USA : how one inmate discovered his private prison was ripping him off—and took his warden to court

Thousands of inmates file lawsuits against their prison every year. Most who sue without a lawyer are unceremoniously dismissed without much legal back-and-forth.

Michael Leatherwood, an inmate in a private prison in Oklahoma, is an exception. He’s gotten notably further with his lawsuit, which alleges that inmates at his prison, the Lawton Correctional Facility, are being charged far higher rates for food and other items at the prison commissary than inmates at public prisons.

Earlier this year, Leatherwood, acting as his own lawyer, questioned his own prison warden in a deposition—something legal experts say is very rare. Now, as a judge considers whether to allow the lawsuit to go forward as a class action, almost 100 other inmates at the prison have flooded her docket with letters requesting to join as plaintiffs.

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