CCA employee was undercover reporter

Shane Bauer. (Photo by: shanebauer.net)

Story by: Charles Crain

Editor, Winn Parish Enterprise

The arrest of international Mother Jones reporter James West by the Winn Parish Sheriff’s Office on Friday, March 13 blew the cover of an undercover reporter who was working inside the Winn Correctional Center.

The undercover reporter, now confirmed to be Shane Bauer, officially resigned his position at CCA on Tuesday, March 17. Bauer did not show up for work on Monday morning following the arrest, and Winn Parish Sheriff Cranford Jordan first discovered that this employee shared the same name as the famous journalist.

Mother Jones confirmed Bauer’s involvement at the facility by releasing the following statement on Wednesday, March 18:

"James West was stopped by police while news gathering in a public place and arrested when he refused to show the contents of his camera. Shane Bauer is an award-winning criminal justice reporter. He did not conceal his identity or employment history from CCA. If and when he chooses to write about his experiences, we’ll be happy to discuss it further."

Bauer spent 26 months in solitary confinement in Iran from 2009 until 2011, when the U.S. Government freed him and his party after a successful lobbying attempt.

It is unclear what, exactly, Bauer and West were investigating, but past stories written by Bauer for Mother Jones and his personal blog show an interest in the privatization of American prisons, and the use of solitary confinement.

In the November/December 2012 issue of Mother Jones, Bauer wrote a piece entitled “Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons.” In it, he describes his own experiences in solitary confinement and his conversations with several prisoners in a California prison.

Bauer could possibly have been investigating the entirety of Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison organization in the country. It’s also unclear as to why this particular prison was brought to their attention, or if they have investigated other prisons in Louisiana.

CCA's official statement to the Enterprise notes that Bauer did not disclose his involvement with the newsmagazine when he applied for a position as a correctional officer in late 2014.

"Shane Bauer was hired as a correctional officer at Winn Correctional Facility in December 2014. He did not indicate that he was a reporter for Mother Jones and, to our knowledge, he was never transparent about his occupation with facility leadership," said CCA Public Affairs Senior Manager Jonathan Burns. "Further, at no point prior to his taking this position did Mr. Bauer ever make a request of CCA seeking any information about our company. This raises serious questions about his journalistic standards. If Mr. Bauer intends to publish a story, it is our hope that he will provide CCA and our government partner with the opportunity to be responsive and ensure that his reporting does not jeopardize the safety and security of the facility, maintains the confidentiality of inmates and staff, and avoids altogether the inclusion of false information.

Bauer, who has written for the publication Mother Jones, resigned voluntarily on Tuesday after not reporting to work for two days. This follows the arrest of James West, another Mother Jones employee, for trespassing on facility grounds over the weekend. Because the safety of inmates, employees and the surrounding community is our top priority, trespassing is a security threat that we take very seriously. Mr. West was in possession of a drone, which is an issue correctional facilities are particularly concerned about because they could be used to transport contraband or provide detailed imagery in a way that could create a security risk.

CCA is cooperating fully with investigations by the Louisiana Department of Corrections and law enforcement authorities."

The Winn Parish Enterprise was the first to report on this story, which has since gone on to national attention via the CenLamar Blog, CNN, The Washington Post and contributors to the New York Times.

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