Tuesday morning, the tiny Winn Parish Enterprise published a big story. Last weekend, James West, a reporter for the publication Mother Jones and a producer of The Climate Desk, was arrested for trespassing on the grounds of a private prison in Gum Springs, La. West allegedly possessed a camera-carrying drone and was spotted by prison guards after they noticed the light of his cell phone camera. Charles Crain, the editor of the Winn Parish Enterprise, reports:
Thirty-three year-old James West, originally from Australia, but who had been staying in an apartment on Sibley Lake in Natchitoches, spent the night in the Winn Parish Jail following his arrest on Friday, March 13. The only identification in West’s possession was an Australian driver’s license, and he was driving a rented car with Texas license plates.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Later in the day, Crain updated his initial report, revealing that, allegedly, another reporter and contributor to Mother Jones had been working inside of the private prison, which is owned by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), since December:
[Update; 2/17/15, 3:46 p.m.] It has been revealed that a CCA employee who did not appear for work on Monday morning following this arrest officially resigned this morning. The employee is believed to also have been a reporter for the Mother Jones newsmagazine. The Enterprise has been contacted by CCA’s main office in Nashville, TN., but an official statement from them has not been released.
Although Crain’s update did not reveal the name of the other reporter, he is believed to be Shane Bauer.
In 2009, Bauer was one of three American hikers detained by Iran, which alleged that the three were spies. Bauer’s 26-month-long detention in an Iranian prison set off an international diplomatic firestorm and became the subject of intense media coverage. Although he was convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison, he was released after the Sultan of Oman arranged a half a million dollar payment, whisking him out of Iran in a private jet.
In 2012, Bauer published an extraordinary story for Mother Jones titled, “Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons.”
West, apparently, collaborated with Bauer, as the photo caption implies.
Neither West nor Bauer has commented on the allegations. However, in the last 24 hours, West has deleted his Twitter biography. Yesterday, his Twitter biography referenced his work with Mother Jones and The Climate Desk. Thus far, attempts to contact West have been unsuccessful, and messages sent to the publisher of Mother Jones have gone unanswered.
Louisiana is the prison capital of the world. “The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts,” The Times-Picayune reported in May of 2012. “First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly five times Iran’s, 13 times China’s and 20 times Germany’s.”