When a videotape of inmates being beaten by prison guards in a privately run Texas prison leaked to the press in September, critics of privatization thought they had been handed a smoking gun. The brutal beatings were delivered to Missouri inmates doing time in Texas because the Show Me State's prisons were packed beyond capacity. The media howled, Missouri canceled its contract with Brazoria County, Texas, and repatriated its prisoners, and more than 100 lawsuits were filed by prisoners against Capital Correctional Resources Inc. (CCRI), the company in charge of the prison. (See "Prisoners' Dilemma," November 1997.)
Although the press has moved on, this story hasn't ended. After reviewing the entire tape, a federal district judge threw the first case to come up out of court. The reason? All but seven seconds of the brutality revealed by the tape was delivered not by employees of CCRI but by Brazoria County sheriff's deputies.