Many states now house prisoners in privately run facilities. Last year, there were 27,920 federal prisoners in private prisons and an additional 16,500 immigration detainees held privately. These numbers don’t include the tens of thousands of state prisoners. All told, there are an estimated 130,000 inmates today under the control of private jailers. Those jails, however, are funded with tax dollars and are therefore subject to false claims act claims – “whistleblower lawsuits.”
The federal False Claims Act dates back to the U.S. Civil War. It allows individuals with inside knowledge of fraud against the government or a government-funded program to bring a private lawsuit in the name of the government and keep a portion of the monies collected. Many states have similar laws. Whistleblower claims are now a multi billion-dollar industry in the United States.
We believe that whistleblowers are the new American heroes. They save taxpayers billions of dollars annually and are the front line defense against fraud and corruption. Unfortunately, in the corrections industry there is a code of silence. Many officers are afraid to come forward fearing for their safety inside the prison walls.
Last week I read a Tampa Tribune article about new bids for jail health care. Even in publicly run jails, health care is mostly outsourced to private companies. These privately run health care vendors often have a huge history of shoddy care and questionable billing practices. Once again, all paid for by our tax dollars.
Whistleblower claims are the norm in healthcare and the banking world. Some whistleblowers have received over $100 million for their efforts. The typical whistleblower award is about 20% of whatever the government collects. Because the False Claims Act allows triple damages, award amounts can quickly add up.
To become a whistleblower you need three things: a) original source information, b) involving fraud against the government or government funded program and c) a great whistleblower lawyer. The latter requirement is particularly important as it often mean the difference between the government declining the case and a multimillion-dollar award.
The federal government and most states have whistleblower protection laws including powerful anti-retaliation protections. Unfortunately, many whistleblowers don’t come back to work after their claim is unsealed. (Whistleblower lawsuits are filed under seal and remain secret while the government investigates.)
We hope that more private prison officials and prison healthcare workers come forward in the coming days. From having once worked in a county jail myself while running for sheriff many years ago, I know there are plenty of opportunities for improvements. Taxpayers – and the inmates – deserve better.
Need more information? Contact an experienced whistleblower lawyer at Mahany & Ertl. We have handled some of the largest cases in the United States. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731 (direct). All inquiries are held in strict confidence.