“I got called like four or five times for that one phone from corporate,” Miss Lawson said.“It was like they were insinuating that you brought the phone in or there was some information in the phone.
Now that it might actually happen, it feels scary and a bit extreme. ” Bacle recounted this to me on the phone 10 months later. “I don’t know if you remember, but I told you once that it would be nice to have an investigative reporter out there.” Word about me got out quick.Within two weeks of filling out its online application, using my real name and personal information, several CCA prisons contacted me, some multiple times. One was Miss Lawson, who’d been the assistant chief of security.“I should tell you upfront that the job only pays an hour, but the prison is in the middle of a national forest. ” “I like fishing.” “Well, there is plenty of fishing, and people around here like to hunt squirrels. The CEO of the company started out as a CO”—a corrections officer. Not only does Louisiana have the highest incarceration rate in the world—more than 800 prisoners per 100,000 residents—but Winn is the oldest privately operated medium-security prison in the country. The next morning, as I get coffee in the hotel lobby, I see a SORT officer standing outside in a black uniform, flex-cuffs hanging from his belt. We exit through a side door, and as I pull my truck out I see another man I recognize from the prison. They gathered “everything that had your name on it,” Miss Lawson said.We go back to the apartment, hurriedly throw everything in plastic bags, and leave. Ironically, the investigation narrowed in on the item that, in my mind, had symbolized my transformation from an observer into a real prison guard: the cellphone I had confiscated in Ash.Police body-cam footage that I later obtained shows one deputy grabbing James’ camera as James struggles to hang on to it, telling the officer that searching his camera and memory cards would be illegal.
After James was cuffed and put in a police cruiser, two officers left their body cameras on.
Both deny it, and CCA did not pursue legal action against them.
Miss Lawson also told me that Assistant Warden Parker texted her a photo of me, asking if she knew who I was.
According to documents that the DOC later sent me, in late 2014 the department had reviewed CCA’s compliance with its contract and asked it to make immediate changes at Winn.
Several security issues were identified, including broken doors and cameras, and unused metal detectors. Assistant Warden Parker took a similar position at another CCA prison.
Geolocation data on the photo Miss Lawson sent me points to the sheriff’s office.