease in the sustainability of the press provide increasing opportunities for wealthy individuals to intimidate and harass.