More details are emerging about a Mother Jones reporter who was arrested on trespassing charges outside a Louisiana prison Friday with a camera drone in his possession.
It turns out, another Mother Jones reporter was working as a prison guard for the same prison, the Winn Parish Correctional Center, owned by Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in the United States, which has a long history of prioritizing profits over prisoner rehabilitation.
The fact that it is privately run means there is little, if any, government oversight.
So Mother Jones apparently took it upon itself to investigate one of its prisons. We’re looking forward to their report.
So far, all Mother Jones has said it that West was arrested for refusing to reveal the “contents of his camera.”
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.
Although the news site did not reveal the second reporter’s name, he has been identified as Shane Bauer by a site named Cenlamar, a man whom Winn Parish Sheriff Jordan Crain accused of working as an “operative inside the prison.”
Today, the Washington Post reported on the incident, shining more light on an incident that was, up until today, receiving very little interest at the national level.
Mother Jones magazine has some issues surrounding a Louisiana prison.
On Friday night, sheriff’s deputies from Winn Parish, La., arrested reporter James West for trespassing at an area prison and discovered a camera-equipped drone among the reporter’s belongings. And early this week, an employee of the prison resigned his position in the aftermath of the arrest and was called an “operative” of Mother Jones by Winn Parish Sheriff Cranford Jordan in a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog. “He was working as as guard,” said Jordan.
Jordan identified the now-former prison employee as Shane Bauer, who is a senior reporter at Mother Jones, according to the magazine’s Web site. Bauer has a compelling background: In 2009, he was detained while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border and went on to spend 26 months in the isolation ward of Iran’s infamous Evin Prison. “We were held incommunicado,”Bauer wrote in the November/December 2012 issue of Mother Jones. “We never knew when, or if, we would get out. We didn’t go to trial for two years. When we did we had no way to speak to a lawyer and no means of contesting the charges against us, which included espionage.” That piece pivoted toward solitary-confinement conditions for inmates in U.S. prisons.
The revelation about Bauer comes after a shadowy incident on March 13, outside the Winn Correctional Center, a state-owned prison managed by Corrections Corporation of America. As Jordan describes the events, his office received a call from the facility around 9:30 p.m. that someone was spotted on prison grounds via a light from a cell phone, and the person left in a rental car when pursued by prison guards. A deputy from Jordan’s shop was able to track down the vehicle and identified the driver as James West, based on his Australian driver’s license.
Those biographical details line up with the James West who works as a senior producer for Mother Jones. According to the Winn Parish Enterprise, “it is believed that he was here on assignment from New York.” West was released on a $10,000 appearance bond.
Jordan said he and his deputies had no idea what West was doing near the prison. “If I was doing a story, I wouldn’t want to be out there at night. Those guards out there have guns,” says Jordan, noting that interlopers may well be attempting to assist in an escape or to get contraband across prison walls. Nor was West carrying any media credentials, according to the sheriff. “My policy is we extend courtesies to the press,” says the sheriff, who cites his own past in low-power television. Jordan was unsure what West had done with the drone.
The sheriff’s office, says Jordan, has it on “good authority” that Bauer was working as an “operative inside the prison” for Mother Jones. Bauer resigned his position early this week, according to Jordan.
“Journalists have a right to do stories, but you can’t violate the law while you’re doing it,” says Jordan.
Mother Jones just issued a statement to the Erik Wemple Blog about all this:
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.
Although Mother Jones said it would “be happy it discuss it further,” it has yet to address the issue on its site.
Meanwhile, the story is getting picked up by several national news sites, including CNN. Also, a right-wing site named Red State News is having a field day at the expense of the left-wing publication.
But we here at PINAC support their journalistic efforts, even if it did not pan out as smoothy as they had hoped because private prisons funded by public dollars need to remain as transparent as possible.