Jeffrey Nielsen, et al.,


David Shinn

First lawsuit to end for-profit incarceration

Abolish Private Prisons filed a lawsuit on behalf of five people in private prisons (Jeffrey Nielsen, Larry Hilgendorf, Terry Brownell, Joseph Bulen, and Brian Boudreaux), the Arizona State Conference of the NAACP, and a class of all people placed in private prisons by the State of Arizona.


This lawsuit challenges the practice of putting people behind bars not for the benefit of society but for the benefit of corporations, their executive board, and their shareholders. Such a practice injects perverse financial systems into the criminal justice system and reduces the prisoners to numbers on a balance sheet ("compensated man-days" to use the dehumanizing language from one company's own documents), stripping them of dignity and turning them into modern slaves.

View the key filings here:

Motion to Dismiss

Amicus Briefs

Amended Complaint

Standing Order

Please consider donating to our organization to support this lawsuit and the larger mission of removing the profit motive from the justice system and signing up for our newsletter to stay on top of the latest developments.



"As a long-time business and corporate law professor, I was startled about a decade ago when i realized that private, for-profit corporations were involved in the business of imprisonment in the United States.  I could scarcely believe that as a nation, we were allowing private corporations incentivized by the profit motive to house American prisoners for financial gain. 


I began researching and digging into the financial statements and Securities and Exchange Commission filings of the GEO Group and CoreCivic (then the Corrections Corporation of America) and was astonished, even sickened, to learn that indeed, profit motives were driving U.S. carceral policy and contributing to mass incarceration in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  The perverse incentives that riddle the private prison industry are immoral and I have since come to believe are unconstitutional. 


Abolish Private Prisons knows that the time has come to challenge the constitutionality of the immoral private prison industry.  In the current political climate of #Black Lives Matter, I can scarcely think of a more important and symbolic step than that taken this week, the filing of a federal lawsuit in Arizona challenging the constitutionality of private, for-profit incarceration."

andré douglas pond cummings / Board President, Abolish Private Prisons / Professor of Law, University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law

Lawsuit: Arizona's Use Of Private Prisons Violates The U.S. Constitution

Ben Giles, KJZZ


"A group of incarcerated people have filed a complaint in federal court alleging their confinement in private, for-profit prisons is unconstitutional.

Attorneys for those five Arizona prisoners, as well as the Arizona State Conference of the NAACP, argue that the state has delegated its 'sovereign power of incarceration' to prison corporations that in turn treat prisoners as 'economic assets.'"

Full Story

Lawsuit Cites Slavery In Challenge To AZ Private Prisons

"A new federal lawsuit is challenging Arizona's private prison industry on the basis of slavery. The suit, filed Monday on behalf of five inmates and the Arizona State Conference of the NAACP, argues that the current system 'enables private prison corporations to commodify human beings just as private jails in the nineteenth-century South commodified slaves.'"

Full Story