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Bill Clayton Detention Center
Littlefield, Texas
GEO Group (formerly Correctional Services Corporation, formerly run by Corrections Concepts)
December 13, 2008 Lubbock On-line
GEO Group Inc. says it has canceled its contract with the city of Littlefield and plans to terminate 74 employees at the Bill Clayton Detention Center effective Jan. 5 The Boca Raton-based Fla. company gave official notice last month, filing a mass layoff Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act letter with the city in accordance with federal law. The letter was obtained by The Avalanche-Journal. Under the law, an organization terminating 50 or more employees must give at least 60 days notice. GEO's decision was made shortly after it learned its own contract had been canceled with the Idaho Department of Corrections, which according to the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, cited prisoner safety concerns. IDOC had contracted with the for-profit corporation to house 300 of its inmates in the one-time youth detention facility owned by the city. Some of those inmates, according to the Times-News, will be transferred to the North Fork Corrections Facility in Sayer, Okla., which is operated by Corrections Corp. of America. "We understand the gravity of the situation and the citizens' concerns, but we are working hard toward a solution," said Danny Davis, Littlefield city manager, who was informed about GEO's decision on Nov. 7. He said the city has since hired Woodlands-based Carlisle & Associates, a municipal consultant, which has been brought on board to sell the 372-bed prison. Littlefield, which issued revenue bonds to construct the facility as part of an economic development strategy, still owes $10 million. However, Davis said, the city had already set aside a year's worth of bond payments as a precautionary measure when it made the decision to build. "We have enough to make at least the next three payments," adding the city should not have to tap those reserve funds until August. Danny Soliz, director of business services for WorkForce Solutions South Plains - the area's largest job placement/training organization - said he met with Littlefield prison guards during 12 hours of informational sessions Wednesday. "We'll be doing everything we can to help them," he said. Soliz said many of the workers told him they have no intention of leaving Littlefield, while others showed interest in applying for jobs at the new Lubbock County Jail and the Montford Psychiatric Unit operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Soliz said WorkForce brought in an expert from Fort Worth to assist workers in filing for unemployment benefits. Davis said the city is working on a number of scenarios involving filling the facility with inmates from other areas on a temporary basis. "We've also talked with a number of people who are interested in buying it. There are a lot of entities out there looking for beds, but it takes time for these solutions to transpire," he said.

December 9, 2008 Yahoo
Fitch Ratings has placed the 'BBB-' rating on Littlefield, TX's (the city) outstanding $1.4 million combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation (COs), series 1997 on Rating Watch Negative. The CO's constitute a general obligation of the city, payable from ad valorem taxes limited to $2.50 per $100 taxable assessed valuation (TAV). Additionally, the COs are secured by a pledge of surplus water and sewer revenues. The Negative Watch reflects recent events related to the operation of the city's detention center facility, which accounts for the majority of outstanding debt. Officials are pursuing various alternatives to remedy the situation, with possible resolution within the next several months. Funds to repay debt service on detention center COs (which were not rated by Fitch) over the next one to two years have been identified through available city funds as well as a debt service reserve fund. However, failure to develop a viable long-term solution within the near term will have a negative impact on the rating. Detention center operations support approximately $1.4 million in outstanding 2000 COs and $9.0 million in outstanding 2001 COs issued for the construction of the facility. The detention center has a history of difficulties, beginning with construction delays and the subsequent loss of Texas Youth Commission (TYC) prisoners in 2003 and State of Wyoming prisoners in 2006. Detention center operations began to stabilize with the near immediate replacement of the State of Idaho prisoners in the facility. The city's contract with Idaho was scheduled to expire in July 2009, with negotiations for contract renewal planned for January 2009. However, to the surprise of city officials, Idaho recently announced their plans to leave the Littlefield facility in January 2009, citing the need to consolidate all of its out-of-state prisoners into a larger facility in Oklahoma. In addition, the detention center's private operator, the Geo Group unexpectedly announced termination of their agreement to manage the facility effective January 2009. The move to leave Littlefield by the Geo Group is significant, given that the established private operator had made sizable equity investments in the detention center reportedly totaling approximately $2 million. In the past, the ability of the Geo Group to quickly replace prisoners with little disruption in operations as well as their investment in the Littlefield detention center were cited as credit strengths. In response to the sudden loss of both prisoners and operators, city officials are investigating various options. According to the city, a number of other jail operators have expressed interest in managing the Littlefield facility. In addition, officials are considering selling the facility and retiring the outstanding debt. Officials have expressed the need to resolve this issue quickly and hope to have additional information within the next several months. In the interim, officials report that sufficient funds are on hand to make the Feb. 1 debt service payment, with the subsequent payments made from other resources, including the water and sewer fund as well as the debt service reserve fund. Prior to fiscal 2006, the detention center fund required transfers primarily from the water and sewer fund to meet operating and debt service needs. Since that time, detention center net revenues have been sufficient to cover its debt, providing 1.1 times (x) coverage in fiscal 2007. The water and sewer fund, which supports the remainder of the city's general obligation debt, continues to record positive results and for fiscal 2007, net revenues were $1.4 million, providing more than 3x coverage on water and sewer related CO debt service. In addition, the series 2000 and 2001 CO sales included provisions for a fully funded debt service reserve fund. Although the city utilized the reserve fund to meet debt service requirements in 2001 due to the delay in opening as well as the moratorium on TYC transfers to the detention center, officials report that the reserve is currently fully funded and has not been utilized since 2001 to meet debt service needs. For fiscal 2007, the restricted reserve stood at $1.1 million compared to fiscal 2007 debt service of approximately $780,000. Although the detention COs are also secured by an ad valorem tax pledge, the city levies a property tax for operations only. Officials report that they are considering levying a property tax to partially support the detention center COs. However, in order to fully support the detention center COs, the tax rate would have to double, which is not feasible given political realities. Littlefield, with a population of 6,500, is located approximately 35 miles northwest of Lubbock and serves as the county seat for Lamb County. The area is primarily rural in nature, with agriculture services, government, manufacturing, and trade as key components of the county's economy. The city's population and TAV had been flat until recently; for fiscal 2008 the city's tax base increased nearly 5% due to the construction of several commercial projects as well as residential development. While there is moderate taxpayer concentration among the top 10 taxpayers, there is generally a good mix of industries within the list. General fund finances have stabilized over the past several years, benefitting from the recent imposition of a 0.25% increase in the sales tax rate as well as tax base growth. Debt ratios are very low given the level of non-property tax support for outstanding COs although payout is slow. Fitch issued an exposure draft on July 31, 2008 proposing a recalibration of tax-supported and water/sewer revenue bond ratings which, if adopted, may result in an upward revision of this rating (see Fitch research 'Exposure Draft: Reassessment of the Municipal Ratings Framework'.) At this time, Fitch is deferring its final determination on municipal recalibration. Fitch will continue to monitor market and credit conditions, and plans to revisit the recalibration in first quarter-2009.

November 14, 2008 Magic Valley Times-News
Families of two Idaho inmates who apparently killed themselves in lockups run by private prison company GEO Group Inc., pleaded Thursday with Texas state senators to bar out-of-state prisoners from the Lone Star State. The Idaho Department of Correction has housed more than 300 prisoners at GEO-run Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, but recently announced plans to move them to the private North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla. The move follows allegations that GEO falsified reports and short-staffed the Texas facility where Idaho inmate Randall McCullough, 37, died. Families of Idaho inmates spoke Thursday at a Texas state Senate hearing in Austin, Texas. The hearing, which dealt with general oversight of the Texas prison system and did not result in specific action, was webcast live over the Internet. Among those testifying was lawyer Ronald Rodriguez, who represents McCullough's family as well as that of Idaho inmate Scott Noble Payne, 43, who killed himself last year at another GEO-run prison in Dickens, Texas. "Idaho prisoners need to be in Idaho where they have access to their court - Where they have access to their families," Rodriguez on Thursday told the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. Payne's mother, Shirley Noble, spoke to Texas lawmakers last year and again on Thursday. "It seems that no lessons were learned," Noble said. "If changes had been placed - Randall would not have been so desperate to take his own life, as my son did." Texas Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, questioned why the "little" state of Idaho recently decided to pull its prisoners from Geo-run Bill Clayton. "Should we be following their lead?" he asked. But a Texas Department of Criminal Justice official told Whitmire that Texas inmates aren't held at Bill Clayton, and warned against painting private prisons in Texas with a broad brush. Inmate McCullough's sister, Laurie Williams, told Texas senators that they should do a review of all private prisons in their state - including GEO competitor Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Idaho prisoners are to be taken to CCA-run North Fork in Oklahoma, where another Idaho inmate, David Drashner, was allegedly murdered in June. IDOC's decision to move prisoners from one privately run lockup to another out-of-state facility concerns Williams, as well as Drashner's wife, Pam Drashner, who have said they want Idaho to stop shipping away its inmates. Idaho doesn't have enough room for all its prisoners, and sending them out-of-state has been widely unpopular. Williams also wants to talk to Idaho lawmakers, she said. "We should be addressing the Idaho Senate," said Williams, after Thursday's hearing in Texas. "This is Idaho sending its inmates out of state whether it's Texas that takes them or Oklahoma and that's what we have to have stopped." GEO made $4.9 million in annual operating revenues off its contract with Idaho to manage prisoners at Bill Clayton. GEO officials said shareholders won't lose out from Idaho's withdrawal because of an expanding contract with the state of Indiana.

November 9, 2008 Magic Valley Times-News
Private prison company GEO Group Inc. isn't lamenting the loss of a multimillion dollar contract with Idaho to manage more than 300 inmates at a Texas lock-up owned by the city of Littlefield. Idaho was only 1 percent of Baca Raton-based GEO's business, according to a 2007 annual report from the company. "The discontinuation of GEO's contract with the Idaho DOC will have no material impact on GEO's previously issued pro forma earnings guidance for the fourth quarter of 2008," according to a GEO press release Friday. GEO made $4.9 million in annual operating revenues off its contract with Idaho to manage state inmates in Texas, and the company announced Friday that revenue won't be lost because it's expanding a contract with the state of Indiana. "GEO expects the discontinuation of its contract with the Idaho DOC to be more than offset by the 420-bed contract expansion with the Indiana DOC," according to the press release. Idaho Department of Correction officials told the Associated Press Thursday it was pulling out of the contract with GEO and cited inmate safety risks at the Bill Clayton Detention Center, which is owned by the city of Littlefield. GEO, however, claims Idaho pulled out of the contract for a different reason than inmate safety or staffing levels. GEO officials said Friday that Idaho ended the contract because the state wants to consolidate all its out-of-state prisoners into one private facility. "We understand the decision by the state of Idaho to consolidate its out-of-state inmate population into one large-scale facility," said GEO Chief Executive Officer George Zoley in the press release. "The consolidation effort has led to the discontinuation of our out-of-state inmate contract with the Idaho Department of Correction at the Bill Clayton Detention Center." IDOC officials told the Times-News Friday that staffing at Bill Clayton and consolidation efforts were both factors in its decision to cancel the contract with GEO. IDOC didn't reply to the Times-News when asked which factor may have weighed more heavily. The pull-out announced Thursday by IDOC came after a two-month-old audit showed GEO guards weren't checking on inmates enough. GEO is also terminating its contract with the city of Littlefield to run Bill Clayton, which it has operated since 2005, the company announced Friday. GEO decided not to manage Bill Clayton anymore in Littlefield, a town populated by about 6,500 people, "due to financial underperformance and lack of economies of scale," according to the Friday press release. The first formal IDOC audit of Bill Clayton dated Sept. 3 followed an apparent suicide of Idaho inmate Randall McCullough, 37, of Twin Falls in August. IDOC had been monitoring the facility at least two weeks out of every month since last fall, an IDOC official said. IDOC's original two-year contract with GEO signed in 2006 could have ended on July 20, 2008. IDOC extended it a year until July 20, 2009, but now says all inmates will be out of Texas by January and moved to the Northfork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla. - run by GEO competitor, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which holds hundreds of other out-of-state Idaho inmates.

November 7, 2008 The Olympian
Idaho Department of Correction officials still don't know the cause of death for an inmate who apparently committed suicide in a private Texas prison in August. But what they do know is disturbing: The prison was so understaffed that the warden himself was working the midnight shift at the Bill Clayton Detention Center on Aug. 17, the night Randall McCullough died. A state investigation found that regularly scheduled checks on inmates either weren't done or were done incorrectly, and there was no effective check done on McCullough from the time he turned in his dinner tray at 5:45 p.m. to the time his body - already cold and stiff - was found just after midnight. Log books from that night are inaccurate, according to the investigation, and the videotape from the prison's security system shows neither the correct date nor the arrival of emergency workers, prompting Idaho investigators to speculate that it might not be the tape from that night at all. "You can see where the train wreck is coming, can't you?" state Department of Correction Chief Investigator Jim Loucks told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday. Department officials this week announced they're terminating the state's multimillion dollar contract with The GEO Group, the for-profit private prison company that runs the Bill Clayton Detention Center. Within 60 days, the roughly 300 Idaho prisoners there will be transferred to the Correction Corp. of America-run North Fork Correctional Institution in Sayre, Okla. The inmates have been housed out of state because of overcrowding in Idaho prisons. As of Oct. 1, Idaho had nearly 7,300 total inmates. The staff at the Bill Clayton center - from then-warden Arthur Anderson down to the correctional officers - didn't follow prison policy or respond properly to McCullough's death, according to documents obtained by The AP from the Idaho Department of Correction through public records requests. Pablo Paez, spokesman for The GEO Group, has not returned repeated phone calls from The AP. The GEO Group Vice President Amber Martin said she couldn't comment on the documents or Idaho's decision to end the contract. McCullough was found dead in his cell by Anderson at about 12:15 a.m., according to the state's investigation. Two letters were found in his cell as well - one to his sister, Laurie Williams, and another addressed to Anderson and the Idaho Department of Correction. "To hom it may concern," the misspelled, handwritten letter read. "I'v been puting this off for long anuff. I can't set here and slowly die. Sorry for the inconvenience." The apparent suicide surprised those who knew McCullough, according to the investigation. The inmate, who was serving time on a robbery charge, was within a few months of an expected parole hearing and apparently believed he would be sent back to Idaho sometime around the end of the year, pending a cell opening in the state's overcrowded system. McCullough had been in segregation for several months at the Texas facility after he was accused of assaulting a staff member. The prison, located in the tiny town of Littlefield, Texas, competes for employees with nearby oil fields, which often pay more than residents can make working as a correctional officer, Loucks said. That contributed to the chronic understaffing. Around the time McCullough died, prison employees were working as much as 20 hours of overtime every week, and often resorted to calling in sick just to get some time off, Loucks said. On the night of Aug. 17, 2008, five people didn't make it in to work - leaving the prison with just 10 correctional officers for the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift, below the state-mandated minimum of 12, and well below the 15 officers generally scheduled, according to the report. To deal with the shortage, the shift supervisor persuaded two dayshift employees to stay until 10 p.m., and got two employees scheduled for the next day to come in four hours early, at 2 a.m. But that still left the prison short two officers from 10 p.m. on Aug. 17 to 2 a.m. on Aug. 18, Loucks said. That's when Warden Anderson and Chief of Security Dennis Blevins agreed to come in to work those middle-of-the night hours. The short-staffing led to a few bad habits at the prison, according to the report. Officers often committed a practice known as "pencil-whipping," filling out the log books to show they had made security checks on the inmates every 20 minutes, even if the checks hadn't been done. It also meant that the prison was often without a utility officer, an employee charged with fueling the vehicles, emptying the trash and doing other non-guard duties. Because the segregation unit had fewer inmates than other areas, the correctional officer guarding the unit was generally pulled away from his duties to take care of the utility officer chores, Loucks said. That happened the night of Aug. 17, he said, and as a result no one noticed that McCullough was unmoving and unresponsive until 12:18 a.m., when Warden Anderson walked by the cell. Anderson radioed for help when he noticed McCullough wasn't responding to knocking on the cell door. Medical personnel came within four minutes, but didn't bring the necessary equipment to treat an unresponsive patient and so had to go back to another part of the prison to get it, according to the report. Staffers began CPR, but didn't move McCullough's body from the bed to the floor, where they would have had a firmer surface and more effective chest compressions, investigators found. Prison officials didn't call 911 for 15 minutes, according to the report, but Anderson reportedly told investigators that was because he was trying to notify enough other employees so they could safely unlock McCullough's door and go into the cell. McCullough was dead and apparently had been for some time - his body was cold to the touch, according to the report. Prison officials immediately suspected that McCullough might have overdosed on medication, and his body was sent for toxicology tests and an autopsy. Those tests have been completed, but the Texas coroner's report has not yet been finished, so Idaho Department of Correction officials still don't know just how or why McCullough died. But one thing is clear: Idaho prisoners will be removed from Bill Clayton. State Correction Department chief Brent Reinke notes the state prison system is expanding, with roughly 600 more beds to be added next year. Reinke hopes that will provide enough room to bring all the out-of-state prisoners home. "It's a real unfortunate situation - it always is," Reinke said. "But there's no question that Idaho inmates are much better to manage in Idaho."

November 6, 2008 AP
The Idaho Department of Correction has terminated its contract with private prison company The GEO Group and will move the roughly 305 Idaho inmates currently housed at a GEO-run facility in Texas to a private prison in Oklahoma. Correction Director Brent Reinke notified GEO officials Thursday in a letter. Reinke said the company's chronic understaffing at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, put Idaho offenders' safety at risk. An Idaho Department of Correction audit found that guards routinely falsified reports to show they were checking on offenders regularly — even though they were sometimes away from their posts for hours at a time. "I hope you understand how seriously we're taking not only the report but the safety of our inmates," Reinke told The Associated Press on Thursday. "They have an ongoing staffing issue that doesn't appear to be able to be solved." The contract will end Jan. 5. Reinke said the department wanted to pull the inmates out immediately, but state attorneys found there wasn't enough cause to allow the state to break free of the contract without a 60-day warning period. In the meantime, Reinke said, Idaho correction officials have been sent to the Texas prison to help with staffing for the next two months. GEO will be responsible for transferring the inmates to the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayer, Okla., which is run by Corrections Corp. of America. GEO will cover the cost of the move, Reinke said, but Idaho will have to pay $58 per day per inmate in Oklahoma, compared to $51 per day at Bill Clayton. Amber Martin, vice president for The GEO Group, of Florida, said she couldn't comment on the audit or on Idaho's decision to end the contract. She referred calls to the company spokesman, Pablo Paez, who could not immediately be reached by the AP. As of Oct. 1, Idaho had nearly 7,300 total inmates. The Bill Clayton audit describes the latest in a series of problems that Idaho has had with shipping inmates out of state. Overcrowding at home forced the state to move hundreds of inmates to a prison in Minnesota in 2005, but space constraints soon uprooted them again, this time to a GEO-run facility in Newton, Texas. There, guard abuse and prisoner unrest forced another move to two new GEO facilities: 125 Idaho inmates went to the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, while 304 went to Bill Clayton in Littlefield. Conditions at Dickens were left largely unmonitored by Idaho, at least until inmate Scott Noble Payne committed suicide after complaining of the filthy conditions there. Idaho investigators looking into Payne's death detailed the poor conditions and a lack of inmate treatment programs, and the inmates were moved again. That's when the Idaho Department of Correction created the Virtual Prisons Program, designed to improve oversight of Idaho inmates housed in contract beds both in and out of state. The extent of the Bill Clayton facility understaffing was discovered after Idaho launched an investigation into the apparent suicide of inmate Randall McCullough in August. During that investigation, guards at the prison said they were often pulled away from their regular posts to handle other duties — including taking out the garbage, refueling vehicles or checking the perimeter fence — and that it was common practice to fill out the logs as if the required checks of inmates were being completed as scheduled, said Jim Loucks, chief investigator for the Idaho Department of Correction. For instance, Loucks said, correction officers were supposed to check on inmates in the administrative segregation unit every 30 minutes. But sometimes they were away from the unit for hours at a time, he said. The investigation into McCullough's death is not yet complete, department officials said. The audit also found several other problems at Bill Clayton. The auditor found that "the facility entrance is a very relaxed checkpoint," prompting concerns that cell phones, marijuana and other contraband could be smuggled past security. In addition, the prison averages a 30 percent vacancy rate in security staff jobs, according to the audit. Though it was still able to meet the one-staffer-for-every-48-prisoners ratio set out by Texas law, employees were regularly expected to work long hours of overtime and non-security staffers sometimes were used to provide security supervision, according to the audit. "Based on a review of payroll reports, there are significant concerns with security staff working excessive amounts of overtime for long periods of time," the auditors wrote. "This can lead to compromised facility security practices and increased safety issues." When the audit was done, there were 29 security staff vacancies, according to the report. That meant each security staff person who was eligible for overtime worked an average of 21 hours of overtime a week. That extra expense was borne by GEO, not by Idaho taxpayers, said Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray. The state's contract with GEO also required that at least half of the eligible inmates be given jobs with at least 50 hours of work a month. According to the facility's inmate payroll report, only 35 out of 371 offenders were without jobs. But closer inspection showed that the prison often had several inmates assigned to the same job. In one instance, nine inmates were assigned to clean showers in one unit of the prison — which only had nine shower stalls. So although each was responsible for cleaning just one shower stall, the nine inmates were all claiming 7- and 8-hour work days, five days a week. GEO is responsible for covering the cost of those wages, Ray said. "While the contract percentage requirement is met, the facility cannot demonstrate the actual hours claimed by offenders are spent in a meaningful, skill-learning job activity," the auditors wrote. Auditors also found that too few inmates were enrolled in high school diploma equivalency and work force readiness classes.

October 1, 2008 AP
For a decade, Idaho has been shipping some of its prisoners to out-of-state prisons, dealing with its ever-burgeoning inmate population by renting beds in faraway facilities. But now some groups of prisoners are being brought back home. Idaho Department of Correction officials are crediting declining crime rates, improved oversight during probation, better community programs and increased communication between correction officials and the state's parole board. The number of Idaho inmates has more than doubled since 1996, reaching a high of 7,467 in May. But in the months since then, the population has declined to 7,293 -- opening up enough space that 80 inmates housed in the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla., and at Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, could be bused back to the Idaho State Correctional Institution near Boise. The inmates arrived Monday night. Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke hailed their arrival as one of the benefits the system was reaping after years of work. "It's more about having the right inmates at the right place at the right time," Reinke said. "People are communicating better and we're working together better than we were in the past."

September 21, 2008 Times-News
Pam Drashner visited her husband every weekend in prison, until she was turned away one day because he wasn't there. He had been quietly transferred from Boise to a private prison in Sayre, Okla. She never saw him again. In July, she went to the Post Office to pick up his ashes, mailed home in a box. He died of a traumatic brain injury in Oklahoma, allegedly assaulted by another inmate. David Drashner was one of hundreds of male inmates Idaho authorities have sent to private prisons in other states. About 10 percent of Idaho's inmates are now out-of-state. The Department of Correction say they want to bring them all home, they simply have no place to put them. Drashner, who was convicted of repeat drunken driving, is one of three Idaho inmates who have died in the custody of private lockups in other states since March 2007, and was the first this year. On Aug. 18, Twin Falls native Randall McCullough, 37, apparently killed himself at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas. McCullough, serving time for robbery, was found dead in his cell. IDOC officials say he left a note, though autopsy results are pending. His family says he shouldn't have been in Texas at all. "Idaho should step up to the plate and bring their prisoners home," said his sister, Laurie Williams. Out of Idaho -- Idaho has so many prisoners scattered around the country that the IDOC last year developed the Virtual Prison Program, assigning 12 officers to monitor the distant prisons. In 2007 Idaho sent 429 inmates to Texas and Oklahoma. This year; more than 700 - and by one estimate it could soon hit 1,000. But officials say they don't know exactly how many inmates may hit the road in coming months. The number may actually fall due to an unexpected drop in total prisoner head-count, a turnabout attributed to a drop in sentencings, increased paroles and better success rates for probationers. The state will also have about 1,300 more beds in Idaho, thanks to additions at existing prisons. State officials say bringing inmates back is a priority. "If there was any way to not have inmates out-of-state it would be far, far better," said IDOC Director Brent Reinke, a former Twin Falls County commissioner, noting higher costs to the state and inconvenience to inmate families. Still, there's no end in sight for virtual prisons, which have few fans in state government. "I do think sending inmates out-of-state is counter-productive," said Rep. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, a member of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee. LeFavour favors treatment facilities over prisons. "We try to make it (sending inmates out-of-state) a last resort, but I don't think we're doing enough." Even lawmakers who favor buying more cells would like to avoid virtual lockups. "It's more productive to be in-state," said Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, who said he would support a new Idaho prison modeled after the state-owned but privately run Idaho Correctional Center (ICC). "We don't want to stay out-of-state unless we have to
��- It's undesirable." A decade of movement -- Idaho has shipped inmates elsewhere for more than a decade, though in some years they were all brought home when beds became available at four of Idaho's state prisons. The 1,500-bed ICC - a state-owned lockup built and run by CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) - also opened in 2000. But that wasn't enough: "It will be years before a substantial increase in prison capacity will allow IDOC to bring inmates back," the agency said in April. In 2005, former IDOC director Tom Beauclair warned lawmakers that "if we delay building the next prison, we'll have to remain out-of-state longer with more inmates," according to an IDOC press release. That year inmates were taken to a Minnesota prison operated by CCA, where Idaho paid $5 per inmate, per day more than it costs to keep inmates in its own prisons. "This move creates burdens for our state fiscally, and can harden our prison system, but it's what we must do," IDOC said at the time. "Our ability to stretch the system is over." Attempts to add to that system have largely failed. Earlier this year Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter asked lawmakers for $191 million in bond authority to buy a new 1,500-bed lockup. The Legislature rejected his request, but did approve those 1,300 new beds at existing facilities. Reinke said IDOC won't ask for a new prison when the next Legislative session convenes in January. With a slow economy and a drop in inmate numbers, it's not the time to push for a new prison, he said. Still, recent projections for IDOC show that without more prison beds here, 43 percent of all Idaho inmates could be sent out-of-state in 2017. "It's a lot of money to go out-of-state," Darrington said. Different cultures -- One of eight prisons in Idaho is run by a private company, as are those housing Idaho inmates in Texas and Oklahoma. The Bill Clayton Detention Center in Texas is operated by the Geo Group Inc., which is managing or developing 64 lockups in the U.S., Australia and South Africa. The North-Fork Correctional Facility in Oklahoma is owned and operated by CCA, which also has the contract to run the Idaho Correction Center. CCA houses almost 75,000 inmates and detainees in 66 facilities under various state and federal contracts. Critics of private prisons say the operators boost profits by skimping on programs, staff, and services. Idaho authorities acknowledge the prisons make money, but consider them well-run. "Private prisons are just that - business run," Idaho Virtual Prison Program Warden Randy Blades told the Times-News. "It doesn't mean out-of-sight, or out-of-mind." Yet even Reinke added that "I think there's a difference. Do we want there to be? No." The Association of Private Correctional and Treatment Organizations (APCTO) says on its Web site that its members "deliver reduced costs, high quality, and enhanced accountability." Falling short? Thomas Aragon, a convicted thief from Nampa, was shipped to three different Texas prisons in two years. He said prisons there did little to rehabilitate him, though he's up for parole next year. "I'm a five-time felon, all grand theft and possession of stolen property," said Aragon, by telephone from the ICC. "Apparently I have a problem and need to find out why I steal. The judge said I needed counseling and that I'd get it, and I have yet to get any." State officials said virtual prisons have a different culture, but are adapting to Idaho standards. "We're taking the footprint of Idaho and putting it into facilities out-of-state," Blades said. Aragon, 39, says more programs are available in Idaho compared to the Texas facilities where he was. Like Aragon, almost 70 percent of Idaho inmates sent to prison in 2006 and 2007 were recidivists - repeat IDOC offenders - according agency annual reports. GEO and CCA referred questions about recidivism to APCTO, which says only that its members reduce the rate of growth of public spending. Aragon said there weren't enough case-workers, teachers, programs, recreational activities and jobs in Texas. Comparisons between public and private prisons are made difficult because private companies didn't readily offer numbers for profits, recidivism, salaries and inmate-officer ratios. During recent visits to the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas - where about 371 Idaho inmates are now held - state inspectors found there wasn't a legal aid staffer to give inmates access to courts, as required by the state contract. Virtual Prison monitors also agreed with Aragon's assessment: "No programs are offered at the facility," a state official wrote in a recently redacted Idaho Virtual Prison report obtained by the Times-News. "Most jobs have to do with keeping the facility clean and appear to be less meaningful. This creates a shortage of productive time with the inmates. "Overall, recreational activities are very sparse within the facility ��- Informal attempts have been made to encourage the facility to increase offender activities that would in the long run ease some of the boredom that IDOC inmates are experiencing," according to a Virtual Prison report. The prison has since made improvements, the state said. Only one inmate case manager worked at Bill Clayton during a recent state visit, but the facility did increase recreation time and implemented in-cell hobby craft programs, Virtual Prison reports show. Other inmate complaints have grown from the way they have been sent to the prisons. Inmates describe a horrific bus ride from Idaho to Oklahoma in April in complaints collected by the American Civil Liberties Union in Boise. The inmates say they endured painful and injurious wrist and ankle shackling, dangerous driving, infrequent access to an unsanitary restroom and dehydration during the almost 30-hour trip. "We're still receiving a lot of complaints, some of them are based on retaliatory transfers," said ACLU lawyer Lea Cooper. IDOC officials acknowledge that they have also received complaints about access to restrooms during the long bus rides, but they maintain that most of the inmates want to go out-of-state. Many are sex offenders who prefer the anonymity associated with being out-of-state, they said. Unanswered questions -- Three deaths of Idaho interstate inmates in 18 months have left families concerned that even more prisoners will come home in ashes. "We're very disturbed about...the rate of Idaho prisoner deaths for out-of-state inmates," Cooper said. It was the razor-blade suicide of sex-offender Scott Noble Payne, 43, in March 2007 at a Geo lockup in Dickens, Texas that caught the attention of state officials. Noble's death prompted Idaho to pull all its inmates from the Geo prison. State officials found the facility was in terrible condition, but they continue to work with Geo, which houses 371 Idaho inmates in Littlefield, Texas, where McCullough apparently killed himself. Noble allegedly escaped before he was caught and killed himself. Inmate Aragon said he as there, and that Noble was hog-tied and groaned in pain while guards warned other inmates they would face the same if they tried to escape. Private prison operators don't have to tell governments everything about the deaths at facilities they run. The state isn't allowed access to Geo's mortality and morbidity reports under terms of a contract. Idaho sent additional inmates to the Corrections Corporation of America-run Oklahoma prison after Drashner's husband died in June. IDOC officials said an Idaho official was inspecting the facility when he was found. IDOC has offered few details about the death. "The murder happened in Oklahoma," said IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray, adding it will be up to Oklahoma authorities to charge. Drashner said her husband had a pending civil case in Idaho and shouldn't have been shipped out-of-state. She says Idaho and Oklahoma authorities told her David was assaulted by another inmate after he verbally defended an officer at the Oklahoma prison. Officers realized something was wrong when he didn't stand up for a count, Drashner said. "He was healthy. He wouldn't have been killed over here," she said.

August 28, 2008 Times-News
An Idaho prison inmate held at a private facility in Texas through the state's Virtual Prison Program was in solitary confinement for more than a year when he apparently killed himself, authorities have confirmed. Idaho Department of Correction is still investigating the cause and manner of death for the inmate, Randall McCullough, 37, who was found unresponsive Aug. 18 in his cell, which measured 7.5 feet, by 12 feet, by 8 feet, said Idaho Department of Correction Spokesman Jeff Ray. McCullough had been segregated from other inmates since Dec. 13, 2007, after he allegedly assaulted a staff member at the Bill Clayton Detention Center run by Geo Group Inc., said Ray. He apparently wasn't criminally charged for that alleged assault in Texas. "It's our understanding that the prosecutor in Texas had not made a decision on whether or not to file charges," said Ray. "The staff assault occurred in Texas and would be considered a Texas crime. IDOC would not have a direct connection to it." Authorities at Geo Group's Bill Clayton Detention Center directed all questions from the Times-News on Wednesday back to the Idaho Department of Corrections. McCullough was in prison for a 2001 Twin Falls County robbery conviction. He had a criminal record involving charges of escape, forgery, controlled substance possession, grand theft, burglary, resisting arrest, and driving violations, according to court records. Imposing inmate segregation for one to two years as a result of an assault on a guard would not be uncommon, and wardens at out-of-state facilities holding Idaho inmates can decide if an inmate is put in segregation, said Ray. Inmates in segregation eat meals in their cells and can shower once every 72 hours. Toilets are in cells and McCullough had a television, said Ray. Lights at the Texas facility are on 24 hours a day, Ray said, adding that some facilities in Idaho dim lights at sleeping times.

August 21, 2008 The Times News
The state's Virtual Prison Program is only a year old and the Monday death of inmate Randall McCullough, 37, could be the second suicide involving the initiative outside of Idaho. Idaho prison officials said Wednesday they're still investigating if McCullough committed suicide at a private contracted facility in Texas - Bill Clayton Detention Center run by the GEO Group Inc. - which is holding 371 inmates each at $51 per day under a contract that expires in July 2009. The Virtual Prison Program started in July 2007, but the state started putting inmates in non-state owned facilities in October 2005, said Idaho Department of Correction Spokesman Jeff Ray. Six state inmates have committed suicide since July 2006, not including McCullough, Ray said.

December 11, 2007 AP
Inmates from Idaho housed at a private West Texas detention facility could face new charges following an attack on a female guard. The woman was attacked about 7:30 p.m. Monday after she apparently tried to take tobacco away from at least two of the inmates at the Bill Clayton Detention Center, Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said. The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries, he said. Afterward, as many as 15 inmates refused to return to their cells and additional officers were called in to help, Ray said. The inmates then agreed to return to their cells, he said. Officials with the Littlefield police department, which is investigating the incident, did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday. A deputy warden with the Idaho agency is on his way to Littlefield to investigate, a release from that department said. Those involved in the attack could face charges, and inmates who refused to return to their cells will likely face disciplinary sanctions, the release said. The prison is operated by The GEO Group Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla.-based company that owns or operates 68 facilities worldwide. "We will be working cooperatively with the Idaho Department of Correction as they conduct their investigation," said Pablo Paez, a GEO spokesman. A lack of space in Idaho prisons brought hundreds of inmates to Texas in early 2006. They were first housed here at a GEO facility in Newton in East Texas. They were moved to Littlefield in August 2006 after allegations of abuse by guards prompted an investigation. Three employees at Newton's facility were disciplined as a result of the investigation.

July 31, 2007 Idaho Statesman
Idaho's Department of Correction has created a new position to manage Idaho's roughly 2,400 inmates in private, out-of-state prisons and county jail beds. Randy Blades, who has been the warden at the Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise, will monitor the 500-plus inmates, now in three Texas prisons managed by the Geo Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla. He will also monitor the 240 inmates soon to be transferred from Idaho to a private prison in Oklahoma, and the inmates in county jail beds across the state. Correction Director Brent Reinke created the position after disclosing that conditions at one of those prisons were so bad that inmates will be moved elsewhere. Inmates at the Dickens County Correctional Center are being moved to the Bill Clayton Detention Center after an inmate suicide at Dickens revealed filthy living conditions and poorly trained and unprofessional staff. “Times have changed and we simply need to get in front on this issue,” Reinke said in a statement. “We must be proactive. We need to make sure inmates are being treated adequately and taxpayers are getting what they are paying for.”

Dickens County Correctional Facility
Spur, Texas
GEO Group (formerly run by Bobby Ross Group)

September 14, 2009 The Olympian
The Idaho Department of Correction and the parents of an inmate who killed himself in a private prison have reached a settlement ending a federal lawsuit over the son's death. The agreement, approved Sunday by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, also marks the end of lawsuits the parties had filed against each other in state court after previous settlement talks fell apart earlier this year. The case arose after the 2007 death of Scot Noble Payne, who had been sent to a private Texas prison with hundreds of other inmates to alleviate overcrowding in Idaho. Payne slashed his own throat, and Idaho officials who investigated the Dickens County Correctional Facility said the deplorable conditions at the prison and the physical environment of Noble's solitary cell could have contributed to his suicide. Payne's mother, Shirley Noble, and his father, Alberto Payne, sued the Idaho Department of Correction, saying the department was responsible for the wrongful death of their son. The parties went into mediation to see if they could reach a settlement, and in February both sides agreed the parents should be awarded $100,000 and that the Idaho Department of Correction would not admit fault for Scot Noble Payne's death. But when the official settlement document was sent to the parents the following month, they refused to sign. At the time, Noble's attorney said the Idaho Department of Correction added terms to the document that hadn't been arbitrated in mediation. The Idaho Department of Correction then sued the parents in state court, asking a judge to force them to sign the document, and the parents countersued, contending the state was breaching the settlement contract. The lawsuits filed in state court have now been dismissed, along with the federal lawsuit. The terms of the federal settlement were not released.

May 15, 2009 The Olympian
The Idaho Department of Correction and the mother of an inmate who killed himself in a private prison are suing each other after a settlement agreement over the son's death fell apart. Scot Noble Payne, who had been sent to a private Texas prison with hundreds of other inmates to alleviate overcrowding in Idaho prisons, slashed his own throat in 2007. Idaho officials who investigated the Dickens County Correctional Facility said the conditions were deplorable and that the physical environment of Noble's solitary cell could have contributed to his suicide. Payne's mother, Shirley Noble, and his father, Alberto Payne, filed a tort claim against the Idaho Department of Correction contending that the department was responsible for the wrongful death of their son. Correction Department officials and the parents went into mediation to see if they could reach a settlement, and in February both sides agreed that the parents should be awarded $100,000 and that the Idaho Department of Correction would not admit fault in Scot Noble Payne's death. But the next month, when the official document that would release the Idaho Department of Correction from liability in the case was delivered to the parents, they refused to sign. The problem, according to Noble's attorney, is that the Idaho Department of Correction added additional terms into the release document that hadn't been arbitrated in mediation. The mediation agreement lists Shirley Noble, Alberto Payne, the state of Idaho and the Idaho Department of Correction as parties in the agreement. But the release also lists the estate of Scot Noble Payne and all of the representatives and employees of the Idaho Department of Corrections and the state as parties. That could throw into jeopardy another lawsuit brought by the parents - in their role as representatives of Scot Noble Payne's estate - against several employees of the Idaho Department of Correction. After the parents refused to sign, the Idaho Department of Correction filed a lawsuit against them in Ada County's 4th District Court, asking a judge to force the parents to sign the release. The parents countersued, contending the state was breaching the contract they reached under the settlement agreement by trying to later add new terms. Idaho Department of Correction officials said they could not comment on pending litigation. The parents' attorney, Wm. Breck Seiniger, Jr., said the department made a mistake when it was negotiating and didn't realize it until it was too late - and now is trying to place the blame, and the loss, on the parents. "I think the lawsuit is just an attempt to intimidate the parents, frankly," Seiniger said. "If they thought the agreement meant something different, that is not our problem." The parents have also filed a lawsuit against Geo Group Inc., the private company that ran the Texas prison, in U.S. District Court in Texas. That lawsuit is still in the discovery stages, Seiniger said.

November 14, 2008 Magic Valley Times-News
Families of two Idaho inmates who apparently killed themselves in lockups run by private prison company GEO Group Inc., pleaded Thursday with Texas state senators to bar out-of-state prisoners from the Lone Star State. The Idaho Department of Correction has housed more than 300 prisoners at GEO-run Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, but recently announced plans to move them to the private North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla. The move follows allegations that GEO falsified reports and short-staffed the Texas facility where Idaho inmate Randall McCullough, 37, died. Families of Idaho inmates spoke Thursday at a Texas state Senate hearing in Austin, Texas. The hearing, which dealt with general oversight of the Texas prison system and did not result in specific action, was webcast live over the Internet. Among those testifying was lawyer Ronald Rodriguez, who represents McCullough's family as well as that of Idaho inmate Scott Noble Payne, 43, who killed himself last year at another GEO-run prison in Dickens, Texas. "Idaho prisoners need to be in Idaho where they have access to their court - Where they have access to their families," Rodriguez on Thursday told the Texas Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. Payne's mother, Shirley Noble, spoke to Texas lawmakers last year and again on Thursday. "It seems that no lessons were learned," Noble said. "If changes had been placed - Randall would not have been so desperate to take his own life, as my son did." Texas Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, questioned why the "little" state of Idaho recently decided to pull its prisoners from Geo-run Bill Clayton. "Should we be following their lead?" he asked. But a Texas Department of Criminal Justice official told Whitmire that Texas inmates aren't held at Bill Clayton, and warned against painting private prisons in Texas with a broad brush. Inmate McCullough's sister, Laurie Williams, told Texas senators that they should do a review of all private prisons in their state - including GEO competitor Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Idaho prisoners are to be taken to CCA-run North Fork in Oklahoma, where another Idaho inmate, David Drashner, was allegedly murdered in June. IDOC's decision to move prisoners from one privately run lockup to another out-of-state facility concerns Williams, as well as Drashner's wife, Pam Drashner, who have said they want Idaho to stop shipping away its inmates. Idaho doesn't have enough room for all its prisoners, and sending them out-of-state has been widely unpopular. Williams also wants to talk to Idaho lawmakers, she said. "We should be addressing the Idaho Senate," said Williams, after Thursday's hearing in Texas. "This is Idaho sending its inmates out of state whether it's Texas that takes them or Oklahoma and that's what we have to have stopped." GEO made $4.9 million in annual operating revenues off its contract with Idaho to manage prisoners at Bill Clayton. GEO officials said shareholders won't lose out from Idaho's withdrawal because of an expanding contract with the state of Indiana.

November 6, 2008 AP
The Idaho Department of Correction has terminated its contract with private prison company The GEO Group and will move the roughly 305 Idaho inmates currently housed at a GEO-run facility in Texas to a private prison in Oklahoma. Correction Director Brent Reinke notified GEO officials Thursday in a letter. Reinke said the company's chronic understaffing at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, put Idaho offenders' safety at risk. An Idaho Department of Correction audit found that guards routinely falsified reports to show they were checking on offenders regularly — even though they were sometimes away from their posts for hours at a time. "I hope you understand how seriously we're taking not only the report but the safety of our inmates," Reinke told The Associated Press on Thursday. "They have an ongoing staffing issue that doesn't appear to be able to be solved." The contract will end Jan. 5. Reinke said the department wanted to pull the inmates out immediately, but state attorneys found there wasn't enough cause to allow the state to break free of the contract without a 60-day warning period. In the meantime, Reinke said, Idaho correction officials have been sent to the Texas prison to help with staffing for the next two months. GEO will be responsible for transferring the inmates to the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayer, Okla., which is run by Corrections Corp. of America. GEO will cover the cost of the move, Reinke said, but Idaho will have to pay $58 per day per inmate in Oklahoma, compared to $51 per day at Bill Clayton. Amber Martin, vice president for The GEO Group, of Florida, said she couldn't comment on the audit or on Idaho's decision to end the contract. She referred calls to the company spokesman, Pablo Paez, who could not immediately be reached by the AP. As of Oct. 1, Idaho had nearly 7,300 total inmates. The Bill Clayton audit describes the latest in a series of problems that Idaho has had with shipping inmates out of state. Overcrowding at home forced the state to move hundreds of inmates to a prison in Minnesota in 2005, but space constraints soon uprooted them again, this time to a GEO-run facility in Newton, Texas. There, guard abuse and prisoner unrest forced another move to two new GEO facilities: 125 Idaho inmates went to the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, while 304 went to Bill Clayton in Littlefield. Conditions at Dickens were left largely unmonitored by Idaho, at least until inmate Scott Noble Payne committed suicide after complaining of the filthy conditions there. Idaho investigators looking into Payne's death detailed the poor conditions and a lack of inmate treatment programs, and the inmates were moved again. That's when the Idaho Department of Correction created the Virtual Prisons Program, designed to improve oversight of Idaho inmates housed in contract beds both in and out of state. The extent of the Bill Clayton facility understaffing was discovered after Idaho launched an investigation into the apparent suicide of inmate Randall McCullough in August. During that investigation, guards at the prison said they were often pulled away from their regular posts to handle other duties — including taking out the garbage, refueling vehicles or checking the perimeter fence — and that it was common practice to fill out the logs as if the required checks of inmates were being completed as scheduled, said Jim Loucks, chief investigator for the Idaho Department of Correction. For instance, Loucks said, correction officers were supposed to check on inmates in the administrative segregation unit every 30 minutes. But sometimes they were away from the unit for hours at a time, he said. The investigation into McCullough's death is not yet complete, department officials said. The audit also found several other problems at Bill Clayton. The auditor found that "the facility entrance is a very relaxed checkpoint," prompting concerns that cell phones, marijuana and other contraband could be smuggled past security. In addition, the prison averages a 30 percent vacancy rate in security staff jobs, according to the audit. Though it was still able to meet the one-staffer-for-every-48-prisoners ratio set out by Texas law, employees were regularly expected to work long hours of overtime and non-security staffers sometimes were used to provide security supervision, according to the audit. "Based on a review of payroll reports, there are significant concerns with security staff working excessive amounts of overtime for long periods of time," the auditors wrote. "This can lead to compromised facility security practices and increased safety issues." When the audit was done, there were 29 security staff vacancies, according to the report. That meant each security staff person who was eligible for overtime worked an average of 21 hours of overtime a week. That extra expense was borne by GEO, not by Idaho taxpayers, said Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray. The state's contract with GEO also required that at least half of the eligible inmates be given jobs with at least 50 hours of work a month. According to the facility's inmate payroll report, only 35 out of 371 offenders were without jobs. But closer inspection showed that the prison often had several inmates assigned to the same job. In one instance, nine inmates were assigned to clean showers in one unit of the prison — which only had nine shower stalls. So although each was responsible for cleaning just one shower stall, the nine inmates were all claiming 7- and 8-hour work days, five days a week. GEO is responsible for covering the cost of those wages, Ray said. "While the contract percentage requirement is met, the facility cannot demonstrate the actual hours claimed by offenders are spent in a meaningful, skill-learning job activity," the auditors wrote. Auditors also found that too few inmates were enrolled in high school diploma equivalency and work force readiness classes.

September 21, 2008 Times-News
Pam Drashner visited her husband every weekend in prison, until she was turned away one day because he wasn't there. He had been quietly transferred from Boise to a private prison in Sayre, Okla. She never saw him again. In July, she went to the Post Office to pick up his ashes, mailed home in a box. He died of a traumatic brain injury in Oklahoma, allegedly assaulted by another inmate. David Drashner was one of hundreds of male inmates Idaho authorities have sent to private prisons in other states. About 10 percent of Idaho's inmates are now out-of-state. The Department of Correction say they want to bring them all home, they simply have no place to put them. Drashner, who was convicted of repeat drunken driving, is one of three Idaho inmates who have died in the custody of private lockups in other states since March 2007, and was the first this year. On Aug. 18, Twin Falls native Randall McCullough, 37, apparently killed himself at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas. McCullough, serving time for robbery, was found dead in his cell. IDOC officials say he left a note, though autopsy results are pending. His family says he shouldn't have been in Texas at all. "Idaho should step up to the plate and bring their prisoners home," said his sister, Laurie Williams. Out of Idaho -- Idaho has so many prisoners scattered around the country that the IDOC last year developed the Virtual Prison Program, assigning 12 officers to monitor the distant prisons. In 2007 Idaho sent 429 inmates to Texas and Oklahoma. This year; more than 700 - and by one estimate it could soon hit 1,000. But officials say they don't know exactly how many inmates may hit the road in coming months. The number may actually fall due to an unexpected drop in total prisoner head-count, a turnabout attributed to a drop in sentencings, increased paroles and better success rates for probationers. The state will also have about 1,300 more beds in Idaho, thanks to additions at existing prisons. State officials say bringing inmates back is a priority. "If there was any way to not have inmates out-of-state it would be far, far better," said IDOC Director Brent Reinke, a former Twin Falls County commissioner, noting higher costs to the state and inconvenience to inmate families. Still, there's no end in sight for virtual prisons, which have few fans in state government. "I do think sending inmates out-of-state is counter-productive," said Rep. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, a member of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee. LeFavour favors treatment facilities over prisons. "We try to make it (sending inmates out-of-state) a last resort, but I don't think we're doing enough." Even lawmakers who favor buying more cells would like to avoid virtual lockups. "It's more productive to be in-state," said Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, who said he would support a new Idaho prison modeled after the state-owned but privately run Idaho Correctional Center (ICC). "We don't want to stay out-of-state unless we have to
��- It's undesirable." A decade of movement -- Idaho has shipped inmates elsewhere for more than a decade, though in some years they were all brought home when beds became available at four of Idaho's state prisons. The 1,500-bed ICC - a state-owned lockup built and run by CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) - also opened in 2000. But that wasn't enough: "It will be years before a substantial increase in prison capacity will allow IDOC to bring inmates back," the agency said in April. In 2005, former IDOC director Tom Beauclair warned lawmakers that "if we delay building the next prison, we'll have to remain out-of-state longer with more inmates," according to an IDOC press release. That year inmates were taken to a Minnesota prison operated by CCA, where Idaho paid $5 per inmate, per day more than it costs to keep inmates in its own prisons. "This move creates burdens for our state fiscally, and can harden our prison system, but it's what we must do," IDOC said at the time. "Our ability to stretch the system is over." Attempts to add to that system have largely failed. Earlier this year Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter asked lawmakers for $191 million in bond authority to buy a new 1,500-bed lockup. The Legislature rejected his request, but did approve those 1,300 new beds at existing facilities. Reinke said IDOC won't ask for a new prison when the next Legislative session convenes in January. With a slow economy and a drop in inmate numbers, it's not the time to push for a new prison, he said. Still, recent projections for IDOC show that without more prison beds here, 43 percent of all Idaho inmates could be sent out-of-state in 2017. "It's a lot of money to go out-of-state," Darrington said. Different cultures -- One of eight prisons in Idaho is run by a private company, as are those housing Idaho inmates in Texas and Oklahoma. The Bill Clayton Detention Center in Texas is operated by the Geo Group Inc., which is managing or developing 64 lockups in the U.S., Australia and South Africa. The North-Fork Correctional Facility in Oklahoma is owned and operated by CCA, which also has the contract to run the Idaho Correction Center. CCA houses almost 75,000 inmates and detainees in 66 facilities under various state and federal contracts. Critics of private prisons say the operators boost profits by skimping on programs, staff, and services. Idaho authorities acknowledge the prisons make money, but consider them well-run. "Private prisons are just that - business run," Idaho Virtual Prison Program Warden Randy Blades told the Times-News. "It doesn't mean out-of-sight, or out-of-mind." Yet even Reinke added that "I think there's a difference. Do we want there to be? No." The Association of Private Correctional and Treatment Organizations (APCTO) says on its Web site that its members "deliver reduced costs, high quality, and enhanced accountability." Falling short? Thomas Aragon, a convicted thief from Nampa, was shipped to three different Texas prisons in two years. He said prisons there did little to rehabilitate him, though he's up for parole next year. "I'm a five-time felon, all grand theft and possession of stolen property," said Aragon, by telephone from the ICC. "Apparently I have a problem and need to find out why I steal. The judge said I needed counseling and that I'd get it, and I have yet to get any." State officials said virtual prisons have a different culture, but are adapting to Idaho standards. "We're taking the footprint of Idaho and putting it into facilities out-of-state," Blades said. Aragon, 39, says more programs are available in Idaho compared to the Texas facilities where he was. Like Aragon, almost 70 percent of Idaho inmates sent to prison in 2006 and 2007 were recidivists - repeat IDOC offenders - according agency annual reports. GEO and CCA referred questions about recidivism to APCTO, which says only that its members reduce the rate of growth of public spending. Aragon said there weren't enough case-workers, teachers, programs, recreational activities and jobs in Texas. Comparisons between public and private prisons are made difficult because private companies didn't readily offer numbers for profits, recidivism, salaries and inmate-officer ratios. During recent visits to the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas - where about 371 Idaho inmates are now held - state inspectors found there wasn't a legal aid staffer to give inmates access to courts, as required by the state contract. Virtual Prison monitors also agreed with Aragon's assessment: "No programs are offered at the facility," a state official wrote in a recently redacted Idaho Virtual Prison report obtained by the Times-News. "Most jobs have to do with keeping the facility clean and appear to be less meaningful. This creates a shortage of productive time with the inmates. "Overall, recreational activities are very sparse within the facility ��- Informal attempts have been made to encourage the facility to increase offender activities that would in the long run ease some of the boredom that IDOC inmates are experiencing," according to a Virtual Prison report. The prison has since made improvements, the state said. Only one inmate case manager worked at Bill Clayton during a recent state visit, but the facility did increase recreation time and implemented in-cell hobby craft programs, Virtual Prison reports show. Other inmate complaints have grown from the way they have been sent to the prisons. Inmates describe a horrific bus ride from Idaho to Oklahoma in April in complaints collected by the American Civil Liberties Union in Boise. The inmates say they endured painful and injurious wrist and ankle shackling, dangerous driving, infrequent access to an unsanitary restroom and dehydration during the almost 30-hour trip. "We're still receiving a lot of complaints, some of them are based on retaliatory transfers," said ACLU lawyer Lea Cooper. IDOC officials acknowledge that they have also received complaints about access to restrooms during the long bus rides, but they maintain that most of the inmates want to go out-of-state. Many are sex offenders who prefer the anonymity associated with being out-of-state, they said. Unanswered questions -- Three deaths of Idaho interstate inmates in 18 months have left families concerned that even more prisoners will come home in ashes. "We're very disturbed about...the rate of Idaho prisoner deaths for out-of-state inmates," Cooper said. It was the razor-blade suicide of sex-offender Scott Noble Payne, 43, in March 2007 at a Geo lockup in Dickens, Texas that caught the attention of state officials. Noble's death prompted Idaho to pull all its inmates from the Geo prison. State officials found the facility was in terrible condition, but they continue to work with Geo, which houses 371 Idaho inmates in Littlefield, Texas, where McCullough apparently killed himself. Noble allegedly escaped before he was caught and killed himself. Inmate Aragon said he as there, and that Noble was hog-tied and groaned in pain while guards warned other inmates they would face the same if they tried to escape. Private prison operators don't have to tell governments everything about the deaths at facilities they run. The state isn't allowed access to Geo's mortality and morbidity reports under terms of a contract. Idaho sent additional inmates to the Corrections Corporation of America-run Oklahoma prison after Drashner's husband died in June. IDOC officials said an Idaho official was inspecting the facility when he was found. IDOC has offered few details about the death. "The murder happened in Oklahoma," said IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray, adding it will be up to Oklahoma authorities to charge. Drashner said her husband had a pending civil case in Idaho and shouldn't have been shipped out-of-state. She says Idaho and Oklahoma authorities told her David was assaulted by another inmate after he verbally defended an officer at the Oklahoma prison. Officers realized something was wrong when he didn't stand up for a count, Drashner said. "He was healthy. He wouldn't have been killed over here," she said.

December 28, 2007 AP
Fifty-five Idaho inmates who were moved out of a troubled Texas prison on Thursday have been forced by a contract delay to make a temporary stop before going to their final destination, a lockup near the Mexican border. More than 500 Idaho prisoners are in Texas and Oklahoma due to overcrowding at home. The prisoners being moved are bound for the Val Verde Correctional Facility in Del Rio, Texas, after more than a year at the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, where one Idaho inmate killed himself in March. Because a Texas county official has yet to approve the contract to house Idaho prisoners at Val Verde, they have first been sent 100 miles away to the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas. There, they will sleep in groups of up to 10 men on makeshift cots in day rooms until resolution of the contract allows them to complete the final 250-mile leg of their journey to Val Verde sometime in early January. The inmates "were a bit dubious and questionable about that," said Randy Blades, the warden in Boise who oversees Idaho's out-of-state prisoners. That's one reason why his agency has sent two officers to make sure the move runs smoothly, Blades said. Both the Dickens and Val Verde prisons are run by private operator GEO Group Inc., based in Boca Raton, Florida. Pablo Paez, a spokesman for GEO, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. GEO no longer has the contract to manage the Dickens facility after Tuesday. Because Idaho recently rejected an offer from the new company that will run Dickens, GEO on Thursday had to move the Idaho inmates to temporary quarters in Littlefield. Though Idaho officials thought details of the move to Val Verde had been resolved, Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said he learned only last week that a Texas county judge wanted a lawyer to look at the contract one last time. "It was something we did not anticipate," Reinke said. "GEO is paying the transport costs." This is just the latest uprooting of Idaho inmates since they were first shipped out of state in 2005. Since then, they have bounced from prison to prison in Minnesota and Texas amid allegations of abusive treatment. There also has been the criminal conviction of at least one Texas guard for passing contraband to inmates; at least two escapes; and the death of Scot Noble Payne, a convicted sex offender who slashed his throat last March in a solitary cell at Dickens County. Idaho officials who investigated concluded the GEO-run prison was filthy and the worst they had seen. As a result, about 70 Idaho inmates were moved from Dickens to Littlefield, where about 300 Idaho inmates were already housed, while the state continued talks with GEO over sending the remaining 55 to a new 659-bed addition at Val Verde. Despite the stopover, GEO has a hefty incentive to make sure the move to Val Verde goes smoothly, Reinke said. The company hopes to win contracts with Idaho to build a large new prison here to help accommodate the state's 7,400 inmates. "They're really monitoring this closely, and doing a good job at this point," Reinke said. "It's not a lot different than triple bunking."

November 29, 2007 AP
The mother of an Idaho inmate who killed himself in a Texas prison earlier this year has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the private-prison company that runs the lockup where he died. In her claim in U.S. District Court in western Texas, Shirley Noble says prison operator The GEO Group abused and neglected Scot Noble Payne before he slashed his throat on March 4th. Scot Noble Payne, a convicted sex offender from Idaho, had been moved to Texas along with more than 400 Idaho inmates to relieve overcrowding at prisons in their home state. Idaho officials who investigated at the Dickens County Correctional Facility in Spur, Texas, said the physical environment of his solitary cell could have contributed to his suicide.

November 27, 2007 Idaho State Journal
A company that's due to take over a troubled privately run Texas prison in 2008 made a sales pitch Monday to Idaho Department of Correction officials, saying it hopes the management shake-up and $1.2 million in proposed renovations will overshadow past problems and persuade Idaho to ship more inmates to the lockup. Civigenics, a unit of New Jersey-based Community Education Centers, Inc., with prisons or treatment programs in 23 states, will manage Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, starting Jan. 1 after winning a competitive bid. Until now, The GEO Group Inc., based in Florida, ran the facility. In March, Idaho prison officials called Dickens under GEO's oversight ''the worst'' prison they'd seen, citing what they called an abusive warden, the lack of treatment programs and squalid conditions they said may have contributed to the suicide of inmate Scot Noble Payne, who was held for months in a solitary cell. Idaho is nearly ready to move 54 prisoners who remain at Dickens to a new GEO-run facility near the Mexican border, after shifting 69 inmates elsewhere this summer. Dickens County and Civigenics officials came to Boise to offer assurances they'll remedy concerns over their 15-year-old prison as they aim to stay in the running to house some of the hundreds of prisoners that Idaho plans to ship elsewhere in coming months to ease overcrowding. Some 550 of Idaho's 7,400 inmates have been sent out of state since 2005. GEO ''thought they were too good,'' Sheldon Parsons, a Dickens County commissioner, told Idaho officials. ''They're used to running bigger facilities. That just kind of didn't fit into our program. Civigenics will definitely fit.'' Idaho plans to send 120 additional prisoners to a private prison in Oklahoma in January. It's also looking for space in other states for groups of inmates in increments of about 100 starting in mid-2008. Bob Prince, a Civigenics salesman, said his company could house as many as 150 Idaho inmates at a revamped Dickens. The $1.2 million from Dickens County, which owns the prison, would cover new fencing, exterior lighting, security improvements, kitchen renovations and more rooms for education and treatment programs. Still, Idaho officials including Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke indicated the plan may not be enough to address complaints that have prompted him to vacate Dickens. Idaho, which earlier this year conceded it lost track of how its inmates in Texas were being treated before Payne's suicide, has outlined its concerns in several reports over the last nine months. Lingering shortcomings include a lack of cell windows and a drab, dingy atmosphere in an aging facility built as county jail, not for long-term prisoners. ''The cells inside that facility are pretty dark and dank,'' said Randy Blades, the Idaho warden who oversees out-of-state prisoners. ''What are you looking at to change the cells themselves?'' Texas officials conceded that wasn't considered. ''We haven't looked into any of that,'' Parsons said, before adding, ''We'll try and do anything we can to make people happy that are coming in. Nobody has ever brought that up before.'' Despite past problems with GEO, Blades said Idaho aims to soon finalize a contract with that company to move inmates still at Dickens to a new 659-bed addition at the Val Verde Correctional Facility, near the Mexican border. That contract also calls for roughly 40 inmates currently in Idaho to be sent to Val Verde. Val Verde has seen its own share of problems under GEO leadership. GEO settled a wrongful death case after a female Texas prisoner killed herself following allegations she was sexually humiliated by a guard and raped by an inmate. Earlier this year, the local government was forced to hire a monitor for the facility. Even so, Blades said a visit to the new cellblock slated for Idaho inmates earlier this year convinced him and other officials that the prison is appropriate and safe. ''It's a very good facility, very secure,'' Blades said of Val Verde. ''There's a good dayroom. The cells are well lighted.''

October 12, 2007 KRIS TV
The delayed discovery of squalid conditions at a privately run Texas Youth Commission jail was "a human failure" and stronger oversight is needed to prevent similar incidents, a key state senator said Friday. "It was very simple that the monitors were not doing their job and there was a human failure," said Sen. John Whitmire, head of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. "Who's monitoring the monitors?" Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, called a committee hearing about a week after a Coke County juvenile lockup in Bronte operated by The GEO Group, Inc., was closed because of filthy conditions. A Texas Youth Commission ombudsman discovered the conditions, even though the facility had passed previous inspections by TYC monitors. The TYC system was rocked earlier this year by allegations of rampant sexual and other physical abuse against juvenile inmates in the system. The star witness at Friday's hearing on adult and juvenile prison monitoring was Shirley Noble, who told how her son, 43-year-old Idaho inmate Scot Noble Payne, endured months of horrific conditions then slit his own throat at a private Texas prison run by GEO Group. "It seemed there was no end to the degradation he and other prisoners were to endure with substandard facilities," Noble said. Her son died March 4 in a private prison in Spur. Noble questioned why Idaho sent its inmates to Texas and why the Florida-based GEO Group was allowed to keep prisoners in what she described as "degrading and subhuman conditions." "Please, please hold them accountable for all the injuries and misery they have caused," Noble said. A spokesman for GEO Group did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press to respond to comments made at the hearing. TYC Acting Executive Director Dimitria Pope, who took over the youth agency earlier this year, testified that she's putting more monitoring safeguards in place. That includes sending executive staff members out to view the lockups, something she said hadn't been done regularly in the past. "Because of my concerns of what I saw in Coke County, I have implemented a blitz of every facility, either the ones that we operate, that contract, district offices, anything that has TYC affiliated with it," she said, adding that each site will be visited by the end of October. Adan Munoz Jr., executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, said he has four inspectors do annual inspections of the 267 facilities under his oversight. He defended his agency's practice of giving two- to three-week notices about inspection visits but said recently there have been more surprise inspections. Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said privatizing prisons is an "easy way out." He said he worries about the state continuing to contract with companies that have a history of abuse. "It's a myth that the private sector does a better job than government" in running prisons, Hinojosa said. "They're there to make a profit and they'll cut corners, and they'll cut back on services and they'll many times look the other way when abuse is taking place." Because of Texas' size and high rate of locking up convicts, the state is in the national spotlight for its dealings with private prison firms, said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. "It puts a special burden on us," he said. "If it needs to be improved, improve it, because everybody looks to us." Noble was the panel's final witness. The room hushed as she told the senators her family's emotional tale. Her son, a convicted sex offender, was kept in solitary confinement for months with a wet floor, bloodstained sheets and smelly towels. She said he wrote long, detailed letters to family members in which he said the only way to escape the prison's harsh conditions was to join his late grandfather in the spirit world. Noble said she begged for psychological help for her son. She said he wasn't supposed to have been given a razor, and she still wonders how he got the one he used to end his life. "After he tried to unsuccessfully slash his wrists and ankles, he knelt in the shower and cut his own throat," she said. "Surely only a person in utter disillusionment and horrifying conditions would bring themselves to this end."

October 11, 2007 The Olympian
The mother of an Idaho inmate who killed himself in a Texas prison this year has become a corrections activist. Shirley Noble travels to Austin, Texas Friday to urge lawmakers there to stop accepting out-of-state prisoners at their for-profit lockups. Texas is holding hearings over The GEO Group, a Florida-based private prison company that lost its contract to oversee a juvenile prison because of dirty bed sheets, feces-smeared cells and insects in the food. GEO also ran the prison where Shirley Noble's son, Scot Noble Payne, slashed his throat March 4. The convicted sex offender had been shipped to Texas with a group of 450 Idaho inmates because of overcrowding at prisons at home. Shirley Noble contends sending prisoners out-of-state leaves them without family contact - and caused Idaho prison officials to neglect them.

August 8, 2007 AP
The mother of an Idaho inmate who killed himself in a dilapidated private Texas prison earlier this year has filed a $500,000 claim against Idaho, contending the state's Department of Correction is responsible for "inhumane treatment and illegal and unconstitutional conditions of confinement" that contributed to his death. Scot Noble Payne, 43, was in prison for aggravated battery and lewd and lascivious conduct when he slashed his throat March 4. He had been sent to the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, with other inmates last year to relieve overcrowding in Idaho prisons, which have more than 7,000 prisoners but too few beds to house them all. Following Payne's death, Idaho prison health care director Donald Stockman investigated Dickens and concluded "the physical condition of the cell where the suicide occurred does not, in my opinion, comply with any standards related to inmate housing for either segregated housing or housing for inmates on suicide watch. The physical environment of the cell would have only enhanced the inmate's depression that could have been a major contributing factor in his suicide." "Just being in the filth and degradation of that cell was sufficient to drive somebody into suicide," Payne's mother, Shirley Noble, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday from her home near Los Angeles. The tort claim against Idaho was filed last week. Under state law, the maximum Noble could recover is $500,000. The state now has 90 days to respond to the claim; if it doesn't, Noble could file a civil rights lawsuit in federal court. Kit Coffin, the state's risk management program manager with the Department of Administration, said tort claims like this are reviewed and assigned to state adjudicators for consideration. She was uncertain if Noble's claim, originally filed with the secretary of state, had been sent to her office yet. In suicide notes he penned for relatives, Payne described a constantly wet floor, bloodstained sheets and smelly towels in the isolation cell at the prison where he was confined for three months following his escape and recapture in December 2006. He slit his throat in his cell just after midnight March 4. "Due to the inhumane conditions, Scot Noble Payne became depressed and suicidal. ... Unattended, (he) committed suicide as a result of being subjected to inhumane treatment and illegal and unconstitutional conditions of confinement," according to Noble's tort claim. Since Payne's death, 69 Idaho inmates have been moved from Dickens, which is run by Florida-based private prison operator The GEO Group, to another prison. By September, the remaining 56 Idaho inmates still at Dickens are set to be moved to another Texas prison because Idaho officials aren't satisfied with improvements at Dickens. Noble's lawyer in Boise, Breck Seiniger, said Idaho had the responsibility to ensure conditions at Dickens were adequate, regardless of whether prisoners were located in Idaho or 1,500 miles away. Brent Reinke, director of the Idaho Department of Correction since January, has conceded his agency didn't do enough to monitor conditions at Dickens between August 2006, when Idaho prisoners were sent there, and Payne's suicide in March. During that period, Idaho sent prison staff to Texas just once. They have a responsibility to provide reasonable conditions of confinement," said Seiniger. "They can't escape that responsibility simply by passing these prisoners off to somebody else." Reinke's office said it would review the claim, but declined to immediately comment. Payne's family has also discussed a federal lawsuit against The GEO Group, though no lawsuit has yet been filed. Phone calls to GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez in Boca Raton, Fla., weren't immediately returned.

July 31, 2007 Idaho Statesman
Idaho's Department of Correction has created a new position to manage Idaho's roughly 2,400 inmates in private, out-of-state prisons and county jail beds. Randy Blades, who has been the warden at the Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise, will monitor the 500-plus inmates, now in three Texas prisons managed by the Geo Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla. He will also monitor the 240 inmates soon to be transferred from Idaho to a private prison in Oklahoma, and the inmates in county jail beds across the state. Correction Director Brent Reinke created the position after disclosing that conditions at one of those prisons were so bad that inmates will be moved elsewhere. Inmates at the Dickens County Correctional Center are being moved to the Bill Clayton Detention Center after an inmate suicide at Dickens revealed filthy living conditions and poorly trained and unprofessional staff. “Times have changed and we simply need to get in front on this issue,” Reinke said in a statement. “We must be proactive. We need to make sure inmates are being treated adequately and taxpayers are getting what they are paying for.”

July 26, 2007 The Olympian
Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke next Thursday will visit a private Texas prison where he intends to shift 56 inmates in September, after problems including abuse by guards, deplorable conditions and a suicide emerged at previous facilities in that state. Reinke, who concedes lax oversight by Idaho contributed to problems, and three other Idaho officials will review the Val Verde Correctional Facility and Jail in Del Rio, Texas, run by Florida-based private prison firm The GEO Group. The prison area where Idaho inmates are due to be housed at Val Verde is part of a new 659-bed addition, Reinke said. Still, he wants to make sure the facility located near the Mexican border meets Idaho standards so the recurring problems at the two previous GEO-run prisons aren't repeated. "On contracts in general, we're going to be stepping that up," Reinke told The Associated Press this week. "We want to take a firsthand look." About 450 Idaho inmates were first moved beyond state borders in 2005 to relieve overcrowding at prisons here, where there are more than 7,000 inmates - but not enough room to house them all. They were incarcerated at the Newton County Correctional Center in Newton, Texas, until August 2006, when they were moved following allegations of abuse by guards to the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas. But Reinke, who took over in January, acknowledges his agency didn't do enough to scrutinize conditions at Dickens before Idaho inmates were shipped there. And from August 2006 to March 2007, Idaho prison officials only visited the Dickens County facility one time. The March 4 suicide by Scot Noble Payne, a convicted sex offender, and a subsequent investigation illuminated conditions that one Idaho prison official described as "beyond repair." One concern: There have been problems at Val Verde, too. Inmate LeTisha Tapia killed herself there in 2004 after alleging she was raped by another inmate and sexually humiliated by a guard. And a black guard accused his captain of keeping a hangman's noose in his office and a photo of himself in a Ku Klux Klan hood in his desk. Val Verde County has been forced to hire a full-time prison monitor to keep a watch on prison operations as part of a settlement with Tapia's family. Some family members of Idaho inmates now at Dickens told the AP they're pleased Reinke is scrutinizing Val Verde personally. Still, they said they're frustrated their relatives are being moved again - especially since many problems at Dickens have been remedied since Payne's suicide in March. "Things are OK now," said the wife of a sex offender who asked not to be identified by name. "They don't want to move." Reinke has pledged to improve oversight of conditions at Texas prisons through what he's calling a "virtual prison" that his agency adopted earlier this week. It's modeled after a similar system in Washington state, he said.

July 11, 2007 AP
As overcrowding in Idaho prisons intensifies, so have lobbying efforts and campaign donations by private prison companies aiming to win new contracts - both to house more inmates beyond state borders and to build a proposed 2,200-bed for-profit lockup. The GEO Group, a Florida-based prison operator in 15 states, entered Idaho politics in 2005, when it hired its first lobbyist, according to a review of lobbying and campaign finance records by The Associated Press. A year later, it divvied up $8,000 among three campaigns: Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter got $5,000, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch got $2,500, and former state Rep. Debbie Field, who lost her House race last November, received $500. Field also served as Otter's campaign manager and was later appointed by the new governor as Idaho's drug czar. Since 2006, GEO has won contracts worth $8 million annually to house more than 400 Idaho inmates in Texas, including at two prisons where problems became so severe that Idaho demanded inmates be relocated. Corrections Corp. of America, a Tennessee company whose 95,000-inmate private prison system includes 1,500 prisoners at a prison south of Boise, gave nearly $32,000 for the 2006 election to 29 Republican candidates, including $10,000 to Otter, and $5,000 to the state Republican Party. CCA and GEO each hired two lobbyists for the 2007 Idaho Legislature. Just one Democrat, Rep. Margaret Henbest, D-Boise, received money from CCA - $300. The GOP dominates Idaho politics, with 51 of 70 seats in the House and 28 of 35 seats in the Senate. Steve Owen, a CCA spokesman, said his company makes political contributions to candidates that support "public-private partnerships." "That's what we're in the business of, and that's reflective of our participation in the political process," Owen said, adding his company has run private prisons for nearly 25 years, including in Idaho, in a professional manner where standards can exceed a state's own. "It has been a positive working relationship between the Idaho Department of Correction and CCA." GEO spokesman Pablo Paez didn't return phone calls seeking comment. Overcrowding in U.S. prisons, plus a federal push to incarcerate more terrorists and illegal aliens, has benefited private prisons that now oversee 140,000 inmates. Companies like GEO and CCA spent $3.3 million between 2000 and 2004 on election campaigns in 44 states to ensure they profit from this private prison boom, according to a 2006 study by the National Institute for Money in State Politics, in Helena, Mont. Private prisons have become a hot topic here, because of the problems at GEO's Texas prisons where Idaho inmates are locked up to ease overcrowding at home. Abuse by guards at the Newton County Correctional Center in eastern Texas prompted Idaho officials to demand inmates be relocated in 2006 to the Dickens County Correctional Center. Now, Idaho officials have called Dickens "filthy" and "beyond repair," prompting a move to another GEO Texas prison. "The way the contractor makes the most money is by providing the least amount of service," said Robert Perkinson, a University of Hawaii professor who is writing a book on Texas prisons, including privately run facilities. "It's an inherently problematic area of government to privatize." Still, Idaho, with about 7,000 inmates, now has 256 more inmates in-state than it has capacity for - even with about 430 already in Texas. Efforts to develop sentencing alternatives to ease an expected 7 percent annual increase in inmate numbers through 2010 will take time, so Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said alternatives are limited to moving inmates elsewhere. Robin Sandy, Idaho Board of Correction chairwoman, said she met with CCA officials in Idaho in June. They discussed a new contract with the state to house 240 Idaho inmates in company prisons in Oklahoma - a contract worth about $5 million annually - as well as prospects of the company winning a share of the new 2,200-bed prison proposal that Reinke plans to introduce in September to lawmakers. "It was a courtesy visit," Sandy said. Otter said he's also been in discussions with private prison companies eager to do more business with the state. Otter is a former J.R. Simplot executive who has said he wants to run Idaho more like the private sector. "There's been a lot of that activity," Otter told the AP. "During the legislative session, there were several organizations that came in."

July 10, 2007 The Olympian
More Idaho inmates are slated to move to a private Texas lockup in the latest effort by state prison officials to relieve overcrowding at facilities here. In the move approved by state officials including Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on Tuesday, 40 inmates now in Idaho will go to the Val Verde Correctional Facility and Jail in Del Rio, Texas, at a cost of $51 per inmate per day. In addition, 125 inmates now at the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, will also be shifted, with 56 going to Val Verde, located near the Mexican border, and the remaining 69 going to another prison in Littlefield, Texas, where there are already 304 Idaho inmates. The shift to Val Verde and Littlefield comes after problems emerged at Dickens, including a March 4 suicide, reports of "filthy" and "dire living conditions" and a guard convicted of providing contraband to inmates. Still, both Dickens and Val Verde prisons are run by the same private company - Florida-based prison operator The GEO Group - and prison advocates say Val Verde also has a reputation as a "scandal-ridden prison." One Texas inmate killed herself at Val Verde in 2004 after alleged sexual humiliation by a guard, while a guard supervisor was accused of keeping a photo of himself in a Ku Klux Klan hood, resulting in accusations of racism. "We'll do a site visit in the immediate future" to Val Verde, said Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke, who has pledged to improve monitoring of Idaho inmates by instituting a new program that includes more-frequent visits to out-of-state facilities. GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said his company is working with Idaho to meet its prison needs. In 2005, a black guard alleged his captain at Val Verde kept a hangman's noose in his office and a Polaroid photo of himself in a Ku Klux Klan hood in his desk. That case was settled in 2006. The settlement with GEO isn't public, but details of the guard's complaint were confirmed by a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission probe reviewed by the AP. The guard's attorney said Tuesday that the atmosphere at Val Verde was "hostile and racist." "I would have serious concerns about the way inmates will be treated," the lawyer, Mark Anthony Sanchez, said from San Antonio. "If a jail treats its employees that way, how is it going to treat inmates?" And in 2006, a female inmate's family sued The GEO Group in the wake of her suicide at Val Verde. Before her death, LeTisha Tapia said she was raped by another inmate and sexually humiliated by a GEO guard after reporting to the warden that guards let inmates have sex. The lawsuit was settled this year. Details of that settlement also aren't public, according to U.S. District Court records in western Texas. But Val Verde County, where the prison is located, has been forced to hire a full-time prison monitor to keep a watch on operations at the prison, as part of its own settlement with Tapia's family. "The county feels that the jail monitor is necessary," said Ann Markowski Smith, the county attorney, in an interview with the AP. She added that concerns remain about the GEO-run prison, including whether inmates are properly receiving medication meant to treat mental health conditions. Bob Libal, of Grass Roots Leadership, a group that campaigns against for-profit prisons like GEO, is more critical. "Val Verde is the GEO-group prison we always point to as a scandal-ridden private prison," said Libal. "We hear very bad things from there, whether it be in the lawsuits, or grumblings about the facility being poorly operated." GEO's Paez declined to comment on the settlement with Tapia's family, or the guard who sued the company over racism allegations at Val Verde. Idaho's contract with GEO is worth some $8 million annually. Idaho, which began sending inmates beyond its borders in 2005, predicts inmate numbers will grow between 6 percent and 7 percent annually through 2010, with the population reaching more than 8,800 inmates by then. The state says it must ship inmates out of state to relieve overcrowding. While Reinke said he'll soon introduce a plan to build a new 2,200-bed private prison in Idaho, that won't be done until 2010, at the earliest. As a result, Idaho likely will continue to send more inmates out of state until then. For instance, it aims to send an additional 240 prisoners by November to prisons in Oklahoma operated by another company, Corrections Corp. of America. While Otter acknowledged he's reluctant to work with GEO due to problems at its facilities, he added, "I have a great deal of confidence in Mr. Reinke's ability to clean up the situation."

July 8, 2007 Magic Valley Times-News
The state's top prison official aims to soon send more inmates to a Texas lockup run by a private company, even though Idaho prisoners at two of that outfit's other facilities have had to be moved twice because of abuse by guards, a suicide, filthy conditions and lack of treatment. Brent Reinke, Idaho Department of Correction director, on Tuesday will ask the state Board of Examiners, including Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, to let him move more prisoners now in Idaho to an undisclosed Texas facility run by The GEO Group, a Florida-based private prison company. Reinke's request also includes relocating prisoners from GEO's Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas. Conditions at Dickens, left largely unmonitored by Idaho between last August and March, had deteriorated so badly that when Idaho's prison health director finally investigated earlier this spring, he said it was "the worst correctional facilities I have ever visited." Reinke concedes his agency failed to properly monitor conditions at Dickens, but said moving inmates to another GEO prison won't necessarily mean problems will recur because not all the its facilities are run so poorly. For instance, another GEO-run facility where 304 Idaho inmates are housed, the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, is an excellent prison that shows problems aren't endemic, he said. "We just need to make sure we hold them to the contract," Reinke told the AP Friday. "We've got to do a better job monitoring the facilities." It wasn't immediately clear how many inmates currently in Idaho would be affected by Tuesday's request. Otter couldn't be reached for comment Sunday. Rising numbers of inmates in Idaho, whose prisons now house more than 7,000, make this latest out-of-state shipment unavoidable, Reinke said. Idaho predicts prison growth between 6 percent and 7 percent through 2010, with the population reaching more than 8,800 inmates by then. Idaho now pays GEO $51 a day to house about 430 inmates, or more than $7 million annually. At the time of Idaho's initial out-of-state shipments in 2005, inmates went first to Minnesota. But space constraints soon uprooted them again in 2006, this time to a GEO-run facility in Newton, Texas. There, guard abuse and prisoner unrest forced another move to two new GEO facilities: 125 Idaho inmates went to Dickens, while 304 went to Bill Clayton in Littlefield. Problems continued at Dickens, including an inmate suicide in March. A guard was fired, then convicted in state court, for passing contraband to inmates. And the Dickens warden was ousted after a probe in which Idaho prison health director Don Stockman called the facility "beyond repair or correction," according to a March 15 report obtained by the AP. GEO, based in Boca Raton, Fla., has said it's aiming for improvements. "GEO strives to provide quality correctional and detention management services in a safe and secure environment consistent with contractual requirements and applicable standards," said spokesman Pablo Paez, in a recent e-mail. Still, some prison experts criticize shipping inmates out-of-state because they move prisoners far from families and raise questions about conditions at for-profit operations. "The receiving facility is agreeing to this arrangement as a way to make money, and so there is always a risk that conditions and safety will be compromised as a way to cut corners and save money," said Michele Deitch, a University of Texas professor. Reinke said Idaho prisons are full, so he has little choice. A prison consultant concluded recently that Idaho will need room for 5,560 more inmates over the next decade. The cost: $1 billion dollars. Earlier this year, Idaho made a call for 1,100 more out-of-state prison beds; Correction Corporation of America, another private prison company, offered just 240 beds. Idaho is now negotiating a contract with CCA, to shift 120 inmates in July, and the remaining 120 in November. The state is also planning construction: It's set to build a $15 million, 300-bed addition at a prison south of Boise by December 2008. A separate, 400-bed drug treatment prison near Boise is in the works. And in September, Reinke said he'll unveil a proposal to Idaho lawmakers for a new 2,200-bed private prison _ larger than the 1,500-bed facility he'd previously considered. "We're at 100 percent right now, as far as capacity," said Reinke. "We're kind of between a rock and a hard place."

July 6, 2007 AP
After months alone in his cell, Scot Noble Payne finished 20 pages of letters, describing to loved ones the decrepit conditions of the prison where he was serving time for molesting a child. Then Payne used a razor blade to slice two 3-inch gashes in his throat. Guards found his body in the cell's shower, with the water still running. "Try to comfort my mum too and try to get her to see that I am truly happy again," he wrote his uncle. "I tell you, it sure beats having water on the floor 24/7, a smelly pillow case, sheets with blood stains on them and a stinky towel that hasn't been changed since they caught me." Payne's suicide on March 4 came seven months after he was sent to the squalid privately run Texas prison by Idaho authorities trying to ease inmate overcrowding in their own state. His death exposed what had been Idaho's standard practice for dealing with inmates sent to out-of-state prisons: Out of sight, out of mind. It also raised questions about a company hired to operate prisons in 15 states, despite reports of abusive guards and terrible sanitation. Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open-records request show Idaho did little monitoring of out-of-state inmates, despite repeated complaints from prisoners, their families and a prison inspector. More than 140,000 U.S. prison beds are in private hands, and inmates' rights groups allege many such penitentiaries tolerate deplorable conditions and skimp on services to increase profits. "They cut corners because the bottom line is making money," said Caylor Rolling, prison program director at Partnership for Safety and Justice in Portland, Ore., a group that promotes prison alternatives. Payne, 43, was placed in solitary confinement because he escaped from the prison in December by scaling a fence and eluding capture for a week. He was among Idaho inmates sent to the prison in Spur, Texas, run by a Florida-based company called the GEO Group. The business operates more than 50 prisons across the United States as well as in Australia and South Africa. Soon after Payne's suicide, the Idaho Department of Correction's health care director inspected the prison and declared it the worst facility he had ever seen. Don Stockman called Payne's cell unacceptable and the rest of the Dickens County Correctional Center "beyond repair." "The physical environment ... would have only enhanced the inmate's depression that could have been a major contributing factor in his suicide," he wrote in a report on Payne's death. Stockman said the warden at Dickens ruled "based on verbal and physical intimidation" and that guards showed no concern for the living conditions. After Idaho's complaints, GEO reassigned warden Ron Alford, who told the AP he was later fired. He insisted GEO did not provide enough money to make necessary improvements. "They denied me everything. To buy a pencil with GEO, it took three signatures. They're cheap," Alford said in an interview. He disputes Stockman's findings on his treatment of Idaho inmates. GEO spokesman Pablo Paez declined to comment on Alford's performance and would say only that the company had been working to address Idaho officials' concerns. But on Thursday, the state announced plans to move 125 inmates from Dickens to other facilities, citing the poor living conditions. The private prison business has been booming as the federal government seeks space to house more criminals and illegal immigrants. "Sometimes it may be a better situation for the inmates, and sometimes it's not," said prison consultant Douglas Lansing, a former warden at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, N.J. "Monitoring is a vital component. You can't just move them out of town and forget them." That appears to be largely what happened with Idaho's inmates. The prisoners were sent to Dickens in August from another GEO-run Texas prison after complaints about abuse by guards. But in the following seven months, Idaho sent an inspector to Texas only once. That inspection found major problems, including virtually no substance-abuse treatment, and a complete lack of Idaho-sanctioned anger-management classes and pre-release programs. There's no evidence the inspector's recommendations were followed. And no one from Idaho visited the prison again until after Payne's suicide. Most of the time, the Idaho prison employee responsible for monitoring the GEO contract used only the telephone and e-mail to handle grievances, which also included complaints about inadequate church services, poor food and limited recreation time. Each time, Alford insisted everything was under control, according to correspondence reviewed by the AP. The new director of the Idaho prison system concedes his department did not adequately review the inmates' treatment when he took office in January. "If I had to do it over again, I would have," Director Brent Reinke said. Former Director Vaughn Killeen said he couldn't afford more aggressive monitoring during his term that ended in December. "We weren't happy about the things that were going on down there," Killeen said. "We didn't have that level of budget to accommodate full-time monitors." Some other states are more vigilant. Washington state, for instance, has 1,000 inmates in Arizona and Minnesota and places full-time inspectors at the prisons. A superintendent visits every six weeks. Problems with GEO prisons are not limited to Dickens. Elsewhere in Texas, a female inmate's family sued GEO in 2006 after she committed suicide at the Val Verde County Jail near the Mexican border. LeTisha Tapia alleged she was raped by another inmate and sexually humiliated by a GEO guard after reporting to the warden that guards allowed male and female inmates to have sex. In March, an investigation into sex abuse allegations at another GEO-run Texas prison led to the firing of a guard who was a convicted sex offender. And at GEO prisons in Illinois and Indiana, hundreds of inmates rioted this past spring. The complaints have not hurt the company's balance sheet. It reported profits of $30 million in 2006, four times the amount reported in 2005. Inmates at Dickens say conditions have improved since Payne's suicide. Hot and cold water problems have been fixed, and cleanliness was judged "adequate," according to a May 31 report by a new Idaho contract monitor. But prisoners still complain about sewage from adjacent cells, poor medical and dental care, and a lack of educational programs. Inmates like Robert Coulter, who was convicted of robbery, say authorities should have acted sooner. "They basically put us down here and just dumped us," he said.

July 5, 2007 AP
State prison officials say 125 Idaho inmates in a private Texas prison are due to make their fourth move since 2005, following a suicide in March, problems with a guard passing contraband to inmates and the former warden's ouster. The inmates, who were moved out of state two years ago due to overcrowding in Idaho lockups, are now at the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, where they've been since Aug. 7, 2006. Concerns over conditions at Dickens, an aging county jail run as a prison by Florida-based The GEO Group, prompted this latest move, Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said Thursday. "The problems we've had in Texas reflect the challenge of managing out of state. We believe Idaho inmates are best managed at home in Idaho," Reinke said. He plans in September to introduce a proposal to build a new 1,500-bed private prison in Idaho to create more space for the state's 7,000 inmates. Reinke hopes to move 69 of the Dickens prisoners soon to another GEO-run prison, the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, where similar problems haven't occurred. About 304 Idaho inmates are already there, but that facility is making space for more. The remaining 56 at Dickens could go to another GEO facility elsewhere. Reinke didn't specify where that prison is located. He said the date of the move will be withheld until it's complete. The inmates in Texas were originally moved from Idaho in 2005, going first to Minnesota. Space limitations there forced them to be relocated in 2006 to a GEO-run prison in Newton, Texas, where problems emerged immediately, including beatings by guards. That prompted Idaho to request the move to Dickens and Bill Clayton last August. But problems continued at Dickens, Idaho Correction Department officials said. Sex offender Scot Noble Payne escaped in December, remaining on the run for a week before he was recaptured. Payne then killed himself March 4. Idaho sent prison inspectors to Texas after Payne's death, and concerns that emerged over conditions at Dickens prompted complaints about warden Ron Alford, who was relieved of his post and sent to another GEO facility. And more recently, a Dickens prison guard was convicted in May in a Texas state court of providing contraband to an Idaho prisoner. That guard was fired last December. GEO installed new management at the facility after Idaho's complaints in March, but Reinke said moving the inmates is still a priority. "IDOC remains concerned about Dickens' operation and has been working hard over the past four months to find alternatives," the state agency said in a statement. In an e-mail statement to The Associated Press, GEO said it's working to rectify problems at Dickens. "GEO strives to provide quality correctional and detention management services in a safe and secure environment consistent with contractual requirements and applicable standards," spokesman Pablo Paez said.

June 6, 2007 AP
Under terms of his contraband sentence, a Texas prison guard who provided illegal materials to Idaho inmates will only go to prison if he violates conditions of his release. Those conditions include staying out of “honky tonks” and “beer joints,” according to court documents. John Ratliffe, a former guard at the Dickens County Correctional Center where hundreds of Idaho inmates are housed, is also implicated in providing assistance to an inmate’s escape. But Ratliffe has denied knowing Payne planned to escape. Footprints matched to Payne, who later committed suicide, were found near Ratliffe’s home. Dickens County prosecutors couldn’t be reached for comment on whether Ratliffe faces additional charges related to the escape. Attempts to reach Ratliffe were unsuccessful. His telephone number in Paducah isn’t listed. The 43-year-old Payne was among inmates shipped to Dickens and another nearby facility in Littlefield, Texas, in August 2006 due to problems they experienced at another Texas facility, the Newton County Correctional Center. Those included incidents in which the inmates were punched and doused with pepper spray by guards. Both prisons are operated by The GEO Group of Florida. GEO officials said they took quick action upon learning in December about Ratliffe’s contraband operation. It included setting up a post office box where at least some prisoners’ families sent items or money to be transferred to inmates, according to documents. “When we have incidents of this kind, we conduct a full investigation, and if disciplinary action is required, we take that action properly, and that’s what we did in this case,” said Pablo Paez, a GEO spokesman. Ratliffe was placed on unpaid leave, then fired, Paez said. Records show a chaotic scene in Paducah before Payne was finally cornered by search dogs in a nearby riverbed. Ratliffe allegedly threatened to commit suicide shortly after searchers found Payne’s footprints near his backyard fence, prompting Texas Rangers to transfer Ratliffe to the local courthouse “where a mental health warrant was signed by the judge,” according to the GEO report. Idaho officials said they learned of Ratliffe’s activities after Payne’s capture. “We found out about it on Dec. 11 in a conversation between Warden Ron Alford and our contract compliance person Sharon Lamm,” said Jeff Ray, a spokesman for Idaho prisons. Alford was transferred in March to another GEO prison, after complaints from Idaho about conditions at Dickens.

June 6, 2007 AP
A private prison guard in Texas who company officials say helped an Idaho inmate escape by providing an envelope stuffed with money has been convicted in a separate case of providing contraband to another Idaho prisoner. John Ratliffe, a former guard at the Dickens County Correctional Center where hundreds of Idaho inmates are housed due to overcrowding at home, was sentenced last month to five years probation, 120 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine for giving cigarettes to Idaho inmate Patterson Franklin, according to court records obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Ratliffe pleaded guilty. The problems surfaced starting Dec. 3 when sex offender Scot Noble Payne escaped through a prison kitchen door and scaled a fence. Afterward, Ratliffe acknowledged to his bosses at the prison run by Florida-based The GEO Group that he used Franklin as an intermediary to provide illegal items, including tobacco, underwear, sex tapes, music — and at least $200 Payne had with him when he was caught Dec. 10, according to an eight-page report compiled by GEO officials following the escape. Payne committed suicide March 4 after weeks in an isolation cell. He had been isolated as punishment for his escape. Officials say guard can avoid prison sentence.

May 1, 2007 Spokesman Review
The warden of a private Texas prison housing Idaho inmates has been "relieved of his duties" after complaints from Idaho. The Dickens County Correctional Center, which houses 125 Idaho inmates, made the change after an Idaho corrections team visited the large, older county jail near Lubbock, Texas, in March and reported "deficiencies." Idaho Corrections Director Brent Reinke said problems included an absence of required educational and treatment programs, inadequate out-of-cell time, inappropriate lighting, and problems with food, clothing and cleanliness. Also, an inmate from Ada County who escaped in December and recaptured committed suicide at the facility in early March. "The feedback I got from the team was that what they were concerned with was the Texas style of justice," Reinke said. "Texas justice is different than Idaho justice. It just is. And we want our inmates handled according to Idaho justice. "Ninety-eight percent of those folks are coming back to our communities. … Our mission is to keep Idaho safe. … We don't want to make the matter worse, so that they come back more violent or more angry." The state Board of Correction voted unanimously Monday to explore private prison options in Idaho as an alternative to sending inmates out of state in the future. Dickens is one of two Texas lockups operated by GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut Corp., to which Idaho inmates were moved after problems at another GEO facility in Newton County, Texas, last year. The Newton County lockup saw two escapes, a demonstration in which 85 Idaho inmates refused to return to their cells for hours in protest over conditions, and the discipline of three prison employees after jailers roughed up and pepper-sprayed six Idaho inmates. Idaho has 431 inmates housed out of state due to overcrowding in its prison system – 125 at Dickens, 304 at Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, and two elsewhere. Reinke said GEO Group has been responsive to the complaints, and the new acting warden has made improvements. Complaints have dropped off since that change was made last month. But members of the state Board of Correction were concerned on Monday. "They're not meeting the terms of the contract," said board Chairwoman Robin Sandy. "Maybe I'm just used to enforcing a contract a little more aggressively." Sharon Lamm, deputy administrator of management services for Idaho Corrections, told the board conditions were much improved at a follow-up visit in April. Idaho pays $51 per inmate per day in Texas. The average cost in Idaho is $48 per day. Idaho is seeking proposals for additional out-of-state prison beds for overflow inmates. The deadline for proposals is today. Reinke said the most recent estimates show Idaho will need 5,200 more beds in the next 10 years. But Sandy said placing inmates out of state could become prohibitively expensive because California is poised to send 8,000 of its inmates out of state. "We all know what that's going to do to the price of beds," she said. She proposed that Idaho look into contracting for private prison space in state, which would require a change in state law. Idaho has one privately operated prison, but the facility is owned by the state. "It's something we need to discuss," Sandy told the board. "I've spoken to the governor's office about it. They seem to like the idea." Board member Jay Nielsen said, "I don't think we're going to get $60 million out of the Legislature to build one, so our back's to the wall – if we're going to have a new prison, it's going to have to be a private one." The board voted unanimously to seek more information on that option. Jack Van Valkenburgh, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, said, "I'm less concerned with whether it's a public or private entity than with whether conditions are adequate and constitutional, and whether there are adequate programs to return inmates to society in a productive manner." The Idaho inmate who committed suicide at the Texas lockup, Scot Noble Payne, 43, was found in a shower at 1 a.m. with fatal razor wounds. He was serving seven to 20 years for lewd and lascivious conduct. Matt EchoHawk, staff attorney for the Idaho ACLU, said his group received complaints from about one in five Idaho inmates at the Dickens facility after Payne's escape in December. Many said they were stuck in their cells without opportunities for rehabilitation. "The prison officials would say it was due to weather or security, something like that, but it wasn't happening, they wouldn't be out of their cells," EchoHawk said.

March 5, 2007 Idaho Statesman
An Idaho inmate housed in a Texas prison was found dead from apparently self-inflicted wounds early Sunday morning, an Idaho Department of Correction spokeswoman said. Guards in the Dickens County Correctional Center found Scot Noble Payne, 43, slumped in a shower, bleeding and unresponsive about midnight Mountain Time, Teresa Jones said. The fatal wounds were inflicted with a razor, she said. He was pronounced dead at 1:17 a.m. after unsuccessful attempts to revive him. Payne was serving time on an Ada County charge of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under 16, Jones said. He was isolated from other inmates at the time of his death because of a December escape, she said. Payne apparently scaled a fence Dec. 3. He was captured on Dec. 10 after eluding the Texas Rangers, helicopters from the Texas Department of Public Safety, local law enforcement agents and private prison workers. Payne was one of about 100 Idaho inmates housed at the correctional center near Spur, Texas. Idaho inmates have been in the facility since July 2005. Payne transferred there in August. He was sentenced to 20 years, with seven mandatory, in December 2002.

December 11, 2006 AP
An Idaho inmate who escaped a private West Texas prison was captured after a week on the run when authorities caught up to him at a ranch. Authorities arrested Scot Noble Payne, 43, on Sunday at a ranch near the small town of Paducah, said Daniel Hawthorne, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety in Childress. Payne escaped Dec. 3 from the Dickens County Correctional Center. The facility, which is run by Florida-based Geo Group Inc., is located in Spur, about 60 miles east of Lubbock. Prison officials said Payne, who was serving time for aggravated battery and lewd and lascivious conduct, scaled the facility's fence. He fled when temperatures were in the mid-20s, apparently without any extra clothing. For a week, the fugitive eluded searches by the Texas Rangers, helicopters from the Department of Public Safety, local law enforcement agents and private prison workers. Hawthorne said several reports of sightings focused searchers on the Paducah area, which is 50 miles northeast of the detention center. Authorities closed down sections of highways and continued scanning the area by helicopter, he said. Dogs eventually tracked Payne to the ranch. Payne is one of more than 460 Idaho inmates who have been shipped to Texas or other states since last year due to overcrowding in Idaho prisons. Idaho inmates at private prisons in Texas have been the subject of controversy, with a previous breakout in June and allegations of abuse that preceded the firing of some Geo Group staff and the transfer of inmates to other prisons — including Dickens County.

December 5, 2006 AP
Texas authorities continue to search for an Idaho inmate who escaped from a privately-run prison in subfreezing temperatures. Scot Noble Payne escaped from the Dickens County Correctional Center at about 7:30 p.m. last night. Idaho authorities say Payne left a shirt in the fence he's believed to have scaled. Teresa Jones, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Correction, says "Payne had no extra clothing when he escaped and temperatures are near freezing." The search for Payne included helicopters, dogs and road blocks.

December 4, 2006 AP
West Texas authorities were searching in subfreezing temperatures late Sunday for an Idaho man who escaped from a privately operated prison in Spur. Scott Noble Payne, 43, escaped from the Dickens County Correctional Center at about 7:30 p.m. CST, said Janie Walker, a dispatcher with the Dickens County Sheriff's Office. State and local authorities from surrounding counties joined the two-man Dickens County Sheriff's Office in the search for Payne, Walker said. The search involved helicopters, dogs and road blocks. Jail staff members believe Payne scaled the facility's fence, the Idaho Department of Corrections said in a news release. Authorities believe he did not have extra clothing. Temperatures in the region had dropped to the mid-20s degrees by 11:30 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. Payne was serving time for Idaho charges of aggravated battery and lewd and lascivious conduct, according to the Idaho Corrections Department. He was one of about 100 Idaho inmates being held at the Spur facility, which is located about 60 miles east of Lubbock. The prison, which is operated by Florida-based The Geo Group, Inc., is designed for minimum- to maximum-security levels, according to the Geo Group's Web site. It has a capacity of 489 adult males.

Idaho Correctional Center
Kuna, Idaho
CCA
CCA-run prison remains Idaho's most violent lockup: October 9, 2011, REBECCA BOONE, Associated Press. Another daming report on violence in CCA's prison
CCA's Idaho Correctional Center beating video: November 30, 2010, 3:36 min: Damning video piece

Feb 17, 2017 sfgate.com
Private prison official: Bonuses were paid for cutting costs
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former regional manager for private prison company Corrections Corporation of America says top employees at a private prison in Idaho were given yearly bonuses if they cut costs on salary, wages and other operational expenses and met other company goals.
CCA, which has since changed its name to CoreCivic, operated the Idaho Correctional Center under a $29 million annual contract with the state of Idaho until chronic understaffing, violence and other problems prompted Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to order the state to take over the facility in 2013. Kevin Myers, CCA's former managing director who oversaw the Idaho facility and several others, testified in Boise's U.S. District Court on Thursday as a witness in a lawsuit against the company. A group of inmates at the Idaho prison sued in 2012, contending that CCA understaffed the prison to boost profits in a so-called "ghost worker scheme." The inmates contend the understaffing made the facility more dangerous and led to an attack where they were jumped, beaten and stabbed by members of a prison gang. CCA has vigorously denied those claims. Myers told the jury he was responsible for helping officials at the Idaho Correctional Center develop action plans to support strategic initiatives and meet company goals, and to find ways to make the company more cost-efficient and profitable. At the Idaho facility, one of the goals was to reduce the level of inmate-on-inmate violence. He also said his supervisor, CCA Vice President Steven Conry, sometimes directed him to reduce prison budgets. Conry told him that salary, wages and overtime were "the primary levers we can manipulate to impact our budgets," Myers said. The Idaho prison often struggled to hire enough new correctional officers to keep up with the high turnover rate, and that led to a lot of overtime, Myers told the jury. Still, he said, CCA had budgeted for roughly 50 more positions at the prison than what was contractually required by the state of Idaho. He also said shift rosters showed the facility was adequately staffed, and that on the day the inmates were attacked there were extra officers working in their housing unit. Legal settlements and fines for not meeting contract requirements were also worked into the budget, Myers said. So, when CCA would reach a settlement to end a lawsuit, the amount it paid out would impact the next budget period, he said. One document shown to the jury indicated the Idaho prison had to make up about $1.5 million from its budget by the end of 2012 because of "legal accruals." Jurors also heard from Garth Carrick, a former correctional officer at the prison who was working on the day of the attack. Carrick said he was frustrated when he arrived and looked at the shift roster, because it incorrectly showed he had already been working at the facility for six hours even though he wasn't there yet. When a colleague called over the radio to say a fight between inmates was underway, he ran to help. He said he found the correctional officer trying to break up the fight between several inmates on his own. "I actually saw Raymond Bryan there," he said, gesturing to one of the plaintiffs, "all curled up in a ball and this gang member is just stabbing him in the face over and over again." The incident was frightening because there weren't any other correctional officers around to help at first, Carrick said, making him feel, "like we were going to die in there." The trial is expected to last several more days.

Feb 14, 2017 spokesman.com
Attorney to jurors: ‘Follow the money’ in Idaho private prison ‘ghost workers’ lawsuit
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Jurors heard opening arguments Monday in a lawsuit brought by former inmates against the nation's largest private prison company, CoreCivic, formerly called Corrections Corporation of America. "When you choose to do a dangerous job, you must do it right," said Thomas J. Angstman, the attorney representing the former inmates. His clients contend CCA purposely understaffed the Idaho prison in an effort to boost profits in what they dubbed a "ghost worker" scheme, and that the understaffing led to a brutal attack in which they were stabbed and beaten by members of a prison gang. One inmate was stabbed several times in the neck and head during the attack, Angstman said, and another was stabbed through his hand and into his eye as he tried to deflect the weapon. He said company officials, including the vice president, knew that the understaffing was compromising safety of inmates and staff, and that the understaffing meant the prison was often in violation of its $29 million annual contract with the state of Idaho. But it was also the quickest way to reduce expenses, and top managers were given huge bonuses based on cost savings. "If you follow the money, you're going to see what motivated the conduct in this case," he said. "CCA, the facts will show, didn't support the people on the front lines, didn't provide the resources they needed though they told them over and over." CoreCivic has vigorously denied the inmates' claims. The company's attorney, Dan Struck, told jurors that the inmates weren't hurt that badly in the surprise attack, and that they could have hidden in their cells but instead wanted to fight the rival prison gang. He said the unit housing the inmates was actually staffed by more employees than was required under CCA's contract with Idaho on the day of the attack. "The evidence will be that the plaintiffs' understaffing claim is a complete red herring -- it doesn't have anything to do with this case," Struck said. The trial is expected to last about eight days.

Feb 9, 2017 sanluisobispo.com
Trial starts Monday in 'ghost worker' private prison lawsuit
A private prison company accused by inmates of dangerously understaffing an Idaho prison as part of a scheme to boost profits will have a chance to present its defense to jurors Monday when a civil trial begins in Boise's U.S. District Court. Eight inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center sued the Nashville, Tennessee-based Correction Corporation of America in 2012, contending that poor management and chronic understaffing led to an attack in which they were jumped, stabbed and beaten by a prison gang. The inmates contend the company, which has since changed its name to CoreCivic, purposely understaffed the prison in a so-called "ghost worker scheme." CoreCivic's understaffing and management of the Idaho Correctional Center has been the subject of several scandals and lawsuits in recent years, culminating in Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's decision in 2013 to order the state to take over the prison and sever its $29 million annual contract with the company. CoreCivic later agreed to pay the state $1 million to settle the understaffing issue. CoreCivic has vigorously denied the inmates' claims. "The safety and security of our facilities is a top priority," CoreCivic's public affairs director Jonathan Burns wrote in an email Wednesday. "The Idaho Correctional Center was in compliance with the staffing pattern contractually approved by the Idaho Department of Correction during the period of time in question." The federal trial beginning on Monday will mark the first time CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger has been asked to testify on the matter. In the lawsuit, the inmates contend that the former warden of the prison was instructed to decrease spending on staff before the attack happened, and they also contend that those directions came from the top of the company. They want Hininger to testify about what he said during quarterly conference calls with investors that were held in the months and days before the attack. CoreCivic's attorneys fought to keep Hininger from having to testify, but so far haven't prevailed. "We respect the judge's decision and Mr. Hininger looks forward to presenting his testimony," Burns wrote in the email to The Associated Press. However, the company noted in earlier court filings that the inmates' attorney, Thomas J. Angstman, continues "to be coy about the source and substance of Mr. Hininger's alleged statements." CoreCivic's attorneys also say Angstman has refused to provide that evidence to CoreCivic. Angstman has declined to comment on the lawsuit. It's "somewhat unusual" to force a CEO of a big company to testify in a lawsuit, but certainly not impossible, said Rick Boardman, a commercial litigation expert and attorney with the law firm Perkins Coie in Boise. "For a judge, I think it really comes down to how connected or how far removed the CEO is from the conduct in the allegation," said Boardman. "I think Judge Benson must have been convinced that this CEO has some particularlized knowledge about the conduct that is at the crux of this case, so in the interest of full and fair litigation in disputes, he was going to let this CEO testify." Top executive testimony is pretty rare in private prison litigation, said Alex Friedmann, the managing editor of prisoner rights publication Prison Legal News. "Typically, since CEOs or other high-level corporate officials aren't directly involved or responsible for, say, the violation of someone's rights in the prison context, they can't be held liable," said Friedmann, who has been involved in other lawsuits against CoreCivic in the past. "However, if it can be shown that a CEO was responsible for enacting a policy that resulted in the violation of someone's rights, or was directly involved or had knowledge but failed to act, etc., then they can potentially be held liable." The trial is expected to last about a week.

Jul 8, 2016 abcnews.go.com
Private Prison Company CCA to Face Trial in Violence Lawsuit
A federal judge says the Corrections Corporation of America will stand trial in December in a civil rights lawsuit over understaffing and violence at an Idaho prison. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge made the ruling Thursday, scheduling a four-day jury trial for Dec. 13 in Boise. Eight inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center sued the Nashville, Tennessee-based private prison company in 2012, contending that poor management and chronic understaffing led to an attack in which they were jumped, stabbed and beaten by a prison gang. The inmates also contend that CCA covered up the understaffing in monthly reports to the state of Idaho, a practice they called a "ghost worker scheme" designed to boost profits despite putting inmates at risk. Two of the inmates were later dropped from the case, but six remain as plaintiffs. CCA has vigorously disputed the claims. "The safety and security of our facilities is our top priority," CCA spokesman Steven Owen wrote in an email to the AP on Thursday. "The Idaho Correctional Center was appropriately staffed at the time of this incident, and we are confident we will prevail on this claim at trial." CCA operated the Idaho Correctional Center for more than a decade under a contract with the Idaho Department of Correction. The company faced frequent lawsuits from inmates about violence at the facility, however, along with occasional criticism from state corrections officials. In 2013, an Associated Press investigation revealed CCA was falsifying reports in order to hide understaffing in violation of both a court order and the company's $29 million annual contract with the state. In 2014, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter ordered IDOC to take over the prison. In their lawsuit, the inmates contended that CCA was working with a few powerful prison gangs to control the facility south of Boise and cut back on staffing. They pointed at CCA's practice of grouping members of the same gang together in housing units as evidence of their allegations, and they said that the housing practices and vacant guard posts led to a high rate of inmate-on-inmate violence. But in the order issued Thursday, the federal judge said the gang housing claim didn't pass muster. "That is, while there is evidence to suggest both the prior and instant attack were possible due to pervasive understaffing, there is nothing to suggest either attack was caused by the policy of clustering gang members together," Lodge wrote. The judge also noted that CCA had been held in contempt of court in a separate lawsuit for failing to adequately staff the prison as required, and he said that could be used as evidence when this lawsuit goes to trial.

Jun 24, 2016 idahostatesman.com
Contempt ruling upheld against prison operator
Corrections Corporation of America faces higher-than-normal attorney fees after a contempt ruling stemming from its practices at Idaho’s largest prison. The ACLU sued CCA on behalf of prisoners in 2011, contending that understaffing led to rampant violance and other problems at Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. CCA falsified documents to hide understaffing to state officials. The understaffing put the company in violation of its $29 million annual contract to run the 2,080-bed prison. Gov. Butch Otter later ordered the state to take over prison operations. A judge ordered CCA to pay $350,000 in attorney fees.

May 24, 2016 idahostatesman.com
Federal court upholds contempt ruling against prison company
A federal appellate court has upheld a contempt of court ruling made against a national private prison company for falsifying staffing reports at an Idaho prison. Monday's ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means the Nashville, Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) will have to pay higher-than-normal attorneys' fees to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the inmates at the formerly CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center. That's because the ACLU asked for and received an enhanced fee award for providing superior representation to the inmates despite limited resources. The company disagrees with the ruling, CCA spokesman Steve Owen said. "Our legal representatives are reviewing this new information to determine our options for possible next steps," Owen wrote in an email. The ACLU sued CCA on behalf of the prisoners in 2011 contending that understaffing led to rampant violence and other problems at the prison south of Boise. CCA agreed to increase staffing levels and make other changes as part of a settlement agreement, but an Associated Press investigation later revealed that the company was falsifying reports in order to hide continued understaffing from state officials. The understaffing put the company in violation of its $29 million annual contract to run the 2,080-bed prison for the state of Idaho. The phony staffing logs prompted Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to order the state to take over operations at the prison. Though CCA no longer operates the Idaho Correctional Center — the prison was renamed the Idaho State Correctional Center after the state took over operations — the validity of the contempt order remained an issue because CCA was also fighting the amount of attorneys' fees granted to the ACLU. Though CCA increased the number of budgeted security staff after the settlement, the company didn't actually fill many of those new positions, according to the ruling. The warden was warned during meetings that there were acute staffing difficulties, but they were never addressed. "Finally, CCA contends its senior management may not have known that ICC staff members were falsifying staffing rosters," 9th Circuit Judge William Fletcher wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. "CCA failed, however, to take all reasonable steps that would have allowed it to discover that records had been falsified." Generally, the winners of a lawsuit can ask the court to order the losing party to pay their attorneys' fees and court costs. In the lower court, U.S. District Judge David Carter chose to award enhanced attorney's fees to the ACLU, noting that the lawyers worked under extremely tight deadlines and provided superior service to the inmates they represented. The enhancements were substantial: Carter doubled the fees for one attorney and multiplied another attorney's fees by 1.3. In total, the court awarded just under $350,000 in attorney's fees and costs to the ACLU. The appellate court also found that the higher attorneys' fees were merited because it can be difficult to find attorneys willing to take on inmate civil rights claims, especially in cases where operational changes, not monetary damages, are sought. The larger-than-normal award will help attract competent attorneys in similar cases down the road, Fletcher wrote. In a written statement, ACLU-Idaho Legal Director Richard Eppink said, "The courts have once again found that CCA was in the wrong and must be held accountable."

Aug 29, 2015 courthousenews.com

FBI Pushed on Probe of Private-Prison Giant

(CN) - An investigative reporter asked a federal judge to have the FBI produce files from its investigation into a private prison company accused of defrauding states of taxpayer money. Shane Bauer filed the complaint in Washington, D.C., last week, regarding the FBI's investigation into the Corrections Corp. of America amid allegations that the company faked staffing reports in its management of an Idaho prison. The FBI's investigation into CCA's management of the Idaho Correctional Center ended earlier this year, but Bauer says the FBI's initial response to his March request under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the agency also looked into the 64 other prisons CCA managed. For the past two years, CCA had been under fire in Idaho for allegedly defrauding the state by claiming it had staffed mandatory positions at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC), when in fact those jobs remained vacant. The understaffing scandal has also been blamed on violence within the prison. The feds took over after a state-police review, upon the governor's request, concluding their 15-month investigation of CCA in May. The investigation did not look into whether understaffing at ICC led to violence within the prison, and the U.S. government declined to pursue corruption or fraud charges against Idaho or CCA. "The FBI's detailed and thorough investigation did not produce evidence of a federal criminal violation," U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said in a statement at the time. "Rather, the evidence showed that the false entries and understaffing could be attributed only to relatively low-level CCA employees." Olson also said the false entries did not indicate any intent to defraud Idaho, which is required proof to pursue federal criminal fraud charges. Idaho reimbursed CCA based on the number of inmates housed in the prison, not the number of guards or hours worked, the FBI found. "Evidence showed that CCA and ICC employees responsible for billing were unaware of the staffing issues or the falsified fosters," Olson said. With a longstanding history of abuse and extreme inmate violence, the Idaho Correctional Center has earned a reputation as "gladiator school." In 2010, an Associated Press video showed prison guards there failing to stop an attack on a prisoner whose head was stomped several times and is now permanently disabled. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit following those revelations. Idaho had for years flirted with permanently privatizing its prisons. In 2008 Gov. Butch Otter proposed legislation to expand private prisons in the state and to import out-of-state prisoners. In late 2014 the Idaho Statesman revealed that Otter's staff negotiated a $1 million settlement with CCA and helped manage the state's investigation into the prison company. CCA officially left the state in June 2014 after its last contract expired, and ICC reverted to state management. The FBI investigators have also cleared Otter and other state employees of any wrongdoing. No state employees "sought to delay, hinder, or corruptly influence a state criminal investigation," Olson said in her May statement. CCA, the largest private prison operator with more than 60 prisons under management, has a history of problems in Idaho and other states. In 2013 a federal judge held the company in contempt for failing to meet the terms of its settlement with Idaho inmates and ACLU, which included failing to staff key security positions for thousands of hours. Earlier this year CCA settled a prisoner lawsuit in Colorado that alleged negligence in its role during a 2004 riot at one of its prisons. The company has also been the target of dozens of sexual harassment and wage-and-hour suits by current and former employees. Bauer, a reporter for Mother Jones who specializes in investigations into prisons, was apprehended in 2009 near the Iraqi border and spent more than two years in Iran's infamous Evin Prison. That stretch included four months in solitary confinement, where he passed the time with activities like memorizing Morse code. He has written extensively about prison conditions, including a 2012 Mother Jones article in which he criticized California's Pelican Bay supermax prison. Bauer declined to comment on his Aug. 20 lawsuit, saying only that his investigation is ongoing.


Jun 21, 2015 idahostatesman.com
ISP misled other state officials about prison investigation

The Attorney General’s Office provides legal counsel to state agencies, including Idaho Department of Correction and Idaho State Police. Upon learning in February 2014 that ISP had not conducted an investigation into CCA as he had believed, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden sent a letter to Gov. Butch Otter requesting an investigation. Otter told Wasden that along with IDOC and ISP, deputies in the Attorney General’s Office had been involved in the process and “regularly assessed information” that determined there was no basis for a criminal investigation. ISP Col. Ralph Powell, too, said ISP’s deputy attorney general was consulted regarding the decision not to pursue a criminal investigation. That drew a strongly worded rebuke from Deputy Attorney General Paul Panther. In a Feb. 7, 2014, letter to Powell, he said that Stephanie Altig, the deputy attorney general assigned to ISP, had one “brief” conversation with Powell and that “she was never asked to review any documents, do any charging memorandums, research or other work of any kind on the matter.” “(I)n Stephanie’s brief conversation with you, she said that the CCA issue appeared to involve a breach of contract, but could involve criminal activity as well on examination,” Panther told Powell.

MORE INFORMATION

Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell is a former Idaho Press Club reporter of the year, largely for her watchdog reporting. In 2013, the Idaho Department of Correction’s top investigator held off conducting his own inquiry into a private prison operator’s staffing discrepancies because he was led to believe the Idaho State Police had already begun that investigation, according to public records recently obtained by the Idaho Statesman. The records — released by the state police after a public records request from the Statesman — offer new details on the year in which the state police allowed state and legal officials — including a federal judge, lawyers for the ACLU, other IDOC officials and the attorney general himself and some of his key deputies — to believe that its investigators were looking into possible criminal actions at the private prison: • The documents help explain the widespread belief that ISP was investigating alleged fraud by Corrections Corporation of America. A state police major introduced himself to IDOC Deputy Warden Timothy Higgins as the investigator in the case, did an interview with Higgins and took IDOC’s documents about the CCA allegations.

• A Feb. 10, 2014, ISP staff meeting document says: “The directors of ISP and IDOC met regularly from the time of the initial request (for an investigation) until now, and at each meeting Colonel Ralph Powell stated Idaho State Police was not conducting an investigation of CCA. ... This appeared to be a breach of contract dispute, and therefore a civil, not a criminal matter.” But Higgins, who attended the same meetings as Powell, told ISP detectives he never heard Powell making such statements. No minutes were taken at the meetings and ISP provided no documents showing that the agency had communicated its decision not to investigate the CCA case.

• While IDOC officials believed that ISP had investigated alleged fraud by CCA, prison officials reached a $1 million civil settlement with the company. Higgins said that if IDOC knew that ISP had not investigated CCA, that would have factored in the department’s settlement negotiations. That sentiment was echoed by a member of the Board of Corrections who refused to sign off on the settlement; he said the board believed the State Police had investigated and found nothing wrong.

• In a Feb. 7, 2014, letter, Deputy Attorney General Paul Panther admonished ISP: “(T)he only entity really qualified to make a determination of whether criminal activity took place in this matter” was the county prosecuting attorney. “(T)he proper thing (for ISP) to do would be to complete the investigation, submit it to that office and let them decide if charges should or should not be filed.”

• The State Police did not correct a year’s worth of incorrect assumptions and multiple media reports about the existence of the criminal investigation. Why not? “No one contacted ISP to inquire whether or not ISP had a criminal investigation open in this matter,” an ISP spokeswoman said in an email exchange with an Associated Press reporter contained in the public records.

AFTER FALSE START, WASDEN URGES INVESTIGATION

Once allegations about falsified CCA staffing documents were reported by The Associated Press, IDOC Director Brent Reinke formally asked in February 2013 that ISP Col. Ralph Powell launch a criminal investigation. That is the investigation that IDOC and other officials believed was underway for the next year. In February 2014, after the State Police announced it had not conducted the assumed investigation, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden urged Gov. Butch Otter to order one. Otter, after initial delay, agreed. But that investigation did not last long; detectives quickly determined that the ISP had a conflict because its investigation might entail examining State Police command staff or other employees. The investigation was turned over to the FBI. It is the documents and reports that State Police investigators assembled before they turned the investigation over to the FBI that were obtained by the Statesman in its public records request. As soon as they were assigned the case in February 2014, the first person ISP detectives interviewed was Higgins. He headed IDOC’s investigation unit, oversaw prison contracts and was among the first people to uncover discrepancies in CCA staffing. Higgins declined to be interviewed by the Statesman; his account is drawn from the ISP records. Higgins told detectives he held off on continuing his investigation into CCA because he assumed the investigation was underway once Reinke had formally asked Powell to conduct the probe. “We saw the colonel all the time,” Higgins told the detectives. “Every time we had a meeting discussing this, the colonel was present.” Higgins also told detectives he was not the only one who assumed ISP was conducting the investigation. “Everybody, from the ACLU to us to my legal counsel — every one of these meetings I had legal counsel present — we were all frankly under the impression a criminal investigation was going,” Higgins said.

‘I AM THE DETECTIVE’

Higgins told detectives he learned there was no criminal investigation from press accounts of ISP’s Feb. 5, 2014, announcement that it had not done an investigation and had not assigned a case number or detective. “Up to that point, I had assumed somebody would be doing what you guys are doing here. Going in and interviewing the staff, taking the KPMG report and putting closure to this thing, because frankly I do not consider this closed,” Higgins told the detectives. Higgins told detectives he had already provided documents six months previously to Major Steve Richardson, the ISP investigator he believed was assigned to the criminal investigation, according to the investigation report. “He said, ‘I am the detective assigned to the case,’” Higgins told detectives. “He sat next to me in the meeting. … We talked quite a bit.” While he was not personally involved in the settlement negotiations, Higgins said that knowing that ISP had not investigated CCA could have factored in the department’s settlement negotiations. “If I had known there was not going to be any criminal investigation, you better believe I would be interviewing those people who falsified this … trying to find out how far this went, because that would have been a key item that we would have used in the discussions on settlement,” Higgins told investigators. In declining to be interviewed, Higgins referred the Statesman to an IDOC spokesman who issued this statement: “The records you obtained from the Idaho State Police show that from the start we have fully cooperated with investigators. We have turned over tens of thousands of pages of documents and spent countless hours answering questions — often the same questions multiple times. In fact, there’s not a single question we have refused to answer nor a single document we have refused to produce.” IDOC said that with the FBI investigation concluded, “we do not believe it is productive for us to go over this well-plowed ground yet again and speculate about what might have been.” ISP did not respond to Statesman requests to comment on Richardson’s role or answer what happened to the investigative materials Higgins turned over.

MISCOMMUNICATIONS, NOT CRIMINALITY

On May 20, U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said that the subsequent yearlong FBI investigation into Corrections Corporation of America staffing discrepancies found evidence of false entries and understaffing, but “did not produce evidence of a federal criminal violation.” The federal prosecutor also looked at whether the Idaho State Police, the governor’s office or the Idaho Department of Correction had sought to delay, hinder or corruptly influence a state investigation into contract fraud at the prison. What Olson described as “miscommunications” and “uncorrected assumptions” created “suspicion,” she said. But state officials’ actions did “not rise to the level of criminal misconduct.” While she declined to offer specifics, she did say “a number of other actions or inactions ... may be of concern” to state agencies and Idaho voters.

WHAT WERE THE RIPPLE EFFECTS?

Why is this more than just an embarrassing misstep for the State Police and the governor who publicly defended the agency’s work? What Olson described as miscommunication and “uncorrected assumptions” also slowed a federal lawsuit against CCA. It led state officials to withhold public documents, based on what they believed was a pending criminal investigation. A top IDOC official and a deputy attorney general had to explain why they had not committed perjury by telling a federal judge about an investigation that apparently did not exist. When the ACLU issued a subpoena for documents it needed for its class-action lawsuit against CCA over violence at the prison it ran, Idaho Department of Correction refused to provide ACLU the documents, saying such a release might interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation. The ACLU later got the documents.

In that same case, the court declined ACLU’s request for an order related to CCA staffing because the judge said he would “not intrude on CCA staffing decisions when a criminal investigation is ongoing.”

NEGOTIATING IN THE DARK?

Even a member of the Board of Correction expressed concerns about being misled about the investigation. J.R. Van Tassel was the only board member to vote against the state’s $1 million settlement agreement with CCA and the only one to talk about it. He told The Associated Press that at the time the board voted, it believed the State Police had done the criminal investigation and decided there were no crimes to prosecute. “I was at a loss for words,” Van Tassel told The AP about the lack of an investigation. “I think that the board may have treated this a little differently had it been clear to us that Col. Powell wasn’t going to present us with any factual findings pursuant to an investigation, which we felt were coming.”


May 21, 2015 idahostatesman.com
The U.S. Justice Department has declined to press criminal charges in connection with an investigation into allegations of contract fraud and public corruption at a private prison in Idaho. The FBI began investigating the Idaho Correctional Center last year. The facility had been run by Corrections Corporation of America and was known for being so violent that inmates dubbed it “Gladiator School.” The company had been accused of knowingly understaffing the prison and falsifying records to cover up thousands of hours of vacant guard posts. The Justice Department investigation looked into whether the company defrauded the state under its $29 million annual contract and whether state officials tried to delay or prevent an investigation into the matter. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said Wednesday that the probe was complete, and the agency did not find probable cause to file charges. Olson said the review showed that some Corrections Corporation of America employees falsified staffing reports, but they were relatively low-level workers. No one at the assistant warden position or higher was aware of the fraud at the time it was committed, the investigation found. Additionally, she said, the employees responsible for billing didn’t know about the false reports, and since the prison company was paid based on number of inmates – not number of guards – there wasn’t direct evidence that the fraud was intended for financial gain. There also was no evidence anyone with the Idaho State Police, the Idaho Department of Correction or the governor’s office sought to delay, hinder or corruptly influence a state investigation into the staffing allegations, Olson said. She said a series of miscommunications and incorrect assumptions between agencies made it seem that there were improper obstacles to an internal probe and led to reporters and a federal judge receiving erroneous information. “While these miscommunications ultimately gave rise to suspicion of an effort to delay, hinder or influence a state criminal investigation, such miscommunications, unsupported by any other evidence, do not rise to the level of criminal misconduct,” Olson said. Olson noted the federal investigation looked only for violations of federal or criminal statutes. “There were a number of other actions or inactions that may be of concern to the state agencies, to the voters, to whatever,” she said. Those include the sloppy communication between state agencies and oversight of the contract. Idaho leaders from the governor’s office, attorney general’s office, corrections department and state police department either declined comment or didn’t respond to phone or email messages Wednesday. Corrections Corporation of America public affairs director Jonathan Burns said the company appreciates the work of the FBI and U.S. attorney and respects their decision. “With the investigation resolved, CCA has fulfilled the commitment our company made from the beginning to make Idaho taxpayers whole,” Burns wrote in a statement. “CCA’s goal is to provide every person entrusted to our care with safe, secure housing and quality rehabilitation and re-entry programming.” The Idaho State Police Department was originally asked to investigate operations at the prison in 2013 after an Associated Press investigation showed the company was giving state officials falsified documents to cover up thousands of hours of understaffing. The FBI took over after the probe failed to launch for more than a year. At the time, internal police documents showed the state law enforcement agency had a potential conflict of interest in the case. Corrections Corporation of America had operated the prison south of Boise for more than a decade, but after the falsified staffing documents were uncovered, the state correction’s department hired an auditing firm to determine how many hours the prison was understaffed in violation of the company’s contract. The auditing firm determined the company left more than 26,000 hours of mandatory guard posts understaffed or inadequately covered during 2012, though CCA disputed those numbers as inflated. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter reached a settlement agreement with the company in 2014 – long before any law enforcement investigation had been completed. Under the settlement, CCA agreed to pay the state of Idaho $1 million. In exchange, Idaho dropped any right to sue over staffing.

WHAT IS CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA? A private prison management company based in Tennessee. It began operating the Idaho Correctional Center when it opened in 2000. When Idaho put the ICC management contract out to bid in 2008, covering about 2,100 offenders, it was again awarded to CCA. The state paid CCA $29 million a year to operate the state’s largest prison. In 2009 reports began surfacing of increased violence, drug use and understaffing. The ACLU in 2010 filed a class-action “gladiator school” lawsuit against CCA over numerous incidents of violence at the ICC. The case was settled in 2011. In late 2012, rumors began circulating that CCA was falsifying staffing reports given to the Idaho Department of Correction by using “ghost workers.”

THE INVESTIGATIONS The query into CCA began in February 2013 when then-Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke asked Idaho State Police Director Ralph Powell to investigate “discrepancies” in staffing records CCA submitted to the state. For the next year IDOC, the Attorney General’s Office, the media and the public assumed ISP was conducting an investigation into CCA. Here’s a timeline of events:

2013 January: An initial IDOC audit and Associated Press report raise questions about CCA possibly falsifying staffing reports. Feb. 4: IDOC Director Brent Reinke asks Idaho State Police Deputy Director Ralph Powell to have ISP conduct an investigation into “discrepancies” in staffing records CCA submitted to CCA. IDOC starts its own CCA staffing audits of random date periods. March 21: Gov. Butch Otter announces he appointed Powell as ISP director, replacing Col. Jerry Russell who retired in January. April 3: After IDOC’s internal staffing audits show discrepancies, the agency decides to seek an independent outside audit and contracts with KPMG out of Seattle. April 9: CCA provides IDOC results of its own internal staffing audit, which show 4,776 misrepresented hours over a seven-month period. May 1: CCA offers IDOC an $117,000 payment adjustment for misrepresented hours. IDOC refuses the payment. May 28: Otter meets with CCA executives and lobbyists. According to campaign finance reports, CCA has contributed $20,000 to Otter since 2003. June 18: IDOC board decides not to approve CCA’s two-year contract extension and to put the contract out to bid. Oct. 3: CCA tells IDOC it will not bid on the next contract to operate ICC when the state puts the ICC contract out to bid in November. Two of the nation’s other largest prison management companies also say they will not submit proposals, leaving the state few options. Dec. 19: KPMG, the outside auditor, releases its final report that shows CCA possibly misrepresented nearly 26,000 hours in 2012.

2014 Jan. 3: Otter announces the state will take over operation of ICC when CCA’s contract end on July 1, 2014. Jan. 14: An agent from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General contacts Otter’s communication director, Mark Warbis, to discuss the state’s dealings with CCA. Feb. 2: IDOC and CCA reach a settlement agreement. CCA will pay the state $1 million. The settlement does not release CCA from potential criminal charges should they emerge. The IDOC board approves the settlement agreement Feb. 3. (Later in 2014 during election-year debates, Otter said that he had recused himself from settlement talks, but not in writing. Emails show that Otter’s staff participated in settlement talks, including reviewing the final agreement.) Feb. 4: IDOC issues a press release announcing the settlement. Media inquire about the status of the ISP investigation. Feb. 5: In a press release, ISP officials state they did not investigate the breach of contract between IDOC and CCA. ISP has no documentation as to when or why the determination was made not to conduct the investigation requested a year earlier. Powell tells the Associated Press he announced at IDOC meetings he attended that there was not a criminal investigation. No minutes were taken at these meetings and no documentation exists to confirm Powell’s statement. Feb. 7: Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, upon learning there was no Idaho State Police investigation, sends a letter to Otter requesting the governor call for an investigation. Otter replies the same day in a letter stating there was no need for an investigation, saying that the ISP and the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office had concluded there was no basis for criminal charges or a criminal investigation. The governor’s office, state police and Ada County have no documents to back up these statements. Feb. 18: Otter, after reviewing information, including the KPMG report, sends a letter to Powell stating “public interest would benefit from a formal criminal investigation” into the “acknowledged falsification of CCA staffing records.” ISP immediately begins the investigation. Within days “detectives were able to establish, based on the initial evidence, the case is in fact a criminal fraud,” according to ISP documents. Detectives met with the U.S. Attorney and FBI to discuss “potential prosecution.” During discussions with the U.S. Attorney and FBI, “it was determined that the Idaho State Police had a serious conflict and should not be involved in the investigation further.” March 6: FBI takes over the investigation.


Feb 25, 2015 idahostatesman.com
BOISE — Corrections Corporation of America has settled a lawsuit with a former nurse who alleges she was fired in retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint. Michelle Pierce began working at the then-CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise in July 2012. As part of her job responsibilities, she was required to pass out medications to the inmates. As a safety measure, officers must accompany nurses when passing out medications to inmates. Pierce said she told her female supervisor she was having difficulty getting officers to accompany her. The supervisor recommended Pierce be more flirtatious with the officers and then they would do whatever she wanted, according to the complaint filed in federal court in February 2014. Pierce also claims she was subjected to numerous inappropriate sexual comments and advances. In one incident, Pierce said three male officers were in an inmate housing unit when she arrived. One of the officers asked Pierce to show him her breasts; she refused. The officer then asked if he could touch her breasts; she again refused. Pierce said the officer then stood in front of the door blocking the exit and refusing to let Pierce leave until she complied. Neither of the other two officers present objected to the behavior and one of them reportedly told Pierce, "Just let him already," according to court documents. After yet another incident in early October 2012, Pierce filed a complaint. Shortly after filing the complaint, she injured her back while on duty and went to the emergency room where she learned she would be out of work for a week. The next day CCA fired her because she had not renewed her nursing license. Pierce said her supervisors and a human resources manager were aware she was in the process of renewing her license and she was still qualified to work because she held a separate certified medication assistant license. The case was slated to go to trial in July. Pierce's attorney, Renee Karel, said details of settlement would not be released per a confidentiality agreement. This is the second time this year CCA has settled a wrongful termination case. Last month CCA settled a lawsuit filed by a former employee who alleges he was made a scapegoat in the prison staffing scandal at Idaho Correctional Center. Former Chief of Security Shane Jepsen filed the lawsuit in October 2013 in federal court claiming CCA tried to put the blame on him for the staffing shortages and terminated him "to attempt to protect their ability to renew their $29 million contract with the state of Idaho," according to court documents. Details of Jepsen's settlement are not being released per a confidentiality agreement. The state in June 2013 decided not to extend CCA's contract; the Idaho Department of Correction took over ICC operations in July. The Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA acknowledged its employees falsified staffing records given to the state, making it look as though thousands of hours of mandatory guard posts were filled when they were actually left vacant for months. The private prison company paid the state $1 million to settle accusations of fraudulent billing and understaffing at the prison. An FBI fraud investigation into CCA ongoing.


Jan 28, 2015 idahostatesman.com
BOISE — Corrections Corporation of American has settled a lawsuit filed by a former employee who alleges he was made a scapegoat in the prison staffing scandal at the CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center in Boise. Former Chief of Security Shane Jepsen filed the lawsuit in October 2013 in federal court claiming CCA tried to put the blame on him for the staffing shortages and terminated him “to attempt to protect their ability to renew their $29 million contract with the state of Idaho,” according to court documents. The lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed Jan. 6. “The dispute has been resolved in that CCA accepted Jepsen’s voluntary resignation pursuant to a severance agreement,” said Howard Belodoff, Jensen’s attorney. Belodoff said details of the agreement cannot be released. The state in June 2013 decided not extend CCA's contract; the state took over ICC operations in July. The Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA acknowledged its employees falsified staffing records given to the state, making it look as though thousands of hours of mandatory guard posts were filled when they were actually left vacant for months. The private prison company paid the state $1 million to settle accusations of fraudulent billing and understaffing at the prison. An FBI fraud investigation into CCA ongoing.


Jul 31, 2014 ktvb.com

Idaho scales back claim of problems at prison

Associated Press3:15 p.m. MDT July 30, 2014

BOISE - Idaho Department of Correction officials have dramatically scaled back their assessment of the problems encountered when they took over the state's largest prison from Corrections corporation of America this month. Last week, Shane Evans with IDOC told the Board of Correction that CCA failed to leave behind a promised 8-day supply of medication, and that the new health care provider had to ship $100,000 worth of medication overnight just to reach the minimum amount needed at the facility. But in a follow-up meeting Wednesday, Evans said the cost of the missing drugs was actually only about $8,400, and there was only a verbal agreement between Corizon and CCA's health care provider about the promised medications. CCA spokesman Steve Owen didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

 

Jul 29, 2014 spokesman.com

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho prison officials say they had to have thousands of dollars' worth of medications shipped overnight to the state's largest prison after the former operator, Corrections Corporation of America, left the facility without a promised 8-day supply of inmate medications. IDOC officials also say they discovered that some chronically ill inmates went without needed medical care and that some records were missing when they assumed control of the prison last month. But CCA officials say those claims are without merit and don't match the condition of the facility CCA handed over to the state. CCA spokesman Steve Owens also says no one from the Idaho Department of Correction has contacted the Nashville, Tennessee-based company to communicate any concerns. The IDOC Board will discuss the issue during a meeting on Wednesday. Idaho officials: Prison takeover had 'challenges'  --  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho prison officials say they had to have thousands of dollars' worth of medications shipped overnight to the state's largest prison after the former operator, Corrections Corporation of America, left the facility without a promised eight-day supply of inmate drugs. The Idaho Department of Correction officials also say they discovered some chronically ill inmates went without needed medical care, and some medical records were missing when they assumed control of the facility. But CCA officials say those claims are without merit and that no one from the department has contacted the Nashville, Tennessee-based company to communicate any concerns. Department officials told the Idaho Board of Correction about the alleged medical and operational problems during a meeting last week. The board will meet again Wednesday to discuss whether the state will try to recoup any losses associated with its claims. The state took over the 2,080-bed prison after CCA acknowledged understaffing the facility by thousands of hours in violation of its $29 million contract with the state. The company's admission came after a report by The Associated Press raised questions about the facility's staffing. On Monday, CCA spokesman Steve Owen said his company offered to conduct a medication inventory with the Department of Correction before the transition, but the agency opted against it. Owen said CCA also met with the state's prison health care contractor and its pharmacy supplier to determine the adequate supply of medications needed. “If in fact the Department has made these claims, we believe they are without merit and don't match up with the condition of the facility we handed over or the reality of the sincere efforts we've made to be responsive to IDOC during the transition process and subsequent to the transition,” Owen wrote in an email. Jeff Zmuda, head of the department's Prisons Division, told the board last week that the logistics involved in switching the prison to state control were substantial. But for the most part, he said, the process went smoothly. For instance, Correction Department staffers had to inventory more than 3,000 items at the prison, and the state had to hire hundreds of new workers to staff the facility. Many of those correctional officers had worked for CCA at the prison, he said. Still, the takeover was “not without a few glitches,” Zmuda said. Pat Donaldson, chief of the department's management services division, said CCA was obligated to provide an operational phone system at the facility. The company did provide the system, but state workers spent about three days fixing it to make it work, he said. Regarding the phones, Owen wrote that “directly prior to these concerns being raised,” CCA reached out to the department to see if there were any problems and received no response. Shane Evans, chief of the department's education, treatment and re-entry division, told the board about the alleged medication problems. “We had some challenges with some of the conversions: availability of medication, some chronic care that wasn't occurring,” Evans said. The state's health care contractor, Corizon, arranged with its pharmaceutical provider to have the medications brought in. “They were Johnny-on-the-spot, and overnighted about $100,000 worth just to get us to the minimum amount we were supposed to have on hand,” Evans said. Another problem was missing medical records and evidence that some inmates with chronic illnesses weren't getting the regular medical care they needed, Evans said. The department has asked Corizon to go through the inmates' records to determine what needs to be done to treat them, he said. Owen said CCA officials met with Corizon and Corizon's pharmaceutical provider about the amount of medications needed. “CCA conducted an inventory with Corizon and determined that there was an adequate supply of medication available at the time of transition,” Owen wrote. “What's more, CCA's average monthly cost for medication at the facility was below $100,000, so IDOC's figure for what we assume are identical medications is far in excess of what an eight-day supply would cost.” Correction Department spokesman Jeff Ray said the agency is still conducting its assessment of the issues, and will reach out to CCA once that assessment is over.

 

Jul 28, 2014 dailyjournal.net

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho prison officials say they had to have thousands of dollars' worth of medications shipped overnight to the state's largest prison after the former operator, Corrections Corporation of America, left the facility without a promised 8-day supply of inmate medications. IDOC officials also say they discovered that some chronically ill inmates went without needed medical care and that some records were missing when they assumed control of the prison last month. But CCA officials say those claims are without merit and don't match the condition of the facility CCA handed over to the state. CCA spokesman Steve Owens also says no one from the Idaho Department of Correction has contacted the Nashville, Tennessee-based company to communicate any concerns. The IDOC Board will discuss the issue during a meeting on Wednesday.


July, 1, 2014 |lmorales@acluidaho.org

Boise, ID –Today, the Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) assumes possession of one of Idaho’s most troubled prisons, the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC), previously under control of the private prison company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). In January, Governor Otter announced, amid rampant violence at the prison, chronic under-staffing and falsified work records that resulted in multiple lawsuits against CCA, IDOC would take over operations of Idaho’s largest prison. “The ACLU of Idaho applauds Governor Otter in his decision to end CCA’s contract with the state and commends IDOC for their commitment to provide inmates with a safe environment,” said Interim Executive Director Leo Morales. “However, CCA will still have a presence in Idaho for an unknown period of time. Due to an out-of-state prisoner contract with the private prison firm, 234 Idaho inmates are still under CCA control. It’s time to bring Idaho prisoners home and officially end all ties with CCA.” The ACLU of Idaho has received multiple letters from Idaho prisoners currently housed at the Kit Carson Correctional facility in Burlington, Colorado regarding concerns about prison conditions, medical care, and staffing.  As evidenced by the revelation last year that CCA falsified staffing records at the Idaho Correctional Center, and admitted to overbilling the state by 4,800 hours of unstaffed guard posts, CCA has proven that it cannot be trusted. And if they can’t be trusted to protect inmates charged under their care in Idaho, how can we ensure that our prisoners in Colorado can be adequately supervised outside the watch of the public eye? Idaho’s practice of sending prisoners out of state is not new. Idaho's history of contracting with for-profit prison companies, including CCA, to send prisoners out-of-state dates back 17 years thanks to over-reaching criminal statutes due to the War on Drugs, resulting in ever increasing prison populations.

With inmates separated from their families, it diminishes supportive ties to family, community, and loved ones, which research has shown to contribute to better behavior and reduce recidivism. "Across the nation, more than 10,500 prisoners are currently being housed in for-profit prisons across state lines," said Holly Kirby, national organizer at Grassroots Leadership and author of the report, Locked Up and Shipped Away: Interstate Prisoner Transfers and the Private Prison Industry. "Transferring prisoners far from home undermines individuals’ chances of rehabilitation, which is both harmful to families and communities and detrimental to public safety." Currently, Idaho prisons are inefficiently housing inmates – keeping individuals convicted of nonviolent drug crimes and parole eligible inmates incarcerated instead of under supervised released. If Idaho were to enact prescribed reforms based on a 2014 report from The Council of State Governments titled Justice Reinvestment in Idaho: Analyses & Policy Framework it could finally end its tumultuous relationship with CCA and bring Idaho inmates home. Great strides have been made to hold Corrections Corporations of America accountable, but the job is not done. We urge policymakers to make the right decision – cut ties with CCA, save taxpayers money, and bring Idaho inmates home.


May 23, 2014 ktvb.com

BOISE -- A Caldwell woman could face up to five years in prison after jail officials say she tried to sneak iPods and a cell phone to inmates. Danielle Pennington, 31, is accused of using a box with a secret compartment to get the electronics and chargers into the Idaho Correctional Center in November. One inmate, 25-year-old Devon Elmore, has also been charged in connection with the attempt, and charges are pending against three more people. Investigators say Pennington taped the devices beneath a false bottom of a box filled with video games and a PlayStation console that were being donated to prisoners from a local church. Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said cell phones are prohibited in Idaho's jails and prisons. They are among the most sought after items of contraband, selling secretly behind bars for as much as $400 for a disposable phone and up to $1,200 for a smart phone. Cell phones are banned to cut down on inmate's ability to conduct criminal activity from inside the prison walls, Ray said. Prison officials worry they could be used by drug traffickers, sex offenders or gang members to get around security protocols or even contact victims. "Clandestine communication and contraband traffic create problems not just in our prisons, but problems that can spill over into our communities," Ray wrote in a statement. Likewise, iPods aren't allowed because some have Internet access. Ray said prisoners can buy one type of music player from the prison commissary. But because IDOC bans songs containing hate speech or violent, pornographic or gang-related themes, officials want to be able to keep tabs on what inmates are listening to - something that is impossible when music devices are smuggled in. By contrast, Ray said, the PlayStation and games mailed to the prison are all legal, and were given to inmates in general population. That's the doing of private prison company Corrections Corp. of America, which runs ICC. IDOC's policy is different - the department does not allow video games, Ray said. CCA's contract with Idaho will end June 30, and the state has already announced that it will not be renewed in the wake of lawsuits and staffing scandals. Pennington was linked to the contraband after guards found the items inside the prison and contacted the Ada County Sheriff's Office. A warrant was issued for her arrest Tuesday, and she turned herself in that afternoon. The woman was charged with felony of introduction of major contraband into correctional facilities. She is currently free on a $10,000 bond, and is scheduled to appear in court May 27.


Mar 22, 2014 tennessean.com

BOISE, Idaho — A federal judge says he won't put a lawsuit against a major private prison company on hold while the FBI investigates the company for possible criminal fraud charges. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge made the ruling this week in a lawsuit brought by a group of Idaho inmates against the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America. The company had asked the judge to put the lawsuit on hold, contending that if its employees had to testify in the lawsuit, they could be at risk of incriminating themselves in the FBI investigation. The FBI launched an investigation into CCA earlier this year, looking at whether the company violated federal fraud laws by falsifying reports to the state about staffing levels at the prison. If the employees pleaded the Fifth Amendment during the civil case, CCA's attorneys feared it would cause a jury to unfairly infer that the company broke the law. Eight inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center sued the prison company in 2012, contending they were attacked by a prison gang because there weren't enough guards on duty. The inmates also contend that CCA understaffed the prison by thousands of hours and then falsified reports to the state to cover up the understaffing. The prison company has acknowledged understaffing the prison by thousands of hours in 2012, but denies the claims in the lawsuit and contends that the housing unit the inmates lived in was not understaffed at the time of the gang attack. In the Wednesday ruling, Lodge said that CCA's concerns were entirely speculative. The prison company hasn't offered any evidence that its employees would likely assert their Fifth Amendment rights, the judge said. "Further, even if a witness does so, his or her refusal to testify does not necessarily mean that CCA, an entirely different entity, will be subject to a negative inference," Lodge wrote. There is little burden on CCA in letting the lawsuit proceed while the FBI pursues the investigation, Lodge wrote. Besides, he said, that investigation could take years and it's possible that it could conclude with no charges filed. Meanwhile, the public has a high interest in the case, the judge found. "This is a high-profile case, and the Court has determined that the interests of the public would be frustrated if a stay were issued," Lodge wrote. "Idaho's citizenry has a right to be informed about these serious issues of public concern." CCA has operated Idaho's largest private prison for more than a decade under a $29 million annual contract with the state. But last year an Associated Press investigation uncovered anomalies in the prison company's monthly staffing reports to the state. The reports showed that some guards were listed as working as many as 48 hours straight to meet minimum staffing requirements. The company subsequently acknowledged that it had understaffed the facility and that employees had falsified the staffing reports. CCA has agreed to pay the state $1 million to settle the understaffing issue.


Mar 15, 2014 thonline.com

BOISE, Idaho -- A federal prosecutor said she doesn't need a lawsuit against a private prison company put on hold for an FBI fraud investigation at an Idaho detention facility. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson's statement was filed in Boise's U.S. District Court Thursday afternoon in response to a request from Corrections Corporation of America lawyers. Eight inmates at the Idaho prison sued the Nashville, Tenn.-based prison company in 2012, contending they were attacked by a prison gang because there weren't enough guards on duty. The inmates also contend that CCA understaffed the prison to boost profits and then falsified reports to the state to cover up the understaffing. The prison company has acknowledged understaffing the prison by thousands of hours in 2012, but it denies the claims in the lawsuit and contends that the housing unit the inmates lived in was not understaffed at the time of the gang attack. The FBI launched an investigation into CCA earlier this year, looking at whether the company violated federal fraud laws by falsifying reports to the state about staffing levels at the prison. In a motion filed in Boise's U.S. District Court earlier this week, CCA attorney Kirtlan Naylor said the company wants to stave off turning over documents or taking part in depositions in the inmate lawsuit until the federal fraud investigation ends. Otherwise, Naylor said, the company's employees who aren't defendants in the lawsuit could be scared to testify lest they risk incriminating themselves in the FBI investigation. Olson, the U.S. attorney for the District of Idaho, told the court that though federal law gives her the right to ask that a lawsuit be put on hold while a criminal investigation moves forward, she was declining to do so in this case. Olson said she wasn't able to publicly provide the court with information about the scope of the investigation because she didn't want to risk compromising it. Attorneys for the inmates, meanwhile, have asked the court to deny CCA's request to put the case on hold. Lawyer Wyatt Johnson told the judge the company will be able to tamper with evidence if the lawsuit is stalled.


Mar 11, 2014 ktvb.com

BOISE -- Private prison company Corrections Corporation of America is asking a federal judge to put an Idaho lawsuit on hold while an FBI investigation into the company is underway. In a motion filed in Boise's U.S. District Court earlier this week, CCA's attorney Kirtlan Naylor said the company wants to stave off turning over any documents or taking part in any depositions until the federal fraud investigation ends. CCA has operated the Idaho Correctional Center for more than a decade. In 2012, eight inmates at the facility sued, contending poor management and chronic understaffing led to an attack in which they were jumped, stabbed and beaten by a prison gang. Last week the FBI notified state agencies that it was investigating whether CCA officials committed fraud or any related crimes.


Mar 7, 2014 tennessean.com

The FBI has launched a criminal investigation into Nashville-based private prison company Corrections Corporation of America, which ran what Idaho inmates called "Gladiator School" because of a violent reputation they say understaffing helped create. CCA has operated Idaho's largest prison for more than a decade, but last year, CCA officials acknowledged it had understaffed the Idaho Correctional Center by thousands of hours in violation of the state contract. CCA also said employees falsified reports to cover up the vacancies. The announcement came after an Associated Press investigation showed CCA sometimes listed guards as working 48 hours straight to meet minimum staffing requirements. The Idaho State Police was asked to investigate the company last year but didn't, until amid increasing political pressure, the governor ordered the agency to do so last month. Democratic state lawmakers asked the FBI to take up the case last month. CCA operates six jails in Tennessee including the Metro detention facility on Harding Pike for the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. The CCA corporate headquarters are located in Green Hills. Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray confirmed Friday that the FBI met with department director Brent Reinke on Thursday to inform him about the investigation. Idaho State Police spokeswoman Teresa Baker said her agency was no longer involved with the investigation and the FBI has taken it over entirely. ""They (the FBI) have other cases that are tied to this one so it worked out better for them to handle it from here," Baker said. CCA spokesman Steve Owen could not be immediately reached, but Owen has previously said that his company would continue to cooperate with any investigation. The understaffing has been the subject of federal lawsuits and a contempt of court action against CCA. The ACLU sued on behalf of inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center in 2010, saying the facility was so violent that inmates called it "Gladiator School" and that understaffing contributed to the high levels of violence there. In 2012, a Boise law firm sued on behalf of inmates contending that CCA had ceded control to prison gangs so that they could understaff the prison and save money on employee wages, and that the understaffing led to an attack by one prison gang on another group of inmates that left some of them badly injured. The Department of Justice requested a copy of a forensic audit done for the Idaho Department of Correction earlier this year. That audit showed that CCA understaffed the prison by as much as 26,000 hours in 2012 alone; CCA is strongly contesting those findings. CCA's Owen has said the company believes the audit overestimates the staffing issues by more than a third. CCA's contract with Idaho was worth about $29 million a year. In February the company agreed to pay Idaho $1 million to settle the understaffing claims. CCA is the largest private prison operator in the United States and manages nearly 70 facilities around the country. In fiscal 2012, the company generated generated more than $1.8 billion in revenue. In addition to the Metro facility in southeast Davidson County, CCA also runs the Hardeman County Correctional Center, the Silverdale Detention Facilities in Chattanooga, the South Central Correctional Center in Clifton, the West Tennessee Detention Facility in Mason and the Whiteville Correctional Facility.

 

Mar 6, 2014 aclu.org/blog/prisoners-rights

I believe it’s possible that a private, for-profit prison can be operated in a responsible manner.  Based on my experience, however, the chance of this occurring is small.  Time and time again, the incentive to cut corners in order to maximize profits seems to trump the desire to operate a responsible facility. The Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) in Boise, Idaho, is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest for-profit operator of private prisons in the US, with revenue for the last quarter of $431.10 million. ICC represents the perfect storm of what can go wrong in the private prisons system. In 2000, the Governor of Idaho, C.L. “Butch” Otter, helped select CCA to operate ICC. Serious concerns about CCA’s administration of ICC began in 2008, when the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC), which oversees CCA’s administration of ICC, found that there were four times as many prisoner-on-prisoner assaults occurring at ICC as in Idaho’s seven other prisons combined. Inadequate staffing was identified as a primary cause of the bloodshed, with guards failing to take appropriate measures to halt rampant violence.  Stronger prisoners (and gangs) were allowed to prey on weaker prisoners with virtual impunity. When violence at ICC persisted, the ACLU filed suit against CCA in federal court in March 2010, accusing the company of violating the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment in its operation of ICC. Plaintiffs’ complaint details more than 30 gruesome assaults that might have been prevented had CCA operated ICC in a responsible manner. CCA avoided trial by settling the case in September 2011, agreeing to the entry of a court order that requires CCA to make a number of improvements in the way it operates ICC. The single most important provision in the order obligates CCA “to comply with the staffing pattern” set forth in its contract with IDOC.  Thus, in order to meet its federal duties, CCA need only provide the number of prison guards (and other staff) it agreed to provide in its state contract. Unfortunately, the lure of undeserved profits proved too attractive, and CCA flagrantly violated its staffing obligations. In June 2013, the ACLU filed a motion seeking to hold CCA and ICC’s warden, Timothy Wengler, in civil contempt of court.  Among other things, the court found (1) that CCA failed to fill thousands of hours of guard posts required by the CCA-IDOC contract, (2) that CCA falsified staffing records to make it appear that ICC was fully staffed, which allowed CCA to collect money from IDOC for guards who were never assigned to work, (3) CCA may have short-staffed ICC every day since the order was entered on September 20, 2011, and (4)  fault rests with top administrators of CCA and Warden Wengler and not, as CCA argued, only lower echelon officers. Recently, Gov. Otter asked the Idaho State Police to open a criminal investigation against CCA.  According to media reports, a group of Idaho legislators has asked the FBI to open a criminal investigation against CCA as well. Whether CCA will be found guilty of criminal wrongdoing remains to be seen, but there is compelling evidence to support it.  Last month, an independent auditor found that CCA failed to fill at least 26,000 hours of required posts for 2012 alone, which averages 500 hours a week of missing security staff. It is highly unlikely that Warden Wengler and other top prison officials whose duty it is to ensure full staffing could be unaware of so many vacant posts. Either CCA instructed Warden Wengler to understaff ICC or CCA cannot be trusted to hire competent wardens. Moreover, it’s reasonable to assume that CCA had to have noticed that it was spending tens of thousands of dollars less in salaries than its contract would require.  Also telling is the fact that, to this day, CCA has yet to fire top officials at ICC responsible for the understaffing, leading one to presume that they were instructed to behave the way they did. In any event, if CCA wants to convince the public it can run a prison responsibly, it will have to do a whole lot better than the lying, cheating, and gross incompetence that characterizes its operation of ICC, and which may result in criminal prosecutions. Learn more about private prisons and other civil liberty issues: Sign up for breaking news alerts,follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.


Feb 28, 2014 tribtown.com

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho's top Democratic lawmakers have asked the FBI to investigate private prison company Corrections Corporation of America for possible criminal wrongdoing at the state's largest prison. The letter sent to Boise FBI Agent Ernie Weyand on Thursday says the lawmakers are concerned that the Idaho State Police lacks both the manpower and expertise needed to properly investigate the Nashville, Tennessee-based company's activities in Idaho. The lawmakers also say the investigation may cross state lines, putting it under federal jurisdiction. CCA acknowledged last year that it understaffed the Idaho Correctional Center by thousands of hours in violation of the state contract and that employees falsified state reports to cover up the vacancies. The Idaho Department of Correction is currently in the process of taking over the prison south of Boise. "We request that the FBI investigate whether CCA, its employees, or its officers and leadership engaged in criminal conduct and defrauded the state of Idaho and our citizens by falsifying time sheets over many years to hide chronic understaffing. We also ask that you use your expertise to define the nature and scope of any investigation since the full nature of the potential criminal activities is, at present, unknown," the group wrote in the letter, signed by Sens. Michelle Stennett, Elliot Werk and Cherie Buckner-Webb, and Reps. John Rusche, Grant Burgoyne and Donna Pence. Werk, the Senate assistant minority leader, said in a phone call that the lawmakers have great respect for the Idaho State Police, but ISP Col. Ralph Powell has told lawmakers that his agency is underfunded and doesn't have enough officers to efficiently carry out core duties. Werk said that could make it exceedingly difficult for the state police to fully investigate CCA. "People deserve to know whether our tax dollars were misspent or mismanaged. We've had many issues with CCA over the years, and now we're embarking on a very large and very complex investigation involving areas all across the United States," Werk said. "Senate leadership believed that because of the manpower and expertise required, we needed the FBI." CCA has operated Idaho's largest prison for more than a decade. The Idaho Department of Correction asked the Idaho State Police to launch a criminal investigation into CCA last year after an Associated Press investigation showed that CCA's staffing reports listed some guards as working 48 hours straight in order to meet minimum staffing requirements. CCA then acknowledged that its employees falsified the documents to hide thousands of hours of understaffing at the prison in violation of the $29 million state contract. For the past 12 months, state officials have said that the investigation was underway. But after the AP filed a public records request for the Idaho State Police investigation documents late last month, the law enforcement agency revealed no investigation ever occurred. Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, a self-described champion of prison privatization, first supported the police decision not to investigate. But on Feb. 18, after the state had signed an agreement releasing CCA from civil liability in exchange for a $1 million payment, Otter announced that he was directing the state police to investigate after all. "My instruction to Col. Powell was to conduct a thorough investigation," Otter said in a statement. "And if he or one of his investigators wants to visit with the FBI and wants to invite the FBI in that is fine. But I am leaving it up to the investigators and law enforcement now and I don't think anybody should put sideboards on it." CCA spokesman Steve Owen said in a statement that his company, like Idaho lawmakers and the public, believed that a criminal investigation had already been conducted. Owen said CCA's own investigation concluded that it wasn't a criminal matter and that he remains confident in those findings. "We'll of course continue to cooperate with investigators, as we have all along," Owen said.


Feb 27, 2014 Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's settlement with private prison company Corrections Corporation of America releases the company from all civil liability connected to the understaffing at the prison south of Boise, as well as any liability stemming from staffing issues not yet discovered. But the full scope of the settlement is difficult to determine. The Idaho Attorney General's office, which reviewed the settlement on behalf of the state, refused to comment on the document, claiming attorney-client privilege. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's office referred all questions to the Idaho Department of Correction, and Division of Purchasing Administrator Bill Burns didn't return phone messages left by The Associated Press. Idaho Board of Correction members Robin Sandy and David McClusky did not immediately respond to emails from The Associated Press. The Idaho Department of Correction refused to comment on the settlement, saying only that it would not affect the Idaho State Police criminal investigation currently underway. The settlement says that in exchange for CCA paying $1 million, the Idaho Department of Administration, Division of Purchasing, Department of Correction and Board of Correction agree to release the prison company from all liability arising from the staffing of the Idaho Correctional Center. That release of liability lasts forever and is irrevocable and includes but isn't limited to "any claims under any other federal, state or local statutes or ordinances not referenced above (the "Staffing Damages")..." according to the document. The settlement also states that it isn't tied to a forensic audit that found that CCA understaffed the prison by thousands of hours in 2012, and that CCA doesn't agree with those audit findings. CCA has operated Idaho's largest prison for more than a decade. The Idaho Department of Correction asked the Idaho State Police to launch a criminal investigation into CCA last year after an Associated Press investigation showed that the Nashville, Tenn.-based company's staffing reports given to the state listed some guards as working 48 hours straight in order to meet minimum staffing requirements. CCA then acknowledged that its employees falsified the documents to hide thousands of hours of understaffing at the prison in violation of the $29 million state contract. For the past 12 months, state officials have said that the investigation was underway. But after the AP filed a public-records request for the Idaho State Police investigation documents late last month, the law enforcement agency revealed no investigation ever occurred. The release of liability stretches from Dec. 23, 1997 — the day Idaho and CCA first inked a contract — until Feb. 18, 2014 — the day the settlement went into effect. Feb. 18 was the same day that the governor announced he had changed his mind and was directing the Idaho State Police to criminally investigate the matter after all. "Throughout this process, we've operated under the same understanding as the Board of Correction and the public that a criminal investigation had been conducted," said CCA spokesman Steve Owen in an email to The Associated Press. "Our own internal investigation concluded that this was not a criminal matter, and we remain confident in those findings. We'll of course continue to cooperate with the state — as we have all along — in their review." Monica Hopkins, the executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, said the wording of the settlement is troubling. The ACLU sued CCA several years ago, contending that the understaffing contributed to high levels of violence between prison inmates. "The settlement agreement, in the way it's written, potentially gives CCA the inch they need to fight any criminal proceedings. What remains to be seen is whether or not the state will vigorously fight CCA on behalf of the taxpayers of Idaho," Hopkins said, noting that neither the Attorney General's office nor the Ada County Prosecutor's office were a party in the settlement. However, the Attorney General's Office did advise the Department of Correction and others on the settlement agreement, and state law doesn't expressly state whether Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has any authority to sue CCA on his own. The same law that allows the state to enter private prison contracts gives Wasden authority to sue to enforce the contracts, but Wasden's spokesman Todd Dvorak says Wasden can only exercise that authority if the Idaho Board of Correction or the Correction Department first asks him to. "The attorney general of this state shall enforce an agreement or contract made under this section in a civil suit," the law reads. Board of Correction member J.R. Van Tassel — the only state official who agreed to talk to the Associated Press about the settlement and the lone board member to vote against the agreement — said he is concerned about the amount of information the board had when negotiating with CCA. The board members voted on the agreement on Feb. 3, Van Tassel said, and at the time they believed the Idaho State Police had already done a criminal investigation and decided that there was no crime to prosecute. Van Tassell said he thought the Idaho State Police investigation found that the CCA employees responsible for falsifying the staff reports had been fired. "The way it was described to us or explained to us was that it was found that the people who had been dismissed by CCA hadn't gained materially by their activities, therefore there was no crime. So we were left without any charges on the table, left with just civil remedies," Van Tassel told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "Quite frankly, on Feb. 5th, when you told me that there hadn't been any ISP investigation, that kind of floored me. I was at a loss for words." At that point, Van Tassel said, he believed the settlement agreement had already been signed and officially taken effect. "I think that the board may have treated this a little differently had it been clear to us that (Idaho State Police) Col. Powell wasn't going to present us with any factual findings pursuant to an investigation, which we felt were coming," Van Tassel said.

 

Feb 26, 2014 ktvb.com

BOISE -- Several lawmakers are pushing for change when it comes to Idaho's prisoners housed out of state. Currently, 234 inmates are held at a Corrections Corporation of America facility in Colorado. But, despite overcrowding here in Idaho, several lawmakers are asking to end that relationship and bring the inmates back to Idaho. Two legislators, Rep. John Gannon and Rep. Matt Erpelding, just drafted a memorial that expresses their opinion and their plea to the Board of Corrections. They are asking to immediately end a contract with CCA to hold our prisoners out of state and instead bring them back to Idaho. "The relationship is not working, has not worked, and has been a failed private prison experiment," said Gannon. Gannon says the private prison company had issues here in Idaho and shouldn't be trusted to take care of our inmates out of state either. "The relationship has been so rocky and the many problems that have occurred, well documented and publicized in the press," said Gannon. Those problems include under-staffing and false documentations. Employees also recently filed a lawsuit against the company, and just last week Gov. Butch Otter ordered an immediate criminal investigation into CCA. This comes after Otter already announced CCA would no longer run Idaho's private prison in Kuna, ending the agreement this summer, an agreement that's been in place since 2000. But over the years, there have been other issues as well, like video released in 2010, showing excessive inmate violence. "It doesn't make sense to keep dealing with this company, we would like to see the prisoners brought back to Idaho, housed in Idaho," said Gannon. On Wednesday, CCA released this statement: "Our Kit Carson facility provides important flexibility for the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) in managing inmate populations and avoiding unsafe overcrowding. While we acknowledge that there have been challenges at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC), we have no reason to believe it was anything but an isolated incident, and we have taken – and will continue to take – the necessary steps to address any concerns. In fact, we recently reached an agreement with IDOC that the department agrees makes taxpayers whole on the staffing issue, and we’ve also worked very hard to ensure it never happens again." As for the 234 currently held at the CCA-run Kit Carson Correctional Center in Colorado, Gannon wants them transferred back here, no matter how crowded our prisons already are. "There are issues there because of overcrowding but I think we are working through that with the legislation that we have pending," said Gannon. IDOC tells us Idaho has had prisoners housed out of state since 2012. That year, IDOC says 130 prisoners were held at Kit Carson Correctional Center, and in 2013, 120 were held there. Idaho pays CCA about $54 per day for each prisoner housed in Colorado. Earlier this month, CCA announced they would pay Idaho $1 million for the under-staffing at the facility. The state will take over operations at the Kuna prison beginning on July 1st.

 

Feb 23, 2014 idahostatesman.com

Failure of the Corrections Corporation of America to abide by a $29 million state contract and an agreement to increase staffing and fix other problems at the Idaho Correctional Center has led a federal judge to award extraordinary fees to the attorneys representing a group of inmates who filed suit against the private prison company. U.S. District Judge David Carter found that attorneys Stephen Pevar and Richard Eppink uncovered "substantial evidence" of noncompliance with the settlement agreement and longstanding knowledge of the noncompliance by high-ranking CCA officials. The attorneys also obtained a finding of contempt against CCA for its inaction, obtained a court order mandating compliance and appointment of an independent monitor. They also got a judge to set a fine for every hour a prison security post was vacant over 12 hours per month. The lawsuit was brought in 2010 by the American Civil Liberties Union and prisoners who claimed the Kuna prison, with a capacity of 2,080 men, was so violent prisoners called it "Gladiator School." The settlement agreement was signed the following year. CCA, which has operated the prison for 10 years, publicly admitted that company employees falsely billed the state for 4,800 hours of security staffing that wasn't covered over a seven-month period in 2012. However, the inmates' attorneys provided evidence, Carter said, that the 4,800 hours seriously underestimated the actual number of bogus hours billed and that the security posts were frequently vacant before the seven-month period that was scrutinized. Carter noted that Warden Timothy Wengler acknowledged the problem in correspondence between the CCA and the Idaho Department of Correction in late 2010 and early 2011, yet the problem persisted right up until before a contempt hearing last August. "The court found that CCA had ample opportunity to ensure compliance because it was aware of the problem for months," Carter wrote in his 27-page decision issued earlier this week. "The court further found that the 4,800 vacant hours constituted a significant underestimate, and that posts had been empty even in the weeks before the contempt hearings." Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, attorneys representing prisoners in civil rights actions in Idaho are limited to a rate of $213 an hour, with a limit of $65 for legal assistants. Pevar provided evidence that an attorney with his experience and expertise would bill $435 an hour, without the cap. Eppink showed that he had billed an hourly rate of $275 an hour in a case without the limit. Under a law that gives a judge discretion to increase lawyers' fees to reasonably compensate lawyers for "extraordinary performance yielding extraordinary results," Carter allowed Pevar to double his fees and for Eppink to raise his by a third. Pevar was awarded $249,082 for 585 hours of work spent on the case, while Eppink received $72,022 for 260 hours. CCA argued that the attorneys were not entitled to the additional fees because the plaintiffs did not prove anything beyond what the prison company had admitted prior to the filing of the contempt complaint. Carter rejected that argument. “We are grateful that Judge Carter has approved appropriate fees in this case and we remain committed to ensuring that CCA complies with the 2011 agreement,” said Pevar, senior attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. “None of this would have been necessary had CCA kept its word.” On Tuesday, Gov. Butch Otter met with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and ordered the Idaho State Police to investigated CCA's operation of the prison. Earlier, Otter had resisted opening an operation. For the past year, state officials said an investigation was being conducted. However, after The Associated Press asked for investigation documents, the state police admitted no investigation had been undertaken. In January, Otter ordered the Idaho Correction Department to take over operation of the prison when CCA's contract expires at the end of June.

 

Feb 22, 2104 idahopress.com

BOISE — U.S. District Court Judge David Carter has granted attorney fees and costs in the amount of $349,000 to plaintiffs in the contempt case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against Corrections Corporation of America. The ACLU announced the victory in a press release Friday afternoon. The case harkens back to September, when the U.S. District Court of Idaho found CCA in breach of the settlement agreement signed with the ACLU in 2011 and issued a memorandum decision and order finding CCA in contempt. CCA admitted in an August court hearing to understaffing the Idaho Correctional Center by more than 4,000 hours. A more recent independent audit conducted by KPMG concluded more than 26,000 hours of mandatory posts were actually understaffed by CCA at the Idaho facility. The judge said CCA “regularly fell short” of its duty to assign enough guards. “CCA will now have to justly compensate for the time it took to help bring the extent of its violations to light,” said Richard Eppink, ACLU of Idaho legal director. “I bet all Idaho taxpayers hope that they will also be fully compensated, and that the overdue criminal investigation that has finally been launched will found out all those responsible.” Gov. Butch Otter recently recommended a full criminal investigation be conducted into CCA practices at ICC.


Feb 19, 2014 seattletimes.com

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has ordered the state police to conduct a criminal investigation of understaffing and falsified documents at a private prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). The governor made the decision -- a reversal of his previous stance -- on Tuesday after meeting with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Otter wrote in a letter to Idaho State Police Col. Ralph Powell that after reviewing the available information, including an audit completed by the forensic auditing firm KPMG, he now believed the public would benefit from a formal criminal investigation. "After reviewing available information, including the KPMG audit report, I believe the public interest would benefit from a formal criminal investigation into the acknowledged falsification of Corrections Corporation of America's staffing records at the Idaho Correctional Center during 2012," Otter wrote in the letter to Powell. "Please accept this letter as my direction for the Idaho State Police to undertake such an investigation immediately, and to put whatever time, personnel and resources are necessary at the disposal of conducting it in a thorough and timely manner. I look forward to your findings and conclusions." CCA spokesman Steve Owen has previously said the company has serious concerns with the KPMG audit and believes it contains multiple errors. CCA has hired an attorney and is trying to get KPMG to declare the audit "inconclusive." Otter had previously supported Powell's decision not to investigate the company. CCA has operated Idaho's largest prison for more than a decade. The Idaho Department of Correction asked the Idaho State Police to launch a criminal investigation into CCA last year after an Associated Press investigation showed that the Nashville, Tenn.-based company's staffing reports given to the state listed some guards as working 48 hours straight in order to meet minimum staffing requirements. CCA then acknowledged that its employees falsified the documents to hide understaffing at the prison in violation of the $29 million state contract. For the past 12 months, state officials have said that the investigation was underway. But after the AP filed a public-records request for the Idaho State Police investigation documents late last month, the law enforcement agency revealed no investigation ever occurred. Powell said he decided early last year that there was no crime to investigate, and instead he attended meetings with the Idaho Department of Correction as the department sifted through the documents gathered for the KPMG audit. The KPMG audit, obtained by the Associated Press two weeks ago, found that more than 26,000 hours of mandatory guard posts were understaffed or otherwise problematic. CCA says that number overestimates the staffing problems by more than a third. CCA has agreed to pay the state $1 million to settle the understaffing issue. Todd Dvorak, the spokesman for Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, said he couldn't share details of Wasden's meeting with Otter because it falls under attorney-client privilege. "We join with the Governor and look forward to the findings and conclusions of the investigation," Wasden said in a prepared statement. Owen, the CCA spokesman, could not be immediately reached for comment. CCA officials have previously said they were cooperating fully with the Department of Correction as department officials examined the understaffing issue, and that the company has taken steps to ensure the problem never happens again. "The department stands ready to cooperate in every way possible," Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said. Otter's letter to the Idaho State Police marked the second time in as many months that the governor has changed his mind on issues surrounding the CCA-run prison. In January, Otter announced that he was directing the Idaho Department of Correction to take over the facility. Otter, a self-described "champion of prison privatization," said at the time that the problems surrounding the facility had grown too great and that having the state assume management was the right thing to do. Otter is tied only with Texas Gov. Rick Perry for having received the most campaign contributions from CCA, totaling $20,000 since 2003. Otter said he didn't know he held that record until a reporter asked him about the contribution amounts at a public function earlier this month. Wasden first urged Otter to order the Idaho State Police to do a criminal investigation on Feb. 7, shortly after the news broke that no investigation had occurred. But within hours of receiving Wasden's recommendation, Otter responded with a firm thanks but no thanks. In a letter sent to Wasden's office that day, Otter said the Idaho State Police had already assessed the matter for indications of criminal wrongdoing and had consulted with both state and county legal representatives before determining that no crime had occurred. So, Otter said, no criminal investigation was needed.


Feb 15, 2014 abcnews.go.com

Corrections Corp. of America is pushing to get a forensic audit declared inconclusive after the auditors found the private prison company understaffed an Idaho prison by more than 26,000 hours. The Idaho Department of Correction hired KPMG to conduct the audit last year after an investigation by The Associated Press showed CCA sometimes claimed its guards worked as much as 48 hours straight in order to fulfill staffing requirements. CCA spokesman Steve Owen says the audit is rife with errors and overestimates the staffing shortfalls by more than a third. Owen says the company has hired an attorney to deal with KPMG directly in hopes of reaching an agreement that the report was inconclusive. Still, CCA and the Idaho Board of Correction have announced that the prison company will pay the state $1 million to settle the understaffing issue. The report could impact the Tennessee-based company's other government relationships. Idaho corrections officials say prison leaders in several states and the U.S. Department of Justice have asked for copies of the audit. CCA is one of the largest private prison companies in the world, reporting $1.7 billion in revenue in 2012. Owen contends the report includes several flaws, and that auditors failed to count guard posts that were filled by "highly qualified, experienced and trained personnel" because they had job titles other than correctional officer. "It is characterized by a number of errors, faulty assumptions, misunderstandings of the contract, and other flaws," CCA officials wrote in a five-page statement responding to the report. "We provided all the information that KPMG requested freely, but in the end, the report simply does not provide an accurate assessment of the situation." Guido van Drunen, a Seattle-based partner with KMPG, on Tuesday referred all questions about the matter to the Idaho Department of Correction. The report and underlying documents, obtained by the AP through a public records request, shows that KPMG noted whether staffing positions were filled by correctional officers or other CCA workers after discussing the matter with state officials. The Department of Correction's own contract monitors have noted repeatedly in the past that CCA sometimes relied on case managers and correctional counselors to fill guard posts. Agency officials have said that practice is a problem because if counselors and case managers are working guard posts, they likely aren't left with enough time to fulfill their own job duties, making it harder for inmates to complete the programs needed for parole. CCA contends that in many cases, the case managers and correctional counselors worked overtime in the guard posts, and that since they have security training those hours should have been counted as fully staffed. KPMG's report also says the auditing firm took a conservative approach when deciding whether to include some discrepancies in the overall totals. In cases where auditors couldn't determine with a level of certainty that a post was unmanned, double booked or had other issues, those hours were left out of the total, according to the report. "As a result of our conservative approach it is possible that our analysis understates the number of hours that could potentially be identified as unstaffed using the criteria provided to us by the Idaho DOC," the KPMG report states. The KPMG auditors found that nearly 4,500 hours were double-booked, where one CCA guard was listed as filling two posts simultaneously, according to the report. It also said about 8,700 hours were filled by workers who aren't correctional officers, and more than 9,800 hours were unstaffed because a correctional officer started a shift late or left early. Another 3,100 hours had other problems, according to the report, such as not being identified on the staff roster at all. CCA's response contends that KPMG also failed to account for lower levels of staff needed on national holidays when inmates generally aren't transported in or out of the prison, and that in some cases the auditors failed to account for employees who had the same last name.

 

Feb 13, 2014 spokesman.com

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Corrections Corp. of America is pushing to get a forensic audit declared inconclusive after the auditors found the private prison company understaffed an Idaho prison by more than 26,000 hours. The Idaho Department of Correction hired KPMG to conduct the audit last year after an investigation by The Associated Press showed CCA sometimes claimed its guards worked as much as 48 hours straight in order to fulfill staffing requirements. CCA spokesman Steve Owen says the audit is rife with errors and overestimates the staffing shortfalls by more than a third. Owen says the company has hired an attorney to deal with KPMG directly in hopes of reaching an agreement that the report was inconclusive. Still, CCA and the Idaho Board of Correction have announced that the prison company will pay the state $1 million to settle the understaffing issue. The report could impact the Tennessee-based company's other government relationships. Idaho corrections officials say prison leaders in several states and the U.S. Department of Justice have asked for copies of the audit. CCA is one of the largest private prison companies in the world, reporting $1.7 billion in revenue in 2012. Owen contends the report includes several flaws, and that auditors failed to count guard posts that were filled by “highly qualified, experienced and trained personnel” because they had job titles other than correctional officer. “It is characterized by a number of errors, faulty assumptions, misunderstandings of the contract, and other flaws,” CCA officials wrote in a five-page statement responding to the report. “We provided all the information that KPMG requested freely, but in the end, the report simply does not provide an accurate assessment of the situation.” Guido van Drunen, a Seattle-based partner with KMPG, on Tuesday referred all questions about the matter to the Idaho Department of Correction. The report and underlying documents, obtained by the AP through a public records request, shows that KPMG noted whether staffing positions were filled by correctional officers or other CCA workers after discussing the matter with state officials. The Department of Correction's own contract monitors have noted repeatedly in the past that CCA sometimes relied on case managers and correctional counselors to fill guard posts. Agency officials have said that practice is a problem because if counselors and case managers are working guard posts, they likely aren't left with enough time to fulfill their own job duties, making it harder for inmates to complete the programs needed for parole. CCA contends that in many cases, the case managers and correctional counselors worked overtime in the guard posts, and that since they have security training those hours should have been counted as fully staffed. KPMG's report also says the auditing firm took a conservative approach when deciding whether to include some discrepancies in the overall totals. In cases where auditors couldn't determine with a level of certainty that a post was unmanned, double booked or had other issues, those hours were left out of the total, according to the report. “As a result of our conservative approach it is possible that our analysis understates the number of hours that could potentially be identified as unstaffed using the criteria provided to us by the Idaho DOC,” the KPMG report states. The KPMG auditors found that nearly 4,500 hours were double-booked, where one CCA guard was listed as filling two posts simultaneously, according to the report. It also said about 8,700 hours were filled by workers who aren't correctional officers, and more than 9,800 hours were unstaffed because a correctional officer started a shift late or left early. Another 3,100 hours had other problems, according to the report, such as not being identified on the staff roster at all. CCA's response contends that KPMG also failed to account for lower levels of staff needed on national holidays when inmates generally aren't transported in or out of the prison, and that in some cases the auditors failed to account for employees who had the same last name.

 

Feb 12, 2014 miamiherald.com

BOISE, Idaho -- Corrections Corporation of America is pushing to get a forensic auditing report declared inconclusive after the auditors found the private prison company understaffed an Idaho prison by more than 26,000 hours. The Idaho Department of Correction hired KPMG to conduct the audit last year after an Associated Press investigation showed that the company sometimes claimed its guards worked as much as 48 hours straight in order to fulfill staffing requirements. CCA spokesman Steve Owen says the audit is rife with errors and overestimates the staffing shortfalls by more than a third. Owen says the company has hired an attorney to deal with Seattle-based KPMG directly in hopes of reaching an agreement that the report was inconclusive. The report could impact the Tennessee company's other government relationships. Idaho corrections officials say prison leaders in several states and the U.S. Department of Justice have asked for copies of the audit.


Feb 8, 2014 sfgate.com
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho attorney general's office is calling for a criminal investigation into Correction Corporation of America's understaffing of the Idaho Correctional Center after learning that a police investigation announced last year was never done. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden wrote the letter to Idaho Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter and the heads of the state police, Department of Correction and the Ada County prosecutor's office Friday. The Associated Press obtained the letter through a public records request. In it, Wasden said there appears to be a "large degree of confusion" into whether, based on a forensic audit that showed thousands of hours of guard posts being left unstaffed, an investigation into alleged criminal wrongdoing should be conducted. "To ensure that there is no confusion going forward, I recommend that this matter be immediately referred to the Idaho State Police and the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney's Office for an investigation of any criminal wrongdoing," Wasden wrote. In a reply letter delivered by hand on Friday, Otter told Wasden thanks but no thanks. "There does seem to be some public confusion, fomented by media reports, about the degree to which the Idaho State Police (ISP) was involved in assessing potential criminal wrongdoing in Corrections Corporation of America's (CCA) operations at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC)," Otter wrote in the letter. The governor went on to state that both the Correction Department and the state police regularly assessed "for indications of criminal wrongdoing" the materials that had been collected for a forensic audit ordered by the state on the staffing matter. State police also consulted with the Ada County prosecutor, Otter said. "Therefore, both ISP and the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney's Office have been involved, as have Deputy Attorney General Mark Kubinski representing IDOC, and, to a lesser degree, Deputy Attorney General Stephanie Altig representing ISP," Otter wrote. "Thank you again for your recommendation." The Idaho Department of Correction asked the Idaho State Police to investigate any criminal wrongdoing last year after The Associated Press reported that there appeared to be anomalies in staffing reports that Correction Corporation of America was giving the state. Those reports showed some correctional officers working for as long as 48 hours straight to fill mandatory guard posts required under CCA's $29 million state contract. The state hired an auditing firm, KPMG, which determined that Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA left more than 26,000 hours of mandatory guard posts unstaffed or inadequately covered during 2012. CCA has agreed to pay the state $1 million for the understaffing, but the company is contesting the KPMG report, which CCA claims has several errors. Throughout the past year, officials with the Idaho Department of Correction have said repeatedly that the Idaho State Police's criminal investigation was underway. A federal judge even cited the police investigation in a contempt of court ruling against CCA, saying he wasn't going to take certain steps in his order because he didn't want to interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation. But after The Associated Press filed a public record request last week asking for a copy of the Idaho State Police's investigation report, the agency revealed it had no records at all of an investigation because none had occurred. Col. Ralph Powell said Thursday that after consulting with the deputy attorney general assigned to his agency and the Ada County prosecutor's office early last year, he determined that there was no applicable state criminal code to investigate. Rather, Powell said, he considered the issue a civil breach of contract matter. He said he attended every meeting the Idaho Department of Correction held regarding the financial audit in case something that seemed criminal in nature popped up. But, he said, it never did. "I need to be clear, I'm speaking about this in consultation with my legal counsel," Powell said. "I own my decisions. But I think that we did do due diligence to make sure the Ada County prosecuting attorneys looked at it. No additional information came back to that deputy prosecuting attorney about criminal wrongdoing." But that's not the way other agencies remember the past 12 months. Todd Dvorak, a spokesman for the Idaho attorney general's office, said his agency hasn't been involved in any of ISP's decisions on the matter. Wasden stands by his recommendation, Dvorak said. "The clearest path to resolving this is a criminal investigation and a review by the prosecutor," Dvorak said. Ada County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Roger Bourne says that he met with Powell about a year ago, and told him then that he couldn't determine whether or not there was a criminal violation until he saw the results of the ISP investigation. On Tuesday, Idaho Department of Correction director Brent Reinke said Powell attended every meeting the agencies had on the forensic audit and staffing issues, and he "continued to evaluate the civil and criminal elements at each meeting." IDOC never gave the police advice on whether the investigation should be criminal or civil, Reinke said. Mark Warbis, a spokesman for Otter, said the governor believes everyone involved took the issue seriously and did what they needed to do, and that while there wasn't an "investigation," per se, police took a close look at the data. "ISP has been engaged with IDOC throughout the process. This is a matter of semantics," Warbis said.


Feb 7, 2014

Boise, ID - Today the ACLU submitted an open records requests to the Idaho State Police (ISP), the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC), and the Governor’s Office concerning records falsification and understaffing at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC). The requests ask for all records and communication having to do with the “criminal investigation,” including all records relating to the criminal investigation referenced in the contempt proceedings, all documents turned over to ISP and all information IDOC has regarding those who falsified documents and everything related to how the settlement of $1 million was reached with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), including the KPMG report. In a recent AP story, we learned that forensic auditing firm KPMG was hired to comprehensively review time records for ICC staff. KPMG determined that CCA left more than 26,000 hours unstaffed mandatory guard posts just in 2012. This amounts to 500 hours per week, 71 hours per day, the equivalent of six whole missing shifts every day. “IDOC told us under oath that ISP were conducting a criminal investigation and because of that IDOC would not provide us with important documents that would have aided in showing misconduct at the ICC,” said Monica Hopkins, Executive Director, “The public should be concerned and questioning whether there was collusion between ISP and IDOC to obfuscate the truth or whether the governmental agencies in charge, who depend on communications between each other, are incompetent. The public deserves a complete and thorough explanation.” As it turns out, Idaho taxpayers have been cheated out of potentially millions of dollars, and who knows for how long. CCA has maintained the contract to operate ICC for at least a decade. The 26,000 hours are for a single year and KPMG recommended the investigation be extended to others years as well. We agree.  According to reports, the CCA prison giant now collects $1.7 billion in annual profits, a 17 percent profit margin, which far exceeds most for-profit businesses. It’s time for CCA to come clean. CCA spokesman Steven Owen promised that Idaho taxpayers would be “made whole” for all unverified hours at the prison. It’s time they stick to their promise to repay Idaho taxpayers for the all the years they have lied about. The ACLU calls for a complete audit and disgorgement of all profits made from ICC be returned to the state. “Now that we know there was no criminal investigation there should be no excuse for these state agencies to not provide the public with all of the information for who was responsible for understaffing and falsifying records at ICC,” said Hopkins, “and most importantly whether any of those people are still working at the facility, or worse, in charge.”

 

Feb 6, 2014 bigstory.ap.org

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho State Police say they didn't conduct an investigation following revelations that private prison company Corrections Corporation of America understaffed a prison and gave the state falsified documents to hide vacancies. State officials had promised that there would be a criminal probe, but Capt. William Gardiner told The Associated Press on Wednesday that "no detective was assigned. There was no investigation." Neither the police nor the Idaho Department of Correction asked to look at CCA's timesheet software — software that has auditing capabilities designed to catch fraud — and the police apparently didn't interview any CCA employees. A public records request sent to Idaho State Police by the AP for investigation records was denied, with the police saying no records exist. Instead, the forensic auditing firm KPMG was hired, and that firm looked at print-outs of time sheet records provided by CCA. KPMG determined that CCA left more than 26,000 hours of mandatory guard posts unstaffed or inadequately covered in 2012, according to the report, which The Associated Press obtained Wednesday. The auditing firm also said that number was likely lower than the actual amount of understaffing because some data was impossible to verify, and left out of the equation. KPMG recommended that the state expand its investigation of CCA's staffing to additional years. The Idaho Department of Correction and the Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA announced Tuesday that CCA would pay the state $1 million for understaffing. The Department of Correction is currently in the process of taking over the 2,080-bed Idaho Correctional Center. Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, long a supporter of private prisons, announced the takeover earlier this year. The move to end CCA's contract, which expires June 30, came months after a report by The AP raised questions about how CCA was staffing the prison. After the AP story was published, the Department of Correction asked the State Police to investigate the prison and CCA for possible contract fraud or other problems. In a statement, the State Police said it appeared that CCA's actions were "a civil breach of contract" and not a crime. "The Idaho State Police stand ready to investigate any activity of CCA and its employees should it violate Idaho's state criminal statutes, as appropriate," the statement said. CCA acknowledged last year that its employees falsified staffing records given to the state to hide vacancies, but said only 4,800 hours of mandatory posts were left unstaffed. At the time, the company offered to give the state $100,000 to make up for the understaffing. CCA spokesman Steven Owen promised that Idaho taxpayers would be "made whole" for all unverified hours at the prison. The vacant posts and phony records violated not only CCA's $29-million annual contract to run the Idaho Correctional Center, but also a federal settlement agreement reached with inmates who sued claiming the understaffing led to rampant violence. Mark Warbis, a spokesman for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, said that the State Police have been "engaged with DOC (the Department of Correction) throughout the process. DOC was in regular communication with ISP and vice versa." "I believe that the people who were engaged in this process made their best professional assessment of the situation," Warbis said. "I'm not going to second-guess ISP's process." Idaho State Police Col. Ralph Powell was scheduled to speak at the Board of Correction meeting late Wednesday morning. But the State Police decided not to attend, Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said, and Powell was apparently out of town and not scheduled to return until Wednesday night. "The Colonel participated in every meeting that we had," Reinke said. "Because of their continuous support and involvement, we handled that as an ISP investigation." Reinke has said several times over the past year that the police investigation was underway. He said he didn't know exactly when he found out that ISP was relying on the KPMG audit and not creating investigative records of its own. "We were well into the process," Reinke said. "There's been an ISP representative at all these meetings. I never really looked at it as the standpoint of is there a hard-copy investigation. As far as not knowing that there was nothing hard-copy, it would have been in the last month or two." CCA spokesman Owen said the ISP's findings were "another important step that allows us all to move forward." "This story is coming to a conclusion," Owen said in an email. "We've worked openly with the state toward resolution and have reached one that they agree makes taxpayers whole."


Feb 5, 2014 seattlepi.com

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Corrections Corporation of America will pay Idaho $1 million for understaffing the state's largest prison in violation of its contract. The agreement between the private prison company and the Idaho Board of Correction was announced Tuesday. Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA acknowledged last year that its employees falsified staffing records given to the state, making it look as though thousands of hours of mandatory guard posts were filled when they were actually left vacant for months. CCA says the payment makes Idaho taxpayers whole. Prison officials say the sum doesn't reflect actual hours, but because of the complexity of the issue, they decided it was a reasonable amount. The state has decided to take over the Idaho Correctional Center in the wake of the staffing scandal, rampant violence and other problems.


Jan 31, 2014 khq.com

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho's Senate vote to spend $1.9 million to take over a prison whose private operator came under fire for fraud over staffing. The Spokesman-Review reports Thursday's 34-0 vote would dedicate the cash to transition the Idaho Correction Center to a state-run facility. Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America operated Idaho's largest prison since it was built more than a decade ago. But it's been plagued with allegations of mismanagement, rampant violence and chronic understaffing - including falsified reports to make it seem like more guards were on duty than actually were. The push to take back the prison has been gaining support. For instance, Sen. Steve Vick of Dalton Gardens initially opposed spending the $1.9 million, but now says he's OK with it. The House now votes on the measure.


Jan 25, 2014 idahopress.com

Three current workers and one former worker at Idaho's largest private prison are suing Corrections Corporation of America in state court over what they say is a dangerous work environment. Mark Eixenberger, Mandi Bravo, Mario Vasquez and Leonard King filed the lawsuit in Boise's 4th District Court on Thursday against the Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA. The workers contend that they sustained severe emotional distress and in one case, physical injuries, because they were put to work at the Idaho Correctional Center with broken equipment and inadequate training. In the lawsuit, the workers say they were equipped with broken radio sets, empty pepper spray canisters and were often left to work without basic equipment like handcuffs. CCA has not yet filed a formal response to the lawsuit. "We have yet to be served with this complaint, so we haven't had the opportunity to review any specific allegations," CCA spokesman Steve Owen told The Associated Press in an email. "However, contrary to the generalizations made in the document, CCA takes the safety of its facilities and our employees very seriously. We also provide significant and ongoing opportunities for employee training that meet or exceed industry standards." The workers are represented by Boise attorney Andrew Schoppe. In the lawsuit, Schoppe writes that CCA has already been held in contempt of court for understaffing in violation of a separate lawsuit settlement and that the company has acknowledged that falsified reports were given to the state of Idaho showing that thousands of unstaffed guard positions were actually filled. "In addition to falsifying those records, the Plaintiffs are also informed that at least one other instance occurred in which records relating to ongoing investigations into crimes and other incidents at the prison were knowingly destroyed by CCA administrators," Schoppe wrote. The workers contend that CCA required guards to work long overtime hours, leaving them fatigued and unable to be of any meaningful use in guarding inmates or protecting fellow officers. The radios that are part of the correctional officer uniforms were often defective, the workers contend, putting them at further risk. "For example, the Plaintiffs and their fellow employees were forced to patrol the prison for months with radios whose call buttons were not functional and that were nothing more than spring-loaded `placebo' buttons that would issue no signal for help when pressed, leaving them without means to call for assistance in the all-too-likely event of an assault by inmates,'" Schoppe wrote. One of the plaintiffs, Leonard King, sustained a concussion when he was beaten by an inmate who had already threatened to attack a correctional officer earlier that day, according to the lawsuit. King contends that his supervisor knew of the threat, but still sent King in alone to move the inmate to a cell without warning him of the danger. King no longer works at the prison. "All of the Plaintiffs have been subjected to unreasonably dangerous risks and lethal hazards at ICC as a direct, proximate, and legal result of CCA's negligence and gross recklessness in operating the ICC prison facility. Unlike King, Plaintiffs Eixenberger, Bravo, and Vasquez have been fortunate enough to have escaped serious physical injury for the most part, but the needlessly intense day-to-day stress of working in such an unreasonably unsafe environment has taken a severe emotional and psychological toll on all of them, and has caused both their professional and personal lives to suffer," Schoppe wrote in the lawsuit. The four plaintiffs are asking for damages of at least $1 million each.


Jan 18, 2014 The Spokesman-Review

Legislative budget writers held a special hearing this morning on the transition of the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise from private operation by the Corrections Corp. of America to state operation by July 1. The shift will require a supplemental appropriation – an additional authorization for spending in the current fiscal year. Deputy Director of Corrections Kevin Kempf told lawmakers, “We anticipate retaining 65 percent of the correctional officers that are currently there.” The rest will be new hires, he said; the department is asking to hire 72 correctional officers. The full supplemental request is for $1.9 million in state general funds, including $1.2 million for personnel including a warden, correctional officers, a management assistant, a human resources specialist, IT support, a food service supervisor, and food service officers. It also includes supplies, uniforms, office equipment, computers, $12,300 worth of firearms, and more. Kempf said upper-level employees at the facility like the warden and deputy wardens “typically will stay with CCA,” and the state will hire its own. Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, asked if the state-hired officers will be paid more or less than the private ones; Kempf said that’s a good question. “We don’t exactly know what correctional officers and staff make at the private prison. What we do know is what our budget is set at.” Kempf said the department anticipates no problems recruiting guards. “We don’t have difficulty finding” applicants, he said. “To be perfectly honest with you, our difficulty is retaining them with us.” JFAC will vote on the supplemental appropriation on Monday, as it kicks off a week of budget hearings on education.


Jan 11, 2014 boisestatepublicradio.org

The Idaho Board of Correction has officially ordered the state's prison department to begin the process of taking over operations at the privately run Idaho Correctional Center. The board made the decision Friday, one week after Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter announced that he believed the state's experiment with privatization at the facility was over. Still, board Chairwoman Robin Sandy appeared to leave open the possibility that the prison could revert to private management sometime in the future. Sandy said that after two years of state management, the board would be able to evaluate future management plans. Taxpayers currently pay Corrections Corporation of America $29 million per year to operate the prison, and the company has been the subject of multiple lawsuits and investigations alleging violence, understaffing and possible contract fraud.


Jan 9, 2014 dailyfinance.com

According to Idaho state law, defendants found guilty of the crime of false imprisonment can be punished by as much as a year in prison, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both. One company found guilty of breaking the law whilst imprisoning people, however, has been getting paid $29 million a year for its services. Over the course of the past decade, private prison-operator Corrections Corporation of America (CXW) -- one of several for-profit prison operators that have been grabbing headlines in America lately -- has been accused of mismanaging the 2,080-bed Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. In March 2010, the company was sued by the ACLU , which alleged that CCA guards at the Correctional Center were permitting violent convicts to beat up other inmates with impunity. In one notable instance, video was obtained showing inmates beating a fellow inmate unconscious, while guards looked on, and made no attempt to interfere. In a separate lawsuit in 2012 , eight inmates at the Center sued CCA, alleging prison staff collaborated with violent prison gangs with names like The Aryan Knights and The Severely Violent Criminals, using the gangs to enforce discipline at the facility. According to the ACLU, the situation at the Center was so bad that inmates had taken to calling it "Gladiator School." (CCA denies the allegations.) In September of last year, a federal judge held CCA in contempt of court for violating a legal settlement it had entered into, under which it promised to hire more prison guards to remedy understaffing at the Center and improve inmate safety -- both of which it failed to do. White-Collar Crime? Now This Is Serious! Allegations have also touched on possible white-collar crimes. CCA is alleged to have falsified its payrolls, showing the state staffing reports that reflected thousands of hours worked by prison guards in jobs that were actually unfilled. IN fact, CCA admits these accusations, but argues they amounted to only "a fraction" of the company's payrolls. Yet this "pocketbook issue" may have been the one that finally gotten somebody's attention. On Friday, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter confirmed that he's taking the Center back under state control. Crime Pays: In exchange for keeping watch over its prisoners (or failing to), CCA collects $1.7 billion in annual revenues, earning a staggering 17 percent profit margin on the business. For comparison, that's twice the profit margin earned by Exxon Mobil (XOM). Prisoners are nearly as profitable for CCA as smartphones and Internet ads are for Google (GOOG) -- netting it more than $300 million in profit last year. And despite the loss of its Idaho contract, CCA remains a major player in the national for-profit prisons industry. Across the country, in 19 other states and the District of Columbia, Corrections Corporation of America owns and manages some 47 prisons -- and manages an additional 19 that it does not own. Even after the 2,080-bed Idaho Correctional Center reverts to state management, more than 90,000 prisoners will continue to reside within walls patrolled by CCA employees. And, in one final twist, though Gov. Otter has acted to protect some of his citizens by reasserting control over the Idaho Correctional Center, he's not protecting all of his state's felons from physical violence sponsored under CCA's corporate umbrella. Within Idaho borders, prisoners may no longer have cause to fear, but the company still has a contract to house up to 800 Idahoan inmates in its Kit Carson Correctional Center in Burlington, Colo. Unless the state decides that violations at the Idaho Correctional Center justify terminating the outsourcing contract too, that one still has at least six months left to run.


Jan 4, 2014 idahostatesman.com

Idaho plans to begin running the 2,080-bed Idaho Correctional Center, its largest prison, over the next several months, with its $29 million-a-year contract with the Corrections Corp. of America expiring on June 30. “In recognition of what’s happened, what’s happening, it’s necessary. It’s the right thing to do,” said Gov. Butch Otter at Friday’s 2014 legislative preview for media. “It’s disappointing because I am a champion of privatization. “ ... It’s the right thing to do. Is it the desirable thing to do for me? Not necessarily.”  CCA said that although there were “challenges” at the prison, located just outside Boise, it has and will continue to be responsive to the state’s concerns. “Despite reported issues, there are overwhelmingly more positive things that have occurred at the facility during our partnership,” CCA said. An Associated Press report last year raised questions about how the Nashville, Tenn.,-based company was staffing the prison, and the state’s move is part of a larger debate over whether prison privatization works. Over the past several decades, contractors have been brought in to run prisons, federal lockups and even county-level jails. The number of inmates housed in the facilities grew from 85,500 in 2000 to more than 128,000 in 2012, according to federal statistics. California officials are expanding their use of private prisons to meet a court order to reduce overcrowding. There’s also been some pushback, with Oklahoma’s corrections director resigning last year in a dispute over the growing use of privatization. Kentucky transferred about 400 female inmates out of a private prison last year after a scandal involving guards sexually assaulting inmates. Officials in Texas decided not to renew contracts with CCA for operating a state jail and a transfer center amid declining inmate populations. University of North Florida criminal justice professor Michael Hallett, who has written journal articles and a book on prison privatization, said the problems in Idaho reflect those seen nationwide. “A private prison corporation operates just like an old-fashioned HMO, where the less they spend, the more they make,” Hallett said. “ ... There’s lots of ways to game the system, through contract violations and even just legal contracts to house easier inmates.” CCA notes on its website that it operates the fifth-largest corrections system in the country, housing nearly 80,000 inmates at more than 60 facilities. The majority, it said, are company-owned complexes; it has contracts with the federal government. The company has contracted with Idaho to run the prison since it was built in 1997 along Pleasant Valley Road in Kuna, where the state has also built several other corrections facilities. ICC has been the subject of multiple lawsuits alleging rampant violence, understaffing, gang activity and contract fraud, and some of the lawsuits have resulted in federal court orders to improve conditions. Early last year, an AP investigation examining overtime records and staffing reports showed that some of CCA’s reports to the state erroneously showed guards working shifts that were actually left vacant. CCA said last year that there were falsified staffing reports. In response, the state corrections department asked the Idaho State Police to investigate possible fraud. CCA officials have acknowledged that about 4,800 hours of guard posts were left unstaffed despite reports showing otherwise, and CCA leaders have promised to cooperate with the investigation and make taxpayers whole for any unverified hours. Last fall, CCA announced that it wouldn’t bid on the next contract to run the prison. Another major private prison corporation, GEO Group, also informed the state that it wouldn’t bid on the contract. That narrowed the field of potential private managers dramatically, and the Idaho Board of Correction had to weigh what to do. For years, Otter has pushed for privatizing certain sectors of government, including prisons. In 2008, he floated legislation to change state laws to allow private companies to build and operate prisons in Idaho and import out-of-state inmates. He also has suggested privatizing the 500-bed state-run Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino. Though he noted his disappointment, Otter said, “You will see ... I’m asking the Board (of Correction) to also engage in listing those noncustodial duties at the prison that could be privatized, such as food, education and outreach.” So now comes a dramatic turnaround for the state. IDOC Director Brent Reinke had lobbied a few times in recent years to allow the agency to put together its own proposal and cost analysis for running the prison. Each time, Reinke and his staff were rebuffed. Issa Arnita, a spokesman for private prison company Management and Training Corp., said Idaho’s move is not a sign of things to come. “We believe there are clear advantages to having states and contractors partner in operating correctional facilities, including cost savings, competition and innovation in offender programming,” Arnita said. He said he thinks private prison operations will grow.


November 8, 2013 magicvalley.com

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The two biggest private prison companies in the nation say they don't want the contract to run a troubled Idaho prison, and that could shrink the pool of potential bidders to just two smaller companies. GEO Group sent a letter to Idaho Department of Correction officials last month to say thanks but no thanks to the chance to bid on a contract to run the Idaho Correctional Center. Corrections Corporation of America, which currently operates the facility, has also said it won't seek a new contract when its current $29-million-a-year deal with the state expires next summer. That leaves two smaller companies in the pool of likely bidders: The Centerville, Utah-based Management and Training Corp., and Community Education Centers, which is based in West Caldwell, New Jersey.


October 28, 2013 postbulletin.com

Justice Dept. won't prosecute Idaho prison guards Associated Press | After a three-year investigation into allegations of possible criminal civil rights violations at Idaho's largest private prison, the U.S. Department of Justice is declining to prosecute any current or former guards with Corrections Corporation of America. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson made the announcement Monday, saying the FBI's investigation into inmate-on-inmate assaults at the CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise was detailed and covered multiple incidences. Olson says that while the assaults at the prison have been problematic, prosecutors didn't believe they would be able to prove elements of a federal crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Under federal criminal civil rights law, prison guards commit a crime if they willfully fail to stop an assault or are deliberately indifferent to an inmate who is in need of medical care. In a prepared statement, Olson said the investigation focused on whether correctional staffers had "actual knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm to the inmate." That's a tough standard, Olson said. "We determined that under the circumstances, none of these assaults were incidents where we could prove the elements of a federal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. In such situations, we are obligated to decline prosecution. We do so here," Olson said. CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the company cooperated fully with investigators and that the safety of inmates, staffers and communities is a top priority. "We appreciate the Department's thorough review of this matter as well as the outcome," Owen said. Olson, the U.S. Attorney in Idaho, confirmed in November 2010 that the Department of Justice investigation was underway after The Associated Press published a story and surveillance video of an attack on former ICC inmate Hanni Elabed. Elabed was attacked in January 2010 moments after prison staff reassigned him to a cellblock with inmates he previously identified as being involved in peddling contraband with a staffer. The harrowing security video showed that a group of guards watched for several minutes as Elabed was attacked by another inmate. At one point, the footage shows Elabed banging on the window to a guard station and pleading for help to no avail. The guards continued to watch as Elabed was knocked unconscious, stomped and kicked; they didn't intervene even when Elabed's attacker sat down for a minute to catch his breath before continuing to beat the unconscious victim. Elabed was left with permanent brain damage from the attack. He sued CCA in federal court and reached a settlement with the company; he was also granted a medical release from prison. At the time, Olson said FBI agents were focusing on whether ICC staff had violated the civil rights of Elabed and other inmates at the prison, which is operated by the Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA under a $29 million contract with the state of Idaho. The investigation was focused solely on the Idaho prison and not any of the other prisons operated across the country by CCA. Several inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center have sued CCA in federal court alleging that the company's management contributes to high rates of violence at the prison. Those civil rights lawsuits are a more appropriate vehicle for addressing the assaults that the investigation examined, Olson said. She also noted that the criminal investigation did not cover recent admissions by CCA that staffers at the Idaho Correctional Center did not work all of the hours billed to the state of Idaho. - See more at: http://www.postbulletin.com/news/nation/justice-dept-won-t-prosecute-idaho-prison-guards/article_71f4127c-4b70-5f5a-afa3-862e8597f816.html#sthash.VCvpnS1g.dpuf


October 25, 2013 idahostatesman.com

BOISE, Idaho — A former employee at Idaho's largest private prison who was fired after the state launched an investigation into allegations of contract fraud is suing Corrections Corporation of America, saying he has had to unfairly take the blame for the company's wrongdoing. Shane Jepsen started working for CCA in 2000 as a correctional officer and worked his way up to chief of security, the third-ranking spot at the Idaho Correctional Center. In a lawsuit filed in Boise's U.S. District Court this week, Jepsen says he began warning then-warden Tim Wengler and other CCA officials of staffing vacancies and inaccurate staffing reports back in 2010. He contends that CCA made him the scapegoat for the staffing fraud when it fired him earlier this year. Wengler and the other CCA officials have denied having any knowledge of the staffing fraud before the end of 2012, when the company says its officials first heard a report of problems and launched an internal investigation. In the lawsuit, Jepsen says in 2010 he emailed several CCA managers including Wengler and the assistant warden Tom Kessler, in 2010 to talk about problems with the staff rosters, and that he did it again in 2011, writing, "There are people coming to work that are not listed on the daily roster, people are here that are not listed on the roster, people are on the rosters that are not here." Jepsen says he had no authority to fix the staffing problems and that his supervisors were fully aware of the issue. He contends CCA has publicly tried to place the blame on him to divert its own failure to comply with the $29 million state contract. "In terminating Jepsen in April of 2013, CCA officials made clear that they had to protect CCA's reputation in Idaho so IDOC would continue to allow CCA to run (the prison) pursuant" to the state contract and despite the company's breach of the contract, Jepsen's attorney, Howard Belodoff, wrote in the lawsuit. "... It was the high ranking CCA Officials who changed the format of the employee staff rosters, in 2010, in such a way that IDOC contract monitors would not be able to detect shift vacancies on the face of the reformatted roster, and thereby making it simpler for ICC to falsify employment rosters without detection." Jepsen is asking for back pay, compensatory damages and other payments in excess of $150,000. CCA has not yet filed a response. CCA spokesman Steve Owen has previously said that the company has taken action to fix the staffing problems. Staff and inmate security are a top concern, he said, and CCA remains committed to making taxpayers whole for any unverified hours.

 

October 25, 2013 lmtribune.com

JEERS ... to Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke. On his watch, the state enabled Corrections Corporation of America's chronic understaffing of the Idaho Correctional Center outside Boise, transforming that prison into a violence-ridden "gladiator school." Five years before CCA's history of scrimping on staffing - thereby enabling inmates to beat up each other - culminated in U.S. District Judge David O. Carter holding the contractor in contempt of court, an internal IDOC memo said ICC inmate violence "has steadily increased to the point that there are four incidents for every one that occurs in the rest of the Idaho state-operated facilities combined." Although Reinke ramped up monitoring of the state's $29 million contract with CCA, his oversight lacked conviction. As the Associated Press' Rebecca Boone unveiled this week, Reinke's department knew CCA was violating its contractual obligation to adequately staff the prison for at least three years. Even when a flurry of prisoner lawsuits showcased persistent understaffing, the department didn't scrutinize CCA's staffing reports. Idaho officials knew enough to impose financial penalties for contract violations - the only thing the profits-driven CCA understands - but they never did. Instead, they put on the kid gloves and even allowed CCA to get by with fewer guards. And then it's shocked - shocked! - to find out CCA filed falsified time cards and billed Idaho for shifts that weren't worked. "Never in a million years did we think they were lying to us," IDOC quality assurance manger Natalie Warner told Boone. How would Warner handle an empty cookie jar and a preschooler with crumbs on his face? "In this case, it was a $29 million cookie jar," says Alex Friedmann, managing editor of Prison Legal News. "And when CCA is found with cookie crumbs all over their face but denies wrongdoing, the Idaho Department of Correction says, 'OK,' without fact-checking."

 

Oct 23, 2013 boisestatepublicradio.org

Administrators and staff at Idaho's prison agency knew since at least 2010 that private prison contractor Corrections Corporation of America was understaffing the state's largest prison in violation of the state contract. Idaho Department of Corrections officials and CCA eventually came to an agreement about staffing levels, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press, but inmates and advocates continued to complain about inadequate staffing and its impact on prisoners' safety. The new details about the state's oversight of CCA come as Idaho State Police investigators are looking into allegations that the nation's largest private prison company defrauded taxpayers by filing reports that showed vacant positions were fully staffed. That investigation is expected to be completed sometime in the next several weeks. The probe was launched after an AP public records request raised questions among officials about payroll reports and staff rosters from the CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center. Idaho corrections officials say they are proud of the departments' efforts to oversee CCA - efforts which included adding more employees to check on the prison and lengthening CCA's contract from 30 pages to 450 in an effort to better spell out the company's responsibilities. But the agency never fact-checked CCA's staffing reports against payroll records. "Now, looking back on this, I think we'd all have done it differently," Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said. "I think our staff has done an incredible job. When you start looking at the staffing fraud ... it's really complicated to get to the bottom of that." When Reinke became director in 2007, only one part-time employee was responsible for monitoring the private prison. Reinke began adding staffers to the job immediately and now 24 of IDOC's 1,570 employees oversee eight different contracts worth about $80 million a year. CCA, based in Nashville, Tenn., gets $29 million of that total. CCA spokesman Steven Owen said in a prepared statement that the months of falsified reports were an isolated incident. He said the company has cooperated with the state's investigation, is working to correct the issues and is "fully committed to making taxpayers whole for any unverified hours." CCA has said it won't bid on the next contract to run the Idaho prison when its current contract expires next summer. Still, as the Idaho Board of Correction prepares to hand the prison over to another private company, department officials are looking back to see where they could have done a better job. "Never in a million years did we think they were lying to us," said IDOC quality assurance manager Natalie Warner. "...You know, the thing about fraud is we just can't ever assume the worst intent, otherwise that's all we're ever looking for." IDOC officials say that back in 2010 they thought the agency was taking all the necessary steps to make CCA compliant. Still, the warning signs were there, with lawsuits from prison inmates alleging violence and understaffing filling the court docket. The prison had roughly three times the number of inmate-on-inmate assaults than other state prisons. And IDOC's own contract monitor, Matthew Vallard, detailed more than 500 vacant mandatory security posts between April and the end of August in memos to supervisors. Idaho officials warned CCA leaders in 2010 and again in January 2011 that the understaffing needed to be fixed. But in March 2011, Vallard tallied nearly 300 more vacancies. That prompted the department to issue a "Breach of Contract Notice" to CCA, advising the company it had 30 days to make things right or face a type of fine called "liquidated damages" under the contract. CCA agreed to fix some of the understaffing but countered some posts simply weren't needed. After negotiations IDOC agreed to take those posts of the mandatory list, effectively remedying many of the vacancies. The company was never fined, nor did IDOC push for a price cut in exchange for the staffing reductions. By the end of 2011, CCA reached a settlement agreement in a lawsuit brought by inmates and the American Civil Liberties Union that alleged understaffing and rampant violence at the prison. The terms of that settlement called for increased staffing levels and other changes, including stopping inmates from covering the windows in their cell doors and improving management of the prison's housing units. IDOC was tasked with helping to ensure the settlement terms were being met, prompting the contract monitors to switch their focus from total staffing numbers to settlement issues. Meanwhile, CCA's monthly reports to the state showed the mandatory positions were nearly always fully staffed. Inmates and some outside attorneys thought otherwise. In 2012, rumors began circulating that CCA was falsifying staffing reports given to IDOC by using "ghost workers," employees who were listed as working a post even when they weren't in the facility at all, and another group of inmates sued over the alleged scheme. At the start of 2013, the AP requested the staffing and payroll records from the prison. The next week, CCA's regional director Kevin Myers told an IDOC official for the first time that the company had begun its own investigation several months earlier after an employee reported allegations of staffing fraud, according to court documents. Reinke said the new contract will eliminate enforcement loopholes and new reporting requirements will make it easier to spot potential fraud. Stephen Pevar, the ACLU attorney who represented inmates in the 2010 lawsuit, said the state shares the blame for the problems at ICC. Pevar said he's happy the department has taken aggressive steps since the suspected fraud came to light, but the final outcome remains to be seen. "Will Governor (C.L. "Butch") Otter and Director Reinke allow CCA to get away with this?" Pevar said.

 

Oct 16, 2013 idahostatejournal.com

Democratic lawmakers are urging the Board of Correction to put Idaho's largest prison back under state control instead of contracting with another private prison operator. The letter signed by 16 of the Legislature's 20 Democrats was delivered Tuesday by an unexpected messenger: Republican Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's spokesman, Mark Warbis. Warbis said there was no "hidden message" to Otter's decision to deliver the Democrats' message to the board. Instead, he said Democratic leaders approached the governor last week after they learned Otter was open to all options for running the Idaho Correctional Center. The prison south of Boise is the state's largest, and it's operated by the Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America under a $29 million annual contract. However, the Idaho State Police is investigating CCA for possible contract fraud, and the company has admitted understaffing the facility in violation of a federal court order and the state's contract. CCA has said it doesn't intend to bid on a new contract to run the facility when the current contract expires next June. "In light of the events of the last few years, we encourage you to reconsider your policy that does not allow the Corrections Department to submit a proposal for management of the privately managed State owned prison in Boise," the Democrats wrote in the letter to the board. "We believe the private prison experiment in Idaho has failed. The recent decision by the largest private prison management company in the United States to refrain from bidding on the new contract means the field of bidders is limited. It also indicates to us that private management of the prison may not be feasible." Board Chairwoman Robin Sandy asked Warbis if the governor had any thoughts to add. "I think it speaks for itself," Warbis said. He said that the governor, the members of the Democratic caucus and other lawmakers are mindful of the board's authority in considering policy matters like prison privatization.

10/15/2013 4-traders.com

Lifshitz Law Firm announces an investigation into possible breaches of fiduciary duty by the directors of Corrections Corporation of America (the "Company") (NYSE: CXW). Specifically, a federal judge found the Company in contempt of court for persistently understaffing an Idaho prison in direct violation of a legal settlement. The judge also rejected the Company's contention that the former warden and other company officials didn't know about the understaffing, saying that they had been warned of the staffing problems multiple times and at the very least failed to check it out. The firm is investigating legal claims against the officers and Board of Directors of the Company.


Oct 15, 2013 Courthouse News Service

BOISE, Idaho (CN) - Corrections Corporation of America uses violence as a management tool at a private prison so brutal it's known as Idaho's "Gladiator School," an inmate claims in court. Rowe Burningham claims he was brutally beaten at the Idaho Correctional Center, in Kuna. He sued CCA, state prison director Brent Reinke, ICC warden Timothy Wengler and other CCA officers, in Federal Court. Burningham, a sex offender, claims he was housed in a segregation unit but was moved to a nonsegregation unit against his requests. The move made him susceptible to attack by prison gang members who tend to react violently to sex offenders, he says in the complaint. He claims fellow inmate and wannabe gang member Michael Shaw Balloue attacked him on Oct. 11, 2011, as part of an initiation into one of the prison's gangs. Balloue is not a party to the lawsuit. "The only prison staff present at that time was Officer J. Hudon," the complaint states. "Before Officer Hudon responded, Michael Balloue had broken Mr. Burningham's jaw, torn his ear from his head in a three-inch gash, caused severe hemorrhaging in his eye, and left multiple welts all over his head from the impact of his fists, and the resulting impact of Mr. Burningham's head on the floor." Then Hudon joined in, Burningham says, spraying him in the face with pepper spray. Burningham was taken to St. Luke's Medical Center in Boise, where he was treated for numerous head injuries that have left him in "an altered mental state," according to the lawsuit. He was discharged from the hospital and sent to the prison's medical unit, where he was put on a "full liquid-through-a-straw" diet with his jaw wired shut. Burningham was sent to maximum security, but CCA staff returned him to ICC general population after he tried to submit grievances against several facility staff members, he says. He was taken out only after his attorneys at Sallaz & Gatewood made multiple phone calls to ICC administration. "ICC is an exceptionally violent prison," the complaint states. "Called 'Gladiator School,' more violence occurs at ICC tha[n] at Idaho's eight other prisons combined. ICC is entrenched in a culture where ICC staff uses prisoner violence as a management tool. "Violence is rampant at ICC for a host of reasons, including the fact that the defendants turn a blind eye to it, fail to adequately investigate assaults and therefore are unable to fashion effective remedial measures to prevent assaults from recurring; they refuse to discipline the guards whose malfeasance precipitated prisoner violence; they frequently place vulnerable inmates with predators; they fail to protect inmates who request and need protection from assault; and ICC is understaffed, inadequately supervised and guards are inadequately trained." The CCA staff "relies on the degradation, humiliation and subjugation of prisoners, thereby creating excessive and unnecessary tension, stress and frustration within the prisoner population," exacerbated by the "deliberate reliance on - and encouragement of - prisoner violence as a management tool," the complaint states. Burningham claims assaults among the 2,000-inmate population are at least three times higher than official numbers; prisoners are afraid to report incidents for fear of retaliation, and CCA deliberately fails to document the cases that are reported. In 2009, an Idaho Department of Corrections official told The Associated Press: "It is fair to estimate that for every one incident we known of, there may be two that we do not," according to the complaint. Burningham seeks punitive damages for cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. He wants more than $150,000 and an injunction forcing CCA to take steps to ensure he is protected from assaults. He is represented by Lauren McConnell with Sallaz & Gatewood.

 

 

 

October 9, 2013 The Spokesman Review

BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter now says he’s open to ideas from legislative leaders and others on whether the state should take over running its troubled private prison, or whether a new private operator should be sought.

“I’m going to listen to other people,” Otter said. “I’m not foreclosing that discussion.” Corrections Corp. of America, the nation’s largest private prison operator, announced last week that it will leave Idaho, and won’t submit a new bid to operate the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise when its contract ends next summer. The state Department of Correction is developing a request for proposals for a new private operator. “I am confident that I am not the source of all great wisdom,” Otter said. He said he wants to “hear all the ideas from JFAC and all the ideas from leadership, as to what we ought to do.” JFAC is the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which sets the state budget. Otter long has been an advocate of privatization of government services, and in 2008 he floated legislation to change Idaho laws to allow private firms to build and operate prisons in Idaho and even import out-of-state criminals to house in them. The idea made lawmakers squirm, and Otter backed off. CCA, which has been the target of multiple lawsuits over prison violence and understaffing at the ICC, is the nation’s largest private prison company, controlling more than 40 percent of the market and housing more than 80,000 inmates in the United States. The second-biggest firm, GEO Group of Florida, houses close to 62,000 U.S. inmates – but Idaho has already had a bad experience with GEO Group. In 2007, Idaho pulled hundreds of its inmates out of two GEO Group prisons in Texas after problems including riots, a suicide, an escape, and complaints about everything from squalid conditions to a lack of programs, adequate food and even adequate lighting. “We’ve not had anything to do with GEO Group since we pulled out of Texas,” state Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said Wednesday. Idaho currently has 239 inmates housed out of state due to overcrowding, all of them at the CCA-run Kit Carson Correctional Center in Burlington, Colo. Idaho’s prison system has repeatedly sought permission to submit its own bid to run the ICC, but the state Board of Correction has rebuffed the idea, with board Chairwoman Robin Sandy saying she didn’t want to grow state government. Otter said this week that he never told Sandy to take that position. “But she knows how I value the private sector in most cases, private-sector operations,” he said, “and where we can do something better, cheaper than the public sector … I’m in favor of it.” An Associated Press analysis of the costs to run the ICC in 2012 found that any savings compared to state-run prisons were more than offset by other factors, including contract oversight costs and the fact that inmates with chronic medical or mental health needs are barred from ICC, allowing it to have a higher staff-to-inmate ratio than state lockups that take all prisoners. Last week, the state of Michigan announced that it won’t transfer inmates to a privately run prison because the state’s estimated cost to house the 968 prisoners involved was $12.9 million a year, while the lowest private bid was $18.6 million, the Detroit Free Press reported. Both GEO Group and MTC of Centerville, Utah submitted bids. Otter said he will involve Sandy and the Board of Correction in any decision. “To my knowledge, CCA’s action was independent of any anticipated public policy or any political leadership suggestion,” he said.


Sep 5, 2013 The Spokesman-review

BOISE – State agencies should be able to competitively bid on government work earmarked for private contractors, a legislator argues. The proposal, drafted by state Rep. John Gannon, is aimed at giving Idaho’s prison system a chance to compete with private prison companies for operation of the troubled Idaho Correctional Center, the state’s only privately run prison. Gannon, D-Boise, said he’s unconvinced the state is saving any money by paying Corrections Corp. of America about $30 million a year to operate the medium-security prison. “There is a view that private contractors can perform functions less expensively, but I think sometimes they can’t,” he said. In late June, the state Board of Correction voted to seek new bids to operate the Idaho Correctional Center starting next year but rejected the idea of considering the cost of state operation as well. Board Chairwoman Robin Sandy said at the time that state operation would grow Idaho’s government, which she opposed. “There would be several hundred more state employees,” she said. Five years ago, the state Department of Correction sought permission from Gov. Butch Otter and the board to submit its own bid for comparison, but the board refused, and Otter backed the decision. His spokesman, Jon Hanian, said Wednesday that Otter’s position hasn’t changed. “The governor doesn’t seek to micromanage his agencies,” Hanian said. Gannon drafted his bill after reviewing pay figures from other states showing that Idaho’s average wage for prison guards, $29,000 a year, is $10,000 below the national median; neighboring Nevada starts its guards at $37,563 a year. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median wage for guards at privately operated prisons is $30,460. Gannon said that shows that private prison companies can operate more cheaply in some states – but not in Idaho. “There are other reasons why I would be uncomfortable with a private prison, but I’m just looking at it from a dollar-and-cents way,” Gannon said. “It just kind of jumped out to me.” The Associated Press analyzed the costs in 2012 and found that any savings at the ICC compared to state-run prisons are more than offset by other factors, including contract oversight costs and the fact that inmates with chronic medical or mental health needs are barred from ICC, allowing it to have a higher staff-to-inmate ratio than state lockups that take all prisoners. House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, was noncommittal Wednesday on the idea of legislation but said, “I don’t think it’s a bad thing to bid it, to get a price from either side. … You would think that would be just a good practice.” Bedke said he’s not opposed to private prisons and doesn’t want to “second-guess the actions of the board.” But, he noted, “Ultimately, we’re the keepers of the taxpayers’ dollars.” He said it sounds like an issue to be considered by the judiciary committees in the Legislature. “This is certainly a topic that we can discuss,” Bedke said.

 

August 12, 2013 ktvb.com

BOISE -- Prison officials say one inmate and a guard suffered injuries during a fight between inmates at the state's private prison. Corrections Corporation of America officials say the fight broke out Friday night at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. CCA officials say the fight didn't last long and was broken up by prison staff. The prison was immediately placed on lockdown. The company did not provide any details of the injury to the inmate who was taken to a Boise hospital for treatment. The guard was treated and released. The Ada County Sheriff's Office is conducting a criminal investigation into the fight.

 

Idaho Statesman Aug 20, 2013

BOISE, Idaho — A federal judge has recently unsealed several documents in a lawsuit between Idaho inmates and a private prison company that appear to give details into allegations of chronic understaffing and an apparent cover-up. The documents include sworn affidavits from three current and former employees of the Idaho Correctional Center, a prison run by the Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America under a $29 million contract with the state. In the affidavits, the women — CCA correctional counselor Susan Fry, CCA addictions treatment counselor Jaune Sonnier, and former CCA correctional counselor Annette Mullan. CCA has acknowledged that some understaffing occurred during 2012, but has denied that the wardens or other upper managers knew anything about the issue. Once the understaffing was discovered, the company said it launched an investigation and notified the Idaho Department of Correction. CCA spokesman Steve Owen said earlier this month that the company has worked in good faith to correct the issue and that CCA was dedicated to making taxpayers whole for any unverified hours.

The Idaho State Police is currently investigating the allegations. The claims from the three women include:

— That the CCA employees charged with filling out the shift rosters fill in blank lines with names of employees who may not even be working that day.

— That correctional counselors are routinely pulled from their regular duties to fill vacant correctional officer posts — and are therefore unable to complete their duties as counselors — but that CCA "double-bills" the state for both positions anyway.

— That CCA staffers are only allowed to work a maximum of 16 hours in a row, so CCA will frequently require them to fill the first four hours of the next 12-hour shift but leave the remaining 8 unstaffed without showing the vacancy on reports.

— That employees and inmates complained to the Idaho Department of Correction's contract monitors, but nothing changed.

— That recreation time for inmates is often cancelled because of lack of staffing, causing resentment among inmates.

— That staffers working the 12-hour and 16-hour shifts are exhausted, and the fatigue causes them to make dangerous mistakes like opening the wrong cell doors;

— That pat-down searches and other routine safety procedures are often skipped because there aren't enough staffers to carry out the procedures;

— That written complaints made by one staffer about the understaffing "would simply disappear;"

— That metal detectors weren't monitored, potentially allowing inmates to carry weapons and other contraband around the prison.


August 7, 2013 boisestatepublicradio.org

A federal judge sharply questioned a top official with Corrections Corporation of America over how much money the private prison company should pay back the state of Idaho after failing to meet minimum staffing requirements at a Boise-area prison for several months in 2012. The comments from U.S. District Judge David Carter came Wednesday during a contempt of court hearing over whether CCA is abiding by the terms of a settlement agreement it reached with inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center in 2011. The inmates, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho sued in 2010, contending the prison run by Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA was so violent that prisoners call it "Gladiator School." CCA denied the allegations but reached a deal requiring widespread operating changes including increased staffing. CCA has acknowledged understaffing the mandatory minimum posts at the prison by 4,800 hours during seven months in 2012. But Scott Craddock, CCA's top ethics officer, said on the witness stand Wednesday that those hours only accounted for understaffing that occurred during the night shift, and that CCA didn't fully investigate the number of hours that were understaffed during the day shift. A partial review showed at least 152 hours unstaffed in May and another 300 in June, Craddock said. "As I understand it, CCA has represented they're going to pay back IDOC. What amount should they pay them?" the judge asked Craddock. "Let's add together," he said, "4800 hours, plus 152, plus 300, what is that? ... And we don't know what the day shift for gosh, July, August, September, October, November, we don't know that, do we? So 4800 hours is kind of a pretty low number, isn't it?" "We reported what we did a detailed report on," Craddock said, saying they based the estimate on the period they investigated, which was the night shift for seven months. ACLU attorney Stephen Pevar said he would show evidence that CCA violated the court's order by failing to fill thousands of hours of security posts, that the company tried to cover up the understaffing by filing false documents with the state, that CCA deliberately avoided learning who was responsible for the problems, and that despite learning of the staffing problems more than a year ago, the understaffing continues to this day. Pevar said the understaffing problems occurred because there was "inadequate supervision by the warden. Someone was asleep at the wheel." CCA's attorney Daniel Struck said hiring and retaining qualified correctional officers is a problem at prisons of all sorts, nationwide. CCA's management team at the Idaho Correctional Center did what it could to try to keep the mandatory posts filled, Struck said, and even hired more staffers than were required under the contract to meet the terms of the court settlement. "The evidence shows there's always going to be challenges in filling mandatory posts," Struck said. He said the company implemented a plan to make sure the vacancies don't happen again, and that there were no increases in inmate assaults as a result of the understaffing. "As a result there is no reason to punish CCA for taking the actions that they did," Struck said. Kevin Myers, a regional managing director of operations for CCA, testified the company offered to pay the Idaho Department of Correction $117,000 to cover the understaffed hours. That amounts to about $24.37 an hour. Myers didn't say what IDOC's response was. The company is paid $29 million a year by Idaho under its state contract. IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray says the department declined the offer because officials are waiting for the results of an Idaho state police investigation into the understaffing.

 

Aug. 05, 2013 charlotteobserver.com

BOISE, Idaho A federal judge has ordered that several documents be unsealed in a lawsuit between Idaho inmates and private prison company Corrections Corporation of America just days before a hearing is set over whether CCA should be held in contempt of court. Inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center, represented by the ACLU of Idaho, brought the lawsuit in 2010 because they contend that the CCA-run prison was so violent that prisoners called it "Gladiator School." CCA denied the allegations, but the two sides reached a deal requiring widespread staffing and safety changes. Late last year the ACLU said it believed CCA was violating the settlement, and both sides went into mediation. Most of the documents filed in the case since have been under seal; the order makes them public.

 

August 5, 2013 ledger-enquirer.com

BOISE, IDAHO — A federal judge has ordered that several documents be unsealed in a lawsuit between Idaho inmates and Corrections Corporation of America just days before a hearing is set over whether the private prison company should be held in contempt of court. Inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center, represented by the ACLU of Idaho, brought the lawsuit in 2010, contending the CCA-run prison was so violent that prisoners called it "Gladiator School." CCA denied the allegations, but the two sides reached a deal requiring widespread staffing and safety changes. The settlement, which was made public, requires that parties try to resolve any disputes together before going back to court. Late last year, the ACLU alleged the Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA was violating the terms of the agreement, and the two sides went into private mediation, during which virtually no records were included in the court file. Since the start of 2013, 19 documents — including four separate judges' orders — have been filed under seal in the case. There were no open motions, orders or other documents detailing the courts' justification for keeping the filings secret. An order directing the inmates to be transported to the courthouse for an Aug. 7 hearing recently was included in the publicly available files, but at the time it was unclear if that hearing itself would be open to the public. According to the order, the hearing is being held so the judge can consider whether CCA breached the settlement or committed contempt of court for violating the agreement. The newest order from U.S. District Judge David Carter, made public late last week, makes it clear that the hearing will be open and that only limited redactions will be allowed before the other documents in the case are unsealed. Carter rejected arguments from CCA's attorneys that the ACLU was seeking to make the documents open only to promote a public scandal. The judge noted that CCA has acknowledged giving inaccurate staffing records to the Idaho Department of Correction and that it failed to meet the minimum staffing terms of its $29 million contract with the state of Idaho for several months in 2012. CCA maintains the understaffing caused no safety issues at the prison. "It is hardly private spite, promotion of public scandal, or libelous, to contend that CCA is wrong, and to submit sworn affidavits from past and current employees in support of that argument," Carter wrote. "Idaho taxpayers pay CCA to operate one of their prisons. With public money comes a public concern about how that money is spent. Such a public interest cannot be swatted away by calling it a desire for 'public spectacle' or a form of 'private spite' or any of the other labels that CCA offers."


July 17, spokesman.com

BOISE – Private prison company Corrections Corporation of America is asking a federal judge to deny a request from news organizations to keep documents open in a lawsuit over conditions at a CCA-run prison in Idaho. A coalition of 17 news organizations including The Spokesman-Review, the Associated Press, KBOI-TV and the Idaho Statesman asked to intervene in the lawsuit to oppose CCA’s request to seal a variety of documents in the case. The coalition contends the protective order sought by Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA would hamper the ability of journalists to report on the lawsuit; CCA maintains the secrecy is needed for security and privacy reasons. In a document filed Tuesday, CCA contends that news organizations have no First Amendment right to civil proceedings and that the news groups only want to cover something scandalous. The issue arose in a lawsuit filed by eight inmates at the CCA-operated Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise last fall. The inmates contend that chronic understaffing and mismanagement at the prison led to an attack in which they were jumped, beaten, stabbed and slashed by members of an inmate gang. CCA has denied those allegations. CCA’s attorneys have asked U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge for a protective order that would allow the company to designate documents and other discovery material confidential if CCA officials believed it was necessary, and attorneys for the inmates have opposed the order saying it was too broad and amounted to giving CCA a “blank check” to keep everything hidden from public view. The request to intervene by the media groups – including the Post Register, Idaho Press Club, Idaho Press-Tribune, the Times-News, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow-Pullman Daily News and others – came last month, with the news organizations arguing that because CCA operates a state prison, it is acting as a quasi-governmental agency and so the press and public need to have access to the documents so they can fully understand and report on the quality of CCA’s work operating the prison and safeguarding the population therein. CCA’s attorneys counter that the U.S. Supreme Court has never weighed in on whether news organizations hold a First Amendment right to cover civil lawsuits in the same way that they have the right to cover criminal cases. Other news organizations in the coalition include the Coeur d’Alene Press, Bonner County Daily Bee, Challis Messenger, Shelley Pioneer, Jefferson Star, Pioneer News Group and the Newspaper Association of Idaho.



Jun 21, 2013 timesunion.com

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A coalition of 17 news organizations across Idaho is asking a federal judge to deny a proposed order that would give private prison company Corrections Corporations of America the power to seal whatever it wants in a lawsuit brought by inmates. The Associated Press, Idaho Statesman, The Spokesman-Review, The Times-News, KBOI-TV, Idaho Press-Tribune, Post Register, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Coeur d'Alene Press, Bonner County Daily Bee, Challis Messenger, Shelley Pioneer, Jefferson Star, Pioneer News Group, Idaho Press Club and the Newspaper Association of Idaho filed the motion Friday in Boise's U.S. District Court. The news organizations contend the protective order sought by Nashville, Tenn.-based private prison giant CCA would severely hamper the ability of journalists to report on the lawsuit. CCA says it needs to be able to hide certain information from public view for security and privacy reasons. The issue arose in a lawsuit filed by eight inmates at the CCA-operated Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise last fall. The inmates contend that chronic understaffing and mismanagement at the prison led to an attack in which they were jumped, beaten, stabbed and slashed by members of an inmate gang. CCA has denied those allegations and the company successfully argued that two of the inmates couldn't sue because they didn't take all the necessary steps to address their concerns through the prison administrative system by going to the courts. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ruled earlier this month that the remaining six inmates can continue with the lawsuit. Generally, the next step in the lawsuit would be discovery, when both sides share the evidence they have with each other. That allows the attorneys to get a feel for the opposing party's case, helps them make the decision whether or not to reach a settlement before trial, and allows all the attorneys to argue to the judge whether they think specific documents and items of evidence should be allowed or kept out of the trial. CCA asked the judge earlier this year for a protective order that would allow the company to designate documents and other discovery material confidential if CCA officials believed it was necessary. CCA's attorneys contended that some of the documents would include medical information that could violate inmates' privacy, personal information that could violate employees' privacy, CCA's trade secrets or security information that could hinder the company's ability to keep the Idaho Correctional Center safe. The attorneys for the inmates, T.J. Angstman and Wyatt Johnson, opposed the order, saying it was too broad and that it amounted to giving CCA a "blank check" to keep everything hidden from view. The news organizations, represented by Lewiston attorney Charles Brown, said in their motion on Friday that if CCA's request for a protective order is granted, it would make it nearly impossible for reporters to cover the lawsuit. That would violate the public's right to know what is happening in the courts, the news groups contend. Because CCA operates a state prison, it is acting as a quasi-governmental agency, the news organizations told the judge, and the press and public need to have access to the documents associated with the lawsuit so that they can fully understand and report on the quality of CCA's work operating the state prison and safeguarding the population therein. CCA's proposed protective order would allow the company to pre-emptively file everything in the case under seal without first having to show that it actually does have a valid security or privacy concern that outweighs the First Amendment rights of the press and the public, Brown said. "This civil case raises issues of profound concern to the general public," Brown wrote on behalf of the news organizations. "... Drawing a curtain of secrecy behind which the defendants can operate simply does not comport with the requirements of the First Amendment, nor Ninth Circuit case law as to the openness required of our judicial system, but also the openness required of our government." CCA's operation of the Idaho prison has been the subject of scrutiny and criticism in both a series of federal lawsuits and Idaho Department of Correction contract monitoring documents. Earlier this year, the state asked the Idaho State Police to investigate after an Associated Press investigation showed that CCA's staffing reports to the state were inaccurate and didn't reflect the company's payroll reports. The state investigation is still under way, and CCA has since admitted that the company falsified nearly 4,800 hours of staffing records during a seven-month period last year.


June 18, 2013 idahostatejournal.com

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho prison leaders are looking for a new company to run the state's largest prison after Corrections Corporation of America admitted to understaffing and overbilling for its work operating the Idaho Correctional Center. But the Idaho Department of Correction won't be allowed to submit its own bid or take over operations at the prison south of Boise, because Board of Correction Chairwoman Robin Sandy said that would amount to expanding state government. The three-member Board of Correction made the decision during a meeting Tuesday evening, opting not to let an automatic two-year extension of CCA's $29.9 million contract kick in when the current contract expires on June 30, 2014. The board also decided that it would consolidate medical services at all the prisons under one statewide medical contract, rather than keeping the medical care services at the Idaho Correctional Center separate. Currently, Corizon provides medical care at every prison in the state except for Idaho Correctional Center, where it is handled by CCA. CCA's Idaho spokeswoman Andrea Evans said she didn't know if the company would bid on a new contract. The Idaho Correctional Center has a been rife with problems for the past several years, with inmates bringing multiple federal lawsuits alleging rampant violence, a policy of understaffing and a practice of guards ceding too much control to prison gangs. The ACLU of Idaho sued in 2010 on behalf of inmates who said the CCA-run facility was so violent that inmates called it "Gladiator School;" that lawsuit resulted in a settlement in which CCA promised to make widespread management and staffing changes. In 2011 the company reached a financial settlement with one inmate, Hanni Elabed, who was beaten by a fellow inmate until he suffered brain damage while several guards watched. CCA's attorneys have vigorously fought the lawsuits and company officials maintain the safety and security of inmates and CCA employees are the CCA's top priorities. An Associated Press investigation into CCA's staffing reports earlier this year showed the company sometimes listed its guards as working as much as 48 hours straight in order to fill minimum staffing requirements. The Idaho Department of Correction subsequently asked the Idaho State Police to investigate understaffing allegations at the Idaho Correctional Center, and CCA later admitted its employees falsified thousands of hours of staffing records during much of 2012. The Idaho State Police investigation is still under way and state officials have not yet released any details of their findings. During Tuesday's meeting, Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said CCA has been cooperative with the state's investigation and that investigators are "looking at some of the legal actions that are out there." Board member J.R. Van Tassel said it was time for the state to "shuffle the deck" and see what other potential bidders are interested in the contract. But Van Tassel said he also thought that the state needed an idea of what the real costs are for running the prison, and said that in order to do that, the Idaho Department of Correction should put together its own bid. "The department should be putting in a bid as well, if not to compete for providing the management of that facility, at least to give us a real-time critical look at what the costs are to operate that," Van Tassel said. But the chairwoman of the board, Robin Sandy, said the department was too busy to spend the time needed to pull together a "courtesy bid." "Our people are just so slammed, to bid it for the sake of comparison ... I don't know how we could expect people to go through the process with no intention of bidding on it," Sandy said. Reinke agreed that while he would appreciate the opportunity to examine the potential costs, his department wouldn't be able to pull together the information in the time span needed. After the meeting, Sandy said she wouldn't rule anything out in the future, but that she didn't think the state should run the prison because that would amount to an expansion of government and she believes in small government. "That would be several hundred more state employees, and they would be on the state system, and it would grow the entire government by several hundred," she said. Van Tassel countered that the state is already paying for the operation of the prison, it's simply giving the money to CCA instead of to its own people. "We're already paying for those employees," he said. It's the second time the Board of Correction has decided against having the department examine what it would cost the state to run the facility. About five years ago Reinke asked the board and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's office if his department could bid for the contract to run ICC, and the board responded with a firm "no." The Idaho Correctional Center building and property is owned by the state but CCA has operated the facility since it opened in July 2000. The prison appeared to operate uneventfully for several years until so many inmates began filing lawsuits alleging similar civil rights abuses that a federal judge began consolidating the cases. Amid the lawsuits the U.S. Attorney's office for Idaho acknowledged that the FBI was also investigating the prison for alleged abuses against prisoners; that investigation is ongoing.


June 6, 2013  idahostatesman.com

BOISE, Idaho — A federal judge says a lawsuit by eight Idaho inmates against private prison company Corrections Corporation of America can proceed after finding that their claims of understaffed prisons and poor management of gangs were plausible. But U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge said two inmates in the group couldn't be part of the lawsuit because they abandoned a prison grievance system before taking their issues to court. CCA runs the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise under a contract with the Idaho Department of Corrections. The eight inmates filed the lawsuit late last year, contending that poor management and chronic understaffing led to an attack in which they were jumped, stabbed and beaten by members of a prison gang. CCA asked the court to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that the inmates didn't show that their claims were plausible and supported by federal case law. The company also argued that six of the inmates didn't address their complaints administratively before they sued. In a 23-page ruling this week, Lodge said the inmates did include some sensationalistic allegations in their lawsuit but that it had enough basic factual information to show their claims may be valid. The judge said Idaho Department of Correction documents cited in the lawsuit appeared to support claims that CCA understaffed the prison using a so-called "ghost worker" scheme in which it gave IDOC reports showing guards worked more hours than they actually did. Lodge wrote that "the records submitted to IDOC show that each shift is fully staffed, when in reality fewer guards are available to help prevent violence among inmates." "And with fewer guards to patrol the prison, inmates were more in danger than they would have been had the prison been fully staffed," the judge wrote of the inmates' allegations. Those claims could suggest that CCA was aware of a substantial risk of harm to inmates, he said. Lodge also gave credence to the inmates' claims that CCA improperly houses gang members together. He noted that IDOC investigated CCA in 2008 and concluded that increased violence and decreased prisoner safety at the prison was due in part to gang members operating openly without fear of accountability. "As plaintiffs point out, the congregated gang members have time to engage in any number of nefarious activities, including planning attacks on other inmates - which is precisely what the Aryan Knights and the Severely Violent Criminals did when they conspired to hide in a closet and to attack plaintiffs with various shanks and shivs," Lodge wrote. The state of Idaho is investigating CCA for possible staffing fraud under its $29 million contract. CCA has admitted that employees falsified thousands of hours of staffing records during much of 2012. Lodge agreed in part with CCA's contention that six of the eight inmates didn't take every step to file grievances and appeal administratively before filing the suit. But he noted that four of the inmates were told by prison administrators they would have to use "outside sources" if they wanted monetary compensation for their injuries. The judge did find two of the inmates couldn't sue because they abandoned the grievance process on their own.

 

May 24, 2013 idahostatesman.com

BOISE, Idaho — The nation's largest private prison company is asking a judge to seal a wide spectrum of documents in a lawsuit brought by inmates at a Corrections Corporation of America-managed prison in Idaho.

Attorneys for CCA filed the motion for a protective order earlier this month in Boise's U.S. District Court in a lawsuit brought by eight inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center late last year. The inmates claimed they were jumped by members of a prison gang, beaten and stabbed and that the attack occurred because CCA was understaffed and that prison managers had ceded too much power to the inmate gangs. Attorneys for CCA say in the motion that the case involves information that must be kept secret to maintain the security of the prison and the safety of inmates and correctional officers. CCA says the seal should include items related to CCA policies and procedures; personal identifying information of employees; inmates' criminal and medical information and any information connected to its investigation of the attack. CCA has already come under fire for its staffing levels at the Idaho Correctional Center by the state, which launched an investigation into falsified staffing records after an Associated Press investigation showed that the company was claiming some employees were working as many as 48 hours in a row in order to meet minimum staffing requirements. CCA officials acknowledged last month that the company falsified nearly 4,800 hours of staffing records over seven months last year in violation of its contract with the state. CCA's annual $29 million contract with Idaho expires on June 2014 but will be automatically extended for another two years unless the state decides to seek bids and select a new provider before next summer. According to copies of email correspondence filed with the motion, attorneys for the inmates oppose the order, saying it's overly broad and would amount to giving CCA a "blank check" to make anything confidential. But former CCA Warden Tim Wengler, who resigned after the company admitted falsifying some of the staffing reports it provided to the state, wrote in an affidavit that he knew of instances in which inmates obtained personal information about correctional officers and used it to intimidate prison staffers, and that he feared the same could happen at the Idaho prison if the employees' identifying information is revealed. Wengler also said in the affidavit that some of the company's policies cover sensitive information like how the perimeter of the prison is secured, what parts of the prison are covered by security cameras and prison emergency procedures. Attorneys for the inmates have not yet filed a formal response to CCA's motion.

May 16, 2013 www.oregonlive.com

BOISE, Idaho — The warden of the privately run Idaho Correctional Center has quit a month after the company acknowledged that his employees falsified thousands of hours of staffing records during much of 2012. Timothy Wengler, who works for Corrections Corporation of America, lasted just three years as warden of the prison south of Boise. His last day will be May 31, according to the Nashville, Tenn.-based company that has a contract to run the prison. Wengler had been thinking about resigning for a year and his departure was a personal decision, said Steve Owen, a CCA spokesman. "The search for a replacement is underway with the goal of having a successor in place for a brief transition period before Warden Wengler's departure," Owen said. When he was hired, Wengler was supposed to help ease problems at the prison. He arrived in Idaho in 2010 to replace a warden the company had removed after the American Civil Liberties Union sued over claims of inmate-on-inmate violence. The lawsuit was settled in 2011, with CCA agreeing to numerous changes in the way it runs Idaho's largest prison, which has more than 2,000 inmates. In April, CCA acknowledged Wengler's administration had falsified close to 5,000 hours of staffing records during seven months in 2012, Idaho officials said the move obscured staffing deficiencies that violated the company's contract. The total cost of the falsified time sheets for Idaho taxpayers hasn't been released. Owen pledged his company would punish employees found to have falsified records. He didn't say if Wengler was reprimanded for the misrepresentations that occurred on his watch. Owen said Wengler was retiring after 17 years at the company. Alex Friedmann, president of the Private Corrections Institute that opposes the privatization of facilities such as the one in Idaho, said it's impossible to know if Wengler is resigning or was forced out. "It was his responsibility to know what was going on," Friedmann said. "Typically, what CCA does is, they shuffle their wardens. Hopefully, the new warden will be less problematic — or less incompetent." The company's annual $29 million contract with Idaho expires in June 2014 but could be renewed another two years. Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said the tab for the fictional staffing remains the subject of a state investigation. "We have not accepted any payment from" Corrections Corporation of America, Ray said, adding the state prison agency will work with the company to ensure a smooth transition between leadership at ICC. "Warden Wengler's departure is a personnel matter that is between him and CCA," Ray said. "It did not involve the Idaho Department of Correction."


April 12, 2013 Barrons.com
Shares of Corrections Corporation of America (CXW) are down a fraction today after the company late yesterday admitted to violating its contract with the state of Idaho: A private company that operates Idaho’s largest prison acknowledged Thursday that its employees falsified nearly 4,800 hours of staffing records over seven months last year in violation of its contract with the state. The admission by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America is the latest in a string of staffing problems alleged or being investigated at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. Earlier this year, the Idaho Department of Correction asked state police to investigate staffing discrepancies at the lockup. Corrections Corporation of America confirmed an internal review concluded some employees at the prison falsified the number of hours worked last year, starting in May and running through November. The watchdog group Private Corrections Institute has a issued scathing statement about Corrections Corp. today, suggesting the latest news may have broader implications: CCA further said “[t]he unverified hours represent a fraction of the total staffing requirements, and there was no apparent increase in violence or other security incidents during the period in question.” However, unstated was the length of time that understaffing – concealed by falsified staff records – had occurred at the Idaho Correctional, and whether such understaffing had contributed to the excessive violence at the facility that led to the class-action suit filed by the ACLU… “Based on the findings by the Idaho Department of Correction and CCA’s own admissions, every single jurisdiction that contracts with CCA should conduct an audit to ensure contractual compliance and adequate staffing at facilities operated by the company,” stated Alex Friedmann, president of the Private Corrections Institute, which opposes prison privatization. “CCA has a lengthy track record of understaffing and high staff turnover, resulting in incidents such as riots, assaults and hostage situations that threaten public safety. This is likely the tip of a larger iceberg.” PCI says Idaho pays CCA $30 million a year, while the AP says the contract is worth $29 million a year. Earlier this week, Corrections Corp. had seen its stock rise after it announced a $675 million special dividend as part of its conversion to a REIT; through yesterday the stock was up 7% this week.

March 6, 2013 seattlepi.com

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho's legislative budget writers have approved a 7 percent increase in general funds for the Department of Correction, with the bulk of the money going to cover cost increases in the state's contracts with private prison companies and a medical care provider. Though the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved the $202 million budget — including $180 million in general funds — with unanimous votes Tuesday morning, several members voiced concerns about the cost and value of Idaho's contract with Corrections Corporation of America, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company that runs the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, proposed attaching language to the budget encouraging the Correction Department to seek bids from other companies and to submit a bid of its own to run the prison, which has been the subject of several lawsuits over inmate violence and poor management. The committee voted 4-14 against the motion, but several members including Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said they supported the idea of the department of correction examining all options when it comes to who runs ICC. Cameron said he voted against the motion because he believes it was beyond the scope of the budget-setting committee, and would be better dealt with by a policy-setting committee or by the executive branch. "I think it would be really nice to have an honest evaluation of the costs," Ringo said before the committee meeting. "But I know there are some political realities that come into play." The state pays CCA just under $30 million to run the prison, including a contractually required 3 percent increase worth about $135,000 approved by the committee Tuesday. But the Idaho Department of Correction has never determined just how much it would cost if the department were to run the prison. About five years ago, Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke asked the Board of Correction and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's office if his department could bid for the contract to run ICC — a move that would have given Idaho a firm idea of how much it would cost to make the facility public, along with a more general idea of what kind of profit private companies could expect to earn while running the prison. But the board responded with a firm "no" and the governor's office simply deflected the matter back to the board. But an examination of comparative costs done by The Associated Press last year showed that the contract with CCA may not offer any cost savings at all, and privatization could actually be costing the state more money than if the Idaho Department of Correction ran the lockup. The prison has had a string of problems, including multiple lawsuits alleging mismanagement and rampant inmate-on-inmate violence that resulted in financial payouts to some inmates and a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union-Idaho that required widespread management and operational changes at the lockup. Just last month the Idaho Department of Correction announced that the Idaho State Police had been called in to investigate apparent discrepancies in staffing and overtime documents that CCA is required to give the state on a monthly basis. A review of public records obtained by The Associated Press showed that CCA was listing some workers as being on duty for 48 hours straight, but that those same workers apparently weren't paid for that many hours. The police investigation is ongoing. "I certainly understand ... that we have to be careful of mixing policy with the job of JFAC, but I think our job is to carefully spend the people's dollars and understand what we're getting in service for the people's money," said Ringo. "I think we need a good look at it, that we can only get through a good, competitive bidding process." CCA's contract with Idaho expires June 30, 2014, though the state has the option of two two-year expansions that could stretch the contract to the summer of 2018. If lawmakers want the Department of Correction to bid on running the facility, the department would have to get to work on formulating a bid right away, department Director Brent Reinke told the committee. "Either way, the operation of that facility is critically important and it would not affect our monitoring, our auditing that is currently under way, or our relationship with that company," Reinke said. Cameron asked Reinke what steps the department takes when deciding whether or not to bid on running the facility. The Board of Correction ultimately makes that decision, Reinke said, based on information from the department, information about how the contract terms have been met so far, and other factors. Though he voted against Ringo's motion, Cameron said after the meeting that he supported the idea of the Department of Correction bidding on running the facility and soliciting bids from other private companies. "I certainly believe the department should look carefully at every contract they've got," he said. "I'm just not sure that it's our role. I'm in favor of every option being evaluated, but it should be evaluated by those who have the authority to do so."


February 05, 2013 By The Associated Press

BOISE — The The Idaho State Police has launched an investigation into staffing levels at the state's largest private prison after state officials said they found discrepancies in the prison's monthly reports. The Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America has run the Idaho Correctional Center under a contract with the state for a decade. The contract details the way CCA must run the prison. The minimum staffing requirements have also been spelled out in a legal settlement that CCA reached with the American Civil Liberties Union-Idaho after inmates sued in federal court. Correction Director Brent Reinke told the Idaho Board of Correction Tuesday morning he asked the state police to investigate because the department found "potential anomalies" during an audit. The department didn't begin taking a deeper look until recently, around the time The Associated Press filed public records requests for shift logs at the prison. CCA's spokesman Steve Owen said in an email that his company is also investigating the issue and working with state officials as the department takes a closer look at the staffing records. He said the safety of staff, inmates and the community is CCA's top priority. "It is premature and speculative to draw conclusions before all of the facts have been gathered, and to do so at this point would undermine the investigation that is taking place. If our efforts uncover inconsistencies, we will take swift action to rectify any issues," Owen wrote. Guards working long shifts, record show CCA's monthly staffing reports to the state obtained by the AP through a public records request appeared to show guards who were listed as working 24, 36 and 48 hours straight without time off. Though CCA's contract with Idaho doesn't limit the number of hours a guard can work in a row, correction officials said that it would be unwise for a guard to work a 36- or 48-hour shift. The department doesn't have the staffing or expertise needed to do the investigation on its own, said Reinke. "We need some outside assistance on what we think we've found," Reinke told the board members, though he didn't offer any details. Reinke said he's had three visits already with the head of the Idaho State Police and written the agency a letter formally requesting the investigation. "The contract requires specific staffing levels to ensure the safe operation of the 2060-bed prison," Reinke wrote in a letter given to Idaho State Police Lt. Col. Ralph Powell on Monday. "This letter seeks an independent party to investigate and audit these records to determine the extent of the problem and any potential violation of state law." Powell has already agreed to investigate, Reinke said. "He considers this an issue now under investigation. We are working through our staff with his staff to be able to transfer documents off," Reinke said. "The Idaho State Police will take it to the next level as far as that's concerned." Reports filed by the state correction agency's own contract monitors and obtained by The AP show that the contractor monitors spotted problems such as double-posting — having one guard work two separate posts at the same time — and vacant security posts at least a year ago, but the department didn't begin taking a deeper look until recently, around the same time the AP filed public records requests for shift logs at the prison. Reinke said he knows the timing looks odd, but the department recognized it needed to more closely monitor staffing levels after putting together its new manual for state contract monitors. The 67-page manual, which took more than a year of research, planning and writing, was finalized in December. Reinke, the department's Bureau of Contract Services Deputy Chief Pat Donaldson and Deputy Warden of Virtual Prisons Tim Higgins told the AP during a conference call last week that they couldn't explain some of the inconsistencies in the monthly staffing reports and that they were looking deeper into the matter and asking CCA for additional documentation, including payroll records. "We don't know what we're looking at here," Reinke said about CCA's staffing reports. "That's why we're trying to get more information." Terms of contract Reinke said the staffing reports represented CCA's assurance to the department that the contractually required positions were being properly filled. CCA's contract with the state requires the company to keep 55 different security positions staffed during the 12-hour day shift, and 49 positions staff during the 12-hour night shift. The number of required positions used to be slightly less — until September 2011, when CCA made a number of management and operational changes at the prison in order to settle a lawsuit brought by inmates who contended that violence and mismanagement were rampant at the facility. The state contract does limit the total number of hours a guard can work in any two-week pay period to 112 hours or less. CCA is required to give the state a monthly overtime report showing the total number of hours its employees work each pay period. But the department apparently never tried to reconcile the two types of documents, nor did they closely monitor the staffing reports. An AP analysis of the documents for 2012 found several instances of inconsistencies between the staffing logs and the overtime reports. For instance, during a pay period spanning late April and early May of 2012, CCA reported on its overtime report that one guard worked 111 hours — just under the 112 maximum. But the staff report for the same period shows that guard working about 123 hours. Another guard was listed as working 112 hours on the overtime report during the same pay period, compared to the nearly 130 hours that the guard worked according to the staff report. Also during that pay period, one guard was listed on the staffing report as working two separate 36-hour shifts, and a total of nearly 140 hours in a two-week span. The overtime report, however, showed that the same guard was only paid for 112 hours of work. A May 2012 report by Department of Correction investigators also cited staffing problems at the prison. The report was part of an investigation into an incident in which members of one inmate gang attacked another group, stabbing and beating them. "Staffing of the unit needs to be consistent," the investigators wrote. "In reviewing the schedule it appeared that staff were double-posted." The investigators interviewed the CCA employees who were working at the time of the attack, according to the documents. CCA's unit manager, Norma Rodriguez, told investigators that the prison unit was short one of the mandatory correctional officers, although she added that other CCA employees told her that a CCA counselor had filled that spot, according to the documents. Monitoring a private prison is a complicated process and the department looks at several operational issues, not just staffing, Reinke said. He also noted that the department's monitoring process has grown increasingly stringent over the past decade. "It's a learning process," Reinke said.

January 22, 2013 By REBECCA BOONE — The Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho — Attorneys for inmates at Idaho's largest private prison say Corrections Corporation of America is falsifying staff logs to hide chronic understaffing. The allegation was raised Friday in an amended lawsuit filed in Boise's U.S. District Court. Attorneys for the Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA have not yet responded to the amended lawsuit in court, and CCA spokesman Steve Owen said he couldn't discuss details of the litigation. But Owen said the company's top priority was the safety of its staff, inmates and the communities it serves, and CCA is committed to providing Idaho's taxpayers with the highest quality corrections services. "We have worked in close partnership with the Idaho Department of Corrections for more than a decade and in a reflection of the strength of that partnership, the state announced in July that it would expand its contract with our company to house up to 800 additional inmates," Owen wrote in an email to The Associated Press. Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke and the department's deputy chief of the contract services bureau, Pat Donaldson, both said they've seen no evidence of falsified staff reports. IDOC's contract monitors routinely review the staffing logs and overtime reports supplied by CCA and so far they've found nothing amiss, Donaldson said. A few months ago the department's contract monitors also began randomly checking to see if the security staffers at the Idaho Correctional Center matched those listed on the shift logs, and no discrepancies have been found, Donaldson said. CCA runs the prison south of Boise under a contract with the state and that contract sets the minimum staffing requirements at the facility. In 2011, CCA agreed to increase the number of correctional officers working at the prison as part of a settlement agreement that ended another federal lawsuit alleging understaffing and rampant violence at the facility. The new lawsuit was filed in November by a group of inmates who contend CCA is working with a few powerful prison gangs to control the facility south of Boise and cut back on staffing. The attorney for the inmates, T.J. Angstman, cited an investigative report from the Idaho Department of Correction that suggested gangs like the Aryan Knights and the Severely Violent Criminals were able to wrest control from staff members after prison officials began housing members of the same gangs together in some cellblocks to reduce violent clashes. In the amended complaint filed Friday, Angstman described a staffing scheme that the inmates claim the company is using to make it appear as if more correctional officers are on duty. The inmates contend fewer guards were on duty than were listed in the staff logs when some of them were attacked and stabbed by gang members in a brutal assault caught on the prison's security cameras. "CCA has historically used inadequate staff to prevent or promptly stop violence against prisoners," Angstman wrote in the amended complaint. "... During the attempted murders, employees were being placed on the shift schedule who were not present within the building or who were actually working in other areas and in some cases were no longer employees of CCA. This was being done to fraudulently show the State of Idaho that ICC was fully staffed when it fact it was not and to hide culpability for the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs." According to the lawsuit, guards at the prison usually work 12-hour shifts. The inmates contend that at the end of a shift, CCA managers would order the guards to work an additional half-hour or so of overtime, and that way their names would be on the following shift log as well, even if they only stayed for a small portion of that shift. As a result, the inmates contend in the lawsuit, some guard names are listed on the staff logs as working for 36 or even 48 hours straight. "CCA engages in this Ghost Worker scheme in order to make an unfair profit from its contract with the State of Idaho at the expense of guards, society, and the inmates within their facilities," Angstman wrote in the amended lawsuit. "It is cheaper to hire and train less guards and pay a few hours of overtime then to hire and train a proper number of guards and pay them for the appropriate number of hours."

November 14, 2012 REBECCA BOONE  Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho — The ACLU of Idaho says Corrections Corporation of America appears to be violating a settlement reached with inmates in a so-called "Gladiator School" lawsuit over violence at an Idaho prison run by the company. The organization sent CCA a letter last week detailing its concerns about safety at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise, executive director Monica Hopkins said. The letter was sent just a day before by a group of inmates filed a separate lawsuit in Boise's U.S. District Court alleging continued mismanagement and gang violence at the prison. The settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union stemmed from a 2010 lawsuit the organization filed on behalf of inmates at the prison, contending the CCA-run facility was so violent that inmates called it "Gladiator School." CCA firmly denied the allegations, but the two sides reached a deal requiring staffing and safety changes at the prison. The settlement requires that both sides try to resolve any disputes together before going back to court. Hopkins said the ACLU's letter outlined "a number of concerns we have about CCA's compliance with the September 2011 court agreement." "We trust that we will receive a response soon, and we hope that further litigation will be avoided," she said. CCA spokesman Steve Owen says the Nashville, Tenn.-based company continues to work in good faith to reach an amicable resolution through the settlement process. "Our focus is on operating a safe, high-quality facility," Owen said. The separate lawsuit filed by a group of eight inmates late last week echoed allegations made in the ACLU case, with the inmates saying CCA is working with a few powerful prison gangs to control the facility. The inmates contend correctional officers use gang violence and the threat of gang violence as an "inexpensive device to gain control over the inmate population," allowing the company to use fewer guards and reduce payroll costs. The eight inmates also allege CCA has violated the settlement with the ACLU by engaging in a "persistent pattern of misconduct." The settlement required CCA to increase staffing; to leave more prison beds open so threatened inmates easily can be moved to safer cellblocks; to report to the local sheriff's office all assaults that appear to amount to aggravated battery; to increase training; and to discipline staffers who don't take appropriate measures to stop or prevent assaults. The inmates are asking for punitive damages, a move that allows them to seek more money than if they were compensated just for any actual harm they sustained. They claim that's the only way to make the company change its ways. Though they haven't named a specific dollar amount, the inmates are asking for enough money to "punish and discourage CCA and other similarly situated persons and entities from engaging in this type of reprehensible conduct in the future," according to the lawsuit. They also note the company handed out $80 million to shareholders last year. Owen said in response to that lawsuit that the safety and security of CCA's facilities, employees and inmates are a top concern. He said any allegations are promptly investigated and, if the company's standards aren't met, are swiftly remedied. Other inmates have reached settlements with CCA in the past, getting payouts from the company for their alleged damages. But those settlement amounts are always confidential. Former inmate Marlin Riggs originally was part of the 2010 lawsuit but eventually split from the larger group to pursue his own case because he was the only inmate seeking monetary damages. Riggs had asked for $55 million, but it's unclear how much CCA actually settled the case for because both sides agreed to keep it secret. The Associated Press filed a court motion asking a judge to unseal the settlement, citing the public interest in the case and the fact that CCA, while a private company, was carrying out a government function in Idaho. However, U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ruled that the interests of Riggs and CCA in keeping the settlement confidential outweighed the interest that the public has in learning its terms.

Nov 13, 2012 By KBOI Web Staff
BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - A Treasure Valley law firm representing eight inmates who contend a private prison is being run by gangs inside the prison grounds has released videos and photos of an alleged attack. In the lawsuit, eight inmates say guards at the south Boise facility let gangs run the prison. On Tuesday, an attorney for the inmates released two videos showing fights at the prison as well as numerous photographs of the aftermath. In the lawsuit, eight inmates says Corrections Corporation of America, which owns Idaho Correctional Center, is essentially lettings gangs run the prison to save money. In the video, it appears as if a single guard is the only responding officer for almost 40 seconds after the incident began. The lawsuit says the prison is a place where correctional officers work in fear of gang members and eve ask their permission before moving new prisoners into other cells. "The gang policies of CCA present clear and present danger to many people," said T.J. Angstman, who's representing the inmates. "As I watched the video, I felt particular concern for the prison guard who attempted to protect my clients from the gang without any backup." The CCA released a statement to the Associated Press.
"We take all allegations seriously and act swiftly if our standards have not been met," spokesman Steve Owen said in a statement. "... At all times, we are held to the highest standards of accountability and transparency by our government partners, and expect to be."

November 13, 2012 APNewsBreak
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A gang war that appears to have taken over parts of an Idaho private prison is spilling into the federal courts, with some inmates contending prison officials are ceding control to gang leaders in an effort to save money. Eight inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center are suing the Corrections Corporation of America, contending the company is working with a few powerful prison gangs to control the facility south of Boise and spend less on staffing. The lawsuit, filed Friday in Boise's U.S. District Court, paints the prison as a place where correctional officers work in fear of angering inmate gang members and where housing supervisors ask permission from gang leaders before moving anyone new into an empty cell. "The complaint alleges that CCA fosters and develops criminal gangs," said attorney Wyatt Johnson, who along with T.J. Angstman represents the inmates, said in a statement. "Ideally, the lawsuit should force this to come to an end." The inmates point to investigative reports from the Idaho Department of Correction that suggest gangs like the Aryan Knights and the Severely Violent Criminals were able to wrest control from staff members after prison officials began housing members of the same gangs together in some units to reduce violent clashes. The power shift meant a prison staffer had to negotiate the placement of new inmates with gang leaders, according to the department reports, and that prison guards were afraid to enforce certain rules. Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison company, says its top priority is the safety and security of its prisons, employees and inmates. "We take all allegations seriously and act swiftly if our standards have not been met," spokesman Steve Owen said in a statement. "... At all times, we are held to the highest standards of accountability and transparency by our government partners, and expect to be." Owen said the Nashville, Tenn.-based company has operated the Idaho prison in partnership with the state correction department for more than a decade, providing housing and rehabilitation for "some of the state's most challenging inmate populations." Both Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's spokesman Jon Hanian and state Corrections Department spokesman Jeff Ray declined to comment because of the litigation, though neither the state nor the department is named as a defendant. The inmates also cite security footage of a violent gang attack carried out in May, which they say shows CCA staffers failed to follow basic safety and security policies. The video, filed with the lawsuit, shows six members of the Aryan Knights prison gang jumping out of a janitor supply closet to attack seven members of a rival gang. The Aryan Knights in the video are armed with knives and other weapons made out of toothbrushes, drawer pulls and other materials. Just one guard appears to be nearby at the time, and that guard tries to pull away one inmate who is repeatedly stabbing another. Other guards soon arrive and jump in to separate the offenders, deploying pepper spray and ordering the inmates to the ground. The state Department of Correction completed a series of investigative reports after the attack, which showed CCA staffers weren't following basic safety and security policies at the prison. The reports said prison staff failed to take such basic steps as making sure other inmates didn't go near the weapons used in the fight. As a result, the chain of evidence wasn't preserved, according to the reports, and it's unclear if any of the inmates were ever criminally charged. The reports also include details from an interview with CCA's unit manager at the prison, Norma Rodriguez, who told department investigators that the gang members essentially were running some of the cell blocks. Rodriguez said sex offenders can't be housed in those units because they're at risk of attacks by gang members, and inmates without gang affiliation can't be moved into the pods because it would force them to join the gangs or be targeted themselves. Rodriguez told the corrections investigators that as a result, she had to negotiate new inmate placements with gang leaders. She also said prison guards were afraid to enforce basic safety rules, such as keeping inmates from covering over the small windows on their cell doors. Rodriguez said that when she tries to enforce the rules, gang members warn her that she's only making it "hard on" the other guards, implying her staffers will be attacked in retaliation. The corrections department documents also imply that guards may have helped the inmates plan for the attack shown in the security footage, or they at the least looked the other way. A similar incident, with a group of gang members hiding in a closet to attack rivals, happened less than a year ago, according to the reports, so CCA guards knew such an attack was a possibility. In the May attack, only one guard was on hand because the other had gone to get candy bars and sodas for the inmates in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, according to the reports, and cell searches were sometimes skipped or shoddily done, allowing the inmates to build and store weapons. Guards apparently also failed to take the basic security measure of doing a head count as offenders moved from the cellblock to the dining and recreation areas, so it wasn't immediately clear that the six inmates were hiding in the janitor's closet.

March 26, 2012 Courthouse News
Guards at a private prison instigated - and watched - a gang fight that left him brutally beaten and unconscious, says a man who claims that Corrections Corporation of America guards "foster" brutality between inmates, and conceal injuries in the prison's "in-house" medical center. Jacob Clevenger sued Corrections Corporation of America, CCA Western Properties, and Philip Valdez, warden of the CCA's Idaho Correctional Center, in Federal Court. Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America is the largest private corrections company in the country, managing 60 prisons with a total of 90,000 beds. Clevenger, who claims he was beaten senseless in the prison, claims CCA "has allowed and even fostered systemic conditions of brutality, peril and injuriousness at the ICC." Clevenger was an inmate at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) in Kuna, Idaho, a state prison that is owned and managed by CCA. Clevenger claims he was taken from his cell on Aug. 10, 2010 and placed in another area of the prison where rival gang members were housed. When the door to his new cell was opened that evening, Clevenger said, he thought guards were bringing him a mattress for his bunk. But he was attacked and beaten. "Around 8 p.m., Mr. Clevenger's cell door mechanically opened," the complaint states. "Cell doors at ICC were opened mechanically by the officer in the control center. Mr. Clevenger assumed that ICC guards were delivering the mattresses and stepped out of the cell to accommodate them. Suddenly, Mr. Clevenger saw prisoners running towards him. He froze. Seconds later, a number of prisoners, including known gang members, began attacking him. "Mr. Clevenger suffered significant physical and emotional injuries, including, but not limited to, being punched and kicked so many times in the head that he had lumps everywhere, and receiving a broken front tooth, a fractured eye socket, and a partially torn ear. After a few minutes of being beaten, Mr. Clevenger lost consciousness. A few hours later, Mr. Clevenger was taken to St. Alphonsus Hospital's emergency room. "Defendant CCA's staff knew that by placing Mr. Clevenger in a setting with rival gang members he was at great physical risk of attack. Prior to the August 10 assault, Mr. Clevenger submitted concern forms expressing his fear for his safety on a number of occasions, although these forms were never returned. Prior to the attack, CCA began moving other known gang members into the same housing unit in which Mr. Clevenger lived. "Indeed, CCA officials are aware of the substantial danger of assault that gang members such as Mr. Clevenger face from rival gang members, and have a policy of keeping rival gang members separated. "Mr. Clevenger does not know for certain why his assailants assaulted him. But one thing is clear: The guards who allowed this brutal attack exhibited deliberate indifference to Mr. Clevenger's health and welfare. "Jacob Clevenger's injuries are permanent and progressive. He continues to suffer physical and mental trauma. "Previous to Mr. Clevenger's brutal assault, there had been numerous similar assaults." Clevenger claims that ICC warden Philip Valdez has refused to hire enough correctional officers, to adequately train the ones he does hire, and failed to pursue "reasonable policies of personnel discipline and retraining in cases where correctional officers have contributed to or facilitated inmate violence or injury." He claims that correctional officers at ICC "have acted, and feel empowered to act, with impunity when they deliberately disregard or derogate inmate safety." He claims there is a "code of silence" by which "staff are conspicuously not encouraged to report prisoner or personnel misconduct, and are furthermore not provided adequate training in how to do so". The complaint continues: "Defendants CCA and Valdez have operated the ICC's 'in house' medical unit so as to purposefully conceal the incidence and extent of inmate injuries suffered as a result of the facility's recurrent violence.

March 5, 2012 AP
For more than a decade, Idaho leaders have promoted private prisons by telling taxpayers it's cheaper for the state to outsource prison management. But an examination of comparative costs by The Associated Press shows that the state has never actually done the math, and there may be no cost savings at all. In fact, privatization could be costing the state more money than if the Idaho Department of Correction ran the lockups. Idaho officials will tell you that the state's largest private prison, the Idaho Correctional Center, saves $12 per inmate, per day compared to a similar state prison. But adjusting for known system-wide expenses and the cost of overseeing the contract for the private lockup bring the per diems to just $5 apart. The comparable state prison also houses all of the sick and geriatric inmates, is the oldest facility in the state and spans multiple buildings on a 65-acre campus, requiring a high guard-to-inmate ratio to patrol. The private prison, meanwhile, is relatively new and compact and only accepts inmates without chronic medical or mental health needs, factors that allow it to operate with a lower staff-to-inmate ratio. Those factors make it likely that the state could operate the facility for no more than it pays the private company. State leaders have refused to examine the issue. About four years ago, Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke asked the Board of Correction and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter's office if his department could bid for the contract to run the Idaho Correctional Center — a move that would have given Idaho a firm idea of how much it would cost to make the facility public. The board responded with a firm “no,” and the governor's office simply deflected the matter back to the board. “We just decided we'd stay with what we're doing,” said board member Jay L. Nielsen, who was the board secretary when Reinke made the request in October 2007. “As you know, Idaho likes to have private industry do whatever they can, and I think that's the reasoning behind it all.” Otter's spokesman Jon Hanian said the governor's office was carrying out a policy created by former Gov. Phil Batt in the mid-1990s. But Otter has continued to be a cheerleader for private prisons, looking into the possibility of privatizing another state facility in northern Idaho and opening a smaller private prison south of Boise in 2009. The nation's largest private prison provider, Corrections Corporation of America, contracted with Idaho in 1997 to build and run the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. At the time, Batt said the move would save the state $16 million in operating costs alone. The state generally compares the money it pays to CCA to the cost the state incurs running a similar facility: The Idaho State Correctional Institution. At first glance, those numbers show the private prison to be a striking savings — $42.12 per inmate, per day, compared to $54.14. But the numbers are stacked against the state. The private prison's per diem doesn't include the $4.51 per inmate, per day the state spends to monitor operations and contract compliance at the prison. They also don't reflect the fact that Idaho's contract with Corrections Corporation of America bars the state from transferring any inmate with a chronic medical or mental health condition to the private prison. The state's per diem doesn't reflect that every inmate in Idaho is funneled through ISCI before they're transferred anywhere, including the private prison. That's because the state-run lockup handles all receiving, diagnostic and placement services for the correctional system. It also houses the Idaho's only mental health unit — a service not offered at the private prison — as well as all geriatric and chronically ill inmates, including those who can't be sent to ICC. Adjusting for contract oversight brings the private ICC's per diem cost up to $46.63. Eliminating the system-wide costs attributed to the state-run lockup — but leaving in the $12.09 per inmate, per day that goes to medical costs — brings the state's ISCI's per diem down to $51.64. Adjusting for the medical expenses is trickier. Because CCA is a private company, it doesn't have to disclose how much it spends on medical and mental health care for inmates. And because the state has a contract with health care company Corizon to handle the medical needs of all the state-managed inmates, the department can't get a breakdown of just how much its own healthy inmates cost compared to the sick and elderly. “It's an algebraic problem, and as it sits today, you have too many unknown variables,” said Tony Meatte, the Idaho Department of Correction's business services division chief. Even with all those unknown variables, this much is clear: If the average medical cost of a healthy inmate runs less than $5 a day, it would likely be cheaper for the state to run the Idaho Correctional Center. The per diem analysis “was our best bet at looking at how we can allocate all the costs in the department,” said Meatte. “If someone wanted to come in and shoot holes in it, they could just like anything they look at. In the end we have to use it as a tool, to let us see if something goes up significantly in an area.” It's surprising that the state has never done a comparison, said Board of Correction member J.R. Van Tassel. Tassell wasn't on the board when Reinke made his request to study the costs back in 2007. He said if asked today, he would likely support a different decision. “If the question came up at a board meeting, I would be willing to support allocating the resources to do that,” Van Tassel said. “Because at some point in time, the contract's going to be up for renewal again and that information would be crucial to making that kind of decision.” Having the department bid on the service is “the only way you get an apples-to-apples comparison,” Van Tassel said. “I'm on the verge of calling it a failed experiment,” said Van Tassel of prison privatization, noting that the state has had to fine CCA thousands of dollars after the company repeatedly failed to meet contract requirements. Idaho Board of Correction chairman Robin Sandy, however, said that there's value outside of cost savings in privatizing prisons. She was part of the board that made the decision not to let Reinke bid on the contract. “I personally agree with the governor in that the more we limit government and the more we let private people do the work, that is a good thing,” Sandy said. “I believe that most Idahoans share that philosophy.”

December 15, 2011 AP
A federal judge has refused to unseal a settlement agreement between an Idaho inmate and a private prison company involving allegations of rampant violence at a lockup near Boise known as "Gladiator School." The Associated Press had asked the court to unseal the settlement between Marlin Riggs and Corrections Corp. of America. However, U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge said Wednesday the interests of Riggs and the company in keeping the settlement confidential outweighed the interest the public has in learning its terms. The AP's West regional editor, Traci Carl, said the news organization's attorneys were reviewing the ruling and considering the legal options. "The AP is disappointed with the ruling and believes the public has a right to know the terms of the settlement," Carl said. Neither Riggs' attorney James Huegli nor CCA's attorney Kirtlan Naylor immediately returned messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. Riggs initially asked for $55 million in damages, saying the Idaho Correctional Center was nicknamed "Gladiator School" and that guards knew Riggs was about to be attacked but failed to protect him. The AP contended the lawsuit raised profound and far-reaching issues of public interest. In his written ruling, Lodge acknowledged that the operation of a prison raises issues of public concern, but he said he feared releasing the document would place Riggs at risk for intimidation or assault in prison. He also said future litigants would be discouraged from participating in judicially supervised settlement conferences if they believed the outcome could be made public. The judge also noted that a settlement agreement in a "companion lawsuit" between other inmates at the prison and CCA was released to the public. In that case, the inmates were alleging the same types of civil rights violations that Riggs claimed, but they didn't ask the court for any monetary damages. Instead, the inmates wanted changes to the way the prison is run _ and in the settlement agreement, CCA agreed to make those changes, though the company did not acknowledge any guilt or liability. Both CCA and the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, which was representing the inmates, agreed to make that settlement public. "The present case now involves only a single prisoner seeking monetary damages for an assault," Lodge wrote. "The public's interest in knowing the precise terms of his agreement with CCA is outweighed by the parties' interest in confidentiality as a means of minimizing the serious risks that the Court has found to exist."

October 5, 2011 AP
The Associated Press is asking a federal judge to unseal the settlement agreement between an Idaho inmate and private prison company Corrections Corp. of America. The confidential settlement between Marlin Riggs and CCA was reached last month in a widely publicized lawsuit that alleged rampant violence at a CCA-run prison near Boise. Riggs originally asked for $55 million in damages, saying the prison was nicknamed "Gladiator School" and that guards knew he was about to be attacked but failed to protect him. Riggs said he suffered serious injuries in the attack, and required facial surgery to allow him to breathe normally. The AP is asking the federal judge to open the settlement because the news organization contends the lawsuit raises profound and far-reaching issues of public interest and concern.

September 20, 2011 AP
A potential class-action lawsuit against the nation's largest private prison company over allegations of violence at the Idaho Correctional Center has been settled in federal court. The agreement between the inmates and Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Boise. In it, CCA doesn't acknowledge the allegations but agrees to increase staffing, investigate all assaults and make other sweeping changes at the lockup south of Boise. If the company fails to make the changes, the inmates can ask the courts to force CCA to comply. The inmates, represented by the ACLU, sued last year on behalf of everyone incarcerated at the CCA-run state prison. They said the prison was so violent it was dubbed "Gladiator School," and that guards used inmate-on-inmate violence as a management tool and then denied prisoners medical care as a way to cover up the assaults. CCA has denied all the allegations as part of the settlement, but the agreement is governed under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which only applies in cases in which prisoners' Constitutional rights have been violated. The agreement came after both sides spent three days in federal mediation sessions last week. In the lawsuit, the inmates cited an Associated Press investigation from three years ago that found the private prison had more cases of inmate-on-inmate violence than all other Idaho prisons combined. "The unnecessary carnage and suffering that has resulted is shameful and inexcusable," the ACLU wrote in the lawsuit. "ICC not only condones prisoner violence, the entrenched culture of ICC promotes, facilitates, and encourages it." While the prison is owned by the state, it is run for a profit by CCA under a contract with the Idaho Department of Corrections. The inmates claimed the company made decisions based on profit, rather than on "responsible administration of the prison." Under the settlement, CCA has agreed to leave more prison beds open so it can easily move threatened inmates to new cellblocks when necessary. It also agreed to report all assaults that appear to amount to aggravated battery to the Ada County Sheriff's Office, to increase the level of training given to guards and to discipline staffers who don't take appropriate measures to stop or prevent assaults.

September 14, 2011 AP
An inmate who sued a privately run Idaho prison over allegations of extreme violence and medical neglect has reached a settlement with the operator, Corrections Corporation of America. Meanwhile, dozens of other inmates who also sued Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA in federal court are in settlement talks with the company, possibly ending their potential class-action case by the end of the week. Marlin Riggs and the other inmates claimed the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise was so violent that it's called "Gladiator School," and that guards used inmate-on-inmate violence as a management tool and then denied injured prisoners adequate medical care. The settlement between Riggs and CCA was filed under seal in Boise's U.S. District Court on Monday, and both sides reached a confidentiality agreement, so the terms weren't available. Before the settlement, Riggs was seeking $55 million in damages. Neither Riggs' attorney, James Huegli, nor CCA spokesman Steve Owens immediately returned messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. A CCA spokeswoman at the Idaho Correctional Center referred all calls to Owens. Riggs filed his lawsuit in 2009, saying that CCA's prison guards failed to protect him from violence at the hands of other inmates even though he told the guards he was about to be attacked. He also contended that after the attack, CCA employees failed to adequately treat his injuries. Several other inmates at the prison filed similar lawsuits in federal court around the same time, and a judge decided to consolidate them into one case. The American Civil Liberties Union took on the task of representing the inmates in the consolidated lawsuit, and they asked for class-action status on behalf of everyone at the lockup. CCA has denied all of the allegations in the lawsuit, saying that the Idaho prison is run in accordance with state and federal standards. In the joint lawsuit, Riggs originally asked for $155 million — the total net income that CCA reported for 2009 — and the rest of the inmates asked the court to order CCA to take steps to reduce the violence at the prison. Once Riggs' case was split from the other prisoners' claims, however, he changed his request for damages to $55 million. The rest of the inmates still aren't asking for money from the company, just for changes in the way CCA runs the lockup. Just before Riggs and CCA began settlement talks, U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge tossed out Riggs' claim of inadequate medical care, saying he had failed to take all the steps required by the prison's formal complaint policy before taking the matter to the courts. In his lawsuit, Riggs said he was "one of the scores of prisoners brutally assaulted as a result of defendants' deliberate indifference to prisoner safety." Riggs, who is 48, was living in a general population housing unit called L-Pod in 2008 when he said gang members in the unit ordered him to begin paying "rent" or face being beaten. Riggs said they followed up the threat by stealing his headphones, food and other personal belongings. The next day, Riggs said, at least four inmates returned to his cell and told him he must leave or fight all of them. Riggs told the prisoners he would leave, and he pressed the cellblock's emergency button. A guard let him exit and sent him to talk to another guard. But when Riggs said he'd been threatened and asked to leave the unit, the guard asked Riggs to name the inmates who had threatened him. Riggs said he didn't know their names, but pointed out that the guard could look at security video to identify the prisoners. Riggs also offered to identify the inmates through photographs, but the guard refused to use either option. Instead, he ordered Riggs to return to his cell, according to the lawsuit. Riggs asked to speak to another guard, who also ordered Riggs back to the cellblock. By that time, the other prisoners were at dinner and Riggs was able to call his family to explain the situation. Within minutes of the end of the call, Riggs was attacked and beaten by another inmate, according to the lawsuit. He was knocked down, repeatedly kicked in the face and torso, his nose was broken, and the left side of his face was "smashed in." Blood spatters from the attack even reached the ceiling, according to the lawsuit. Riggs said that one of the guards who had ordered him to return to the cellblock eventually intervened, taking Riggs to the prison doctor. But while the prison doctor confirmed that his nose was broken, he refused to have the injuries X-rayed — a practice Riggs said was part of a common ICC effort to conceal the severity of attacked inmates' injuries. He was then sent to a segregated cell, where he was kept without medical follow-up for 15 days. The attack left him in enormous and constant pain, Riggs said in the lawsuit, and he ultimately needed an operation to allow him to breathe normally. "During those 15 days, Riggs was constantly bleeding from the nose, bones in his face were loose, there was a noticeable dent in his face, he was bleeding from the ears and nose, and he had difficulty breathing. When he slept, Riggs would lie in a pool of blood," the lawsuit said.

May 25, 2011 The Root
The cost savings from for-profit incarceration are debatable, and an Idaho suit claims that profitability can come at the price of prisoner safety. Antoney Jones, a gay African-American man imprisoned in Idaho, needed protection from other inmates who thrived on assaulting vulnerable prisoners, especially those who were black and gay, his lawyers said. He especially needed protection after testifying against a criminal defendant for California prosecutors in an undisclosed case. Not only was he black and gay, but he was also considered to be a rat within the prison population. He was housed in 2007 at the Idaho Correctional Center in Kuna, just outside of Boise, which is a privately run prison considered so violent that it is dubbed "gladiator school" because of its kill-or-be-killed mentality among guards and prisoners, says Monica Hopkins, director of the ACLU of Idaho. But Jones did not get protection. Instead he endured a beating worthy of a Martin Scorsese movie. It was so bad that he is part of a federal class-action suit filed in March 2010 by the ACLU and the ACLU of Idaho against the ICC, alleging that officials promote and facilitate "a culture of rampant violence that has led to carnage and suffering among prisoners," Hopkins says. Jones was struck violently in the face within minutes of being housed in a dangerous pod at the ICC, the suit says. He bled for half an hour, his face was swollen, and both eyes turned black and blue. "Prisoners throughout the pod lined the rails and began yelling, 'Kill the nigger,' 'Get the fag' and 'Kill the rat,' " the complaint reads. "It was a mini riot, and yet no guards intervened." A spokesman for the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison company, which runs the ICC, declined to comment via email to The Root. But in a response to the complaint, court records show that the company denies that it inadequately investigated assaults, refused to discipline guards and failed to protect prisoners. Lower Costs, Higher Risks? -- The case is emblematic of a growing number of problems that are endemic among private organizations that run prisons, according to Hopkins and other activists. As of June 30, 2008, there were 126,249 prisoners in private facilities nationwide, accounting for 7.8 percent of all prisoners, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That's up from 6.5 percent in 2000. The United States, with 7.2 million prisoners, has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Pressure to save taxpayer dollars and create jobs in states and communities across the nation is part of what's driving this growth in privately run prisons. Some proponents argue that private prisons house so-called easy prisoners -- those in relatively good health -- thus reducing the cost of housing them. Opponents say that private prisons provide fewer services than public facilities in a bid to save money, thereby endangering the lives of inmates. The service reduction disproportionately affects African Americans, who accounted for 39.4 percent of the total prison and jail population in 2009, according to the BJS. (Blacks make up about 13 percent of the population.) "I do think the violence at ICC is the result of it being privately run," Hopkins says. "When profit is the motive, it is not in the prison's best interest to preserve civil liberties. If you give inadequate care, your profits go up. If you under-staff, profit margins go up. At state-run agencies, officials are beholden to taxpayers and entities allowed to question procedures. It's more difficult to find out information from private entities. They can hide behind arguments that there are trade issues about how they run a facility, so they can't release information." Indeed, the fact that private facilities tend to take healthier -- and therefore less expensive -- inmates can mask their relative cost compared with public institutions. Citing a study by the Arizona Department of Corrections, the New York Times recently reported that "privately operated prisons can cost more to operate than state-run prisons -- even though they steer clear of the sickest, costliest inmates." A Response to Prison Overcrowding -- Still, the warehousing of prisoners in private prisons has marched steadily upward as corrections departments seek to cut costs during the economic crisis. Florida recently passed a measure to privatize facilities currently housing 15,000 of the state's inmates. Additionally, Ohio plans to privatize facilities housing 6,000 of the state's prisoners, and Arizona plans to nearly double its private inmate community. The move has helped foster a $3 billion private prison industry, according to NPR, which ran a series about the industry in March. The number of private prisons has grown steadily across the nation since the 1980s, when the entities first sprang up to help address overcrowding as a result of crack-cocaine convictions, increased violence and stiff sentences. Proponents of private prisons argued that they cost less and operate efficiently, helping them to garner a number of contracts. Not so, according to Randall C. Berg Jr., executive director of the Miami-based Florida Justice Institute, a private, not-for-profit organization that handles civil rights for people confined in Florida's prisons and jails; housing and disability-related discrimination; and class-action suits for indigent populations. "Philosophically, government should not be contracting away the housing of inmates to private companies, because they cannot incarcerate any cheaper or more effectively than government," Berg told The Root. "If they do, it's the prisoners who pay." There is very little data on the rate of violence in private prisons because they are exempt from federal Freedom of Information requests. What you end up with is anecdotal evidence. The Root recently ran a story about privately run youth prisons, including Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Jackson, Miss., which is embroiled in a lawsuit. The suit charges that children are forced to live in barbaric and unconstitutional conditions and are subjected to excessive force by prison staff. The prison houses 1,200 young men between the ages of 13 and 22 who have been tried and convicted as adults. More than two-thirds of the facility's inmates have been incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, and the population is about 90 percent African American. But private prisons are currently struggling to survive as the crime rate drops. Now, instead of building prisons, they are taking over state facilities. Danny Davis, city manager of Littlefield, Texas, told The Root that he is looking for a way to sell or rent the Bill Clayton Detention Center, which the city borrowed $10 million to build 11 years ago. It was a breadwinner for the city for about eight years, until contractors from Wyoming and Idaho left the building idle when they fell on hard times. Controversy also loomed over the suicide of a prisoner. "We have done what we could to avoid default," Davis says. "We've reduced street maintenance and the replacement of police cars, putting off as much as we can. We increased property taxes to handle 15 percent of the debt. We're doing the things we have to do when we get in circumstances like this." A Culture of Violence -- The Idaho Correctional Center is profitable, says the ACLU's Hopkins, who filed the federal class-action suit on the heels of a video, released by the Associated Press in January 2010, of a vicious beating of an inmate by another inmate in a separate incident there. Tapes from prison surveillance cameras show prison guards looking on without making any attempts to intervene. The footage prompted an FBI prison investigation. The suit highlights a deeply entrenched culture of brutality that has resulted in higher levels of violence at ICC than at Idaho's eight public prisons combined, Hopkins says. It tells the stories of men involved in 24 different cases of assault that have occurred at ICC since November 2006, all of which were entirely preventable and the direct result of failures by ICC officials to protect prisoners, despite being placed on notice that those prisoners faced a substantial risk of serious harm, she says. Even though he was taken to the infirmary, Antoney Jones received no X-rays after his assault to determine whether there were broken bones or he needed hospitalization. He received cotton balls to stanch the bleeding, and ibuprofen for intense pain. "Jones was placed in segregation without being offered additional medical care," the suit says. "Jones felt desperate, depressed and forsaken. Three days later, while still in the segregated cell, Jones attempted suicide by tying bed sheets around his neck. Jones lost consciousness. Fortunately, a guard saw him and cut him down." No charges were filed in Jones' case because the incident was viewed as mutual combat, the suit says. The case, still in discovery, is scheduled to go to trial next year, Hopkins says. (He is now incarcerated at Idaho Correctional Institution, a state-run prison, on charges of eluding a peace officer and possession of a controlled substance, according to the website for the Idaho Department of Corrections.) "A staff attorney who has been litigating prison cases for years said he had not seen such a case of atrocities and human suffering caused by issues in this lawsuit," Hopkins says. "If the court issues an order against the prison, the state has agreed to aggressively enforce it. That may mean termination of the contract with CCA. Our goal is to promote change so this doesn't happen again."

April 27, 2011 AP
A federal judge has agreed with The Associated Press and rejected Correction Corporation of America's request for a sweeping gag order in a lawsuit between Idaho inmates and the private prison company. In the lawsuit, the inmates ask for class-action status and say the Boise-area prison is so violent that it's called "Gladiator School." They say the guards allow brutal inmate violence and then deny injured prisoners adequate medical care. CCA denies the allegations. The case has garnered media attention, and in January CCA attorneys asked the judge for a gag order. The company said opposing attorneys were making inflammatory statements, and that continued news coverage would make it impossible to find a jury. The AP opposed the gag order, saying it amounted to a prior restraint on the press.

April 21, 2011 AP
A federal judge has agreed to step down from a potential class-action lawsuit over conditions at an Idaho prison at the request of its operator, Corrections Corp. of America. Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill has been handling the lawsuit brought by inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center. He announced Tuesday that he was recusing himself after CCA attorneys claimed his staff improperly approached an ACLU attorney about taking the case. Winmill stressed that there was no improper conduct, and the staffer that contacted the attorney was simply doing her job as a pro bono coordinator — a court worker who finds attorneys to take cases for no charge. But he said he wouldn't risk even the suggestion of impropriety, and so would step down. The Idaho inmates claim the Boise-area prison is so violent that it's called "Gladiator School" and that the guards use inmate-on-inmate violence as a management tool and then deny injured inmates adequate medical care to cover up the violence. Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA says prisoner safety is its top priority and that it works closely with Idaho officials to meet standards. The company manages about 75,000 inmates at 64 facilities in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The case originally started as a lawsuit brought by inmate Marlin Riggs, who couldn't afford an attorney and asked the court to appoint one. ACLU attorney Stephen Pevar agreed to take the case at no charge after he researched it and determined it could qualify for class-action status. In a court document, Pevar said he rejects at least 200 cases for every one he accepts and that he pursues primarily class-action cases "because they are the best vehicles for achieving structural and systemic reform and constitutional compliance, the primary goal of the ACLU." Pevar said he only told the court's pro bono coordinator about the issue of class certification to explain to her why he would need several weeks before he could decide whether to take the case. That's exactly the type of communication that should occur between a pro bono coordinator and attorneys, he said. In the months since the lawsuit was filed, CCA attorneys have asked that the lawsuit be split into two cases: Riggs' claim and the portion of the case that could become a class-action suit. Recently, the ACLU attorneys agreed that such a split could occur, and they asked that Winmill continue to handle both cases. CCA attorneys, however, contend that amounts to "judge shopping." They say it all gives the appearance that Pevar only took on the Riggs case so he could have a class-action lawsuit before Winmill. Winmill said it was "proper and laudatory" for court staffers to approach attorneys about representing people who can't afford lawyers. "Such efforts are highly appropriate as a means of providing equal access to justice and promoting due process of law," he said. "On the other hand, it is improper for the court or its staff to facilitate or encourage litigation intended to seek or obtain broader societal and institutional changes through class actions or similar devices." While Winmill said he was convinced that didn't happen in this case, he was concerned that there exists the appearance of impropriety in the case. That alone requires him to step down, he said. But he didn't leave the case without admonishing the attorneys to straighten up. "Finally, just as I take my own ethical responsibilities seriously, I expect counsel to do likewise," Winmill said. "I have become concerned by the tenor and tone of the filings in this case. After more than 23 years on the bench, I have learned that personal attacks on opposing counsel and an inability to agree on even the most minor points do not advance the cause of either side, and instead serve only to damage counsel's credibility."

March 1, 2011 KBOI
Monday night in part one of our special investigation, KBOI 2News showed you why Corrections Corporation of America had been hit with almost $150,000 in medical fines at the Idaho Correctional Center, the private prison it runs south of Boise. In part 2 of his exclusive KBOI 2News investigation, Mike Murad tracks C.C.A’s money trail and discovers there’s an Idaho connection at the top of the list. The problems for C.C.A. haven’t been limited to Idaho but tonight we’ll show you which Idaho politician has benefited the most from the private prison company, why C.C.A. might be setting up shop in Idaho for years to come, and who could end up paying the tab in the long run. Yesterday we told you about serious allegations about substandard medical care at I.C.C. and serious fines because of it for the private company that runs the prison in Kuna. But the problems for C.C.A. are not limited to Idaho. We found complaints against C.C.A. in all 19 states they operate, all within the past decade, involving much more than just medical care. Last year the governor of Kentucky ordered 400 female inmates to be removed from a C.C.A. run prison after allegations of sexual misconduct by male guards. In 2009, C.C.A. settled with 21 former female workers in Colorado who claimed male managers forced them to have sex to keep their jobs. In Florida, a corrections officer pleaded guilty to smuggling drugs into a C.C.A. run jail. And in December, C.C.A. settled another lawsuit with the A.C.L.U. in California requiring, in part, the San Diego Correctional Facility hire more nurses. “It’s not just unique to this facility,” says B.S.U. Criminal Science Professor Dr. Michael Blankenship. Blankenship says part of the problem is that private prison companies like C.C.A. exist to make a profit. “If you’re not delivering profits,” say Blankenship, “who’s going to buy your stock?” We checked into the financial health of C.C.A. A decade ago on February 1st, 2001, their stock was trading at $2.50 a share. Four weeks ago, on February 1st, 2011, it was ten times that amount at $25.09 a share. Dr. Blankenship says he is not a fan of privately managed prisons because of the reality that they exist to make a profit. “I think the idea is terrible,” says Blankenship. “I think if there are some things the state is going to do, like incarcerate and take people’s freedom away, then they should not parcel that out and let someone make a profit out of that.” But not only does C.C.A. make money. They give money. KBOI 2News obtained a list of candidates receiving money from C.C.A. between 2003 and 2010. At the head of the pack receiving $19,000 is Idaho Governor Butch Otter. We called C.C.A. to find out why but the company declined our request for an on camera interview. Instead, Spokesman Steve Owen sent a statement that reads in part: “Because C.C.A.’s political contributions reflect the specific laws and limits of individual states, it is difficult to compare our corporate giving to elected officials from different regions of the country.” The disparity in campaign contribution is even more noteworthy when you consider of the 75,000 inmates C.C.A. supervises nationwide only 2,000 of them are here in Idaho. That’s less than 3%. “The governor has made no secret that he’s in favor of privatization,” says Blankenship. And apparently Governor Otter has been for awhile. Four years ago, Otter asked lawmakers to begin working on legislation that would have allowed private companies to build and manage prisons from the ground up. So far, lawmakers have shot it down. But given C.C.A.’s financial backing of Otter, and the governor’s preference toward private prisons, should we assume Idaho will have more privately run facilities in the future? KBOI 2News wanted to ask Governor Otter that question. But for the past two weeks his office has told us that his schedule is too busy to schedule a 15 minute interview. If money is the only measuring stick, C.C.A. appears to be doing what they claim to do. Save the state of Idaho money. About 7,500 inmates are currently behind bars in Idaho prisons. It costs Idaho taxpayers about $52 a day per inmate, which amounts to just under $19,000 a year. 2,000 inmates are at I.C.C. The state is paying C.C.A. about $40 a day for each of them, which is less than $15,000 per prisoner per year. The annual difference is almost $9 million dollars. But Professor Blankenship says it’s not a fair comparison, partly because of who is housed where. Part of the state’s responsibility is the 400 inmates in maximum security and death row. I.C.C. houses only medium and minimum security inmates who are cheaper to oversee. "You have to cut somewhere in order to make a profit," says Blankenship. Steve Hernandez has served time at Idaho's state run prisons as well as I.C.C. and says there is a difference, especially when it comes to medical care. At I.C.C., Hernandez says “If someone got beat up, they'll get stitches but they won't take X-Rays. Let's say someone gets beat and gets their jaw hurt. They don’t X-Ray it. They refuse to X-Ray it,” says Hernandez. “They'll just patch you up and send you to the hole. And that’s pretty much it.” KBOI 2News asked Hernandez if that was the case at state run facilities as well. “No,” he says. “If you had a problem at the state run facilities they take care of it. They help you out." Last year's videotaped inmate assault at I.C.C. has gotten a lot of attention. But maybe the most troubling aspect of what's happening at I.C.C. is what's happening after the prison violence. After the assault that left him with a broken nose and black circles under his eyes, former I.C.C. inmate Mark Snowball documented months of chronic breathing problems and bloody noses. He even started working on a lawsuit in prison, not for money, but for medical care. Snowball says even that didn't get C.C.A.’s attention. "They just said you'll just have to wait until you're released because you're going to be released soon," said Snowball. And when Snowball was released in January, 2010, his lawsuit in Ada County's Fourth District Court was thrown out. The state of Idaho and C.C.A. were no longer responsible, because Snowball was no longer an inmate. His medical problems were now his alone. So what's to stop C.C.A. from withholding medical care long enough for the other 75,000 inmates they manage so the expense is eventually a burden for someone else? At this point all we can do is ask the question, because we haven't been given any answers. But here's why every Idaho taxpayer should care about what happens to Idaho inmates. If the state of Idaho is dragged into court it takes taxpayer money for a defense, not to mention a judgment. Originally the A.C.L.U. named Idaho on the lawsuit, right along with C.C.A. in the case. But last June the A.C.L.U. agreed to drop Idaho as a defendant, saving taxpayers the possible expense in this case. Currently the A.C.L.U. is suing C.C.A. for $155 million dollars, which is equal to the amount of profit the company earned in 2009. A C.C.A. spokesman told KBOI 2News the company will agree to an on camera interview after the lawsuit has been addressed.

February 28, 2011 KBOI
Back in July, 2000, the Idaho Correctional Center opened as the state's first privately run prison. Recently, I.C.C, run by Corrections Corporation of America, has come under fire after a lawsuit filed by the America Civil Liberties Union, alleging misconduct, mismanagement and more. For the past two months, KBOI 2 News has combed through more than 1,000 pages of documents, including the state's contract with C.C.A. We have also spoken with more than a dozen people trying to learn exactly what's happening inside Idaho's private prison which many believe has become a public problem. The video from last year is hard to forget. A 30 minute inmate assault at the Idaho Correctional Center in Kuna as guards stand by and watch. According to the A.C.L.U, the Idaho Correctional Center has more violence than Idaho's eight other prisons combined. But our investigation didn't end there. It was just getting started. “The public doesn't really know what goes on behind these walls," says former I.C.C. inmate Mark Snowball. Four years ago, Snowball was an 18 year old teenager dating a 15 year old girl. He lived under her parent's roof and says they knew about the relationship he had with their daughter. Snowball says when he split up with his girlfriend, and while he was being investigated for another charge that was eventually dropped, investigators learned of his prior relationship. Snowball pleaded guilty to lewd conduct with a minor and was sentenced to two years in prison. He was sent to I.C.C. in Kuna. In March, 2008, Snowball says he was assaulted in his cell, when someone punched him repeatedly in the face. Snowball says he suffered a broken nose that was gushing blood, and still has chronic problems that exist almost three years later. “I’m still going through those injuries, sinus pain, congestion, bloody noses daily," says Snowball. After the attack he filed multiple grievance forms asking to have his nose X-Rayed. He was denied. He asked to see an ear, nose and throat specialist. Again he was denied. At one point months later, still complaining of the lingering effects, he was even charged $5 for a medical visit when a nurse said his problem wasn't chronic. Eventually, Snowball started the process of filing a lawsuit against the state of Idaho. Meanwhile, C.C.A. is facing its own lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union. The A.C.L.U. has documented almost two dozen current or former I.C.C. inmates, many with stories similar to Snowballs'. KBOI 2 News requested an interview with the A.C.L.U., but C.C.A. has filed a gag order in the case. As a result, THE A.C.L.U declined our interview request. Nevertheless, we got a copy of the 81-page lawsuit against C.C.A. It tells the story of 23 inmates who all say they sustained serious injuries from assaults at I.C.C., including inmate beatings that split the area above the eye "to the bone, kicks to the face, broken ribs, inmates knocked unconscious, teeth broke, slashed face, eyes swelled shut, blood coming from ear." In the lawsuit, the A.C.L.U. even cites a former I.C.C. correctional officer who says it took "two hours to clean the pools of blood" in one case. But the inmate assaults may not be the most troubling part of the story. The A.C.L.U. maintains the inmates who were beaten never received proper medical care at I.C.C. In case after case, “no x-rays were taken" after the assaults to determine "whether any bones were broken." But the A.C.L.U. isn't the only one concerned about what may be happening at I.C.C. So is the state of Idaho. Last year, officials with the Idaho Department of Correction discovered 10 of 13 drug and alcohol counselors at the prison weren't qualified to provide treatment. A separate medical audit revealed I.C.C. had extensive problems administering medical care, including delays in providing medication. In total C.C.A. was fined more than $141,000 by the state. "I remember standing there with my superior and he went ‘can't help ya, sorry,'" says former I.C.C. correctional officer Tedi Hernandez. Hernandez worked at I.C.C. in 2008. She says she heard stories of medical care being denied, including X-Rays. But she also says daily, prescribed medication often didn't make it to inmates on schedule if at all. That’s what the medical audit of I.C.C. by state officials also concluded. "I know that blood pressure pills like anti psychotic and some really important ones for my safety, those they ran out every once in a while,” says Hernandez. “Some people went days, other people went weeks. It all depended. They just didn't have their medications." After just one year on the job at I.C.C., Hernandez quit from what she calls a lack of professionalism. KBOI 2 News wanted to hear what C.C.A. had to say about the allegations, so I contacted their corporate office in Tennessee and left a message with spokesman Steve Owen. Owen wouldn't go on camera, but sent me a statement that reads, in part: “C.C.A. has served Idaho proudly since 2000, and we were pleased to be the low bidder when the state put the contract to house state inmates up for re-bid in 2009. C.C.A. will continue our efforts to be a constructive corporate citizen in Idaho.” But the partnership today seems less stable than a decade ago, considering the state’s almost $150,000 in fines for medical related infractions. Why would C.C.A. cut corners on medical care, even when they were racking up extensive penalties?

January 6, 2011 The Spokesman-Review
In his remarks to reporters today at the AP's legislative preview, Gov. Butch Otter answered “no comment” when asked if he's asked his current state Tax Commission chairman, Royce Chigbrow, to resign. Otter also said, in response to a reporter's question, that the state is reviewing its contract with Corrections Corp. of America over the troubled prison operation at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise, but gave no details. “We are reviewing it to see where we can improve it, but I'm not prepared to tell you … that we have some changes that we're going to make and what those changes are.”

December 31, 2010 AP
The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday that practices at an Idaho prison that include guards opening the wrong cell doors and allowing inmate-on-inmate attacks have caused violence at the facility and should be immediately banned. The ACLU also said in a motion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court that victims of the assaults at the Idaho Correctional Center are routinely written up for defending themselves during the attacks, a consequence that can jeopardize their eligibility for parole and access to treatment and education programs. Attorneys for the ACLU are seeking a preliminary injunction on behalf of inmates to immediately ban both practices at the prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America. “We want to try to eliminate as much suffering as quickly as we can; these two issues lent themselves to that,” said Steven Pevar, an attorney for the ACLU. The ACLU is representing inmates who sued CCA in March, saying the Idaho lockup is so violent it’s known as “gladiator school” and prison workers used inmate-on-inmate violence as a management tool, then refused to provide X-rays to injured prisoners as part of a cover-up scheme. CCA has denied the claims. Company spokesman Steve Owen declined to comment on the latest legal filing, saying lawyers would respond to the claims in court documents. The motion seeks to block the prison from issuing disciplinary reports to inmates who are acting in self-defense and calls for an investigation into claims that the guards are opening the wrong cell doors. “The first thing you have to do is find out what the problem is,” Pevar said. “Is it a mechanical problem, or are people just being careless?” Since July 2009, 13 assaults have resulted from prison guards opening, or “popping,” the wrong cell doors in areas where violent prisoners are kept, allowing inmates to attack other prisoners, attorneys for the ACLU say in a brief. Guards either mistakenly or deliberately opened the wrong doors and allowed the assaults, the ACLU says. Four of the 13 of the assaults allowed because of “popping” cell doors occurred under warden Timothy Wengler, who has been with the private prison company since 1996 and was appointed interim warden at the Idaho facility after the ACLU sued over claims of brutal inmate-on-inmate violence, ACLU attorneys say. Former Idaho warden Phillip Valdez was reassigned after the lawsuit was filed. Attorneys for the ACLU claim in court documents that Valdez created the two policies they are seeking to ban, and that Wengler continues to implement them as interim warden. “One of two things must be true: Valdez and Wengler either failed in their duty to investigate the causes of these incidents, or they failed in their duty to fashion an appropriate solution,” the ACLU says. The most violent of the “popped” cell door assaults occurred on Aug. 10, when a guard opened some 20 doors and released at least 20 prisoners who then assaulted four rival gang members, sending two to the hospital, according to the brief filed by ACLU attorneys. Guards issued disciplinary reports for the four victims of the assault, according to the ACLU.

December 8, 2010 AP
Health officials found evidence of E. coli bacteria at a privately run Idaho prison south of Boise. Five inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center became sick around Dec. 1. Tests from at least two identified a toxin associated with bacteria that can cause serious food poisoning. Sarah Correll, staff epidemiologist at the Central District Health Department, said no new cases have been discovered and the inmates who were sickened are recovering. Still, food safety inspectors from Correll's agency were at the prison Wednesday, doing food and water inspections. Concerns about E. coli aren't new at the Idaho Correctional Center. In August, inspections found coliform bacteria in the facility's water supply, forcing staff to boil water.

December 3, 2010 Coeur d' Alene Press
James Haver, of Coeur d'Alene, was named as the man who brutally attacked a fellow inmate at the privately run Idaho Correctional Center in Boise - a facility dubbed "gladiator school" because of regular violence there. The attack has received a wave of publicity starting late last month after the Associated Press obtained a copy of surveillance video of the attack on Hanni Elabed, 24. Correctional officers looked on, but didn't intervene, the video shot Jan. 18 shows. Haver, affiliated with a violent prison gang, stomped on Elabed a dozen times. Elabed suffered bleeding inside his skull and spent multiple days in a coma. He was released early from his sentence because his injuries were too serious to remain in prison. He has brain damage. A Kootenai County Sheriff's Department spokesman said Friday that Haver, 25, was arrested here in February 2004 for possession of a controlled substance and carrying a concealed weapon. In addition, he was jailed here in February 2005 for aggravated assault, aggravated battery, being a fugitive from justice and violating probation. According to the Idaho Department of Correction, he currently is in prison for aggravated battery. Jail information collected when he was arrested showed Haver was 5 feet 5 inches tall, and weighed 145 pounds. Elabed's attorney, Ben Schwartzman, said Hanni informed prison officials about drug smuggling and rules infractions by a white supremacist prison gang known as the "Aryan Knights." Hanni also told officials at the prison that a guard there was possibly involved with the Aryan Knights group, Schwartzman said. The attorney said Haver has gang affiliations, and is primarily tied to an organization known as the "SVC," or "Severely Violent Criminals." He said the two gangs perform "work" - such as assaults, threats and hits - for one another in Idaho prisons. So, after Hanni went to prison officials about the Aryan Knights, revenge was carried out. Since the Aryan Knights didn't have someone in the area where Hanni was being housed, Haver was called on to handle the white supremacists' work.

December 2, 2010 Fox 12
Surveillance video of the beating of an Idaho Correctional Center inmate, while guards look on has gotten national attention. Now one man says this isn't the first time something like this has happened. The President of the Private Corrections Institute, a non profit that opposes private prisons, Alex Friedmann, says the prison's operator, Corrections Corporation of America, is not only the largest private prison company, they're the most sued. In fact back in the early 1990's he was a prisoner at a Corrections Corporation prison, not located here Idaho. He says he too was mistreated and endangered while held by them. "I was retaliated against by CCA officials and took them to court and obtained a federal jury award against a former CCA Unit Manager for threatening to have other prisoners assault me for filing complaints against CCA," explained Friedmann. Friedmann has since turned his life around and has even testified before congress on the issue of private prisons. When CCA issued a statement calling the surveillance video an unnecessary security risk to staff and inmates, he felt he had to speak out. "I've watched the video myself and the only unnecessary risk it poses is to CCA's liability in prisoner assault cases and the notion CCA's employees are corrections professionals." The beating has prompted a federal class-action lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and now the Department of Justice is looking into the conduct of CCA prison staff.

November 30, 2010 Courier-Journal
The surveillance video from the overhead cameras shows Hanni Elabed being beaten by a fellow inmate in an Idaho prison, managing to bang on a prison guard station window, pleading for help. Behind the glass, correctional officers look on, but no one intervenes when Elabed is knocked unconscious. No one steps into the cellblock when the attacker sits down to rest, and no one stops him when he resumes the beating. Videos of the attack obtained by The Associated Press show officers watching the beating for several minutes. The footage is a key piece of evidence for critics who claim the privately run Idaho Correctional Center uses inmate-on-inmate violence to force prisoners to snitch on their cellmates or risk being moved to extremely violent units. On Tuesday, hours after the AP published the video, the top federal prosecutor in Idaho told the AP that the FBI has launched a civil rights investigation of the staff at the prison, which is run by the Corrections Corporation of America. The investigation covers multiple assaults between inmates, including the attack on Elabed, U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said. A message left by the AP seeking CCA's reaction to the FBI probe was not immediately returned. Lawsuits from inmates contend the company denies prisoners medical treatment as a way of covering up the assaults. They have dubbed the Idaho lockup “gladiator school” because it is so violent.

November 30, 2010 AP
The surveillance video from the overhead cameras shows Hanni Elabed being beaten by a fellow inmate in an Idaho prison, managing to bang on a prison guard station window, pleading for help. Behind the glass, correctional officers look on, but no one intervenes when Elabed was knocked unconscious. No one steps into the cellblock when the attacker sits down to rest, and no one stops him when he resumes the beating. Videos of the attack obtained by The Associated Press show officers watching the beating for several minutes. The footage is a key piece of evidence for critics who claim the privately run Idaho Correctional Center uses inmate-on-inmate violence to force prisoners to snitch on their cellmates or risk being moved to extremely violent units. Lawsuits from inmates contend the company that runs the prison, the Corrections Corporation of America, denies prisoners medical treatment as a way of covering up the assaults. They have dubbed the Idaho lockup "gladiator school" because it is so violent. The AP initially sought a copy of the videos from state court, but Idaho 4th District Judge Patrick Owen denied that request. The AP decided to publish the videos after a person familiar with the case verified their authenticity. The videos show at least three guards watching as Elabed was stomped on a dozen times. At no time during the recorded sequence did anyone try to pull away James Haver, a short, slight man. About two minutes after Haver stopped the beating of his own accord, the metal cellblock door was unlocked. Haver was handcuffed and Elabed was examined for signs of life. He bled inside his skull and would spend three days in a coma. CCA, the nation's largest private prison company, said it was "highly disappointed and deeply concerned" over AP's decision to release the videos. "Public release of the video poses an unnecessary security risk to our staff, the inmates entrusted to our care, and ultimately to the public," the prison company said in a statement. CCA, which oversees some 75,000 inmates in more than 60 facilities under contracts with the federal government, 19 states and the District of Columbia, has faced allegations of abuse by guards elsewhere. A year ago, CCA and another company, Dominion Correctional Services LLC, agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit in which the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission claimed male officers at a prison in Colorado forced female workers to perform sex acts to keep their jobs. In January, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear ordered some 400 female inmates transferred to a state-run prison after more than a dozen reports of sexual misconduct by male guards employed by CCA. Similar accusations were made in March at a CCA-run prison in Hawaii, and in May, agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed CCA on probation and launched an investigation of whether a guard at a central Texas detention facility sexually assaulted women on their way to being deported. Before the Idaho attack, Elabed tried to get help from prison staffers, telling them that he had been threatened and giving them details about drug trafficking between inmates and staffers that he had witnessed, according to his lawsuit. He was put in solitary confinement for his protection but was later returned to the same unit with the inmates he snitched on, his lawsuit said. He was on the cellblock only six minutes before he was attacked. Steven Pevar, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in 34 years of suing more than 100 prisons and jails, the Idaho lockup is the most violent he has seen. "This isn't even what we know of as a prison - this is a gulag," Pevar said. Pevar blames the violence on CCA and the former warden, Phillip Valdez, who was head of the prison when Elabed was attacked. Valdez was later transferred to another CCA prison in Kansas. The company refused to disclose its reason for moving him. CCA officials maintain the prison is safe and run according to state and federal standards. But at least some of those standards appear to be violated in the video - including a requirement that emergency care arrive within four minutes of a disturbance. It took medical workers nearly six minutes to get to Elabed - a delay that can be life-threatening in serious injuries, according to state prisons officials. "Nurses and medical professionals believe you need to get a heart beating and breathing started within four minutes or the person's going to die," Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said. CCA spokesman Steven Owen said employees receive training and supervision designed to protect both themselves and the inmates. "As Mr. Haver's wanton attack illustrates, correctional and medical personnel must often respond to render aid in dangerous situations, not knowing the extent of the risk they may face when they do," Owen said. Owen also condemned the attack and said the surveillance videos were key to Haver's guilty plea in the beating. CCA was unable to answer additional questions surrounding the circumstances of the attack due to pending litigation, he said. Elabed's family learned through medical records that CCA officials pulled him out of the hospital before he could get significant treatment and against his doctor's advice, in order to treat him at the cheaper in-prison facility, the family said. Elabed, who was originally sentenced to two to 12 years for robbery, was ultimately released on a medical parole because he was too badly injured to be cared for in prison. A slew of federal lawsuits detail beatings behind prison walls and long waits for medical care at CCA-run prisons in Idaho. Inmate Todd Butters said in his lawsuit he was denied X-rays after he was severely beaten by gang members on his cellblock for refusing to pay $5 a week in "rent." The Idaho Supreme Court threw out the case after finding Butters didn't take the necessary steps to try to solve the problem with prison officials before suing. In another attack, inmate Daniel Dixon said he was denied X-rays and a doctor's visit after he claimed other inmates beat him until he had broken ribs and facial bones and other injuries. State officials have long been aware of allegations of mistreatment and poor management at the Idaho Correctional Center, the state's largest prison. A review of hundreds of public records by AP found in 2008 that ICC had a violence rate three times as high as other Idaho prisons. The AP found in a follow-up investigation that ICC had only marginally improved its violence rate and that inspectors were still finding rampant gang violence and extortion. State auditors have also found widespread problems keeping medical charts updated, excessive wait times for medical care and other problems with treatment. Even though Idaho Department of Correction officials have increased oversight and top department leaders have spoken out about their concern over the medical issues, state lawmakers have renewed the company's multimillion-dollar contract with Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA and added 600 beds to the prison. Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said in a statement that he couldn't talk about the video because of pending litigation, but said the eight state-run prisons his agency operates are among the safest and most efficient in the country. Reinke also said his department began beefing up oversight at the private prison three years ago. "The Board of Correction acknowledges that when you put a group of people who have a history of criminal behavior together in one place, it is likely you will have problems. But that doesn't mean we should tolerate them," Reinke wrote. Today, the 24-year-old Elabed isn't able to talk much about the assault. He has brain damage and persistent short-term memory loss. "It's almost like Hanni's autistic after this. I feel like I'm talking to someone who's 12 or 13 years old," said his brother, Zahe Elabed. Elabed's attorney, Ben Schwartzman, said the footage is tough to forget. "Guard intervention was appropriate and could have happened in a way that would not have put the guards in danger of their personal safety," Schwartzman said. "They were spectators ... and that seems to indicate a level of callousness that I find shocking. It's an embarrassment to the institution and to the individuals."

November 13, 2010 AP
The civil case was filed last year against the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, by inmate Marlin Riggs, who several years ago was badly beaten in his cell in Idaho’s only private prison and suffered permanent facial deformities. The affidavits support many of the allegations aimed at CCA and the way it runs the Idaho Correctional Center, or ICC. All three former guards agreed the prison — commonly referred to as “Gladiator School” — is understaffed and excessively violent. They say the staff lacked adequate training and equipment, was overworked and encouraged by administrators to disregard and undermine the safety of inmates and underreported the number of assaults between prisoners. For example, guards would assign inmates they knew or suspected of being assault targets in cells or housing units populated by potential assailants, or put sex offenders or homosexual inmates in pods controlled by gangs whose members preyed on those inmates, according to the former employees. Guards also allegedly laughed about sex offenders and gay prisoners getting beaten and suggested they deserved the abuse. “I am aware of numerous instances when staff at ICC failed to protect prisoners from an assault they knew was likely to occur, and these assaults could have and should have been prevented,” Sheri Hunsaker, an employee at ICC from 2003-2009, said in her affidavit. “Some of the main causes of prisoner violence at ICC are understaffing ... and a culture of laziness and lack of concern by staff for prisoner safety.” Hunsaker, 44, was initially hired as a guard, but was later promoted to case manager before being fired in May 2009. Sworn affidavits were also provided by Tammy McCall, 45, who worked at ICC for two years and was fired in 2008, and Todd Goertzen, 43, a guard at the prison south of Boise from 2007 to 2009. Hunsaker and McCall told The Associated Press they are cooperating with Riggs and his lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union out of concern for colleagues who still work at the prison and are subject almost daily to violent inmate-on-inmate assaults. “I’m worried about them getting hurt,” Hunsaker said. “It’s not fair what they’re being asked to do out there.” Nashville, Tenn.,-based CCA is defending itself in several lawsuits filed by inmates who were severely beaten in violence at its Idaho prison. Riggs and the ACLU are suing for $155 million in damages — CCA’s entire net profit for 2009. This week, inmate Brian Robert Spaude filed a lawsuit accusing ICC prison staff of dereliction of duty leading to his November 2009 assault in the prison’s dining hall. In another federal case, attorneys of former inmate Hanni Elabed are in talks to settle their claim. Elabed suffered brain damage after he was beaten by another inmate for several minutes while multiple guards watched and failed to intervene. The company, which manages about 75,000 inmates in 64 facilities in 19 states and the District of Columbia, contends prisoner safety is its top priority and works closely with Idaho officials to meet standards. Spokesman Steven Owen declined to comment specifically on the affidavits from the company’s former employees, saying lawyers would respond in court.

November 12, 2010 AP
Three former employees at Idaho's only private prison say staff routinely failed to protect inmates, and in some cases put inmates in situations knowing they'd be beaten by others. The statements from the former Idaho Correctional Center guards are in affidavits filed in a federal lawsuit against the prison's operator, Corrections Corporation of America. The lawsuit was filed against CCA last year by inmate Marlin Riggs, who was badly beaten in his cell. The three former employees claim the prison is understaffed, and steeped in a culture of laziness and lack of concern for inmate welfare. They say staff at the prison, referred to as "Gladiator School," frequently assigned inmates to cell blocks knowing they'd likely be beaten. CCA has denied the allegations in the lawsuit and is asking a judge to dismiss it.

August 31, 2010 The Spokesman-Review
Traces of the E. coli bacteria have been found in the water supply at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. ICC says they’re boiling water that will be used for drinking and cooking. So far, there have been no reported illnesses among staff or inmates. No other businesses or homes are supplied with water from the same source.

August 4, 2010 AP
A private prison company is asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit over prison violence in Idaho, saying the inmates didn't try to solve their problems through a grievance process first. The Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America told U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Wednesday that the inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center didn't go through administrative channels, so they should be barred from suing the company. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the inmates, says the prisoners took all the necessary steps and CCA still failed to fix the problems. The inmates say the Boise lockup is so violent that it's known as "gladiator school" and prison workers use inmate-on-inmate violence as a management tool. The judge says he plans to rule in the next few weeks.

August 4, 2010 Boise Weekly
Over at the U.S. Courthouse, a hearing is set in the case alleging violence at the Idaho Correctional Center, south of Boise. U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill could decide whether to make the lawsuit a class-action case. It now involves about two dozen inmates, but filings indicate that more than 50 additional inmates have asked to take part. The ACLU sued the Corrections Corporation of America, operators of the prison, saying the facility was so violent that inmates referred to it as a "gladiator school."

July 8, 2010 AP
A major private prison company has acknowledged that its guards watched as an Idaho inmate was beaten, but company attorneys say Corrections Corporation of America isn't to blame for any injuries the man suffered. The statements came in a response to a lawsuit filed by former inmate Hanni Elabed, who contends he was severely beaten by another inmate while guards at the CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center watched and failed to intervene. Elabed's attorneys say the assault left him with brain damage. Although CCA attorneys say several guards did watch the assault on video monitors, the company denies that the guards watched "passively." Rather, CCA says the guards ordered inmates in the housing unit where Elabed was being assaulted to return to their bunks, and most complied, according to CCA's answer to the lawsuit. The main door to the unit was opened once the Emergency Response Team arrived — a group of guards specially trained to handle assaults and other prison emergencies. CCA's answer to the lawsuit doesn't say just how long it took for the Emergency Response Team to arrive at the housing unit. Attorneys for the Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA and Elabed didn't immediately return phone calls from The Associated Press. In the lawsuit filed in April, Elabed's attorneys describe a harrowing assault in which an inmate who was a member of a white supremacist gang beat Elabed, who is Muslim and of Palestinian descent. The lawsuit says Elabed told guards and family members that he was being harassed and threatened by the gang before the attack, prompting prison staffers to move him to administrative segregation for several days. It was when the guards decided to move Elabed back to his cellblock on Jan. 18 when the assault occurred, according to the lawsuit. Within minutes and within the view of several guards standing by a window, Elabed's attorneys say, he was attacked by another inmate. Elabed was knocked to the floor, kicked and stomped in the head for so long that his attacker paused to get a drink of water and catch his breath, according to the lawsuit, before resuming the attack. Elabed's attorneys say that during that break Elabed pleaded with the guards to intervene to no avail. They contend the attack didn't end until he was unconscious and convulsing in a pool of blood. In their answer to the lawsuit, CCA attorneys acknowledge that Elabed was knocked to the floor, stomped and that his attacker took a drink at a drinking fountain before renewing the assault. They also say Elabed was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for a closed head injury, and that he was readmitted at the hospital a few days later for follow-up care. CCA denies Elabed's claims that he was left largely without medical care after he was returned to the Idaho Correctional Center. The company also denies that its employees were negligent in any way. CCA also offered several affirmative defenses — a legal move that essentially says if the facts as alleged by Elabed are found to be true, CCA still isn't to blame. Among the defenses offered by CCA attorneys are contentions that Elabed put himself at risk through no fault of the private prison company, that Elabed is wholly or at least partially to blame for his injuries, and that CCA was neither reckless or callously indifferent to Elabed's rights and that it wasn't motivated by any evil intent.

July 7, 2010 KTVB
A major private prison company has acknowledged its guards watched as an Idaho inmate was beaten, but company attorneys say Corrections Corporation of America isn't to blame for any injuries the man suffered. The statements came in a response to a lawsuit filed by former inmate Hanni Elabed, who contends he was severely beaten by another inmate while watching guards at the CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center failed to intervene. Although CCA attorneys say several guards did watch the assault on video monitors, the company denies that they watched "passively." Rather, CCA says the guards ordered the inmates to return to their bunks. The unit's main door was opened once the Emergency Response Team arrived -- employees trained to handle assaults and other prison emergencies. CCA's answer to the lawsuit doesn't say just how long it took for the Emergency Response Team to arrive.

June 11, 2010 AP
A private prison company being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union amid allegations of extreme violence at an Idaho lockup has shuffled Idaho's ousted warden and assistant warden to top posts at federal prisons in Kansas and Nevada. Phillip Valdez, the former warden at the 2,104-bed Idaho Correctional Center near Boise, has been named assistant warden at the Leavenworth Detention Center, a prison CCA runs for the U.S. Marshals Service in Leavenworth, Kan. The company didn't have any open warden positions, so Valdez opted to take the assistant warden spot at the 1,033-bed Kansas prison rather than leave the company, said Corrections Corporation of America spokesman Steve Owens. ICC's former assistant warden, Dan Prado, has been named assistant warden at the new Nevada Southern Detention Center, a 1,072-bed facility currently being built at Pahrump, Nev., for the Office of Federal Detention Trustee, an agency under the U.S. Department of Justice. Neither Valdez nor Prado could be reached by The Associated Press. CCA announced that Valdez and Prado would no longer be leading the Idaho prison after the $155 million lawsuit was filed earlier this year. The ACLU and inmates at the prison are asking for class-action status, contending the prison is so violent that it's been dubbed "gladiator school" by prisoners and that guards expose inmates to beatings from other prisoners as a management tool. The lawsuit also contends CCA has denied adequate medical care to injured inmates as a way to reduce the appearance of injuries. Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Daryl Ingermanson in Topeka, Kansas, had not yet learned of Valdez' appointment when contacted by The Associated Press. But he said the contract between the U.S. Marshals Service and CCA doesn't give the federal agency any control over who CCA hires to run the Leavenworth Detention Center, as long as that person passes a full background check. Ingermanson also said the agency has not had any problems with the way CCA runs the Leavenworth lockup. "It has always been a very professional facility here. We've not had any issues that have been unresolved so far - we just have the typical complaints from the inmates, but we've gone up and done our own independent investigations and everything we've found, other than just some minor stuff, is unfounded," Ingermanson said. "Any issues I've ever had and addressed with them up there, they've answered them right away." Charles Miller, spokesman with the U.S. Department of Justice, said CCA's contract with the Office of Federal Detention Trustee also doesn't allow the government to reject CCA's employees, as long as they pass FBI background checks. Idaho's contract with CCA does allow the Idaho Department of Corrections to call for a new warden and to approve of the people placed in top posts at the Idaho Correctional Center. However, that isn't what happened when Valdez and Prado were removed from their posts in March, according to a statement from CCA released at the time. "With the support of the Idaho Department of Correction, CCA has initiated a management change at the Idaho Correctional Center which will result in the assignment of a new warden and assistant warden," the statement read. The state has found several problems at the Idaho Correctional Center since the ACLU lawsuit was filed in January. An audit of medical services at the prison that started in February found that CCA had a host of problems administering medical care at the prison, including inadequate records, delays in providing medications and a lack of follow-up when prisoners are returned to the lockup after being hospitalized. Idaho also began fining CCA more than $2,600 a day in May after learning that 10 of the 13 drug and alcohol counselors at the prison aren't qualified to provide treatment under CCA's contract with the state.

June 3, 2010 AP
The American Civil Liberties Union has reached a settlement with the Idaho Department of Correction in a lawsuit over violence at a privately run prison near Boise. The ACLU filed the lawsuit against Corrections Corporation of America and the state earlier this year, saying the Idaho Correctional Center is so violent that inmates refer to it as "gladiator school" and that guards deliberately expose prisoners to brutal beatings from other inmates. The ACLU's lawsuit against CCA still stands. CCA has said the prison meets the highest professional standards. Under the agreement, the Idaho Department of Correction agrees to oversee compliance with any orders a federal judge makes against CCA in connection with the lawsuit.

June 2, 2010 Boise Weekly
Continued beat downs of inmates at the privately run Idaho Correctional Center have drawn a response from the Idaho Department of Correction, which is now demanding beefed up security to protect inmates from violence. The prison, which is also mired in a pending class-action prisoner civil rights lawsuit, reported a reduction in assaults in March, but increased violent incidents in April and May, earning a rebuke from IDOC. "We are seeing an increase in the number of incidents and violence at the Idaho Correctional Center," Idaho prison chief Brent Reinke wrote in a May 26 letter that Boise Weekly obtained through a public records request. "During the month of April, six incidents were reported. Since the beginning of May, there have been 11 reported incidents." Reinke wrote to Steven Conroy, vice president of Corrections Corporation of America, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company that runs ICC, demanding that the company better control the movement of inmates with a "lock-in, lock-out" protocol and make it a permanent part of operations. Lock-in, lock-out requires prison officials to keep cell doors closed when inmates are in common areas to prevent them from wandering unobserved into or out of cells. As of May 29, ICC was in total lock down because of a chicken pox outbreak. ICC spokesperson Linda Sevison said the company does not discuss security procedures but that IDOC had given them permission to use lock-in, lock-out in March. Sevison had not seen the May 26 letter. The IDOC letter was sent the same week that another ICC inmate was taken to the hospital twice with serious head injuries. On May 19, an inmate with golf ball-sized lumps on his temple and the side of his head acknowledged he'd been assaulted on T-Pod and was taken to St. Luke's Regional Medical Center for emergency cranial surgery, according to ICC incident reports obtained by Boise Weekly. Three days later, ICC sent him to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for further evaluation. The Ada County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident and charges are pending. The sheriff's office is also investigating an assault on May 24 when two inmates beat another inmate with a radio. On the day after Reinke sent the letter, a fight erupted during breakfast when an inmate threw milk and a food tray at another inmate. Other incidents reported in April and May include sharpened metal weapons found in the showers, a missing two-way radio, multiple fights, confiscated marijuana and homemade alcohol, and several uses of pepper spray against inmates. After the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal prisoner civil rights action against ICC and IDOC in March, alleging that guards at ICC allowed--and even encouraged--a culture of rampant violence among inmates, CCA replaced the warden and deputy warden at its Idaho facility, which is the largest prison in Idaho. According to Reinke's May letter, interim warden Timothy Wengler--recently named permanent warden at ICC--implemented lock-in, lock-out when he took over in March. The result was a marked decrease in assaults at the prison. At an April 1 meeting, Wengler told IDOC that he planned to ease the lock-in, lock-out protocol, "as housing units calmed down," and said that if he saw an increase in assaults he would re-impose the stricter standard. But as the number of assaults rose in April and May, the looser security standard remained in place. The ACLU lawsuit details 23 assaults that attorneys claim were preventable and alleges that ICC was so violent that inmates call the prison "gladiator school." IDOC and CCA filed motions at the end of May to dismiss the lawsuit because plaintiffs did not exhaust the grievance procedure first and argued the grievances they did file do not relate to the complaints in the lawsuit. The Prison Litigation Reform Act, which became law in 1996, requires inmates to exhaust their prison's specific grievance procedure before filing a lawsuit. Stephen Pevar, the lead ACLU attorney in the ICC lawsuit, said that prisons have benefitted immensely from the PLRA by having the vast majority of lawsuits dropped for failure to exhaust the grievance process first. "They've literally profited by the PLRA, and they've had very little financial incentive to do the right thing," Pevar said, naming a half-dozen Idaho inmates whose lawsuits were recently dropped for failure to exhaust. Pevar said they believe all named plaintiffs did follow administrative procedures prior to signing on with the class action lawsuit.

June 1, 2010 AP
The state is ordering private prison company Correction Corporation of America to pay thousands of dollars and fix problems with drug and alcohol treatment and medical care at the Idaho Correctional Center. Ten of 13 drug and alcohol counselors at the prison near Boise aren't qualified to provide treatment under CCA's contract with the state, according to records obtained by The Associated Press. Additionally, a medical audit by Idaho Department of Correction officials earlier this year shows the private prison has extensive problems administering medical care, including inadequate records; delays in providing medications, immunizations and mental health care; and a lack of follow-up or oversight when inmates are returned to the lockup after being hospitalized. The state ordered CCA to provide it with a plan to fix the medical care problems by May 25, but the company has already missed that deadline. Idaho is also imposing liquidated damages against CCA for violating its state contract by failing to have qualified drug and alcohol counselors. The damages rack up at a rate of more than $2,600 a day; so far, CCA owes the state more than $40,000 for the violations. "We're very concerned," said Rona Siegert, director of Idaho Department of Correction Health Services. "That's the whole purpose of the audit, to find these things before they get to a level where they're critical." Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA responded to questions about the problems through a prepared statement. "Regarding the findings of recent medical audits completed by the Idaho Department of Corrections at Idaho Correctional Center, we acknowledge and share the concerns of our government partner and take them seriously. While the identified issues are not at a critical stage, we are working actively and deliberately to quickly and effectively resolve them," the company said. CCA also said it is trying to hire qualified staffers for its drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. "Our efforts to recruit qualified and credentialed addiction, alcohol and drug professionals from the available pool of local candidates continue. We are confident that these efforts will result in our company being in compliance in the near term with a fully credentialed Therapeutic Community staff, as local qualified professionals seek employment opportunities." Company officials also said several staff members are set to undergo certification testing in the coming months. But Natalie Warner, the Idaho Department of Correction's contract administrator and quality assurance manager, said that under the schedule CCA provided for its current employees, the last of the certifications won't be completed until June 2011. Meanwhile, CCA will have racked up more than $100,000 in liquidated damages. In an April letter informing the private prison company of the issues, Idaho Department of Administration purchasing officer Jason Urquhart said the Correction Department feared that the drug and alcohol program violations could increase costs for the state. Offenders often are required to complete the Therapeutic Community program to be released, so if the program's integrity is compromised, offenders may have to stay in prison longer, increasing costs to the state, Urquhart wrote. He went on to say that the parole commission could require offenders to take part in drug and alcohol programs at other prisons — also increasing costs. The medical audits, completed between February and April, suggest that in many cases, inmates are going without adequate care, Siegert said. Still, Siegert said the Correction Department didn't know of any inmates who had suffered injury or harm because of the violations. Among other problems found in the audits, inmates in the prison's infirmary were sometimes left alone, without any working pager or call-light system to call a nurse or doctor in an emergency. They also were going too long between medical checks by nursing staff, according to the records. "Our requirement is that a provider makes the rounds every day to see if they're getting better or getting worse, what their vital signs are," Siegert said. Medical test results also languished unread for too long, raising the possibility that serious medical problems weren't being addressed right away, Siegert said. If the company doesn't repair or adequately explain the audit findings, Idaho can impose liquidated damages for those violations as well. "It's going to stay on our radar and we're going to continue watching it very closely," Warner said.

May 30, 2010 KTVB
Chickenpox forced the Idaho Correctional Center to bar visitors and confine inmates to their housing areas Saturday. Two confirmed cases of chickenpox were reported at the Idaho Correctional Center after cultures were taken and sent to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for testing. Medical staff contacted the Health Department and the Idaho Department of Correction to ensure precautions are taken to contain the spread of the illness. The affected inmates have been isolated and are being monitored by medical staff. Inmates are being restricted to their housing areas and visitation has been cancelled until further notice due to the highly contagious nature of the disease.

April 29, 2010 AP
A prison violence lawsuit brought by 24 inmates at Idaho’s only private prison against Corrections Corporation of America can move forward in court, despite objections from the company, a federal judge said. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said in a ruling handed down Wednesday that he could find no reason to prevent former Idaho Correctional Center inmate Marlin Riggs and his attorneys from modifying their lawsuit to seek class-action status and add additional plaintiffs. Inmates have said the prison is so violent that it’s known as “gladiator school” and that guards deliberately expose prisoners to brutal beatings from other inmates, then deny them adequate medical care in an attempt to cover up the extent of inmates’ injuries. Riggs sued the Nashville, Tenn., company last year. After the case was filed, the ACLU agreed to represent Riggs and filed an amended complaint in March, adding nearly two dozen other inmates and asking for class action status. But Corrections Corporation of America asked the federal court to reject the amended lawsuit, saying Riggs had overstepped the limits set by the court when it agreed to appoint him attorneys to help him on the case. The company also contended that the changes to the lawsuit made it unduly prejudicial, putting CCA at an unfair disadvantage in court. Winmill said that wasn’t the case. In fact, Winmill wrote, amending the case to include other inmates was a more efficient way to deal with the claims rather than bringing 24 or more individual lawsuits. The lawsuit asks that Riggs be awarded $155 million in damages — the entire net profit of the Corrections Corporation of America for 2009. Riggs and the rest of the inmates are also seeking injunctive damages, asking the court to declare that the private prison company, and state prison officials have violated and ignored their duties to protect the inmates from unnecessary and preventable assaults. The inmates also want the judge to order the company to take reasonable steps to ensure that prisoners at ICC will be protected from assaults by other inmates, to increase training, oversight and investigations into assaults, and to take other measures to improve management practices at the prison.

April 27, 2010 AP
A former inmate is suing a private prison company, saying guards watched as he was beaten by a fellow inmate in an attack that went on so long his assailant had time to stop and drink some water before continuing. Attorneys for Hanni Elabed filed the lawsuit against the Correction Corporation of America in Boise's U.S. District Court late last week, saying their client was left brain damaged and may never fully recover from the assault at the Idaho Correctional Center near Boise. Elabed is asking for punitive damages and compensation in an amount to be proven in court. Steven Owens, the public affairs director for CCA, said the Nashville, Tenn.-based company doesn't comment on lawsuits other than through court filings. According to the lawsuit, Elabed was serving time on a robbery conviction when he was beaten. His attorneys said at least three guards and another ICC staffer watched while he was stomped and kicked, and that they failed to intervene even when his attacker stopped for several minutes to get a drink and catch his breath. The lawsuit echoes complaints lodged in other recent lawsuits against the company in which other Idaho inmates allege they were knowingly exposed to violence from other inmates and then denied proper medical care in an effort to cover up the extent of their injuries. Elabed's case, however, details what may be the most extreme allegations yet to come out of the state's only private prison. Elabed was 24 in 2008 and addicted to Oxycontin, when he pleaded guilty to robbery and was sentenced to two to 12 years in prison. He was transferred to the Idaho Correctional Center, where Elabed, who is Muslim and of Palestinian decent, told his family he was being harassed by inmates - including his cellmate - who were members of a white supremacist gang. The lawsuit said the harassment escalated until his cellmate attacked Elabed and broke his jawbone. After that attack, Elabed was moved to another cellblock within the prison where he said the gang abused and threatened him. The lawsuit said he tried to get help from prison staffers, telling them that he'd been threatened and giving them details about drug trafficking between inmates and staffers that he had witnessed. That prompted ICC officials to move Elabed to administrative segregation for several days, according to the lawsuit, before moving him back into the same cellblock. Just before the move, Elabed told his parents that he believed several guards were planning to tell the other inmates that he had identified them as drug traffickers. He was moved into the cellblock on Jan. 18 and within minutes of his arrival, he was attacked by one of the gang members "in plain view of video surveillance cameras and multiple ICC staff who passively observed from behind a window," Elabed's attorney, Benjamin Schwartzman, wrote. The guards ordered all the inmates to their rooms, according to the lawsuit, leaving only Elabed and his assailant in the main area. His attorney said the attacker then knocked Elabed to the floor and stomped on his head. He described the blows as "delivered with such ferocity and energy that the attacking gang member was forced to catch his breath and refresh himself at a drinking fountain, afterward." Elabed claimed that during the break, he managed to get up and pleaded with guards who continued to watch as his assailant resumed the attack. The beating didn't end until he was unconscious and convulsing in a pool of blood, the lawsuit said. Elabed's attorney said staffers had an ambulance take Elabed to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with traumatic subarachnoid brain hemorrhage. They prevented the hospital from taking any pictures of Elabed's injuries, the lawsuit said, and removed him after he was stabilized in an overnight stay. His attorney said Elabed was returned to the hospital three days later after he was not given treatment at the prison. Elabed later was given a medical parole, his attorney said. His attorney added that since the beating, his client gets confused easily, jumps at loud noises and can't keep his attention focused. He soothes himself by rocking and rubbing his arms, and has significant mental impairment, Schwartzman said. "We know that he was normal before. He was no honor student, but he could hold down a job. Now he gets confused trying to put his own clothes away ...," Schwartzman said. The case is complicated in part because Elabed lost his memory of the beating and the events preceding it, Schwartzman said. His attorneys have had to rely on witness accounts to determine much of what happened but they said the stories are consistent. The Ada County prosecutor has charged James Haver, an inmate serving time for aggravated assault and battery, with aggravated battery in connection with Elabed's case. A preliminary hearing for Haver has been set for May.

April 14, 2010 Boise Weekly
Violent beatdowns at the privately run Idaho Correctional Center appear to have subsided in recent weeks, in the wake of a class-action lawsuit against the prison and shakeup of prison leadership, according to documents obtained by Boise Weekly. The prison reported 17 inmate-on-inmate assaults in January and 15 in February, according to a tally of incident reports filed with the Idaho Department of Correction. But there were only nine assaults reported in March and only four since warden Phillip Valdez and assistant warden Daniel Prado were replaced on March 17. A spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company that manages ICC, Idaho's largest prison, has repeatedly declined to comment on the situation at the prison, citing the lawsuit. But Idaho lawmakers are troubled by the levels of violence and accusations in the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that assaults at ICC were perpetrated with the full knowledge of--even collusion by--guards. "If those things actually happened at ICC, I was not aware of it and I don't think anybody in the Legislature was aware of it," said Republican Rep. Leon Smith of Twin Falls, co-chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "If it's proven that they did those things, then they are going to pay big penalties." Democratic Rep. Grant Burgoyne of Boise went even further, likening CCA to the actions of private military contractors in Iraq. "I believe that it is not appropriate, when it comes to the incarceration of people, that that be outsourced to a private contractor," Burgoyne said. "There are certain core government services that should be carried out by government officials." IDOC carried a bill through the Idaho Legislature earlier this year that gives IDOC Director Brent Reinke more authority to quell serious disturbances and riots at the privately run prison and to quell "affrays and insurrections" as well. Several lawmakers noted the timing of the bill, which was introduced just before the ACLU lawsuit was filed, but a spokesman for IDOC said there was no connection. "Our intent with the new legislation is to give the director statutory authority to intervene and quell a serious disturbance," said prisons spokesman Jeff Ray. "We can't say what the legislative intent was when they used the word 'affray.'" An affray is a fight between two or more people in a public place. Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, said that the bill is a step in the right direction, but does not affect the lawsuit. "I think IDOC has stepped up to the plate and they have known that something is going on out there, because the bill is bringing them into compliance with what the federal court will already tell them," she said. The ACLU lawsuit details 23 serious assaults at ICC, going back to November 2006, all of which, the attorneys allege, were preventable. There were at least 43 inmate fights at ICC since Jan. 1 of this year, according to incident reports obtained by Boise Weekly through a public information request to IDOC. The Ada County Sheriff's Office was called only four times for inmate battery investigations in that same time period, according to public information officer Andrea Dearden, though there were other investigations for drugs found at the prison and for an assault on two staff members. • On Jan. 18, sheriff's deputies investigated the severe beating of Hanni Elabed, who has filed a separate, $25 million claim against ICC and the state. The Ada County Prosecutor's Office intends to file charges against the inmate who beat him, according to Elabed's brother. • On Jan. 24, prison officials called the Sheriff's Office, but deputies declined to investigate a battery report from a fight that may have occurred three days prior. • On Jan. 26, deputies investigated an assault on two prison staff members and forwarded charges to the prosecutor. • On March 1, deputies investigated a fight with a weapon--described by prison officials as a "sharpened edged weapon"--but the weapon was never recovered. • And on March 10, deputies investigated at least three fights that broke out in separate areas of the prison simultaneously. Also since Jan. 1, ICC officials discovered marijuana four times, bags of homemade alcohol in a shower, meth and at least two shanks. Idaho Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter, through a spokesman, declined comment on the ACLU lawsuit, but his attorney, David Hensley, said Otter and IDOC are concerned about staff and prisoner safety at ICC, as at any prison. "This situation, like any previous situation, warrants our concern, and we've been looking at that," Hensley said. In 2007 and 2008, Otter proposed allowing more privately run prisons to be built in Idaho, but faced resistance from the Legislature, in part out of concern that out-of-state inmates would be housed here. Since the privatization bill died in 2008, Idaho's prison bed shortage has waned. Hundreds of inmates housed in other states have been returned to Idaho, some now housed in a new wing at ICC. Otter has not revived the idea of allowing privately owned and run lockups. "The governor has been looking at cost effective ways to address the trends and recently we have seen the trends either stagnant or, in the last few months, we've even seen a decrease," Hensley said. But for Hanni Elabed's family, the lack of transparency and public oversight at the private prison is inexcusable. Elabed's older brother, Zahe Elabed, said guards put his brother in a cell with white supremacists despite threats against his Arab heritage, failed to notify his parents when he was left convulsing on the floor after being beaten against a wall and stomped more than 30 times, would not allow family visits or provide information on his condition over the phone and were rude. "I think they need to do away with it, I think it's really unfair for any prisoner to be in there now," Zahe Elabed said. "You have to be a gladiator to survive in there."

March 30, 2010 Boise Weekly
Just days after the American Civil Liberties Union sued the operators of Idaho's largest prison, the Idaho Correctional Center, an Idaho Falls man who was savagely beaten and suffered what could be permanent brain damage there notified the state that he would sue for at least $25 million. According to a tort claim filed March 16 with the Idaho Secretary of State, guards at the privately run ICC allowed Hanni Elabed to be severely beaten, "as a form of retribution connected with his refusal to participate in drug distribution at the ICC ..." Elabed's attorney, Ben Schwartzman, said that Elabed was asked to distribute drugs in the prison, refused and reported the incident. "It was at this point that he was essentially offered to the gangs as a snitch and allowed to be beaten," Schwartzman said. ICC officials did not return calls seeking comment. Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said he could not address the pending lawsuit. "We're always concerned about the conditions of confinement in any of our facilities be they state facilities or contract facilities," Reinke said. Elabed's beating is detailed in the ACLU suit, though he is not named. The ACLU filed a federal claim on March 11 on behalf of six named inmates, claiming that conditions at ICC are so violent as to violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The suit seeks class-action status for all ICC inmates and punitive damages of $155 million--the 2009 net income of Corrections Corporation of America, which operates ICC--on behalf of one inmate. According to the ACLU lawsuit, four guards and a counselor watched as another prisoner smashed Elabed's head into a wall more than 10 times, stomped on his head more than 20 times, walked away to get a drink of water and returned to beat him until he was convulsing on the floor. The incident was filmed and the Ada County Sheriff's Office has reviewed the tape. Elabed, who was arrested in 2008 for holding up a pharmacy with a BB gun to obtain Oxycontin, to which he was addicted, pled guilty to burglary charges and was sentenced to two years in prison. He is now on medical parole in the care of his family in Idaho Falls. "He can talk, he can perform some daily activities of life, with help, in some instances on his own," Schwartzman said. Ada County detectives are also investigating a series of assaults at ICC that occurred on March 10 and resulted in at least one inmate being transported to the hospital.

March 17, 2010 AP
The Corrections Corporation of America is replacing the top two officials at Idaho's only private prison after the American Civil Liberties Union sued over claims of brutal inmate-on-inmate violence, state corrections officials said Wednesday. Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said in a memo to department staffers that the company will name a new warden and assistant warden at the Idaho Correctional Center near Boise. The announcement comes just days after the ACLU filed a lawsuit asking for class-action status and $155 million in damages, alleging the prison is extremely violent and that guards deliberately expose inmates to beatings from other prisoners as a management tool. It names both the company and the state department. In the lawsuit filed March 11, the ACLU said the prison was so violent it was known as "gladiator school" among inmates and that guards denied medical care and X-rays to the injured prisoners as a way to save money and hide the extent of their injuries. Steve Owen, the prison company's director of public affairs, said former warden Phillip Valdez and former assistant warden Dan Prado both remain employed with the company and would be reassigned. He said Timothy Wengler, who has been with CCA since 1996 and most recently worked as interim warden at the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn., would serve as interim warden at the Idaho lockup until a permanent warden is named.

March 12, 2010 AP
A federal lawsuit claims that Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America is running an Idaho prison that is so violent it is known as "gladiator school" by inmates. The American Civil Liberties Union says CCA should have to pay all of its 2009 net profits — $155 million — in punitive damages. Idaho prison officials also were named in the suit filed by the ACLU on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Boise. The suit adds to the considerable controversies CCA has faced since its founding in 1983. Last year, it was sued by a Metro officer who was shot by an escapee from a CCA facility; berated for leaving a mentally ill inmate in his Metro jail cell without a bath for 9 months; and sued by 23 female inmates who claim they were raped at a Kentucky prison. In 2006 CCA settled a suit over the death of a Nashville woman who was left in solitary confinement with massive head injuries. Charges against four guards accused of beating the woman were dropped. Opponents argue that CCA, the nation's largest private prison operator, uses its political influence to stifle those who say prisons should not be in private hands. It recently lost an attempt to keep all its prison records private when the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that CCA acts as a public entity in operating public prisons. The latest lawsuit claims that Idaho's only private prison is extraordinarily violent, with guards deliberately exposing inmates to brutal beatings from other prisoners as a management tool. The group contends the prison then denies injured inmates medical care to save money and hide the extent of injuries. Steve Owen, Corrections Corporation of America's director of public affairs, said the company would respond to the lawsuit through court filings. He said state officials have unfettered access to the prison and provide strong oversight at the facility, including daily on-site monitoring. "For the past decade, CCA has safely and securely managed the Idaho Corrections Center on behalf of our government partner, the Idaho Department of Corrections," Owen said in a prepared statement. "Our hardworking, professional staff and management team are held accountable to high standards by our government partner, to include those of the American Correctional Association — the highest professional standards in the country for correctional management." Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment. Stephen Pevar, senior attorney for the ACLU, said he has sued at least 100 jails and prisons, but none came close to the level of violence at Idaho Correctional Center. "Our country should be ashamed to send human beings to that facility," he said. Suit asks for $155M The ACLU is asking for class-action status and $155 million in punitive damages — the entire net profit reported by the company in 2009. The ACLU said the money should go to lead plaintiff Marlin Riggs, who sustained permanent facial deformities and other medical problems after he was savagely beaten in his cell. Guards use violence to control prisoner behavior, forcing inmates to "snitch" on other inmates under the threat of moving them to the most violent sections of the prison, ACLU-Idaho Executive Director Monica Hopkins said. Hopkins said inmates will be beaten by fellow inmates if they become known as snitches. If they refuse to give up names, the guards will have them beaten anyway, she said. "It doesn't do us any good as a society to put people in there where they have to turn to other gangs and become gang members to protect themselves," Hopkins said. "The thing is, there's a constitutional duty to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners." The lawsuit also refers to an investigation by The Associated Press based on public records requests that found the level of violence at the prison was three times higher than at other Idaho prisons, and that Idaho Department of Correction officials believed violence was also dramatically underreported by Corrections Corporation of America and inmates. At the time of that report, Steven Conry, CCA's vice president of facility operations, maintained the prison was safe and well-run.

March 11, 2010 AP
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Idaho prison officials and a major private prison company for more than $155 million over high levels of inmate violence at the Idaho Correctional Center. The ACLU and the ACLU of Idaho said they would file the lawsuit against Corrections Corporation of America in Boise's U.S. District Court on Thursday. In the lawsuit, the ACLU says Idaho's only private prison is so extraordinarily violent that it's known as "Gladiator School" among inmates and that guards deliberately expose inmates to brutal beatings from other prisoners as a management tool. The group contends that the prison then denies injured inmates X-rays or other medical care to save money and hide the extent of the injuries.

March  8, 2010 Idaho Reporter
Proposals could help offenders needing treatment, prisons dealing with riots An Idaho Senate committee approved two proposals from the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) that would give IDOC more authority in dealing with placing prisoners in substance abuse treatment and quelling riots and other serious disturbances in private facilities. IDOC director Brent Reinke said the moves could save Idaho money in prisoner costs and potential lawsuits. The first proposal would give Idaho courts and IDOC more time to allow inmates to complete substance abuse treatment rather than serve a full prison sentence. It would extend the current 180-day period of suspended judgment to 365 days. During that time, IDOC could place prisoners in programming including substance abuse treatment that could shorten their overall prison stay. “We are not looking to do anything but set the stage for better programming for our inmates,” Reinke said. IDOC currently has one short-term programming option lasting 120 days, but the department is looking to expand to three options that span from 90 and 270 days. Reinke said having more offenders go through shorter-term programming rather than serving an entire prison term, which lasts an average of 2.7 years, means the state could slow its population growth by 400 inmates a year. “If an inmate goes through this program, he wouldn’t have to do what I’d call ‘hard time’ in a penitentiary,” said Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise. The second proposal would allow IDOC to set up procedures for dealing with violent incidents at private prison facilities, including the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) in Boise. Those serious disturbances include riots, escapes, fights, and insurrections. The legislation would let IDOC renegotiate its contract with the Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that runs ICC. The legislation would give Reinke more oversight on private facilities dealing with disturbances and would allow for employees at private prisons to use extreme and deadly force to stop incidents. “It wasn’t clear that the department had the authority to intervene at a private correctional facility,” said Paul Panther, a deputy attorney general for IDOC. Panther said that CCA has agreed to the legislation. Reinke said IDOC needs to prepare for emergencies, and that’s it’s only a matter of time before there are disturbances at Idaho’s private prisons. “We now have six facilities in the south Boise (ICC) complex and we have many, many gang members incarcerated in that area,” he said. “That is an area that has us concerned.” The Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee approved both of Reinke’s proposals on a unanimous voice vote. Both pieces of legislation now head to the Senate floor. The suspended judgment legislation is available here and the disturbances in private prisons legislation is available here.

February 11, 2010 Idaho Press-Tribune
Several inmates housed at the Idaho Correctional Center have recently shown stomach flu-like symptoms. Inmates complained of sudden onset nausea and vomiting with low-grade fever, according to officials with CCA, the company that operates the prison. Cultures were sent to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for testing, with results pending. Officials said the prison's medical staff is working closely with health specialists and the Idaho Department of Correction to ensure all necessary precautions are being taken to contain the spread of the illness. Affected inmates are being monitored by medical staff and encouraged to drink plenty of water in order to avoid dehydration. Staff and inmates are being reminded of proper hygiene practices, which include frequent handwashing.

July 25, 2009 The Spokesman-Review
A swine flu outbreak at Idaho’s privately operated prison south of Boise has sickened at least 13 inmates and all visitors or volunteers have been shut out for at least two weeks. “We went ahead and quarantined all of those inmates, separated them from the general population,” said Warden Phillip Valdez of the Idaho Correctional Center, which is operated for the state by Corrections Corp. of America. CCA first reported to the state Department of Correction that the H1N1 virus had shown up at its facility around July 14, said Teresa Jones, department spokeswoman. “At that point, we said, ‘OK, we’ll stop movement and isolate it,’
” Jones said. That meant no inmates went in or out for a week, even if they were scheduled to be transferred elsewhere. Now, however, the entire private prison has been sanitized and all sick inmates have been quarantined, so regular inmate movements have resumed, including transfers into the facility. Valdez said he hopes to allow visitors and volunteers by Friday. “What we wanted to do was reassure the population that everything was going to be fine. We had medical personnel on-site, contacts with the health department,” he said. The warden said he has no idea how the virus got into the prison. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza can survive on surfaces for two to eight hours, spreading the disease. None of the inmates who contracted it have had complications. All have suffered high fevers that peaked on the third day, the warden said.

July 16, 2009 KIVI TV
Test results received from cultures sent to the Idaho State laboratory on Tuesday have confirmed that four inmates housed at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise have contracted the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus. As a continued measure to control the spread of infection, prison officials say, access will be restricted to staff only -- until such time as it is determined that the possibility of contracting the virus has passed. According to spokeswoman Linda Sevison, "Per standard protocol, facility management and health services staff are working closely with the Idaho Department of Health and Human Services and officials with the Idaho Department of Corrections. Education on proper hygiene practices will continue for staff and inmates. The medical needs of the affected inmates are being provided for by facility medical staff." "As part of precautionary measures," she added, "all transports in and out of the facility are cancelled. Visitation, which is normally scheduled for Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, will be cancelled.. No one will be allowed to enter the facility other than staff who are scheduled to work. Visitors and volunteers will not be able to access the facility during the lockdown."

July 14, 2009 KIVI TV
Two housing units at the Idaho Correctional Center, the private prison south of Boise, have been placed on quarantine after a number of inmates reported to the facility's medical department with flu-type symptoms. According to ICC spokesperson Linda Sevison, "While inmates are continually educated regarding proper hygiene, inmates and staff have been provided with additional educational information to reinforce the steps to prevent the spread of the infection." She said staff at the Idaho Correctional Center are working closely with the Idaho Department of Correction to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to contain the spread of the infection. Inmates housed in the affected areas are locked down (movement is restricted to within the housing unit), meals are being delivered to their housing unit, and staff assigned to work in those housing units are wearing masks as a precaution. Sevison said, "Cultures have been sent to the state laboratory for testing and takes approximately 2 to 3 days to receive the results. At this time, the symptoms have not been confirmed to be any specific type of influenza."

July 11, 2009 KLEW TV
The Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) announced that it has completed the transport of 188 inmates from an Oklahoma prison to Idaho, signaling an end to the department’s four-year practice of renting out-of-state beds to ease overcrowding. “This is a milestone for the department and something the people of Idaho can truly celebrate,” said IDOC Director Brent Reinke, in a news release from the department. “We’re saving taxpayer dollars, and in the long run, making our communities safer.” IDOC said the return of the inmates is made possible, in part, by the opening of 628 new beds at Idaho Correctional Center (ICC). It will cost $40.00 a day to house one inmate at ICC versus $61.53 at North Fork Correctional Facility (NFCF) in Sayre, Oklahoma. As a result, IDOC will save $1.4 million in Fiscal Year 2010.

June 22, 2009 AP
Another batch of Idaho prisoners has returned to the state after spending time in an Oklahoma prison. Officials with the Idaho Department of Corrections says another 68 inmates have been transferred back to Idaho from a private prison in Sayre, Okla. Two buses with the prisoners arrived in Boise Monday. The latest shipment leaves the department with just 120 inmates housed in out-of-state lockups. Those inmates are slated to return to Idaho by the end of the summer. Idaho has been relying on out-of-state prisons in Oklahoma and Texas to house inmates for several years. But the state has been able to bring many back in the last year due to a declining prison population and the creation of new prison beds at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise.

May 8, 2009 KBCI
A security officer at the Idaho Correctional Center was hospitalized after an inmate allegedly beat him. Andrea Dearden, spokesperson for the Ada County Sheriff's office, says the suspect, Tuan Le, 37, punched the 38-year-old corrections officer in the face - knocking him to the ground. But the attack didn't end there, Dearden says. Le allegedly continued to beat the officer for more than two minutes - kicking and beating the guard around the head. The officer suffered multiple facial fractures and cuts and will require multiple surgeries. Le will be charged with aggravated battery on a corrections officer, which faces a maximum penalty of 30 years. The inmate has been at the medium-security facility since 2006 and has no history of violence. He's since been transferred to a maximum security facility with the Idaho Department of Correction. The Ada County Sheriff's office is investigating the motive of the attack, which is not known at this time. Inmates in the area were in a lock down while the investigation was underway. Visitation will continue as normal on Friday.

April 4, 2009 The Olympian
Despite months of concern from lawmakers and state correction officials, Idaho's most violent prison hasn't gotten much safer for inmates. A review of hundreds of documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request shows that despite an investigation by the Idaho Department of Correction and internal security reviews by Correction Corporation of America completed last fall, the Idaho Correctional Center has only marginally improved its rate of inmate-on-inmate assaults. Between September 2007 and August 2008, the prison averaged just over 9 inmate-on-inmate assaults per month. Between September 2008 and March 2009, the prison averaged just under 9 inmate-on-inmate assaults per month. The reported violence, gang-related extortion and other problems at the prison have prompted several federal lawsuits. Meanwhile, construction crews are putting the final touches on a new unit as Idaho prepares to send 628 more inmates to the private prison. State officials noted an increasing level of violence at the Idaho Correctional Center starting in January 2008, the documents revealed. In August, former Virtual Prison Program Warden Randy Blades sent a letter to ICC Warden Phillip Valdez outlining what he felt were problems at the prison. "My concern relates to inmate safety at ICC resulting from the increased violence in recent months," Blades wrote. Prison officials weren't fully investigating cases of inmate-on-inmate violence and weren't reporting major inmate crimes to the Ada County Sheriff's office for investigation and prosecution, as they should have been, Blades said. ICC officials also failed to make sure inmates were held accountable for their crimes, at a level appropriate to the offense. Steven Conry, CCA's vice president of facility operations, maintains ICC is a safe and well-run prison.

December 5, 2008 AP
An inmate is suing the managers of the state's only private prison, contending that a high level of violence at the Idaho Correctional Center amounts to cruel and unusual punishment - a complaint that has been echoed recently by other inmates and at least partly documented in reports from the Idaho Department of Correction. The lawsuit, filed by inmate Daniel Dixon in U.S. District Court, contends that he and other inmates are being preyed upon by gangs and that correctional officers aren't doing enough to help. He seeks $1 million, segregation of vulnerable inmates and improved training for guards. Dixon was sent to ICC in 2006 after he was convicted of kidnapping and molesting a 12-year-old girl on a Coeur d'Alene beach. Dixon was 24 at the time, and within a week of his arrival, word of Dixon's charges spread throughout the prison. He was labeled as a "Cho Mo," prison slang for a child molester. "A few days later the Plaintiff was forced to defend himself against a white supremacist gang member," Dixon wrote in the lawsuit filed this fall. ICC officers knew about the fight but did nothing about it, Dixon claimed. Dixon was moved to another unit in the prison, one that he contends is known for high levels of skinhead gang activity. Gang leaders in the unit had given other inmates a "green light" for harming any child molesters, according to the lawsuit. Dixon told a correctional officer that he feared harm, but the officer reportedly tried to get Dixon to give him information about the gang activity in the unit. Dixon refused, saying he feared that would result in him being labeled a snitch as well as a child molester, placing him at greater risk. Other inmates were already talking about beating him up, he said. "One even introduced himself as 'Rapeamo,' then defined himself as, 'The man who rapes child molesters,'" Dixon wrote in his lawsuit. Dixon was moved to different units around the prison - sometimes with gang members for cellmates he said. The prison south of Boise is operated by Correction Corp. of America, based in Nashville, Tenn. The state says the facility houses medium- and minimum-security inmates. An Associated Press voice message seeking comment on the lawsuit Friday was not immediately returned by a CCA spokesman. In December 2007, five gang members ran into Dixon's cell, locking the door behind them and beating Dixon with combination locks stuffed inside socks, according to the lawsuit. He was beaten for about five minutes as he yelled and screamed for help, Dixon said. The beating ended after he was able to reach the officer call box button in his cell. "But much to his dismay the officer in the control tower simply unlocked his cell door by electronic control, leaving the violated, and vulnerable Plaintiff helpless in the cell ...," Dixon wrote. While the door was unlocked, more gang members ran into his room with homemade knives, or shanks, and robbed him of his Christmas commissary package that included roughly $200 of food items, he said. ICC staffers didn't give Dixon any medical help until a few hours after the beating, he wrote. Within five days, Dixon was transferred to another prison and given a single cell. Dixon is asking a judge to award him damages of $1 million, to order ICC managers to segregate dangerous inmates from vulnerable inmates, and to order improved training for ICC guards in responding to inmate assaults. Dixon is also asking that he be allowed to stay in a single cell at the Idaho State Correctional Institution until he has recovered from the post traumatic stress syndrome he said he developed after the ICC assaults. Dan Prado, the assistant warden at ICC, said the prison has "fights just like at the other facilities. I wouldn't say it's out of the norm." He declined to speak specifically about the lawsuit. Idaho Department of Correction documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request last month show that the private prison had three times the number of offender-on-offender assaults compared to other Idaho prisons between September 2007 and September 2008. "The potential is there in any facility," Prado said. "We have seen a slight increase and that's just due to the population. I think some of it is through our reporting procedures - we report everything, even the minor incidents we have." Dixon's complaint isn't isolated. Gay Maulden, the mother of another inmate at ICC serving time on an assault and battery charge, said her son has complained that gang members are routinely and severely beating other inmates. She asked that his name not be used so that he would not face reprisals, but she sent his letter to lawmakers across the state. Mark Savage also contacted lawmakers after his son was beaten by gangs while at ICC. Savage also asked that his son's name not be revealed, but said he was serving time on a drug charge and was targeted by white supremacist gangs because he befriended inmates who weren't white. After two beatings - and complaints from several family members - Savage's son was transferred to the Idaho State Correctional Institution, Savage said. "He feels a lot safer at ISCI now, because the correctional officers there are actually trained and act like real COs. The private prison, they'll hire people who have no training whatsoever. They don't know what they are doing," he said. Savage said his son has suffered intestinal problems since the beatings but hasn't been provided adequate medical care, and that he is considering suing the state and CCA.

November 11, 2008 AP
Idaho’s only in-state private prison, the Idaho Correctional Center, has a violence rate that is three times higher than other Idaho prisons, and state officials say gangs are to blame. Documents from the Idaho Department of Correction obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request show that from September 2007 to September 2008, there were 123 offender-on-offender assaults at the prison, which is operated by Correction Corp. of America near Boise. That compares with 42 assaults during the same period at the Idaho State Correctional Institute and 31 assaults at the Idaho Maximum Security Institute. Half all inmate assaults at prisons statewide last year occurred at ICC, which has a rated capacity of 1,514 inmates, virtually the same as 1,490 at the State Correctional Institute. The problem was brought to the attention of lawmakers by Gay Maulden, a Boise woman whose son is an inmate at ICC, serving time on an assault and battery charge. Maulden asked that her son’s name not be used out of fear that he would face reprisals in the prison, but she sent a copy of a letter written by her son to every Idaho lawmaker, requesting help with the problem. In the letter, the son tells Maulden that the Idaho Department of Correction is using the facility as a dumping ground for inmates who don’t fit in the Idaho Maximum Security Institution. The state determines where to place inmates using a classification process, and under some circumstances the process allows officials to make exceptions, sending an inmate to a higher-security facility or lower-security facility than the classification would otherwise call for. The Idaho Correctional Center houses medium and minimum-security inmates, according to the state. In the letter, Maulden’s son said the department is wrongly giving problem inmates an exception so they can be housed at ICC, and that those inmates are hurting others. “There does not go by a week without at least one pod being on lockdown because someone(s) have been jumped and beaten,” the son wrote. But both Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke and Idaho Correctional Center Warden Phillip Valdez say that’s not the case.

October 21, 2005 AP
More than 300 Idaho inmates will be housed in Minnesota under an agreement with a private prison company, Idaho Department of Correction officials announced Friday. The inmates will be transferred from Idaho facilities to the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn., by the end of the month. Housing the inmates in Minnesota will cost Idaho taxpayers $53 per inmate per day, officials said. It costs about $48 per day to house an inmate in an Idaho prison.

July 23, 2002
The company that runs the prison, Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, has announced that Stencilco, a Nashville-based division of PRV Film Corp., has agreed to employee inmates.  About 1,250 inmates are housed at the private prison. A contract with the state calls for 20 percent of the inmates to be enrolled in a jobs program. Until recently, 55 inmates were enrolled, prompting the state to garnish CCA´s regular state payment to the tune of about $90,000 a month.  With Stencilco's addition of about 50 more employees in the prison work program, the fine is expected to drop by about $22,000. In March, the jobs issue prompted the company and the state to sign a new contract reducing the daily cost of housing prisoners between February and June. That saved the state more than $500,000. (Idaho Statesman)

July 18, 2002
The private prison south of Boise has more inmates working, but still not enough to avoid a steep fine from the state.  Correctional Corporation of America will be fined $90,000 a month, about $10,000 less than was expected, the department of Corrections said Wednesday.  About 1,250 inmates are housed at the private prison.  A contract with the inmates to be enrolled in a jobs program.  As of Wednesday, 55 inmates were enrolled.  CCA says it's trying to meet the goals of the contract.  (Idaho Statesman)

July 17, 2002
Idaho's Department of Corrections is fining the company running the Idaho Correctional Center $95,000 a month because too few inmates are working. The Corrections Corporation of America is required by contract to provide jobs for about 20 percent of inmates at the prison south of Boise. That means approximately 250 inmates should have jobs - but only 55 were employed on Wednesday, said Teresa Jones, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections. Last spring the company agreed to reduce what it charged the state by $ 512,000 from February through June because of the non-working inmates. But when the contract ran out at the end of June, the department said it had no choice but to levy the fines. (The Associated Press)

June 13, 2002
Complaints about the privately run prison near Boise have caught the attention of Department of Correction Director Tom Beauclair, who has asked a university professor to conduct an independent audit of Corrections Corp. of America's operations. Beauclair confirmed the complaints are coming from former students at the Idaho Correctional Center. But ex-employees aren't the only ones lodging complaints. "There's such a long line of stuff," said Kelly Winberg, president and founder of Friends and Family of Idaho Inmates. She said inmates at the 2-year-old private prison get different treatment than inmates at state-run prisons. To offer story ideas or comments, contact Wayne Hoffman whoffman@idahostatesman.com or 377-6416. (Idaho Statesman

June 12, 2002
The company running a prison near Boise will be fined $100,000 a month starting July 1 for not providing enough job training for inmates. Under its state contract, Correction Corp. of America must have 20 percent of the inmate population being trained. Only 34 of the 1,250 inmates are working in a correctional industry job, far below the 250 required. The department renegotiated its contract with Correction Corp. in January after the company missed the October deadline for having one-fifth of the population working. In the renegotiated contract, the company agreed to reduce what it charged the state by $512,000 from February through June. But with that contract running out at month's end, the department said it has no choice but to levy fines. "Twenty percent is significantly higher than what you would traditionally see in any correctional system, public or private," Owen said. (Associated Press)

March 5, 2002
The Idaho Department of Correction has reached an agreement with private prisons contractor Corrections Corp. of America to temporarily reduce the cost of housing prisoners. Under new terms, the company will charge $34.92 per inmate per day, a reduction of $2.68, or about 7 percent. The company also has agreed to ensure that 20 percent of its inmates would be working in the state's Correctional Industries program or a similar work program by July 1. That provision was already in the current contract, but the company had no inmates in the program, Correction Department spokesman Mark Carnopis said Monday. The new agreements were reached late Friday. The state officially notified the company that it was not complying with its contract in October. (Idaho Statesman)

February 4, 2002
The company running Idaho's private prison remains out of compliance with its agreement to provide required job training for its inmates. But prison officials say they expect Corrections Corporation of America to meet its contract obligations by summer as it races to avoid $5,000-a-day penalties. CCA has complied with most other areas of its contract with the state. The exception is the agreement to have one of five inmates in a job-training program, such as those available at the rest of the state's prisons. "To date, they really don't have a whole lot going on in that regard," Drum said of the lack of correction industries jobs at the private prison. "We've been in negotiations since Oct. 3 with CCA to try and determine what would be an appropriate per-diem assessment to charge them for being in non-compliance. The important thing to understand is that on Oct. 3, we technically put the hammer down." (Idaho Statesman)

January 16, 2002
Inmates at the state's privately operated prison aren't getting the job training they've been promised, and now the state's prison agency says that will cost Corrections Corp. of America. According to the state's contract with the Tennessee-based company, Corrections Corp. of America is supposed to provide job-training opportunities for about 250 inmates at the medium-security prison. "Ideally, we would like to see them provide the training opportunities, but what we've kind of seen ... they don't have any," said Don Drum, management services administrator for the Department of Correction. So now the state, which potentially could fine the company $5,000 a day, is renegotiating its contract, hoping to save $500,000 a year at a time when every penny in the state budget is being accounted for. That has angered Senate Finance Committee Vice Chairman Stan Hawkins, who said it's absurd to let the company get away with not providing a program that was a major point of interest when the state was ready to sign a contract with the company. Hawkins, a critic of privately run prisons, suggests that the state scrub the deal with the company. (Idaho Statesman)

December 20, 2001
The Department of Correction is going through a major overhaul of its internal operations and renegotiating its contract with a private prison to meet Gov. Dirk Kempthorne's orders to cut spending.  And Director Tom Beauclair said Wednesday that he's renegotiating the contract the state has with Corrections Corp. of America because the company has been "non-compliant" in some respects to the agreement.  (Idaho Statesman)

Idaho Department of Corrections
CCA, Correctional Medical Services, Corizon (formerly PHS), GEO Group
March 20, 2014

BOISE — Several Idaho and national faith, human and civil rights, social justice, labor, and criminal justice reform organizations delivered a letter to Idaho officials calling for the return of the 236 Idaho prisoners currently being held in a for-profit, private prison — the Kit Carson Correctional Center — in Burlington, CO.  The Colorado prison’s operator, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), is the same company that admitted to falsifying thousands of staffing hours at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) and is now the subject of an FBI criminal investigation for its management of the Idaho facility. “It took months of investigative research, a trial and a contempt hearing to hold CCA accountable for cheating Idaho taxpayers and creating a ‘Gladiator School’ at an Idaho Correctional facility,”  said Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of the ACLU of Idaho, “and yet Idaho officials continue rewarding this kind of deceptive and abhorrent behavior by extending their contract with CCA to ship Idahoans out of state. If we can’t trust them in our backyard, how can we trust them over 1,000 miles away?” Letter signatories argue that CCA is untrustworthy and Idaho prisoners’ safety and well-being are at risk under CCA’s management.  In light of Governor Otter returning control of the ICC back to the state, they now urge Idaho officials to immediately end the contract with CCA to house prisoners across state lines and cut ties with CCA once and for all. "It defies comprehension why the state of Idaho continues to do business with CCA — a company that has admitted defrauding the state, which ran a facility with levels of violence four times higher than all other Idaho state prisons combined, and which is currently the subject of an FBI criminal investigation,” said Alex Friedmann, Associate Director of the Human Rights Defense Center. “In any other context, the state would have severed its relationship with such a company. It is time to do so now with respect to Idaho's contract to house state prisoners in a CCA-run facility in Colorado, located far from their families." The letter also cites a national report released last November, which demonstrated that sending prisoners out-of-state impedes prisoner rehabilitation by diminishing supportive ties to family and community, a component research has shown to contribute to better behavior and reduce recidivism.  “This practice of shipping prisoners out of sight and mind to address prison overcrowding must come to an end,” said Holly Kirby, author of the report and organizer at Grassroots Leadership.  “For too long and with little public scrutiny, state leaders have slapped this costly bandaid on a problem that requires sustainable solutions to reduce the number of people behind bars.” Furthermore, signatories of the letter argue that alternatives exist, highlighting a January 2014 report, Justice Reinvestment in Idaho: Analyses and Policy Framework, which showed that Idaho prison space is currently being used inefficiently — with people convicted of nonviolent crimes and eligible for parole occupying prison beds rather than being released.  Releasing these low-risk individuals would free up the much needed in-state capacity to bring prisoners home from the out-of-state CCA facility. Organizations that signed on urging Idaho officials to bring prisoners home from a private prison in Colorado include American Civil Liberties Union - Idaho, Idaho Public Employees Association, National Association of Social Workers - Idaho, The Sentencing Project, Grassroots Leadership, In the Public Interest, Justice Policy Institute, United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society, American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights Defense Center.  See the letter with full list of signatories HERE.


Feb 19, 2014 seattletimes.com

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has ordered the state police to conduct a criminal investigation of understaffing and falsified documents at a private prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). The governor made the decision -- a reversal of his previous stance -- on Tuesday after meeting with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Otter wrote in a letter to Idaho State Police Col. Ralph Powell that after reviewing the available information, including an audit completed by the forensic auditing firm KPMG, he now believed the public would benefit from a formal criminal investigation. "After reviewing available information, including the KPMG audit report, I believe the public interest would benefit from a formal criminal investigation into the acknowledged falsification of Corrections Corporation of America's staffing records at the Idaho Correctional Center during 2012," Otter wrote in the letter to Powell. "Please accept this letter as my direction for the Idaho State Police to undertake such an investigation immediately, and to put whatever time, personnel and resources are necessary at the disposal of conducting it in a thorough and timely manner. I look forward to your findings and conclusions." CCA spokesman Steve Owen has previously said the company has serious concerns with the KPMG audit and believes it contains multiple errors. CCA has hired an attorney and is trying to get KPMG to declare the audit "inconclusive." Otter had previously supported Powell's decision not to investigate the company. CCA has operated Idaho's largest prison for more than a decade. The Idaho Department of Correction asked the Idaho State Police to launch a criminal investigation into CCA last year after an Associated Press investigation showed that the Nashville, Tenn.-based company's staffing reports given to the state listed some guards as working 48 hours straight in order to meet minimum staffing requirements. CCA then acknowledged that its employees falsified the documents to hide understaffing at the prison in violation of the $29 million state contract. For the past 12 months, state officials have said that the investigation was underway. But after the AP filed a public-records request for the Idaho State Police investigation documents late last month, the law enforcement agency revealed no investigation ever occurred. Powell said he decided early last year that there was no crime to investigate, and instead he attended meetings with the Idaho Department of Correction as the department sifted through the documents gathered for the KPMG audit. The KPMG audit, obtained by the Associated Press two weeks ago, found that more than 26,000 hours of mandatory guard posts were understaffed or otherwise problematic. CCA says that number overestimates the staffing problems by more than a third. CCA has agreed to pay the state $1 million to settle the understaffing issue. Todd Dvorak, the spokesman for Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, said he couldn't share details of Wasden's meeting with Otter because it falls under attorney-client privilege. "We join with the Governor and look forward to the findings and conclusions of the investigation," Wasden said in a prepared statement. Owen, the CCA spokesman, could not be immediately reached for comment. CCA officials have previously said they were cooperating fully with the Department of Correction as department officials examined the understaffing issue, and that the company has taken steps to ensure the problem never happens again. "The department stands ready to cooperate in every way possible," Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray said. Otter's letter to the Idaho State Police marked the second time in as many months that the governor has changed his mind on issues surrounding the CCA-run prison. In January, Otter announced that he was directing the Idaho Department of Correction to take over the facility. Otter, a self-described "champion of prison privatization," said at the time that the problems surrounding the facility had grown too great and that having the state assume management was the right thing to do. Otter is tied only with Texas Gov. Rick Perry for having received the most campaign contributions from CCA, totaling $20,000 since 2003. Otter said he didn't know he held that record until a reporter asked him about the contribution amounts at a public function earlier this month. Wasden first urged Otter to order the Idaho State Police to do a criminal investigation on Feb. 7, shortly after the news broke that no investigation had occurred. But within hours of receiving Wasden's recommendation, Otter responded with a firm thanks but no thanks. In a letter sent to Wasden's office that day, Otter said the Idaho State Police had already assessed the matter for indications of criminal wrongdoing and had consulted with both state and county legal representatives before determining that no crime had occurred. So, Otter said, no criminal investigation was needed.


Feb 15, 2014 abcnews.go.com

Corrections Corp. of America is pushing to get a forensic audit declared inconclusive after the auditors found the private prison company understaffed an Idaho prison by more than 26,000 hours. The Idaho Department of Correction hired KPMG to conduct the audit last year after an investigation by The Associated Press showed CCA sometimes claimed its guards worked as much as 48 hours straight in order to fulfill staffing requirements. CCA spokesman Steve Owen says the audit is rife with errors and overestimates the staffing shortfalls by more than a third. Owen says the company has hired an attorney to deal with KPMG directly in hopes of reaching an agreement that the report was inconclusive. Still, CCA and the Idaho Board of Correction have announced that the prison company will pay the state $1 million to settle the understaffing issue. The report could impact the Tennessee-based company's other government relationships. Idaho corrections officials say prison leaders in several states and the U.S. Department of Justice have asked for copies of the audit. CCA is one of the largest private prison companies in the world, reporting $1.7 billion in revenue in 2012. Owen contends the report includes several flaws, and that auditors failed to count guard posts that were filled by "highly qualified, experienced and trained personnel" because they had job titles other than correctional officer. "It is characterized by a number of errors, faulty assumptions, misunderstandings of the contract, and other flaws," CCA officials wrote in a five-page statement responding to the report. "We provided all the information that KPMG requested freely, but in the end, the report simply does not provide an accurate assessment of the situation." Guido van Drunen, a Seattle-based partner with KMPG, on Tuesday referred all questions about the matter to the Idaho Department of Correction. The report and underlying documents, obtained by the AP through a public records request, shows that KPMG noted whether staffing positions were filled by correctional officers or other CCA workers after discussing the matter with state officials. The Department of Correction's own contract monitors have noted repeatedly in the past that CCA sometimes relied on case managers and correctional counselors to fill guard posts. Agency officials have said that practice is a problem because if counselors and case managers are working guard posts, they likely aren't left with enough time to fulfill their own job duties, making it harder for inmates to complete the programs needed for parole. CCA contends that in many cases, the case managers and correctional counselors worked overtime in the guard posts, and that since they have security training those hours should have been counted as fully staffed. KPMG's report also says the auditing firm took a conservative approach when deciding whether to include some discrepancies in the overall totals. In cases where auditors couldn't determine with a level of certainty that a post was unmanned, double booked or had other issues, those hours were left out of the total, according to the report. "As a result of our conservative approach it is possible that our analysis understates the number of hours that could potentially be identified as unstaffed using the criteria provided to us by the Idaho DOC," the KPMG report states. The KPMG auditors found that nearly 4,500 hours were double-booked, where one CCA guard was listed as filling two posts simultaneously, according to the report. It also said about 8,700 hours were filled by workers who aren't correctional officers, and more than 9,800 hours were unstaffed because a correctional officer started a shift late or left early. Another 3,100 hours had other problems, according to the report, such as not being identified on the staff roster at all. CCA's response contends that KPMG also failed to account for lower levels of staff needed on national holidays when inmates generally aren't transported in or out of the prison, and that in some cases the auditors failed to account for employees who had the same last name.

 

Feb 13, 2014 spokesman.com

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Corrections Corp. of America is pushing to get a forensic audit declared inconclusive after the auditors found the private prison company understaffed an Idaho prison by more than 26,000 hours. The Idaho Department of Correction hired KPMG to conduct the audit last year after an investigation by The Associated Press showed CCA sometimes claimed its guards worked as much as 48 hours straight in order to fulfill staffing requirements. CCA spokesman Steve Owen says the audit is rife with errors and overestimates the staffing shortfalls by more than a third. Owen says the company has hired an attorney to deal with KPMG directly in hopes of reaching an agreement that the report was inconclusive. Still, CCA and the Idaho Board of Correction have announced that the prison company will pay the state $1 million to settle the understaffing issue. The report could impact the Tennessee-based company's other government relationships. Idaho corrections officials say prison leaders in several states and the U.S. Department of Justice have asked for copies of the audit. CCA is one of the largest private prison companies in the world, reporting $1.7 billion in revenue in 2012. Owen contends the report includes several flaws, and that auditors failed to count guard posts that were filled by “highly qualified, experienced and trained personnel” because they had job titles other than correctional officer. “It is characterized by a number of errors, faulty assumptions, misunderstandings of the contract, and other flaws,” CCA officials wrote in a five-page statement responding to the report. “We provided all the information that KPMG requested freely, but in the end, the report simply does not provide an accurate assessment of the situation.” Guido van Drunen, a Seattle-based partner with KMPG, on Tuesday referred all questions about the matter to the Idaho Department of Correction. The report and underlying documents, obtained by the AP through a public records request, shows that KPMG noted whether staffing positions were filled by correctional officers or other CCA workers after discussing the matter with state officials. The Department of Correction's own contract monitors have noted repeatedly in the past that CCA sometimes relied on case managers and correctional counselors to fill guard posts. Agency officials have said that practice is a problem because if counselors and case managers are working guard posts, they likely aren't left with enough time to fulfill their own job duties, making it harder for inmates to complete the programs needed for parole. CCA contends that in many cases, the case managers and correctional counselors worked overtime in the guard posts, and that since they have security training those hours should have been counted as fully staffed. KPMG's report also says the auditing firm took a conservative approach when deciding whether to include some discrepancies in the overall totals. In cases where auditors couldn't determine with a level of certainty that a post was unmanned, double booked or had other issues, those hours were left out of the total, according to the report. “As a result of our conservative approach it is possible that our analysis understates the number of hours that could potentially be identified as unstaffed using the criteria provided to us by the Idaho DOC,” the KPMG report states. The KPMG auditors found that nearly 4,500 hours were double-booked, where one CCA guard was listed as filling two posts simultaneously, according to the report. It also said about 8,700 hours were filled by workers who aren't correctional officers, and more than 9,800 hours were unstaffed because a correctional officer started a shift late or left early. Another 3,100 hours had other problems, according to the report, such as not being identified on the staff roster at all. CCA's response contends that KPMG also failed to account for lower levels of staff needed on national holidays when inmates generally aren't transported in or out of the prison, and that in some cases the auditors failed to account for employees who had the same last name.

 

Feb 12, 2014 miamiherald.com

BOISE, Idaho -- Corrections Corporation of America is pushing to get a forensic auditing report declared inconclusive after the auditors found the private prison company understaffed an Idaho prison by more than 26,000 hours. The Idaho Department of Correction hired KPMG to conduct the audit last year after an Associated Press investigation showed that the company sometimes claimed its guards worked as much as 48 hours straight in order to fulfill staffing requirements. CCA spokesman Steve Owen says the audit is rife with errors and overestimates the staffing shortfalls by more than a third. Owen says the company has hired an attorney to deal with Seattle-based KPMG directly in hopes of reaching an agreement that the report was inconclusive. The report could impact the Tennessee company's other government relationships. Idaho corrections officials say prison leaders in several states and the U.S. Department of Justice have asked for copies of the audit.

 

June 30, 2013 idahopress.com

Last week’s column on a possible bidding contest among private corporations for managing one of Idaho’s prisons drew two complaints. Let’s deal with them here. One came from Gallatin Public Affairs at Boise, which said its client Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based private prison operator mentioned briefly in the column, had a beef. I wrote that it “is considered one of the comers in the business” (not disputed), and: “On May 30, news reports surfaced about a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of prisoners at its East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian, alleging ‘barbaric’ conditions and denial of health and other basic care.” The representative said that “MTC is not connected with this lawsuit, and your readers are led to believe it is. … We would like MTC to be taken out of the column that mentions the lawsuit against Geo.” I didn’t say MTC was a party to the lawsuit, or even that it was “connected.” Still, surely MTC would prefer greater clarity to erasure or cover-up. An editor of mine often said that when a writer opens a door, he should walk through it; especially, as here, given MTC’s interest in Idaho (it operates the Idaho Correctional Alternative Placement Program). So is MTC “connected” to the lawsuit? The East Mississippi Correction Facility is a 1,500-bed prison mainly for mentally ill men, opened in 1999. In that state the Department of Corrections is responsible for all prisons, but it contracted operation of this one to the private GEO Group. Problems emerged, a state official said “MDOC was not satisfied,” and prisoners complained. MTC, self-described as “the third-largest private operator of adult correctional facilities in the world,” was hired to replace it, and has run EMCF since July 2012. On May 30 this year, a lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union for a group of prisoners at EMCF. The complaint, which is gritty reading, is online: www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/case/complaint.pdf. The defendants are not MTC, or for that matter GEO, but rather state corrections officials, since they are “vested with the exclusive responsibility for management and control of the correctional system ...” Much of the complaint deals with the GEO years, but it includes events since July 2012. “In September 2012, prisoners on Unit 5C had no showers for three weeks” (page 9); “In May 2013, there was no electrical power on the top tier of Plaintiff Covington’s zone for several days” (page 9); in late 2012, a prisoner who hanged himself was cut down, locked in an isolation cell and not seen by a psychiatrist (page 12). A legally blind prisoner, robbed in July 2012, was robbed again in January and April this year (page 36). It cites guard abuses of prisoners in late 2012 and this year (pages 46-48). And more. MTC and GEO are lightly mentioned by name (some unfavorable references do turn up), but the filing generally is written in the present tense, not the past. In the opening paragraph: “Today, EMCF is an extremely dangerous facility operating in a perpetual state of crisis, where prisoners live in barbaric and horrific conditions and their basic human rights are violated daily.” Present tense. The area director of the SPLC said early in June, “We were there two weeks ago … This is happening right now.” Allegations are not proof, of course, and opinions on conditions and improvements vary. State prison officials have said East Mississippi is “a much better place” since MTC took over, and MTC’s spokesman notes decreased numbers of assaults and other incidents and hiring of new social and education professionals: “MTC has made significant improvements since taking over the facility less than a year ago.” Is MTC “not connected with this lawsuit”? You decide. The second column complaint was from a reader irritated no mention was made of the Kingman, Ariz., prison operated by MTC, where in the summer of 2010 three prisoners, two of them convicted murderers, escaped. The prison agency’s detailed report is available at

 

April 29,2013 idahobusinessreview.com     

Idaho’s prison system will increase payments to its medical and mental health care provider by hundreds of thousands of dollars after the company demanded a raise. However, the Idaho Department of Correction said it will only extend its $27 million annual contract with Corizon Correctional Healthcare until January, not another 12 months as previously announced. By then, the state Board of Correction hopes to have a new contract in place with a provider whose price tag better fits Idaho’s budget. During the six months starting July 1, Idaho will pay Tennessee-based Corizon about $250,000 more than currently budgeted. The move, approved at a Board of Correction meeting Thursday, came after Corizon President Stuart Campbell told state prison Director Brent Reinke he wouldn’t sign an extension for less money. On April 26, Reinke said Corizon told him its contract with Idaho wasn’t sufficiently covering the company’s costs and it needed more to continue providing service. “It’s just gotten more expensive to do business, and they just couldn’t afford to subsidize,” Reinke said, recalling Campbell’s justification for the hike. “The contract had just become too costly.” Corizon officials in Brentwood, Tenn., didn’t immediately comment. The rate Idaho has paid to Corizon has already increased about 20 percent in the past three years. Idaho has had a rocky relationship with the company in recent years, a period in which the state has been under pressure from a decades-old federal lawsuit to improve medical and mental health care for prisoners. The state fined Corizon $200,000 for missing contract benchmarks, and a federally appointed expert concluded its medical care was so bad it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Corizon commissioned its own report released in May 2012, indicating it was meeting national prison standards with the care it was providing in Idaho. In 2012, the Department of Correction asked companies to submit proposals on providing medical treatment to prisoners — a preliminary step to putting the contract out for bid. Five companies responded, and Corizon was one of two that gave price estimates. Based on that response, Reinke now says he’s optimistic that an offer will emerge before January that Idaho can better afford. “There are other providers that responded that are very interested in this contract,” he said. “So we hope it’s in a very close range of the existing budget amount.”

 

April 12, 2013 Barrons.com

Shares of Corrections Corporation of America (CXW) are down a fraction today after the company late yesterday admitted to violating its contract with the state of Idaho: A private company that operates Idaho’s largest prison acknowledged Thursday that its employees falsified nearly 4,800 hours of staffing records over seven months last year in violation of its contract with the state. The admission by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America is the latest in a string of staffing problems alleged or being investigated at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. Earlier this year, the Idaho Department of Correction asked state police to investigate staffing discrepancies at the lockup. Corrections Corporation of America confirmed an internal review concluded some employees at the prison falsified the number of hours worked last year, starting in May and running through November. The watchdog group Private Corrections Institute has a issued scathing statement about Corrections Corp. today, suggesting the latest news may have broader implications: CCA further said “[t]he unverified hours represent a fraction of the total staffing requirements, and there was no apparent increase in violence or other security incidents during the period in question.” However, unstated was the length of time that understaffing – concealed by falsified staff records – had occurred at the Idaho Correctional, and whether such understaffing had contributed to the excessive violence at the facility that led to the class-action suit filed by the ACLU… “Based on the findings by the Idaho Department of Correction and CCA’s own admissions, every single jurisdiction that contracts with CCA should conduct an audit to ensure contractual compliance and adequate staffing at facilities operated by the company,” stated Alex Friedmann, president of the Private Corrections Institute, which opposes prison privatization. “CCA has a lengthy track record of understaffing and high staff turnover, resulting in incidents such as riots, assaults and hostage situations that threaten public safety. This is likely the tip of a larger iceberg.” PCI says Idaho pays CCA $30 million a year, while the AP says the contract is worth $29 million a year. Earlier this week, Corrections Corp. had seen its stock rise after it announced a $675 million special dividend as part of its conversion to a REIT; through yesterday the stock was up 7% this week.


April 11, 2013 fortmilltimes.com

The private company that operates Idaho's largest prison has acknowledged it falsified nearly 4,800 hours of staffing records during a seven-month period last year. Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America said Thursday some employees who work at the Idaho Correctional Center forged their hours between May and November 2012. CCA has contracted with the state to operate the prison for more than a decade. Company officials say staff will be disciplined. The Idaho Department of Correction began investigating CCA's records earlier this year after finding some staffing discrepancies through an audit. State prison officials say they intend to do a separate review of CCA's findings. In February, a public records request obtained by the Associated Press showed guards listed as working 24, 36 and 48 hours consecutively without time off.

June 29, 2012 AP
State prison officials plan to house hundreds of inmates at a privately run lockup in Colorado to avoid overcrowding at home. The Idaho Department of Correction expects to finalize a contract in early July with Corrections Corporation of America to house inmates at the prison company's Kit Carson Correctional Center in Burlington, Colo. Idaho plans to send 250 males inmates to the out-of-state facility in late July or early August. That number is expected to reach 450 a year from now if Idaho's prison population continues to grow at its current rate. The state's prisons are at capacity with 8,100 inmates, with some being housed in county jails. Prison officials have previously sent inmates out-of-state, but problems in Texas, as well as slowing inmate numbers in Idaho, prompted their return.

May 11, 2012 AP
The national prison health care company Corizon says a scathing court-ordered report on the care provide at an Idaho prison is full of errors and that a review they commissioned themselves proves it. But a close review of both reports show that they largely focused on different aspects of the health care system and that they noted some similar problems. The medical care at the Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise is a major part of a long-running lawsuit brought by inmates against the state 30 years ago. Over the years the inmates won many of their claims, forcing the state to make changes to operations and procedures at the lock-up. And a federal court has continued to oversee some aspects of the prison. Last year, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill appointed correctional health care expert Dr. Marc Stern to review the health care at the prison in hopes of finally bringing the lawsuit to a close. Stern's report found several problems. He said terminal and long-term care inmates sometimes went unfed and were left in soiled linens. The report also said nursing mistakes or failures were likely to have resulted in some deaths and one inmate wasn't told for seven months that he probably had cancer.

April 2, 2012 KTVB
The Idaho Department of Correction is telling a federal judge that a scathing report about health care at a Boise-area prison isn't accurate and doesn't reflect current conditions. Attorneys for the state filed their response to the report late last week, saying a court-appointed health care expert didn't do a thorough review at the Idaho State Correctional Institution. Dr. Marc Stern was appointed by the federal court to examine the care at the prison as part of a long running lawsuit between inmates and the state. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill has said he will use Stern's findings to help him decide whether to end the lawsuit. Stern's report was damning, finding that the medical care was so poor that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

March 20, 2012 AP
Medical care is so poor at an Idaho state prison that it amounts to neglect and cruel and unusual punishment, according to a report that was unsealed Monday. Correctional health care expert Dr. Marc Stern said there have been some improvements at the Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise. But terminal and long-term inmates sometimes went unfed, nursing mistakes or failure likely resulted in some deaths, and one inmate wasn't told for seven months that he likely had cancer, he said. The Idaho Department of Correction and the prison health care provider, Brentwood, Tenn.-based Corizon, said they're disappointed and are preparing a response that will show the care delivered to inmates meets constitutional and health care standards. Stern was appointed to study the care prison near Boise as part of a long-running lawsuit brought by inmates. Some of the medical problems described in the report are disturbing, including Stern's findings that inmates who were terminal or required long-term care and who were unable to move on their own were sometimes left in soiled linens, given inadequate pain medication and went periods without food and water. Stern said those conditions were ``inhumane.'' Emergency care was also found deficient in the report, with medical staffers routinely failing to bring parts of a basic resuscitation device — a ventilator mask for rescue breathing — to inmates experiencing medical emergencies. Prison guards reported to Stern that they sometimes had to call the health staffers multiple times to get them to respond to inmate emergencies, and sometimes the nurses only responded by phone, telling the guards to have the inmates request care the following day. In another case described by Stern, a nurse who found an inmate unconscious and having serious breathing problems didn't take any other vital signs and failed to give the man oxygen. ``Such evaluation was critically important at this point because it was highly likely the patient was not getting enough blood to his brain and required resuscitation,'' Stern wrote. Instead, he contends, the nurse moved the patient to the health unit and only assessed him a few minutes later, when he was having a heart attack. The patient died. ``It is impossible to know if immediate application of life saving measures in the living unit would have saved this patient,'' Stern wrote. ``However, failure to provide these measures greatly reduced any chance for survival.'' The report focuses only on the Idaho State Correctional Institution, though Corizon provides medical care for all inmates in Idaho's state-run prisons. Inmates at the Idaho State Correctional Institution, called ISCI, sued more than 30 years ago, alleging that they were subject to violence and rape by fellow inmates, denied adequate medical care, subjected to poor diets and forced to deal with extreme overcrowding. Over the next three decades, they won several rulings designed to improve conditions at the prison, and the federal court continued to oversee operations to make sure that the state was complying with all of its orders. But U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill is eager to end the court's babysitting role, and the Idaho Department of Correction hopes the lawsuit will be closed for good. The inmates, however, said some of the rulings still aren't being complied with — particularly the orders to improve access to medical and mental health care. Complicating matters is that the prison has grown and changed over the years, and the state now says it's difficult to apply the old rulings to the facility as it now stands. Attorneys for the state argued against releasing the report, saying the public could confuse Stern's findings with the court's opinion. The state said the report should be sealed until both sides had responded to the findings in court. Corizon is not named as a defendant in the case. But in a joint statement released moments after the report was unsealed Monday, officials from the company and the state acknowledged a few of the allegations in the report ``may be well-founded but unfortunate anomalies'' but most of them have been or are being addressed.

August 18, 2011 AP
A woman the FBI believes robbed as many as 20 banks throughout the West worked as a nurse at an Idaho state prison facility where she likely met the convicted forger who investigators say drove the getaway car. Cynthia Van Holland, 47, was arrested Monday with her husband, 26-year-old Christopher Scott Alonzo, after a bank robbery in Auburn, Calif. Authorities say Van Holland is the "Bad Hair Bandit," who used wigs to disguise herself during bank heists in Montana, Oregon and Washington state. Alonzo, a northern Idaho resident, spent time in Idaho prisons and jails on fraud, forgery and escape convictions. Placer County, Calif., sheriff's Lt. Mark Reed said witnesses saw Van Holland jumping into a car just after a robbery in Auburn. She and Alonzo were arrested a short distance away on Interstate 80. Van Holland likely met Alonzo while he was at an Idaho Department of Correction facility where she worked as a nurse for a private contractor, Correctional Medical Services from November 2005 to an unspecified date in 2006. Alonzo began serving time in March 2006, shifting several times between prisons near Boise and Orofino where he and Van Holland could have crossed paths. "Investigators believe Van Holland met her accomplice, Christopher Alonzo, while he was incarcerated at an IDOC facility," said Jeff Ray, an Idaho prisons spokesman, in a statement. Van Holland married Alonzo on March 14 in Coeur d'Alene. On the marriage license, she indicated she was living in Tacoma, Wash., the city where the series of bank holdups began in December 2010. As the Bad Hair Bandit robbed bank after bank, she went through a series of wigs and baseball hats that earned her the moniker. Tellers say she often stood in line like a normal customer, then handed a note saying she was armed and wanted cash.

July 22, 2011 AP
A federal judge has appointed a special master to see if the state is complying with court orders in a decades-old lawsuit over conditions at the Idaho State Correctional Institution. The U.S. District Court hired Marc Stern, a doctor and correctional health care consultant from Tumwater, Wash., to determine whether the state is complying with a ruling designed to improve medical and mental health care for inmates at the prison south of Boise. His report is due to the court in six months. "I'm honored to have been appointed and I look forward to learning about it and meeting and working with the parties to help them resolve the issue," Stern said Friday. The long-running case began in the early 1980s when so many inmates from the Idaho State Correctional Institution began filing lawsuits that the cases threatened to clog Idaho's federal dockets. The judge combined them all into one class-action lawsuit, which became known as the "Balla case" after lead plaintiff Walter Balla. Over the next three decades, the various federal judges overseeing the lawsuit made three major rulings. They ordered Idaho leaders to stop overcrowding, provide warm clothing to inmates, improve access to medical and psychiatric care and rehabilitation programs, and take other measures to make sure the prison would no longer be, in the words of former U.S. District Judge Harold Ryan, "an extremely violent place to live." But the case kept bouncing back to the federal courts as inmates maintained that while some issues had improved, problems at the prison continued and wouldn't likely be fixed until Idaho leaders improved prison budgets and facilities. The state, meanwhile, has argued that the prison has changed so dramatically — with new buildings, new contractors, new leaders and evolved policies — that the old Balla rulings essentially focus on a facility that doesn't exist anymore and so are virtually impossible to enforce. The state contends that if there are still problems at ISCI, inmates should file new lawsuits that accurately reflect the present circumstances. But even Idaho Department of Correction officials have demonstrated some concerns with the way Idaho's contractor, Correctional Medical Services Inc., has administered medical care at ISCI. An investigation by The Associated Press earlier this year found that Idaho has fined CMS more than $382,500 in recent years for failing to meet some of the most basic health care requirements outlined by the state. Both Idaho Department of Correction officials and CMS leaders say those problems have since been resolved, and the fines ended in May. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said Stern's opinion of the medical and mental health care situation at ISCI should be informed both by his professional experience in the delivery of prison medical care, and in his knowledge of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits prison officials from being deliberately indifferent to prisoners' serious medical needs. Stern's experience includes a year working as a regional medical director for Correctional Medical Services in New York. He left the company on good terms, and Winmill said the previous association likely wouldn't affect Stern's analysis of the situation at the Idaho prison.

June 5, 2011 AP
The company responsible for providing medical care to Idaho prison inmates has been fined nearly $400,000 by state officials for failing to meet some of the most basic health care requirements outlined by the state. The fines against Correctional Medical Services, totaling more than $382,500, were uncovered through a series of public records requests by The Associated Press. Among the problems detailed in the records: The South Boise Women's Correctional Center was without an OB/GYN for two years, and the Idaho Maximum Security Institution was without a staff psychologist for at least 8 months. Idaho's contract with CMS requires that vacant positions be filled within 60 days. The Creve Coeur, Mo.-based CMS bills itself as the nation's largest prison health care provider, caring for more than 250,000 inmates in 19 states. The private company, which merged with Prison Health Services on Friday and now goes by the name Corizon, has contracted with Idaho to handle medical care at all of the state-run prisons since 2005. Its new regional director for Idaho, Tom Dolan, says CMS has recently fixed the problems and the fines stopped a couple of weeks ago. According to the records obtained by the AP, CMS had a long history of failing to meet contract standards. Nevertheless, Idaho officials turned down four other bidders and renewed the state's contract with CMS last year — not without some changes, however. Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said his department had learned that in order to get CMS to pay attention to problems, the state had to hit them in the pocketbook. The new contract steeply increased the amount of fines, called liquidated damages, that could be levied against CMS. More than two-thirds of the fines — $270,201 — have been brought under the new contract, which began July 1, 2010. "They're bottom-line driven," said Reinke of CMS. "They have shareholders, so we're learning from them and they're learning from us." Rona Siegert, the head of health care for the Idaho Department of Corrections, said the state's tactics are working. "The money was racking up, and they've done a really great job of curing these and getting rid of the liquidated damages," Siegert said. The fact that Idaho renewed CMS's contract after a competitive bidding process shows that the company has done a good job caring for inmates, said CMS spokesman Ken Fields. He said the fines accrued under the new contract were largely for new administrative and paperwork requirements that go beyond the national standard. He said none of the issues had negatively impacted inmate patients. Recruiting and retaining health care workers has "been a challenge," Fields said, because of a national shortage of health care workers. But the vacant positions — including the OB/GYN and psychologist vacancies — have since been filled, he said. Some of the problems found by the state auditors involved the way CMS ran its non-emergency health care services, its infirmaries and extended care units, pharmaceutical operations and mental health services. The company's staff training, diagnostic services, record-keeping, chronic care planning, inmate screening and other services were also found to be deficient enough to warrant fines. Despite the problems, IDOC officials maintain no inmate's health was damaged and no one went without medical care. Instead, inmates they were transported off-site — usually at the state's cost — or a doctor that worked for the state was brought in to fill the gaps. For instance, when the Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise went without a dialysis nurse for two months in 2008, the state had to transport several offenders to an offsite facility daily for several hours each day. The effort cost Idaho nearly $19,000 in personnel costs, an amount that it recovered from CMS through the fines. The findings of some state audits of CMS's operations suggest that it was at least likely that some inmates had longer waits for care or didn't receive immediate care at all. For example, an audit found that inmates that were sick on the weekends weren't getting their requests for treatment triaged by medical professionals. Siegert said that if inmates were visibly sick, correctional officers probably would have noticed while making their rounds and would probably have gotten the inmates help. But correctional officers are trained in security issues, not in how to determine if someone is seriously ill. Inmates at the Idaho State Correctional Institution — where nearly all of Idaho's sickest inmates are housed — have long complained about the quality of medical care. In a class-action lawsuit dating back to the 1980s, ISCI inmates said they were forced to wait too long for medical care and in some cases were denied access to medical treatment. Though the lawsuit began long before CMS came to Idaho, the inmates have used the testimony of a former CMS worker in an effort to show that the problems with medical care continue today. Dr. Ralph Heckard, a primary care physician who contracted with CMS to treat inmates at the Idaho State Correctional Institution between June 2009 and January 2010, described several potentially serious problems in a court affidavit filed in the Balla case. In his affidavit, Heckard said there was just one doctor for every 1,500 inmates, compared to a statewide average of one doctor for every 450 Idaho residents. He said ISCI had no pharmacist, and that often unlicensed and unauthorized staffers handled nursing duties, even giving inmates injections. Prisoners frequently experienced weeks-long waits for medical care, Heckard said. One inmate had biopsy-confirmed cancer, and Heckard said CMS delayed providing the inmate with the recommended surgery and chemotherapy. Inmates with mental illness were deprived of necessary (and often expensive) medication because there was no psychiatrist to renew their expiring prescriptions and because CMS would not allow primary care doctors like Heckard to prescribe or renew any psychoactive medications, he said. Fields said that Heckard's characterizations weren't accurate. Few prisons have on-site pharmacists, he said, and he noted that ISCI inmates get prescriptions within 24 hours, or sooner when necessary. During the period where the company didn't have an on-site psychiatric staffer, a psychiatrist from the corporate office and local community mental health professionals met the needs of inmates, he said. He also refuted Heckard's assertion that unlicensed professionals were administering health care. CMS Regional Manager Tom Dolan addressed the Idaho Board of Correction during a meeting last month, telling the board members that when he took the Idaho job in February, "clearly there were some struggles at ISCI ... there was a lot of work for us to do."

June 1, 2010 AP
The state is ordering private prison company Correction Corporation of America to pay thousands of dollars and fix problems with drug and alcohol treatment and medical care at the Idaho Correctional Center. Ten of 13 drug and alcohol counselors at the prison near Boise aren't qualified to provide treatment under CCA's contract with the state, according to records obtained by The Associated Press. Additionally, a medical audit by Idaho Department of Correction officials earlier this year shows the private prison has extensive problems administering medical care, including inadequate records; delays in providing medications, immunizations and mental health care; and a lack of follow-up or oversight when inmates are returned to the lockup after being hospitalized. The state ordered CCA to provide it with a plan to fix the medical care problems by May 25, but the company has already missed that deadline. Idaho is also imposing liquidated damages against CCA for violating its state contract by failing to have qualified drug and alcohol counselors. The damages rack up at a rate of more than $2,600 a day; so far, CCA owes the state more than $40,000 for the violations. "We're very concerned," said Rona Siegert, director of Idaho Department of Correction Health Services. "That's the whole purpose of the audit, to find these things before they get to a level where they're critical." Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA responded to questions about the problems through a prepared statement. "Regarding the findings of recent medical audits completed by the Idaho Department of Corrections at Idaho Correctional Center, we acknowledge and share the concerns of our government partner and take them seriously. While the identified issues are not at a critical stage, we are working actively and deliberately to quickly and effectively resolve them," the company said. CCA also said it is trying to hire qualified staffers for its drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. "Our efforts to recruit qualified and credentialed addiction, alcohol and drug professionals from the available pool of local candidates continue. We are confident that these efforts will result in our company being in compliance in the near term with a fully credentialed Therapeutic Community staff, as local qualified professionals seek employment opportunities." Company officials also said several staff members are set to undergo certification testing in the coming months. But Natalie Warner, the Idaho Department of Correction's contract administrator and quality assurance manager, said that under the schedule CCA provided for its current employees, the last of the certifications won't be completed until June 2011. Meanwhile, CCA will have racked up more than $100,000 in liquidated damages. In an April letter informing the private prison company of the issues, Idaho Department of Administration purchasing officer Jason Urquhart said the Correction Department feared that the drug and alcohol program violations could increase costs for the state. Offenders often are required to complete the Therapeutic Community program to be released, so if the program's integrity is compromised, offenders may have to stay in prison longer, increasing costs to the state, Urquhart wrote. He went on to say that the parole commission could require offenders to take part in drug and alcohol programs at other prisons — also increasing costs. The medical audits, completed between February and April, suggest that in many cases, inmates are going without adequate care, Siegert said. Still, Siegert said the Correction Department didn't know of any inmates who had suffered injury or harm because of the violations. Among other problems found in the audits, inmates in the prison's infirmary were sometimes left alone, without any working pager or call-light system to call a nurse or doctor in an emergency. They also were going too long between medical checks by nursing staff, according to the records. "Our requirement is that a provider makes the rounds every day to see if they're getting better or getting worse, what their vital signs are," Siegert said. Medical test results also languished unread for too long, raising the possibility that serious medical problems weren't being addressed right away, Siegert said. If the company doesn't repair or adequately explain the audit findings, Idaho can impose liquidated damages for those violations as well. "It's going to stay on our radar and we're going to continue watching it very closely," Warner said.

April 14, 2010 Boise Weekly
Violent beatdowns at the privately run Idaho Correctional Center appear to have subsided in recent weeks, in the wake of a class-action lawsuit against the prison and shakeup of prison leadership, according to documents obtained by Boise Weekly. The prison reported 17 inmate-on-inmate assaults in January and 15 in February, according to a tally of incident reports filed with the Idaho Department of Correction. But there were only nine assaults reported in March and only four since warden Phillip Valdez and assistant warden Daniel Prado were replaced on March 17. A spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company that manages ICC, Idaho's largest prison, has repeatedly declined to comment on the situation at the prison, citing the lawsuit. But Idaho lawmakers are troubled by the levels of violence and accusations in the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that assaults at ICC were perpetrated with the full knowledge of--even collusion by--guards. "If those things actually happened at ICC, I was not aware of it and I don't think anybody in the Legislature was aware of it," said Republican Rep. Leon Smith of Twin Falls, co-chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "If it's proven that they did those things, then they are going to pay big penalties." Democratic Rep. Grant Burgoyne of Boise went even further, likening CCA to the actions of private military contractors in Iraq. "I believe that it is not appropriate, when it comes to the incarceration of people, that that be outsourced to a private contractor," Burgoyne said. "There are certain core government services that should be carried out by government officials." IDOC carried a bill through the Idaho Legislature earlier this year that gives IDOC Director Brent Reinke more authority to quell serious disturbances and riots at the privately run prison and to quell "affrays and insurrections" as well. Several lawmakers noted the timing of the bill, which was introduced just before the ACLU lawsuit was filed, but a spokesman for IDOC said there was no connection. "Our intent with the new legislation is to give the director statutory authority to intervene and quell a serious disturbance," said prisons spokesman Jeff Ray. "We can't say what the legislative intent was when they used the word 'affray.'" An affray is a fight between two or more people in a public place. Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, said that the bill is a step in the right direction, but does not affect the lawsuit. "I think IDOC has stepped up to the plate and they have known that something is going on out there, because the bill is bringing them into compliance with what the federal court will already tell them," she said. The ACLU lawsuit details 23 serious assaults at ICC, going back to November 2006, all of which, the attorneys allege, were preventable. There were at least 43 inmate fights at ICC since Jan. 1 of this year, according to incident reports obtained by Boise Weekly through a public information request to IDOC. The Ada County Sheriff's Office was called only four times for inmate battery investigations in that same time period, according to public information officer Andrea Dearden, though there were other investigations for drugs found at the prison and for an assault on two staff members. • On Jan. 18, sheriff's deputies investigated the severe beating of Hanni Elabed, who has filed a separate, $25 million claim against ICC and the state. The Ada County Prosecutor's Office intends to file charges against the inmate who beat him, according to Elabed's brother. • On Jan. 24, prison officials called the Sheriff's Office, but deputies declined to investigate a battery report from a fight that may have occurred three days prior. • On Jan. 26, deputies investigated an assault on two prison staff members and forwarded charges to the prosecutor. • On March 1, deputies investigated a fight with a weapon--described by prison officials as a "sharpened edged weapon"--but the weapon was never recovered. • And on March 10, deputies investigated at least three fights that broke out in separate areas of the prison simultaneously. Also since Jan. 1, ICC officials discovered marijuana four times, bags of homemade alcohol in a shower, meth and at least two shanks. Idaho Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter, through a spokesman, declined comment on the ACLU lawsuit, but his attorney, David Hensley, said Otter and IDOC are concerned about staff and prisoner safety at ICC, as at any prison. "This situation, like any previous situation, warrants our concern, and we've been looking at that," Hensley said. In 2007 and 2008, Otter proposed allowing more privately run prisons to be built in Idaho, but faced resistance from the Legislature, in part out of concern that out-of-state inmates would be housed here. Since the privatization bill died in 2008, Idaho's prison bed shortage has waned. Hundreds of inmates housed in other states have been returned to Idaho, some now housed in a new wing at ICC. Otter has not revived the idea of allowing privately owned and run lockups. "The governor has been looking at cost effective ways to address the trends and recently we have seen the trends either stagnant or, in the last few months, we've even seen a decrease," Hensley said. But for Hanni Elabed's family, the lack of transparency and public oversight at the private prison is inexcusable. Elabed's older brother, Zahe Elabed, said guards put his brother in a cell with white supremacists despite threats against his Arab heritage, failed to notify his parents when he was left convulsing on the floor after being beaten against a wall and stomped more than 30 times, would not allow family visits or provide information on his condition over the phone and were rude. "I think they need to do away with it, I think it's really unfair for any prisoner to be in there now," Zahe Elabed said. "You have to be a gladiator to survive in there."

March  8, 2010 Idaho Reporter
Proposals could help offenders needing treatment, prisons dealing with riots An Idaho Senate committee approved two proposals from the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) that would give IDOC more authority in dealing with placing prisoners in substance abuse treatment and quelling riots and other serious disturbances in private facilities. IDOC director Brent Reinke said the moves could save Idaho money in prisoner costs and potential lawsuits. The first proposal would give Idaho courts and IDOC more time to allow inmates to complete substance abuse treatment rather than serve a full prison sentence. It would extend the current 180-day period of suspended judgment to 365 days. During that time, IDOC could place prisoners in programming including substance abuse treatment that could shorten their overall prison stay. “We are not looking to do anything but set the stage for better programming for our inmates,” Reinke said. IDOC currently has one short-term programming option lasting 120 days, but the department is looking to expand to three options that span from 90 and 270 days. Reinke said having more offenders go through shorter-term programming rather than serving an entire prison term, which lasts an average of 2.7 years, means the state could slow its population growth by 400 inmates a year. “If an inmate goes through this program, he wouldn’t have to do what I’d call ‘hard time’ in a penitentiary,” said Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise. The second proposal would allow IDOC to set up procedures for dealing with violent incidents at private prison facilities, including the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) in Boise. Those serious disturbances include riots, escapes, fights, and insurrections. The legislation would let IDOC renegotiate its contract with the Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that runs ICC. The legislation would give Reinke more oversight on private facilities dealing with disturbances and would allow for employees at private prisons to use extreme and deadly force to stop incidents. “It wasn’t clear that the department had the authority to intervene at a private correctional facility,” said Paul Panther, a deputy attorney general for IDOC. Panther said that CCA has agreed to the legislation. Reinke said IDOC needs to prepare for emergencies, and that’s it’s only a matter of time before there are disturbances at Idaho’s private prisons. “We now have six facilities in the south Boise (ICC) complex and we have many, many gang members incarcerated in that area,” he said. “That is an area that has us concerned.” The Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee approved both of Reinke’s proposals on a unanimous voice vote. Both pieces of legislation now head to the Senate floor. The suspended judgment legislation is available here and the disturbances in private prisons legislation is available here.

September 14, 2009 The Olympian
The Idaho Department of Correction and the parents of an inmate who killed himself in a private prison have reached a settlement ending a federal lawsuit over the son's death. The agreement, approved Sunday by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, also marks the end of lawsuits the parties had filed against each other in state court after previous settlement talks fell apart earlier this year. The case arose after the 2007 death of Scot Noble Payne, who had been sent to a private Texas prison with hundreds of other inmates to alleviate overcrowding in Idaho. Payne slashed his own throat, and Idaho officials who investigated the Dickens County Correctional Facility said the deplorable conditions at the prison and the physical environment of Noble's solitary cell could have contributed to his suicide. Payne's mother, Shirley Noble, and his father, Alberto Payne, sued the Idaho Department of Correction, saying the department was responsible for the wrongful death of their son. The parties went into mediation to see if they could reach a settlement, and in February both sides agreed the parents should be awarded $100,000 and that the Idaho Department of Correction would not admit fault for Scot Noble Payne's death. But when the official settlement document was sent to the parents the following month, they refused to sign. At the time, Noble's attorney said the Idaho Department of Correction added terms to the document that hadn't been arbitrated in mediation. The Idaho Department of Correction then sued the parents in state court, asking a judge to force them to sign the document, and the parents countersued, contending the state was breaching the settlement contract. The lawsuits filed in state court have now been dismissed, along with the federal lawsuit. The terms of the federal settlement were not released.

July 25, 2009 AP
A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit against the state brought by an inmate who said his civil rights were violated when he was transferred to a Texas prison. Leslie Peter Bowcut was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty in 2002 to 14 counts of lewd and lascivious conduct. Prosecutors said he took pornographic pictures of girls as young as 2 and traded them on the Internet. Four years later, the Idaho Department of Correction shipped hundreds of inmates out of state under a federal court order directing the state to ease overcrowding. Bowcut was among the inmates sent to the Newton County Correctional Center in Newton, Texas, which was run by private corrections company The GEO Group. Problems with guard abuse and prisoner unrest emerged immediately, and by August 2006 Idaho asked The GEO Group to transfer the inmates to other Texas prisons. Bowcut sued Idaho Department of Correction officials that year, including then-State Corrections director Thomas Beauclair, Deputy Chief of Evaluation Compliance Sharon Lamm and Contract Officer Ofelia Alvarado. In his lawsuit, Bowcut contended that his civil rights were violated because conditions at the Newton County Correctional Center were substandard compared to Idaho prisons, with limited recreation time, cramped 8-person cells, inadequate ventilation and prevalent black mold. But Idaho Department of Correction officials said the case should be thrown out because they were entitled to qualified immunity and because there was no evidence showing that they knew of poor conditions at NCCC before transferring the inmates there. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill agreed with the state, throwing out the lawsuit and barring Bowcut from filing it again. Because Bowcut was treated the same as other inmates at the Texas prison, there was no civil rights violation, Winmill said. "Uniformity within an institution is a legitimate correctional goal, and providing the same treatment and applying the same rules and programs to all prisoners within a given institution is rationally related to achieving that goal," Winmill wrote in his ruling. "Therefore, Plaintiff's equal protection rights were not violated by his receiving the same treatment as other NCCC inmates, even if that treatment was different from that received by inmates remaining in Idaho."

July 11, 2009 KLEW TV
The Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) announced that it has completed the transport of 188 inmates from an Oklahoma prison to Idaho, signaling an end to the department’s four-year practice of renting out-of-state beds to ease overcrowding. “This is a milestone for the department and something the people of Idaho can truly celebrate,” said IDOC Director Brent Reinke, in a news release from the department. “We’re saving taxpayer dollars, and in the long run, making our communities safer.” IDOC said the return of the inmates is made possible, in part, by the opening of 628 new beds at Idaho Correctional Center (ICC). It will cost $40.00 a day to house one inmate at ICC versus $61.53 at North Fork Correctional Facility (NFCF) in Sayre, Oklahoma. As a result, IDOC will save $1.4 million in Fiscal Year 2010.

June 22, 2009 AP
Another batch of Idaho prisoners has returned to the state after spending time in an Oklahoma prison. Officials with the Idaho Department of Corrections says another 68 inmates have been transferred back to Idaho from a private prison in Sayre, Okla. Two buses with the prisoners arrived in Boise Monday. The latest shipment leaves the department with just 120 inmates housed in out-of-state lockups. Those inmates are slated to return to Idaho by the end of the summer. Idaho has been relying on out-of-state prisons in Oklahoma and Texas to house inmates for several years. But the state has been able to bring many back in the last year due to a declining prison population and the creation of new prison beds at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise.

May 15, 2009 The Olympian
The Idaho Department of Correction and the mother of an inmate who killed himself in a private prison are suing each other after a settlement agreement over the son's death fell apart. Scot Noble Payne, who had been sent to a private Texas prison with hundreds of other inmates to alleviate overcrowding in Idaho prisons, slashed his own throat in 2007. Idaho officials who investigated the Dickens County Correctional Facility said the conditions were deplorable and that the physical environment of Noble's solitary cell could have contributed to his suicide. Payne's mother, Shirley Noble, and his father, Alberto Payne, filed a tort claim against the Idaho Department of Correction contending that the department was responsible for the wrongful death of their son. Correction Department officials and the parents went into mediation to see if they could reach a settlement, and in February both sides agreed that the parents should be awarded $100,000 and that the Idaho Department of Correction would not admit fault in Scot Noble Payne's death. But the next month, when the official document that would release the Idaho Department of Correction from liability in the case was delivered to the parents, they refused to sign. The problem, according to Noble's attorney, is that the Idaho Department of Correction added additional terms into the release document that hadn't been arbitrated in mediation. The mediation agreement lists Shirley Noble, Alberto Payne, the state of Idaho and the Idaho Department of Correction as parties in the agreement. But the release also lists the estate of Scot Noble Payne and all of the representatives and employees of the Idaho Department of Corrections and the state as parties. That could throw into jeopardy another lawsuit brought by the parents - in their role as representatives of Scot Noble Payne's estate - against several employees of the Idaho Department of Correction. After the parents refused to sign, the Idaho Department of Correction filed a lawsuit against them in Ada County's 4th District Court, asking a judge to force the parents to sign the release. The parents countersued, contending the state was breaching the contract they reached under the settlement agreement by trying to later add new terms. Idaho Department of Correction officials said they could not comment on pending litigation. The parents' attorney, Wm. Breck Seiniger, Jr., said the department made a mistake when it was negotiating and didn't realize it until it was too late - and now is trying to place the blame, and the loss, on the parents. "I think the lawsuit is just an attempt to intimidate the parents, frankly," Seiniger said. "If they thought the agreement meant something different, that is not our problem." The parents have also filed a lawsuit against Geo Group Inc., the private company that ran the Texas prison, in U.S. District Court in Texas. That lawsuit is still in the discovery stages, Seiniger said.

March 25, 2009 AP
The legislative budget-writing committee on Tuesday approved a plan to cut the Idaho Department of Correction 2010 budget by almost $30 million, in part by bringing home the last Idaho inmates housed in other states. Idaho began shipping inmates out of state, most recently starting in 2005, after a federal judge ruled that overcrowded conditions here were dehumanizing. Since then, the state has built 628 beds at the Idaho Correctional Center in Boise and bolstered drug court programs and treatment to try to slow prison growth. By next spring, more than 1,000 new beds will be available in prisons across the state. Over the last eight months, the state has transferred 380 inmates back to Idaho prisons. As of February, Idaho had more than 7,226 people incarcerated. Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said Tuesday that with the overcrowding issues resolved, Idaho can bring the last 318 prisoners home by August. The inmates are currently at the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla.

December 5, 2008 AP
An inmate is suing the managers of the state's only private prison, contending that a high level of violence at the Idaho Correctional Center amounts to cruel and unusual punishment - a complaint that has been echoed recently by other inmates and at least partly documented in reports from the Idaho Department of Correction. The lawsuit, filed by inmate Daniel Dixon in U.S. District Court, contends that he and other inmates are being preyed upon by gangs and that correctional officers aren't doing enough to help. He seeks $1 million, segregation of vulnerable inmates and improved training for guards. Dixon was sent to ICC in 2006 after he was convicted of kidnapping and molesting a 12-year-old girl on a Coeur d'Alene beach. Dixon was 24 at the time, and within a week of his arrival, word of Dixon's charges spread throughout the prison. He was labeled as a "Cho Mo," prison slang for a child molester. "A few days later the Plaintiff was forced to defend himself against a white supremacist gang member," Dixon wrote in the lawsuit filed this fall. ICC officers knew about the fight but did nothing about it, Dixon claimed. Dixon was moved to another unit in the prison, one that he contends is known for high levels of skinhead gang activity. Gang leaders in the unit had given other inmates a "green light" for harming any child molesters, according to the lawsuit. Dixon told a correctional officer that he feared harm, but the officer reportedly tried to get Dixon to give him information about the gang activity in the unit. Dixon refused, saying he feared that would result in him being labeled a snitch as well as a child molester, placing him at greater risk. Other inmates were already talking about beating him up, he said. "One even introduced himself as 'Rapeamo,' then defined himself as, 'The man who rapes child molesters,'" Dixon wrote in his lawsuit. Dixon was moved to different units around the prison - sometimes with gang members for cellmates he said. The prison south of Boise is operated by Correction Corp. of America, based in Nashville, Tenn. The state says the facility houses medium- and minimum-security inmates. An Associated Press voice message seeking comment on the lawsuit Friday was not immediately returned by a CCA spokesman. In December 2007, five gang members ran into Dixon's cell, locking the door behind them and beating Dixon with combination locks stuffed inside socks, according to the lawsuit. He was beaten for about five minutes as he yelled and screamed for help, Dixon said. The beating ended after he was able to reach the officer call box button in his cell. "But much to his dismay the officer in the control tower simply unlocked his cell door by electronic control, leaving the violated, and vulnerable Plaintiff helpless in the cell ...," Dixon wrote. While the door was unlocked, more gang members ran into his room with homemade knives, or shanks, and robbed him of his Christmas commissary package that included roughly $200 of food items, he said. ICC staffers didn't give Dixon any medical help until a few hours after the beating, he wrote. Within five days, Dixon was transferred to another prison and given a single cell. Dixon is asking a judge to award him damages of $1 million, to order ICC managers to segregate dangerous inmates from vulnerable inmates, and to order improved training for ICC guards in responding to inmate assaults. Dixon is also asking that he be allowed to stay in a single cell at the Idaho State Correctional Institution until he has recovered from the post traumatic stress syndrome he said he developed after the ICC assaults. Dan Prado, the assistant warden at ICC, said the prison has "fights just like at the other facilities. I wouldn't say it's out of the norm." He declined to speak specifically about the lawsuit. Idaho Department of Correction documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request last month show that the private prison had three times the number of offender-on-offender assaults compared to other Idaho prisons between September 2007 and September 2008. "The potential is there in any facility," Prado said. "We have seen a slight increase and that's just due to the population. I think some of it is through our reporting procedures - we report everything, even the minor incidents we have." Dixon's complaint isn't isolated. Gay Maulden, the mother of another inmate at ICC serving time on an assault and battery charge, said her son has complained that gang members are routinely and severely beating other inmates. She asked that his name not be used so that he would not face reprisals, but she sent his letter to lawmakers across the state. Mark Savage also contacted lawmakers after his son was beaten by gangs while at ICC. Savage also asked that his son's name not be revealed, but said he was serving time on a drug charge and was targeted by white supremacist gangs because he befriended inmates who weren't white. After two beatings - and complaints from several family members - Savage's son was transferred to the Idaho State Correctional Institution, Savage said. "He feels a lot safer at ISCI now, because the correctional officers there are actually trained and act like real COs. The private prison, they'll hire people who have no training whatsoever. They don't know what they are doing," he said. Savage said his son has suffered intestinal problems since the beatings but hasn't been provided adequate medical care, and that he is considering suing the state and CCA.

October 1, 2008 AP
For a decade, Idaho has been shipping some of its prisoners to out-of-state prisons, dealing with its ever-burgeoning inmate population by renting beds in faraway facilities. But now some groups of prisoners are being brought back home. Idaho Department of Correction officials are crediting declining crime rates, improved oversight during probation, better community programs and increased communication between correction officials and the state's parole board. The number of Idaho inmates has more than doubled since 1996, reaching a high of 7,467 in May. But in the months since then, the population has declined to 7,293 -- opening up enough space that 80 inmates housed in the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla., and at Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, could be bused back to the Idaho State Correctional Institution near Boise. The inmates arrived Monday night. Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke hailed their arrival as one of the benefits the system was reaping after years of work. "It's more about having the right inmates at the right place at the right time," Reinke said. "People are communicating better and we're working together better than we were in the past."

October 31, 2007 The Olympian
A child killer who lost his legs in a suicide attempt is suing the state prison system for $1 million after being denied artificial legs in prison, saying he was promised prosthetics in plea negotiations. According to the case filed recently in U.S. District Court, Barry L. McAdoo, 32, of Coeur d'Alene, is experiencing muscle degeneration and may never walk again if he remains confined to a wheelchair. Named as defendants are the Idaho Department of Correction and Correctional Medical Services, a contractor that whether a procedure or device is medically necessary. The state agency received the lawsuit Monday and was investigating, spokesman Jeff Ray said. "We don't have any comment on Mr. McAdoo's claims at this time," Ray said Tuesday. Included in the lawsuit were numerous requests by McAdoo for artificial legs and a grievance with the state agency over the denial of artificial legs, all rejected by state prison officials. McAdoo, convicted of beating his 15-month-old son Brandon to death, is serving 15 years to life at the Idaho State Correctional Institution in Boise. He told authorities that when the little boy stopped breathing on Jan. 14, 2005, he downed 50 sleeping pills and rat poison, left the trailer where he lived with his pregnant wife, Angela Cowles, and wandered outdoors in freezing weather for three days before he sought help. McAdoo was taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., where both legs had to be amputated because of frostbite. McAdoo was given no promise the state would provide him prosthetics, Kootenai County Deputy Public Defender Lynn Nelson said, nor does the plea agreement signed by McAdoo, Nelson and Deputy Prosecutor Marty M. Raap mention the issue. When McAdoo pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, 1st District Judge Charles W. Hosack asked whether he had been promised anything other than what was included in the plea agreement and McAdoo said he had not. Nonetheless, Nelson asserted that McAdoo is entitled to prosthetics and has legal precedent on his side.

October 9, 2007 The Olympian
A federal judge has declined to dismiss the lawsuit of an inmate who claims the Idaho Department of Correction is failing to treat her for gender identity disorder. Josephime Von Isaak, who legally changed her name from Augustus Joseph Isaak last year, says she is a male to female transsexual who suffers from gender identity disorder. Isaak claims that she was compelled to remove her own testicles with a razor after the state failed to diagnose and treat her disorder. Even then, the lawsuit alleges, Isaak went without the estrogen treatment she wanted, and a year after self-castrating she amputated the tip of her penis. Isaak claims the state subjected her to cruel and unusual punishment and that prison health workers committed medical malpractice. State and prison health officials deny the claims. The state is now expected to go to trial in Isaak's lawsuit and in a similar case brought by inmate Jenniffer Spencer (formerly known as Randall Gammett), who also self-castrated while in prison after officials allegedly refused to treat her gender identity disorder. A trial date has not yet been set in Isaak's case. Officials with Correctional Medical Services asked U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill to dismiss or stay the case, claiming the medical malpractice claims belonged in state court and that they should be kept separate from the Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim because the legal standards for each claim were dramatically different. But Winmill disagreed, saying recently that it is within his jurisdiction to keep the entire lawsuit in the federal court system.

September 12, 2007 Boise Weekly
There's little to no distinction in the world of private prisons, a place where capitalism meets public service. It's an industry based on keeping people locked up, and doing it as efficiently as possible. It's also an industry that generates lots of controversy. While some argue that privately owned and operated prisons allow government agencies to deal with increasingly overcrowded prison systems and dwindling budgets, others say that introducing the element of profit into the management of incarcerated people leads to corruption, mismanagement and mistreatment of prisoners. "You shouldn't introduce a profit margin and a profit motive into a prison," said Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. "The industry as a whole shouldn't exist." But it's an industry that may be expanding into Idaho if some state leaders get their way. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has asked lawmakers to begin drafting legislation that would allow privately owned and operated prisons to go to work in Idaho. There are currently no private facilities in the state, although the Idaho Correctional Center in Kuna is managed by the Correction Corporation of America of Tennessee. CCA is the largest private prison business in the country, ranking just behind the federal prison system. The company owns 41 prisons nationwide, and manages another 24 facilities in 19 states and Washington, D.C., for a combined total of roughly 75,000 beds. To pave the way for their Idaho entry, a work group made up of lawmakers, Idaho Department of Corrections officials and industry representatives are in the early stages of drafting legislation that will be introduced in the next legislative session. "[It would] set the stage for a private firm to come into the state of Idaho and create a facility that the firm would own and operate," said Brent Reinke, director of the Idaho Department of Corrections. "Truly, Gov. Otter is very insistent in this area and has been very, very outspoken and there's no doubt at all the way he wants to proceed," Reinke said. "We have a critical need right now to do something immediately to address the [prison] population crisis that we're seeing," said Jon Hanian, Otter's press secretary. "When you're talking about a private prison vs. a state-run one, building one, you're talking about up to four years on the state-run side vs. 18 to 24 months. The private side is going to be a more immediate impact." Hanian said Otter's priority was to get prisoners now housed in out-of-state facilities back in the state. Until Idaho has more room, Hanian said, "our hands are tied on that." Otter has vowed that any agreement reached with a private company would include stipulations that the state has a first right of refusal on any beds, and could bump any out-of-state inmates if the space is needed. It's not so cut and dried for opponents of the industry, though. "The bottom line for the private prison industry is to make a profit," said Ken Kopczynski, executive director of the Private Corrections Institute, a Florida-based group that opposes the private prison industry. "They give you a snow job about rules and training. They have to provide a profit, and they actually turn quite a profit for quite a few years. "They do a very good P.R. job," he said. A key part of that public relations campaign is to make inroads with politicians in states targeted by the industry as likely locations for expansion. Opponents of private prisons are full of stories of corrupt officials and lobbyists serving as advisers for the state, including a college professor in Florida who served as a state adviser on the private prison industry while that industry funded his professional research. There's also Manny Aragon, former president of the New Mexico Senate, who was indicted by a jury in April for an alleged kickback scheme. "There's going to be more of it when it's [in Idaho]," said Kopczynski. "They're not stupid. Most of these folks [private corrections company leaders] come out of government anyways." The industry has already made its first foray into the wallets of Idaho politicians. According to campaign finance reports filed with the state, both CCA and GEO Group, the two largest private prison operators, donated $5,000 to Otter's 2006 campaign for governor. But Hanian said there is no impropriety in Otter's interest in private prisons. "There is no quid pro quo when it comes to any campaign contribution the governor has received and the establishment of state policy. None," Hanian said. "He bases every decision solely on its merits." Reinke said he doesn't feel there's any undue influence within the state government. "It's very important that we have the system in place so that it is competitive, and everything is done in the light of day. That's a challenge we're faced with," he said. The Texas Connection -- Idaho has already had experience with the industry. Some 750 of Idaho's roughly 7,300 inmates are housed in private prisons in Texas and Oklahoma, and plans call for another 240 to be moved by the end of the year, according to Reinke. Another 500 are being housed in county facilities. "Our needs are very significant," Reinke said. Idaho's prison population has been growing by roughly 6.5 percent annually, and Reinke estimates it will take an additional 2,000 to 3,000 beds to meet the state's short-term needs. "What I'm concerned with right now is bed capacity," Reinke said. "This is not a new need." If the prison population continues to increase at the same rate, Reinke said the state will need several new facilities within the next 10 years. "We need to do what we can to meet the need of Idahoans within the state of Idaho," he said. "The longer we wait on this, the longer the inmates are going to be out of state." Currently, Idaho has eight prisons, four community work centers and 22 probation and parole district satellite offices. The state corrections agency employs roughly 1,500 people. While moving inmates to out-of-state facilities with extra room seems to offer some relief for Idaho prison managers, the practice hasn't been without its problems. Idaho's troubles with private prisons began when they shipped 302 prisoners to a private prison in Minnesota in October 2005. After space ran out at the Minnesota prison in August 2006, the Idaho inmates were sent to two facilities in Texas, one of which was the Dickens County Correctional Facility in Spur, Texas, a private prison owned by GEO Group. In March, according to news reports, Idaho inmate Scot Noble Payne committed suicide. In letters to family, he placed the blame for his depression on the unsanitary conditions at the prison and the poor treatment by staff. While Idaho officials plan to move the 56 inmates remaining at the Dickens County facility by the end of the year, they will be transferred to another Texas facility owned by the same company. It's just the latest of the state's problems stemming from housing prisoners out of state—a list that includes riots and escapes at a private prison in Louisiana in 1997. Those who oppose private prisons say these sort of problems are indicative of the industry as a whole. "Why does your governor think having a private prison in Idaho is going to be any different than the mess they had in Texas?" Kopczynski said. Among his and Donner's chief concerns is the hiring of untrained correctional officers, who they say are paid wages below that of their public sector counterparts. This, coupled with poor training, leads to prisoner abuses, poor conditions, high employee turnover and an unwillingness to respond in the face of a dangerous situation, they believe. "The problems we have had in Colorado are around some of the tactics of private prisons use to make money: smaller staff, fewer programs, lower pay," said Donner. "If you want a riot, that's a great strategy." "There's no institutional knowledge," said Kopczynski. "You don't know your elbow from a hole in the ground when it comes to correctional work." Industry representatives vehemently disagree. "That's completely baseless," said Steven Owen, director of marketing for CCA. "It's absolutely, categorically false." Owen argues that all employees of CCA meet the training standards of the American Correctional Association, the largest correctional trade association in the world, and because of contractual agreements with the states they serve, must have as much training as correctional officers in public facilities. When it comes to wages, Owen said it's a philosophical difference. "Generally, in a state correctional system, it's a one-size-fits-all starting salary for a correctional officer," he said. "CCA prices salary and wages by the facility. We compete with the labor pool in the area around the facility. "Critics like to focus in on wages," Owen said. "We are competitive in the locations where we operate." He added that wages for mid-management positions are typically much higher than in the public sector. A 2003 report published by Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First and Prison Privatization Report International—both corporate watchdog groups—stated that CCA has managed to stem the tide of negative publicity. But the report didn't have a favorable overview of the company. "CCA has built a reputation marred by numerous instances of scandal, mismanagement, alleged mistreatment of prisoners and its own employees, attempted manipulation of public policy and a proliferation of questionable research. Its record is a clear example of how the pursuit of profit stands in the way of carrying out a core public function such as corrections. CCA has succeeded in staying in business for two decades, but it has not succeeded in demonstrating that prison privatization makes sense," the report reads. From CCA's perspective though, the advantages are clear and numerous. "We try to operate as well as, or better than, our public counterparts," Owen said. "We don't have some of the bureaucracy that can sometimes get in the way of government processes." It's the company's size that Owen said gives it an advantage, not only with purchasing power for goods, but with the ability to get a new facility up and running quickly. "It takes three to five years for the state to have to go through the legislative process," Owen said. "We can bring a new facility on line in 12 to 18 months." He said a privately owned prison also saves taxpayers the cost of the capital investment. Typically, the states pay CCA on a per-prisoner, per-day basis depending on the level of programs required by the state contract, as well as the level of security needed. "It's the capacity that we bring on line that relieves overcrowded systems," he said. "It helps existing systems to become safer and more efficient." Since the company typically hires much of its workforce from the local community, Owen said there's a strong economic impact. "We want to do business in places where we're wanted," he said. Apparently, Idaho ranks among those places. Owen said CCA has had a good partnership with the state since the Idaho Correctional Center opened in 2000. He said if the law should change, the company would be interested in building a facility in the state. Problems Behind the Bars -- One of the biggest issues for critics of the private prison system is the practice of moving prisoners out of state. For many, separating inmates from their families and familiar environments only leads to more problems and creates an unending cycle of prisoners returning to jail. "They're doomed to re-offend," said Frank Smith, national field coordinator for the Private Corrections Institute. "They're estranged from their families and support systems. It's a futile effort. It's life on the installment plan. It drains tax money, and they're never rehabilitated." If prisoners from other states are involved in conflicts, there are jurisdictional issues, Donner said. "If prisoners from other states have problems, it's in your jurisdiction," she said. "Now they have to be under your cost." Owen said CCA does extensive work assimilating prisoners brought from out of state. Including sending staff to their home state to learn about the habits and cultural practices of the inmates. "It's worked well for us," he said. But that doesn't always seem to be enough. In 2004, one of the largest prison riots in recent Colorado history took place at the Crowley County Correctional Facility, a prison owned by CCA. Apparently, the incident was touched off by tensions between a group of inmates from Washington state and prison staff. A general feeling of unrest spread through the prison, and more than 1,000 inmates rioted. In the end, 13 prisoners were injured. Following the incident, a state investigation placed the blame on staff shortages and inexperience. Additionally, the final report stated that the prison's emergency plan was not effective and that basic security measures weren't followed. CCA also took flak because the company's incident commander refused an order from state officials to use gas to quell the riot, until he had approval from the parent company. CCA was recently fined by the state of Colorado for continued understaffing. Fines totaled $23,000 for leaving 157 shifts unfilled at the Crowley facility, $103,743 for 701 unfilled shifts at the Kit Carson Correctional Center and $2,651 for 18 shifts at the Bent County Correctional Facility.

July 31, 2007 Idaho Statesman
Idaho's Department of Correction has created a new position to manage Idaho's roughly 2,400 inmates in private, out-of-state prisons and county jail beds. Randy Blades, who has been the warden at the Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise, will monitor the 500-plus inmates, now in three Texas prisons managed by the Geo Group Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla. He will also monitor the 240 inmates soon to be transferred from Idaho to a private prison in Oklahoma, and the inmates in county jail beds across the state. Correction Director Brent Reinke created the position after disclosing that conditions at one of those prisons were so bad that inmates will be moved elsewhere. Inmates at the Dickens County Correctional Center are being moved to the Bill Clayton Detention Center after an inmate suicide at Dickens revealed filthy living conditions and poorly trained and unprofessional staff. “Times have changed and we simply need to get in front on this issue,” Reinke said in a statement. “We must be proactive. We need to make sure inmates are being treated adequately and taxpayers are getting what they are paying for.”

July 26, 2007 The Olympian
Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke next Thursday will visit a private Texas prison where he intends to shift 56 inmates in September, after problems including abuse by guards, deplorable conditions and a suicide emerged at previous facilities in that state. Reinke, who concedes lax oversight by Idaho contributed to problems, and three other Idaho officials will review the Val Verde Correctional Facility and Jail in Del Rio, Texas, run by Florida-based private prison firm The GEO Group. The prison area where Idaho inmates are due to be housed at Val Verde is part of a new 659-bed addition, Reinke said. Still, he wants to make sure the facility located near the Mexican border meets Idaho standards so the recurring problems at the two previous GEO-run prisons aren't repeated. "On contracts in general, we're going to be stepping that up," Reinke told The Associated Press this week. "We want to take a firsthand look." About 450 Idaho inmates were first moved beyond state borders in 2005 to relieve overcrowding at prisons here, where there are more than 7,000 inmates - but not enough room to house them all. They were incarcerated at the Newton County Correctional Center in Newton, Texas, until August 2006, when they were moved following allegations of abuse by guards to the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas. But Reinke, who took over in January, acknowledges his agency didn't do enough to scrutinize conditions at Dickens before Idaho inmates were shipped there. And from August 2006 to March 2007, Idaho prison officials only visited the Dickens County facility one time. The March 4 suicide by Scot Noble Payne, a convicted sex offender, and a subsequent investigation illuminated conditions that one Idaho prison official described as "beyond repair." One concern: There have been problems at Val Verde, too. Inmate LeTisha Tapia killed herself there in 2004 after alleging she was raped by another inmate and sexually humiliated by a guard. And a black guard accused his captain of keeping a hangman's noose in his office and a photo of himself in a Ku Klux Klan hood in his desk. Val Verde County has been forced to hire a full-time prison monitor to keep a watch on prison operations as part of a settlement with Tapia's family. Some family members of Idaho inmates now at Dickens told the AP they're pleased Reinke is scrutinizing Val Verde personally. Still, they said they're frustrated their relatives are being moved again - especially since many problems at Dickens have been remedied since Payne's suicide in March. "Things are OK now," said the wife of a sex offender who asked not to be identified by name. "They don't want to move." Reinke has pledged to improve oversight of conditions at Texas prisons through what he's calling a "virtual prison" that his agency adopted earlier this week. It's modeled after a similar system in Washington state, he said.

July 11, 2007 AP
As overcrowding in Idaho prisons intensifies, so have lobbying efforts and campaign donations by private prison companies aiming to win new contracts - both to house more inmates beyond state borders and to build a proposed 2,200-bed for-profit lockup. The GEO Group, a Florida-based prison operator in 15 states, entered Idaho politics in 2005, when it hired its first lobbyist, according to a review of lobbying and campaign finance records by The Associated Press. A year later, it divvied up $8,000 among three campaigns: Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter got $5,000, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch got $2,500, and former state Rep. Debbie Field, who lost her House race last November, received $500. Field also served as Otter's campaign manager and was later appointed by the new governor as Idaho's drug czar. Since 2006, GEO has won contracts worth $8 million annually to house more than 400 Idaho inmates in Texas, including at two prisons where problems became so severe that Idaho demanded inmates be relocated. Corrections Corp. of America, a Tennessee company whose 95,000-inmate private prison system includes 1,500 prisoners at a prison south of Boise, gave nearly $32,000 for the 2006 election to 29 Republican candidates, including $10,000 to Otter, and $5,000 to the state Republican Party. CCA and GEO each hired two lobbyists for the 2007 Idaho Legislature. Just one Democrat, Rep. Margaret Henbest, D-Boise, received money from CCA - $300. The GOP dominates Idaho politics, with 51 of 70 seats in the House and 28 of 35 seats in the Senate. Steve Owen, a CCA spokesman, said his company makes political contributions to candidates that support "public-private partnerships." "That's what we're in the business of, and that's reflective of our participation in the political process," Owen said, adding his company has run private prisons for nearly 25 years, including in Idaho, in a professional manner where standards can exceed a state's own. "It has been a positive working relationship between the Idaho Department of Correction and CCA." GEO spokesman Pablo Paez didn't return phone calls seeking comment. Overcrowding in U.S. prisons, plus a federal push to incarcerate more terrorists and illegal aliens, has benefited private prisons that now oversee 140,000 inmates. Companies like GEO and CCA spent $3.3 million between 2000 and 2004 on election campaigns in 44 states to ensure they profit from this private prison boom, according to a 2006 study by the National Institute for Money in State Politics, in Helena, Mont. Private prisons have become a hot topic here, because of the problems at GEO's Texas prisons where Idaho inmates are locked up to ease overcrowding at home. Abuse by guards at the Newton County Correctional Center in eastern Texas prompted Idaho officials to demand inmates be relocated in 2006 to the Dickens County Correctional Center. Now, Idaho officials have called Dickens "filthy" and "beyond repair," prompting a move to another GEO Texas prison. "The way the contractor makes the most money is by providing the least amount of service," said Robert Perkinson, a University of Hawaii professor who is writing a book on Texas prisons, including privately run facilities. "It's an inherently problematic area of government to privatize." Still, Idaho, with about 7,000 inmates, now has 256 more inmates in-state than it has capacity for - even with about 430 already in Texas. Efforts to develop sentencing alternatives to ease an expected 7 percent annual increase in inmate numbers through 2010 will take time, so Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said alternatives are limited to moving inmates elsewhere. Robin Sandy, Idaho Board of Correction chairwoman, said she met with CCA officials in Idaho in June. They discussed a new contract with the state to house 240 Idaho inmates in company prisons in Oklahoma - a contract worth about $5 million annually - as well as prospects of the company winning a share of the new 2,200-bed prison proposal that Reinke plans to introduce in September to lawmakers. "It was a courtesy visit," Sandy said. Otter said he's also been in discussions with private prison companies eager to do more business with the state. Otter is a former J.R. Simplot executive who has said he wants to run Idaho more like the private sector. "There's been a lot of that activity," Otter told the AP. "During the legislative session, there were several organizations that came in."

August 3, 2006 The Enterprise
Two dangerous Newton County Correction Center inmates escaped earlier this year because a watchtower guard was too intimidated to shoot, according to a tape recording obtained by The Enterprise. The guard in the tape admitted he didn't fire his weapon June 12 despite seeing prisoners Rudolfo Garcia-Lopez and Orlando Gonzalez-Leon scale the outer fence covered in barbed razor wire. The recording was of the guard, who was then terminated, and Sheriff Joe Walker, Chief Deputy Ricky Hall and an unnamed Texas Ranger. On watch in the northwest tower near Texas 87, the guard had his firearm raised but didn't pull the trigger. Walker, who conducted the taped interview, asked the guard why he didn't shoot despite being less than 80 yards from the prisoners. "My timing was slow, and I felt highly-ass intimidated," the guard said in the conversation taped on a handheld digital recorder. Walker wouldn't identify the guard because he didn't "want his name pulled through the mud." However, Walker did say the guard could have stopped the prison break before it turned into a three-night search. Garcia-Lopez and Gonzalez-Leon, both from Idaho, escaped at 6:30 p.m. While law enforcement captured Gonzalez-Leon 90 minutes later, Garcia-Lopez was on the loose for 56 hours and crossed the county line before Jasper police detained him while he pedaled a stolen bicycle through the city. "There's 16,000 people in this county that elected him sheriff to protect them," Hall said to the guard on the tape. "... From the way I look at it, you turned them loose on my family." Prison guards and jailers can respond with deadly force to prevent an inmate's attempted escape, Walker said. According to a Texas Commission on Jail Standards official, the county sheriff and the jail administrators set a jail's policy and procedure. Newton County owns the facility, but the Geo Group, a private Florida-based company, manages it. In the tape, Walker said he held the former guard responsible for the prison break. He could have shot one time as a warning, at least, Walker said, and that would have been enough to knock Garcia-Lopez and Gonzalez-Leon off the fence. "That probably would have changed their mind about what they were doing," Walker said in the taped conversation. "... My job is to put them in jail. This Texas Ranger, his job is to put them in jail. It's them jailers out there at that penitentiary who keep their butts inside those fences. I'm telling you, I hold you responsible because you should have shot them." According to sheriff's department calculations, the prison break and resulting manhunt cost at least $3,000 in deputy overtime hours, fuel, food and water. Texas Department of Public Safety and state Parks and Wildlife Department personnel also put in overtime hours. During a recent interview in his office, Walker said another guard in the southwest prison tower saw the escaped prisoners but couldn't get a shot at them without endangering another guard who was circling the perimeter in a van. "She was right" for not shooting, the sheriff said of the other guard. Walker said he had a meeting with prison supervisors, instructing them to find "weak links" who are unwilling to perform the job's entire duties, including shooting a gun to prevent a prison break. "I hold their commissions, and I will dang sure sign off on them to F-5 them. F-5 means to terminate their commission," Walker said. "I'll do it." The prison break was part of a string of episodes involving inmates since the Idaho Department of Correction transferred 419 prisoners here in March to alleviate prison overcrowding in their state. On April 7, an excessive use-of-force incident ended with a supervisor's firing, an officer's demotion and another officer's weeklong suspension without pay. Prisoners later engineered a sit-down strike, insisting on butter for rolls and better television options. And on June 4, a deputy warden resigned after an excessive use-of-force incident May 30 in which he punched an Idaho inmate, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. Idaho prisoners are being transferred out to another Texas-located, Geo Group-managed facility. In their place, Newton County and the Geo Group have agreed to house 400 Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates.

July 25, 2006 Idaho Statesman
More than 400 Idaho inmates currently housed at a prison in Newton, Texas, will be moved to two other prisons in the state, Idaho Department of Correction officials announced Tuesday. The prisoners are being housed in Texas because Idaho's prisons are overcrowded, and the move was prompted in part by a request from GEO Group, the company that oversees all three of the Texas prisons. GEO Group wanted the space at the Newton County Correctional Center for Texas inmates, correction department officials said. The Newton facility has also been the site of complaints from Idaho inmates and allegations of prisoner maltreatment. "This is a temporary move," Idaho Department of Correction Director Vaughn Killeen said. "We are currently in the process of developing a long-term solution which includes bringing all Idaho inmates back to Idaho." The inmates will move to the Bill Clayton Detention Center and to the Dickens County Correction Center, both near Lubbock. The cost of keeping the inmates at those centers will remain the same, at about $51 a day, officials said. Bringing all of the out-of-state inmates back to Idaho is a top priority, but no definitive timeline has been set, said department spokeswoman Melinda O'Malley Keckler. The move will take place in the next two weeks, but the exact date is being withheld because of security reasons, the department said.

November 30, 2005 AP
A Florida prison financing company is looking for business in Idaho, where it's talking with state corrections officials about helping build new prisons, including a proposed 400-bed treatment facility for drug offenders. Correctional Properties Trust has met twice since May with officials including Department of Correction Director Tom Beauclair. It hired lobbyist Roy Eiguren on Oct. 25 to plug its agenda to state lawmakers, who would likely have to approve any such transaction. Tight budgets, coupled with a growing prison population across the United States, have prompted local and state governments in Idaho and elsewhere to explore new ways of financing expanded correctional systems, according to prison experts. Idaho's prison population has doubled - to nearly 6,700 - over the last decade, and Beauclair wants the state to invest $180 million in coming years to increase bed space. The Florida company is just one of the private prison firms that have come calling in Idaho in recent months as word spread that prison beds are growing scarce, said Don Drum, the Department of Correction's support services administrator. Others include The GEO Group, a prison management company based in Boca Raton, Fla., and Community Education Centers, the New Jersey-based operator of drug-treatment centers that wants to run Beauclair's proposed 400-bed facility for drug offenders that, according to a mid-September budget request, would be built in southwest Idaho. If Idaho lawmakers did opt for financing from Correctional Properties Trust, state officials would prefer to retain ownership of any new prison, not lease from the company as is the case with its existing 12 prisons, Drum said. Idaho owns all eight of its correctional centers and fears leasing would sacrifice too much control, he said. In North Carolina, where Correctional Properties Trust had owned two prisons until 2004, similar concerns prompted that state to exercise options to repurchase them for $51 million - instead of continuing to rent. "As a state that operates 76 prisons, it just sort of made sense for us to have everything operate the same way," said Keith Acree, spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Correction. "It was far cheaper to buy them than to keep leasing them for many, many years."

November 15, 2005 Casper StarTribune
When Idaho shipped 302 inmates to a private Minnesota prison last month, it was only easing overcrowding: The state's prisons remain above capacity, and Department of Correction officials appear likely to ask for a nearly $8 million cash infusion during the upcoming 2006 Legislature to handle the overflow. With a two-year contract, it'll cost Idaho about $1.1 million more to lock up its prisoners at the prison in Appleton, Minn., run by the Corrections Corporation of America. That's based on figures given by state officials on Oct. 27, when they said it would cost $53 per day in Minnesota, compared to $48 in Idaho. State prison officials, including prison system director Tom Beauclair, are arguing that this added burden, which doesn't include the cost of transporting inmates or keeping their records from afar, is another reason why Idaho should invest $160 million in new prisons. As a stopgap measure, Beauclair is expected in January to ask legislators for another $7.9 million for the current fiscal year to cover the cost of housing overflow inmates both out-of-state and in county jail cells. "Obviously the governor would prefer not to have to send folks out of state," said Mike Journee, spokesman for Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, in an interview with The Spokesman-Review newspaper. "That's a costly remedy for the situation."

October 21, 2005 AP
More than 300 Idaho inmates will be housed in Minnesota under an agreement with a private prison company, Idaho Department of Correction officials announced Friday. The inmates will be transferred from Idaho facilities to the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn., by the end of the month. Housing the inmates in Minnesota will cost Idaho taxpayers $53 per inmate per day, officials said. It costs about $48 per day to house an inmate in an Idaho prison.

May 22, 2005 AP
A prison healthcare company from Saint Louis, Missouri, has beaten out the existing provider of medical care for Idaho Department of Correction prisoners. Correctional Medical Services will take over duties at all Idaho prisons July 11th. It offered to provide inmates with medical and dental care for nine-dollars and 75 cents per day per prisoner. Teresa Jones, a D-O-C spokeswoman, says that was less than the bid of Tennessee-based Prison Health Services. Idaho has roughly 64-hundred prisoners across the state.

Department of Correction Director Tom Beauclair is disappointed in the contractor providing medical care to prison inmates and says his agency has launched three separate investigations into employees of Prison Health Services.  Beauclair declined to elaborate on the investigations or complaints that precipitated them.  An official with Prison Health Services, which has a $12 million contract to provide medical care to the state´s more than 5,820 inmates, denies that Idaho prison inmates are being hampered from getting the medical services to which they´re entitled.  “We are doing a fine job out there,” said Rod Holliman, a vice president for Prison Health Services.  However, Beauclair said that while the company is providing the health care to inmates required by the U.S. Constitution, the work is still not up to par.  “There are concerns,” Beauclair said.  “We have employee management issues, communication issues and accountability issues,” Beauclair said of the company.  (Idaho Statesman, April 6, 2004)

August 23, 2002
Idaho prison administrators say the state needs to spend more than $146 million to build prisons in the next two years to house one of the fastest-growing inmate populations in the country.  On top of that, they say it will cost $145.8 million, about 12 percent more, to operate the Department of Correction in the next fiscal year than it does now.  Department of Correction Director Tom Beauclair said projections show every bunk in every prison and jail in the state will be full by September or October.  That means the state will have to ship prisoners out of state or build.  "We just can't keep building prisons," House Judiciary Vice Chairman Debbie Field, R-Boise, said.  She's working with Beauclair and other state leaders to look at sentencing reform.  (Idaho Statesman)

April 11, 2002
All 127 female prison inmates Idaho had been housing in New Mexico since January 2001 are back in Idaho.  The final group arrived at the women's prison in Pocatello late Tuesday from the McKinley County Adult Detention Center in Gallup.  Officials estimate that ending the housing contract in New Mexico will save the state nearly $500,000 a year.  (Idaho Statesman)

Idaho Legislature
CCA, GEO Group
March 5, 2012 AP
For more than a decade, Idaho leaders have promoted private prisons by telling taxpayers it's cheaper for the state to outsource prison management. But an examination of comparative costs by The Associated Press shows that the state has never actually done the math, and there may be no cost savings at all. In fact, privatization could be costing the state more money than if the Idaho Department of Correction ran the lockups. Idaho officials will tell you that the state's largest private prison, the Idaho Correctional Center, saves $12 per inmate, per day compared to a similar state prison. But adjusting for known system-wide expenses and the cost of overseeing the contract for the private lockup bring the per diems to just $5 apart. The comparable state prison also houses all of the sick and geriatric inmates, is the oldest facility in the state and spans multiple buildings on a 65-acre campus, requiring a high guard-to-inmate ratio to patrol. The private prison, meanwhile, is relatively new and compact and only accepts inmates without chronic medical or mental health needs, factors that allow it to operate with a lower staff-to-inmate ratio. Those factors make it likely that the state could operate the facility for no more than it pays the private company. State leaders have refused to examine the issue. About four years ago, Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke asked the Board of Correction and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter's office if his department could bid for the contract to run the Idaho Correctional Center — a move that would have given Idaho a firm idea of how much it would cost to make the facility public. The board responded with a firm “no,” and the governor's office simply deflected the matter back to the board. “We just decided we'd stay with what we're doing,” said board member Jay L. Nielsen, who was the board secretary when Reinke made the request in October 2007. “As you know, Idaho likes to have private industry do whatever they can, and I think that's the reasoning behind it all.” Otter's spokesman Jon Hanian said the governor's office was carrying out a policy created by former Gov. Phil Batt in the mid-1990s. But Otter has continued to be a cheerleader for private prisons, looking into the possibility of privatizing another state facility in northern Idaho and opening a smaller private prison south of Boise in 2009. The nation's largest private prison provider, Corrections Corporation of America, contracted with Idaho in 1997 to build and run the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. At the time, Batt said the move would save the state $16 million in operating costs alone. The state generally compares the money it pays to CCA to the cost the state incurs running a similar facility: The Idaho State Correctional Institution. At first glance, those numbers show the private prison to be a striking savings — $42.12 per inmate, per day, compared to $54.14. But the numbers are stacked against the state. The private prison's per diem doesn't include the $4.51 per inmate, per day the state spends to monitor operations and contract compliance at the prison. They also don't reflect the fact that Idaho's contract with Corrections Corporation of America bars the state from transferring any inmate with a chronic medical or mental health condition to the private prison. The state's per diem doesn't reflect that every inmate in Idaho is funneled through ISCI before they're transferred anywhere, including the private prison. That's because the state-run lockup handles all receiving, diagnostic and placement services for the correctional system. It also houses the Idaho's only mental health unit — a service not offered at the private prison — as well as all geriatric and chronically ill inmates, including those who can't be sent to ICC. Adjusting for contract oversight brings the private ICC's per diem cost up to $46.63. Eliminating the system-wide costs attributed to the state-run lockup — but leaving in the $12.09 per inmate, per day that goes to medical costs — brings the state's ISCI's per diem down to $51.64. Adjusting for the medical expenses is trickier. Because CCA is a private company, it doesn't have to disclose how much it spends on medical and mental health care for inmates. And because the state has a contract with health care company Corizon to handle the medical needs of all the state-managed inmates, the department can't get a breakdown of just how much its own healthy inmates cost compared to the sick and elderly. “It's an algebraic problem, and as it sits today, you have too many unknown variables,” said Tony Meatte, the Idaho Department of Correction's business services division chief. Even with all those unknown variables, this much is clear: If the average medical cost of a healthy inmate runs less than $5 a day, it would likely be cheaper for the state to run the Idaho Correctional Center. The per diem analysis “was our best bet at looking at how we can allocate all the costs in the department,” said Meatte. “If someone wanted to come in and shoot holes in it, they could just like anything they look at. In the end we have to use it as a tool, to let us see if something goes up significantly in an area.” It's surprising that the state has never done a comparison, said Board of Correction member J.R. Van Tassel. Tassell wasn't on the board when Reinke made his request to study the costs back in 2007. He said if asked today, he would likely support a different decision. “If the question came up at a board meeting, I would be willing to support allocating the resources to do that,” Van Tassel said. “Because at some point in time, the contract's going to be up for renewal again and that information would be crucial to making that kind of decision.” Having the department bid on the service is “the only way you get an apples-to-apples comparison,” Van Tassel said. “I'm on the verge of calling it a failed experiment,” said Van Tassel of prison privatization, noting that the state has had to fine CCA thousands of dollars after the company repeatedly failed to meet contract requirements. Idaho Board of Correction chairman Robin Sandy, however, said that there's value outside of cost savings in privatizing prisons. She was part of the board that made the decision not to let Reinke bid on the contract. “I personally agree with the governor in that the more we limit government and the more we let private people do the work, that is a good thing,” Sandy said. “I believe that most Idahoans share that philosophy.”

January 17, 2012 The Spokesman-Review
Minority Democrats in the Idaho Legislature announced three new ethics reform proposals Tuesday and called on Republicans to work with them on the bills - and the Republicans agreed. The Democrats called for requiring financial disclosure from public and elected officials in the state, something only Idaho and two other states lack; a bill to impose a one-year wait before former lawmakers or other public officials could register as lobbyists; and a whistleblower hotline law for state employees. The proposals came on the heels of the Democrats’ call for Idaho to create an independent ethics commission; GOP leaders agreed, and both sides have formed a bipartisan working group to draft a consensus bill. On Tuesday, House Speaker Lawrence Denney and Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill both said they’d like the working group to also consider the three issues Democrats highlighted. “I think the working group ought to discuss those things, see if they can come up with suggestions,” Hill said. “I’d just encourage it.” Denney said he’s open to the ideas, including the one-year lobbying restriction. “I don’t have a problem with that,” he said. “Let’s hear it.” Idaho has had recent notable incidents of public officials turning to lobbying; the state has no restrictions on such moves. The governor’s former chief of staff is now walking the Statehouse halls as a lobbyist for Idaho Power Co. and the Corrections Corp. of America, and the former deputy director of the state Department of Insurance signed on to lobby this year for one of the state’s largest insurance companies, Regence BlueShield, after years of regulating the firm.

October 19, 2011 Idaho Statesman
After four years as Gov. Butch Otter’s top aide, Jason Kreizenbeck is leaving to join forces with one of Idaho’s leading lobbyists, former Sen. Skip Smyser. Kreizenbeck said leaving his $130,000 job is not a signal Otter won’t seek a third term in 2014. “There’s an effective shelf life to this position and I think I’ve hit it,” he said Tuesday. Kreizenbeck, 39, is affable, charismatic and popular at the Legislature, with deep connections in the Republican establishment. “You measure chief-of-staff age in dog years, not human years,” said Kreizenbeck’s predecessor, Jeff Malmen, now a lobbyist for Idaho Power. Details of his partnership with Smyser will be announced next month, but Kreizenbeck said it’s “safe to assume” Smyser will continue to represent his powerful clients, including cigarette and drug makers, an oil company, education technology companies and AT&T. Smyser also represents two state contractors with serious performance issues: Corrections Corp. of America, the operator of the state’s violence-plagued private prison; and Molina Healthcare, widely criticized by lawmakers for making late payments to Medicaid providers last year.

October 12, 2010 Spokesman-Review
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter on Tuesday reported raising $752,000 in campaign funds in the past four months, while his Democratic challenger, Keith Allred, raised $372,500. With both candidates spending heavily on advertising as the campaign season hits its peak, Otter reported $211,634 in cash on hand at the close of the period on Sept. 30, while Allred reported $102,072. Otter’s campaign said he has another $67,200 in contributions already committed, but not yet paid. “This has been an incredible quarter for my campaign,” Otter said in a statement. “We not only raised a significant amount of money, but the momentum going forward is extremely high.” Allred had actually outraised Otter, the incumbent Republican who’s seeking a second term, in the previous two reporting periods, but Otter turned that around in the most recent period, which ran from June 5 through Sept. 30. Year to date, Otter’s raised $1.04 million and spent $1.34 million, but he also carried over $316,718 from the previous year. Allred, year to date, has raised $732,640 and spent $757,532; he carried over $126,963 from the previous year. Neither candidate reported any debt. Otter reported a slew of contributions from big business interests in Idaho, with $10,000 year-to-date from Coeur d’Alene Racing LP of Post Falls, through its “Winning for Idaho” PAC, and $10,000 from Clear Springs Foods in Buhl topping the list. He also received $4,500 from Corrections Corp. of America, which operates Idaho’s privately run state prison south of Boise; $7,500 from M3 Eagle, a developer based in Phoenix, Ariz; and $6,500 each from Hecla Mining, Idaho Truck PAC and Altria Corporate Services of Sacramento, Calif., the parent company of the Philip Morris USA tobacco firm.

April 14, 2010 Boise Weekly
Violent beatdowns at the privately run Idaho Correctional Center appear to have subsided in recent weeks, in the wake of a class-action lawsuit against the prison and shakeup of prison leadership, according to documents obtained by Boise Weekly. The prison reported 17 inmate-on-inmate assaults in January and 15 in February, according to a tally of incident reports filed with the Idaho Department of Correction. But there were only nine assaults reported in March and only four since warden Phillip Valdez and assistant warden Daniel Prado were replaced on March 17. A spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company that manages ICC, Idaho's largest prison, has repeatedly declined to comment on the situation at the prison, citing the lawsuit. But Idaho lawmakers are troubled by the levels of violence and accusations in the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that assaults at ICC were perpetrated with the full knowledge of--even collusion by--guards. "If those things actually happened at ICC, I was not aware of it and I don't think anybody in the Legislature was aware of it," said Republican Rep. Leon Smith of Twin Falls, co-chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "If it's proven that they did those things, then they are going to pay big penalties." Democratic Rep. Grant Burgoyne of Boise went even further, likening CCA to the actions of private military contractors in Iraq. "I believe that it is not appropriate, when it comes to the incarceration of people, that that be outsourced to a private contractor," Burgoyne said. "There are certain core government services that should be carried out by government officials." IDOC carried a bill through the Idaho Legislature earlier this year that gives IDOC Director Brent Reinke more authority to quell serious disturbances and riots at the privately run prison and to quell "affrays and insurrections" as well. Several lawmakers noted the timing of the bill, which was introduced just before the ACLU lawsuit was filed, but a spokesman for IDOC said there was no connection. "Our intent with the new legislation is to give the director statutory authority to intervene and quell a serious disturbance," said prisons spokesman Jeff Ray. "We can't say what the legislative intent was when they used the word 'affray.'" An affray is a fight between two or more people in a public place. Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, said that the bill is a step in the right direction, but does not affect the lawsuit. "I think IDOC has stepped up to the plate and they have known that something is going on out there, because the bill is bringing them into compliance with what the federal court will already tell them," she said. The ACLU lawsuit details 23 serious assaults at ICC, going back to November 2006, all of which, the attorneys allege, were preventable. There were at least 43 inmate fights at ICC since Jan. 1 of this year, according to incident reports obtained by Boise Weekly through a public information request to IDOC. The Ada County Sheriff's Office was called only four times for inmate battery investigations in that same time period, according to public information officer Andrea Dearden, though there were other investigations for drugs found at the prison and for an assault on two staff members. • On Jan. 18, sheriff's deputies investigated the severe beating of Hanni Elabed, who has filed a separate, $25 million claim against ICC and the state. The Ada County Prosecutor's Office intends to file charges against the inmate who beat him, according to Elabed's brother. • On Jan. 24, prison officials called the Sheriff's Office, but deputies declined to investigate a battery report from a fight that may have occurred three days prior. • On Jan. 26, deputies investigated an assault on two prison staff members and forwarded charges to the prosecutor. • On March 1, deputies investigated a fight with a weapon--described by prison officials as a "sharpened edged weapon"--but the weapon was never recovered. • And on March 10, deputies investigated at least three fights that broke out in separate areas of the prison simultaneously. Also since Jan. 1, ICC officials discovered marijuana four times, bags of homemade alcohol in a shower, meth and at least two shanks. Idaho Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter, through a spokesman, declined comment on the ACLU lawsuit, but his attorney, David Hensley, said Otter and IDOC are concerned about staff and prisoner safety at ICC, as at any prison. "This situation, like any previous situation, warrants our concern, and we've been looking at that," Hensley said. In 2007 and 2008, Otter proposed allowing more privately run prisons to be built in Idaho, but faced resistance from the Legislature, in part out of concern that out-of-state inmates would be housed here. Since the privatization bill died in 2008, Idaho's prison bed shortage has waned. Hundreds of inmates housed in other states have been returned to Idaho, some now housed in a new wing at ICC. Otter has not revived the idea of allowing privately owned and run lockups. "The governor has been looking at cost effective ways to address the trends and recently we have seen the trends either stagnant or, in the last few months, we've even seen a decrease," Hensley said. But for Hanni Elabed's family, the lack of transparency and public oversight at the private prison is inexcusable. Elabed's older brother, Zahe Elabed, said guards put his brother in a cell with white supremacists despite threats against his Arab heritage, failed to notify his parents when he was left convulsing on the floor after being beaten against a wall and stomped more than 30 times, would not allow family visits or provide information on his condition over the phone and were rude. "I think they need to do away with it, I think it's really unfair for any prisoner to be in there now," Zahe Elabed said. "You have to be a gladiator to survive in there."

March  8, 2010 Idaho Reporter
Proposals could help offenders needing treatment, prisons dealing with riots An Idaho Senate committee approved two proposals from the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) that would give IDOC more authority in dealing with placing prisoners in substance abuse treatment and quelling riots and other serious disturbances in private facilities. IDOC director Brent Reinke said the moves could save Idaho money in prisoner costs and potential lawsuits. The first proposal would give Idaho courts and IDOC more time to allow inmates to complete substance abuse treatment rather than serve a full prison sentence. It would extend the current 180-day period of suspended judgment to 365 days. During that time, IDOC could place prisoners in programming including substance abuse treatment that could shorten their overall prison stay. “We are not looking to do anything but set the stage for better programming for our inmates,” Reinke said. IDOC currently has one short-term programming option lasting 120 days, but the department is looking to expand to three options that span from 90 and 270 days. Reinke said having more offenders go through shorter-term programming rather than serving an entire prison term, which lasts an average of 2.7 years, means the state could slow its population growth by 400 inmates a year. “If an inmate goes through this program, he wouldn’t have to do what I’d call ‘hard time’ in a penitentiary,” said Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise. The second proposal would allow IDOC to set up procedures for dealing with violent incidents at private prison facilities, including the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) in Boise. Those serious disturbances include riots, escapes, fights, and insurrections. The legislation would let IDOC renegotiate its contract with the Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that runs ICC. The legislation would give Reinke more oversight on private facilities dealing with disturbances and would allow for employees at private prisons to use extreme and deadly force to stop incidents. “It wasn’t clear that the department had the authority to intervene at a private correctional facility,” said Paul Panther, a deputy attorney general for IDOC. Panther said that CCA has agreed to the legislation. Reinke said IDOC needs to prepare for emergencies, and that’s it’s only a matter of time before there are disturbances at Idaho’s private prisons. “We now have six facilities in the south Boise (ICC) complex and we have many, many gang members incarcerated in that area,” he said. “That is an area that has us concerned.” The Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee approved both of Reinke’s proposals on a unanimous voice vote. Both pieces of legislation now head to the Senate floor. The suspended judgment legislation is available here and the disturbances in private prisons legislation is available here.

May 7, 2009 AP
Gov. C.L. ``Butch'' Otter is backing off plans to privatize the state prison in Orofino. Otter and correction officials say it's not the right time to hand over management of the Idaho Correctional Institution at Orofino to a private company. Otter confirmed in January that officials were considering the idea to save money. The 500-bed facility has about 140 employees and 25 contractors, making it a major source of local jobs in Clearwater County. But in its review, correction officials identified several key economic factors provided by the prison and its inmates, including community service work crews and firefighting roles. Those services could have been discontinued by a private contractor. Robin Sandy, chairwoman of the Board of Correction, says the economic benefits to the region and firefighting industry outweighs the need to privatize Orofino.

January 16, 2009 The Olympian
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter appointed Republican Melinda Smyser to the District 11 Senate seat, where she'll replace Brad Little following his elevation to lieutenant governor. Smyser is a 50-year-old GOP activist from Parma who was president of the Idaho Federation of Republican Women in 2008. Otter chose Smyser over Caldwell farmer Sid Freeman and three-term state Rep. Carlos Bilbao, R-Emmett. The governor named Little, from Emmett, earlier this month as his lieutenant governor, to replace Jim Risch after his U.S. Senate election. Smyser is married to Charles "Skip" Smyser, a former state House and Senate member who is a lobbyist for private prisons, tobacco companies, the Idaho Trucking Association and mining companies.

September 21, 2008 Times-News
Pam Drashner visited her husband every weekend in prison, until she was turned away one day because he wasn't there. He had been quietly transferred from Boise to a private prison in Sayre, Okla. She never saw him again. In July, she went to the Post Office to pick up his ashes, mailed home in a box. He died of a traumatic brain injury in Oklahoma, allegedly assaulted by another inmate. David Drashner was one of hundreds of male inmates Idaho authorities have sent to private prisons in other states. About 10 percent of Idaho's inmates are now out-of-state. The Department of Correction say they want to bring them all home, they simply have no place to put them. Drashner, who was convicted of repeat drunken driving, is one of three Idaho inmates who have died in the custody of private lockups in other states since March 2007, and was the first this year. On Aug. 18, Twin Falls native Randall McCullough, 37, apparently killed himself at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas. McCullough, serving time for robbery, was found dead in his cell. IDOC officials say he left a note, though autopsy results are pending. His family says he shouldn't have been in Texas at all. "Idaho should step up to the plate and bring their prisoners home," said his sister, Laurie Williams. Out of Idaho -- Idaho has so many prisoners scattered around the country that the IDOC last year developed the Virtual Prison Program, assigning 12 officers to monitor the distant prisons. In 2007 Idaho sent 429 inmates to Texas and Oklahoma. This year; more than 700 - and by one estimate it could soon hit 1,000. But officials say they don't know exactly how many inmates may hit the road in coming months. The number may actually fall due to an unexpected drop in total prisoner head-count, a turnabout attributed to a drop in sentencings, increased paroles and better success rates for probationers. The state will also have about 1,300 more beds in Idaho, thanks to additions at existing prisons. State officials say bringing inmates back is a priority. "If there was any way to not have inmates out-of-state it would be far, far better," said IDOC Director Brent Reinke, a former Twin Falls County commissioner, noting higher costs to the state and inconvenience to inmate families. Still, there's no end in sight for virtual prisons, which have few fans in state government. "I do think sending inmates out-of-state is counter-productive," said Rep. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, a member of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee. LeFavour favors treatment facilities over prisons. "We try to make it (sending inmates out-of-state) a last resort, but I don't think we're doing enough." Even lawmakers who favor buying more cells would like to avoid virtual lockups. "It's more productive to be in-state," said Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, who said he would support a new Idaho prison modeled after the state-owned but privately run Idaho Correctional Center (ICC). "We don't want to stay out-of-state unless we have to
��- It's undesirable." A decade of movement -- Idaho has shipped inmates elsewhere for more than a decade, though in some years they were all brought home when beds became available at four of Idaho's state prisons. The 1,500-bed ICC - a state-owned lockup built and run by CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) - also opened in 2000. But that wasn't enough: "It will be years before a substantial increase in prison capacity will allow IDOC to bring inmates back," the agency said in April. In 2005, former IDOC director Tom Beauclair warned lawmakers that "if we delay building the next prison, we'll have to remain out-of-state longer with more inmates," according to an IDOC press release. That year inmates were taken to a Minnesota prison operated by CCA, where Idaho paid $5 per inmate, per day more than it costs to keep inmates in its own prisons. "This move creates burdens for our state fiscally, and can harden our prison system, but it's what we must do," IDOC said at the time. "Our ability to stretch the system is over." Attempts to add to that system have largely failed. Earlier this year Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter asked lawmakers for $191 million in bond authority to buy a new 1,500-bed lockup. The Legislature rejected his request, but did approve those 1,300 new beds at existing facilities. Reinke said IDOC won't ask for a new prison when the next Legislative session convenes in January. With a slow economy and a drop in inmate numbers, it's not the time to push for a new prison, he said. Still, recent projections for IDOC show that without more prison beds here, 43 percent of all Idaho inmates could be sent out-of-state in 2017. "It's a lot of money to go out-of-state," Darrington said. Different cultures -- One of eight prisons in Idaho is run by a private company, as are those housing Idaho inmates in Texas and Oklahoma. The Bill Clayton Detention Center in Texas is operated by the Geo Group Inc., which is managing or developing 64 lockups in the U.S., Australia and South Africa. The North-Fork Correctional Facility in Oklahoma is owned and operated by CCA, which also has the contract to run the Idaho Correction Center. CCA houses almost 75,000 inmates and detainees in 66 facilities under various state and federal contracts. Critics of private prisons say the operators boost profits by skimping on programs, staff, and services. Idaho authorities acknowledge the prisons make money, but consider them well-run. "Private prisons are just that - business run," Idaho Virtual Prison Program Warden Randy Blades told the Times-News. "It doesn't mean out-of-sight, or out-of-mind." Yet even Reinke added that "I think there's a difference. Do we want there to be? No." The Association of Private Correctional and Treatment Organizations (APCTO) says on its Web site that its members "deliver reduced costs, high quality, and enhanced accountability." Falling short? Thomas Aragon, a convicted thief from Nampa, was shipped to three different Texas prisons in two years. He said prisons there did little to rehabilitate him, though he's up for parole next year. "I'm a five-time felon, all grand theft and possession of stolen property," said Aragon, by telephone from the ICC. "Apparently I have a problem and need to find out why I steal. The judge said I needed counseling and that I'd get it, and I have yet to get any." State officials said virtual prisons have a different culture, but are adapting to Idaho standards. "We're taking the footprint of Idaho and putting it into facilities out-of-state," Blades said. Aragon, 39, says more programs are available in Idaho compared to the Texas facilities where he was. Like Aragon, almost 70 percent of Idaho inmates sent to prison in 2006 and 2007 were recidivists - repeat IDOC offenders - according agency annual reports. GEO and CCA referred questions about recidivism to APCTO, which says only that its members reduce the rate of growth of public spending. Aragon said there weren't enough case-workers, teachers, programs, recreational activities and jobs in Texas. Comparisons between public and private prisons are made difficult because private companies didn't readily offer numbers for profits, recidivism, salaries and inmate-officer ratios. During recent visits to the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas - where about 371 Idaho inmates are now held - state inspectors found there wasn't a legal aid staffer to give inmates access to courts, as required by the state contract. Virtual Prison monitors also agreed with Aragon's assessment: "No programs are offered at the facility," a state official wrote in a recently redacted Idaho Virtual Prison report obtained by the Times-News. "Most jobs have to do with keeping the facility clean and appear to be less meaningful. This creates a shortage of productive time with the inmates. "Overall, recreational activities are very sparse within the facility ��- Informal attempts have been made to encourage the facility to increase offender activities that would in the long run ease some of the boredom that IDOC inmates are experiencing," according to a Virtual Prison report. The prison has since made improvements, the state said. Only one inmate case manager worked at Bill Clayton during a recent state visit, but the facility did increase recreation time and implemented in-cell hobby craft programs, Virtual Prison reports show. Other inmate complaints have grown from the way they have been sent to the prisons. Inmates describe a horrific bus ride from Idaho to Oklahoma in April in complaints collected by the American Civil Liberties Union in Boise. The inmates say they endured painful and injurious wrist and ankle shackling, dangerous driving, infrequent access to an unsanitary restroom and dehydration during the almost 30-hour trip. "We're still receiving a lot of complaints, some of them are based on retaliatory transfers," said ACLU lawyer Lea Cooper. IDOC officials acknowledge that they have also received complaints about access to restrooms during the long bus rides, but they maintain that most of the inmates want to go out-of-state. Many are sex offenders who prefer the anonymity associated with being out-of-state, they said. Unanswered questions -- Three deaths of Idaho interstate inmates in 18 months have left families concerned that even more prisoners will come home in ashes. "We're very disturbed about...the rate of Idaho prisoner deaths for out-of-state inmates," Cooper said. It was the razor-blade suicide of sex-offender Scott Noble Payne, 43, in March 2007 at a Geo lockup in Dickens, Texas that caught the attention of state officials. Noble's death prompted Idaho to pull all its inmates from the Geo prison. State officials found the facility was in terrible condition, but they continue to work with Geo, which houses 371 Idaho inmates in Littlefield, Texas, where McCullough apparently killed himself. Noble allegedly escaped before he was caught and killed himself. Inmate Aragon said he as there, and that Noble was hog-tied and groaned in pain while guards warned other inmates they would face the same if they tried to escape. Private prison operators don't have to tell governments everything about the deaths at facilities they run. The state isn't allowed access to Geo's mortality and morbidity reports under terms of a contract. Idaho sent additional inmates to the Corrections Corporation of America-run Oklahoma prison after Drashner's husband died in June. IDOC officials said an Idaho official was inspecting the facility when he was found. IDOC has offered few details about the death. "The murder happened in Oklahoma," said IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray, adding it will be up to Oklahoma authorities to charge. Drashner said her husband had a pending civil case in Idaho and shouldn't have been shipped out-of-state. She says Idaho and Oklahoma authorities told her David was assaulted by another inmate after he verbally defended an officer at the Oklahoma prison. Officers realized something was wrong when he didn't stand up for a count, Drashner said. "He was healthy. He wouldn't have been killed over here," she said.

February 25, 2008 AP
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said Monday he's abandoned efforts to completely privatize Idaho's new prisons, yielding to lawmakers who weren't ready to let a company control a state correctional facility. Idaho still needs a new prison, but Otter will accept an arrangement in which the state owns the building and contracts with a company to run it. That's akin to the existing operation at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. Otter, a former businessman, had since January been trying to sell lawmakers on allowing a private prison company such as Corrections Corp. of America, based in Tennessee, or The GEO Group, of Florida, to build a prison, own it and operate it. But many legislators said they felt a companion proposal that would have allowed companies to bring prisoners to Idaho from other states would mean giving up too much control over a necessary state function. "I've sent them a very strong signal I'm prepared to let that be owned by the state," Otter said. "One of the things we're looking at is a lease-purchase. I've done that many times in the private sector." Already this year, the House and Senate passed a lease-purchase agreement in which Idaho will pay $50.4 million over 20 years to a Utah-based company to build a 400-bed drug treatment prison. In 20 years, Idaho will own the building. Another option would be for the state to sell bonds, much as it did to pay for the ICC facility. Still, Otter has said he fears that could strain financing capacities and put a dent in Idaho's top-notch rating with credit agencies. Idaho now wants to build a 1,500-bed prison, smaller than a 2,100-bed facility proposed last year, to help accommodate the 9,400 inmates it expects to have in its system by 2012, up from about 7,400 now, said Brent Reinke, prisons director. He didn't provide a dollar figure for the smaller prison, although the state estimated the 2,100-bed version would have cost $250 million. Currently, the agency has prison beds for just 6,300 inmates, so it's shipped about 500 to Texas and Oklahoma, with others housed in county jails across Idaho. Prison companies had lobbied for Idaho to change its laws to allow for a privately owned, privately run prison to be built here and to allow companies to bring inmates from elsewhere to fill vacant beds. CCA and GEO have given at least $40,000 in campaign contributions to Republican lawmakers in recent elections, including at least $15,000 to Otter's 2006 gubernatorial race. After learning Otter has retreated from his original private prison plans, some lawmakers who had resisted his arguments said they're now eager to move ahead with building another state prison that will help bring Idaho inmates home from lockups thousands of miles away. "I'm delighted with that," said Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome and co- chairwoman of the Joint Finance-Budget Committee. "We do need a new prison." Idaho could tap some of the $60 million in a state economic emergency fund to help start the project, Bell said.

November 3, 2007 AP
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has proposed spending more than two-thirds of a state emergency fund on five water projects and to renovate a warehouse so it can hold prison inmates. Together, the projects would cost $10.9 million out of the $15 million fund set aside in March for an unspecified "economic emergency." The largest project would have the state pay $6 million to farmers who pump groundwater if they agree to leave up to 20,000 acres fallow. The unused water would be used in a pilot program seeking to boost levels of the dwindling Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. In addition, Otter wants to use $2.5 million to begin renovations on a warehouse at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. The project would create 304 new beds to help relieve prison overcrowding. Otter aides said the proposals are still in the development phase. "We've got a skeleton but we're still trying to put some meat on the bones," Jon Hanian, his press secretary, told the Twin Falls Times-News. As the 2007 Legislature drew to a close in March, lawmakers approved setting aside $15 million of Idaho's budget surplus for a possible economic emergency, without saying what it might be. Five Republicans control the money and must agree if it's to be divvied up before the 2008 Legislature meets in January: Otter; Senate President Pro Tem Bob Geddes, of Soda Springs; House Speaker Lawerence Denney, of Midvale; Rep. Maxine Bell, of Jerome; and Sen. Dean Cameron, of Rupert. On Friday, Bell said she needed more information about the water projects before she'd agree to use the money. In particular, Bell said groundwater pumpers _ who may be forced to pay thousands in future maintenance costs to continue Otter's proposals _ should be given a chance to weigh in. She also wants to hear from Clive Strong, a water lawyer with the state attorney general, and Department of Water Resources Director David Tuthill, who was briefed on the projects but didn't help develop them, according to his agency. "I appreciate the governor's efforts, but I wonder if there couldn't be a few more people at the table _ especially with the money that will be needed afterward to maintain these projects," Bell told The Associated Press. "I began to think this was too serious a situation to be done just within the governor's office." In addition to the $6 million water conservation plan, Otter's projects include $1.7 million to reuse water from several ponds near Twin Falls for irrigation and diversion into a creek. A separate $182,000 project would provide water from the Alpheus Creek spring to the city of Twin Falls. And $521,000 would be used to build a spring-water collection system to ship more water to trout producer Clear Springs Foods Inc. The company has sued groundwater pumpers for water it says they are using illegally. Lynn Tominaga, head of the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators, didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Also part of Otter's plan, Corrections Corporation of America, the Tennessee-based private prison company that runs the Idaho Correctional Center, would use $2.5 million to do planning, preparation and limited construction on a 43,000-square-foot warehouse that currently houses prisoners who do contract work for private companies. That project would mean the loss of about $1 million in annual prison industries revenue. But it would add beds and expand the prison sewer system, according to the Department of Correction. Still, some lawmakers said it hardly sounded like an economic emergency that necessitates action before the Legislature returns to Boise in January. "My initial reaction is unless someone can justify why it would be an emergency to move right now, it's better suited to have those proposals brought before the Legislature and addressed during the upcoming session," Cameron said.

October 25, 2007 AP
Idaho's prison population could surge by more than 5,500 over the next decade, and lawmakers are split on whether to have the state step in and build new lockups, or let the expanding private corrections industry handle the overflow. The urgency is growing, as Idaho inmates shipped elsewhere have alleged poor treatment, and one killed himself in Texas in March. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, a Republican, leans toward paying companies such as The GEO Group, based in Florida, or Tennessee's Corrections Corporation of America, to build and run prisons with thousands of new beds to house an inmate population of 7,200 that's growing at 7 percent annually. The private sector can do it faster and cheaper, he said. "A new prison built and owned by the state would take longer to construct, according to our experts," Otter said in an e-mail. "We have been told 18 to 24 months on the private side versus three to four years on the public side. We have an immediate need that needs addressing." Meanwhile, members of Otter's party, including Rep. Maxine Bell, GOP chairwoman of the budget committee that controls money spent on prisons, would rather have Idaho build its own prisons. She said that letting a for-profit company take charge could mean losing control over how the state rehabilitates criminals, 90 percent of whom will eventually be released. "The governor has a good strong philosophy on private and public cooperation," said Bell, R-Jerome. "But in this situation, where you allow somebody to come in and build, and bring in other prisoners from other states, I don't see it. I want to have control over contracts for medical care, education, things we need to do to get them clean and out in society again." Idaho now owns all its prisons and operates all but one; Corrections Corporation of America runs the 1,500-bed Idaho Correctional Center near Boise. But as prisoner numbers grow, the state is sending more and more prisoners elsewhere, with 540 now in Texas and Oklahoma at a cost of $13 million a year. Carter Goble Lee, a consultant hired this year, told Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke his agency needs room for 5,560 more inmates over 10 years, at a price tag of $1 billion dollars. Even with 650 new prison beds in the works and additional proposals for 700 more beds slated to be introduced in the 2008 Legislature, Reinke said that's not enough. "We need a new prison for Idaho and we need to get that operationalized as soon as possible," Reinke said, in an interview earlier this month. Idaho inmates shipped elsewhere since 2005 have bounced from prison to prison in three states. Reinke concedes officials didn't monitor their treatment properly, leading to conflicts with guards and poor conditions in Texas. One inmate, Scot Noble Payne, killed himself at the GEO-run Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas; an Idaho investigator who inspected his cell said conditions there may have contributed to his suicide. In August, his mother, Shirley Noble, lodged a $500,000 claim against Idaho for her son's March 4 death. She also testified earlier this month at hearings in the Texas Legislature against shipping prisoners thousands of miles from home to private facilities. It separates them from their families and leaves them vulnerable to companies that cut corners to boost profit, she said. "It seemed there was no end to the degradation he and other prisoners were to endure with substandard facilities," Noble said at Oct. 12 hearings in Austin, Texas. As Idaho's prisons bulge, however, private companies are eager to cash in here, too. In 2006, GEO and Corrections Corporation of America handed out $40,000 in campaign contributions to more than 30 GOP lawmakers and one Democrat, in hopes of winning favor on possible new prison-building contracts. Some lawmakers are heeding the call: Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden, wants to make building an Idaho prison more attractive to the firms. He's drafting legislation that would let private prison companies bring inmates from other states to facilities they might build in Idaho, to guarantee their beds will be filled. Steve Owen, a spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, said such laws provide assurances for companies like his that they can fill beds in their prisons -- even if there isn't demand from the state where the prison is located. "It helps us keep that operation financially viable during those time frames when the state is not utilizing the facility," Owen said. GEO didn't return calls seeking comment. Not everybody is convinced bringing other states' inmates to private prisons here would be a good idea. While Corrections Corporation of America may be doing a good job running the prison near Boise, the problems that inmates like Payne encountered at GEO's prison in Texas are a sign that duplicating such out-of-state shipments in Idaho could pose new headaches, said Sen. Mike Burkett, D-Boise. "The question is, what kind of individuals are we getting from other states, and where they are going to land once they finish their term?" said Burkett, a member of the Senate committee that helps set prison policy. "I'm willing to listen to arguments why a private prison would be better. But it's not just the money. Having an Idaho-run prison has advantages in our ability to control it and maintain the quality."

September 12, 2007 Boise Weekly
There's little to no distinction in the world of private prisons, a place where capitalism meets public service. It's an industry based on keeping people locked up, and doing it as efficiently as possible. It's also an industry that generates lots of controversy. While some argue that privately owned and operated prisons allow government agencies to deal with increasingly overcrowded prison systems and dwindling budgets, others say that introducing the element of profit into the management of incarcerated people leads to corruption, mismanagement and mistreatment of prisoners. "You shouldn't introduce a profit margin and a profit motive into a prison," said Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. "The industry as a whole shouldn't exist." But it's an industry that may be expanding into Idaho if some state leaders get their way. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has asked lawmakers to begin drafting legislation that would allow privately owned and operated prisons to go to work in Idaho. There are currently no private facilities in the state, although the Idaho Correctional Center in Kuna is managed by the Correction Corporation of America of Tennessee. CCA is the largest private prison business in the country, ranking just behind the federal prison system. The company owns 41 prisons nationwide, and manages another 24 facilities in 19 states and Washington, D.C., for a combined total of roughly 75,000 beds. To pave the way for their Idaho entry, a work group made up of lawmakers, Idaho Department of Corrections officials and industry representatives are in the early stages of drafting legislation that will be introduced in the next legislative session. "[It would] set the stage for a private firm to come into the state of Idaho and create a facility that the firm would own and operate," said Brent Reinke, director of the Idaho Department of Corrections. "Truly, Gov. Otter is very insistent in this area and has been very, very outspoken and there's no doubt at all the way he wants to proceed," Reinke said. "We have a critical need right now to do something immediately to address the [prison] population crisis that we're seeing," said Jon Hanian, Otter's press secretary. "When you're talking about a private prison vs. a state-run one, building one, you're talking about up to four years on the state-run side vs. 18 to 24 months. The private side is going to be a more immediate impact." Hanian said Otter's priority was to get prisoners now housed in out-of-state facilities back in the state. Until Idaho has more room, Hanian said, "our hands are tied on that." Otter has vowed that any agreement reached with a private company would include stipulations that the state has a first right of refusal on any beds, and could bump any out-of-state inmates if the space is needed. It's not so cut and dried for opponents of the industry, though. "The bottom line for the private prison industry is to make a profit," said Ken Kopczynski, executive director of the Private Corrections Institute, a Florida-based group that opposes the private prison industry. "They give you a snow job about rules and training. They have to provide a profit, and they actually turn quite a profit for quite a few years. "They do a very good P.R. job," he said. A key part of that public relations campaign is to make inroads with politicians in states targeted by the industry as likely locations for expansion. Opponents of private prisons are full of stories of corrupt officials and lobbyists serving as advisers for the state, including a college professor in Florida who served as a state adviser on the private prison industry while that industry funded his professional research. There's also Manny Aragon, former president of the New Mexico Senate, who was indicted by a jury in April for an alleged kickback scheme. "There's going to be more of it when it's [in Idaho]," said Kopczynski. "They're not stupid. Most of these folks [private corrections company leaders] come out of government anyways." The industry has already made its first foray into the wallets of Idaho politicians. According to campaign finance reports filed with the state, both CCA and GEO Group, the two largest private prison operators, donated $5,000 to Otter's 2006 campaign for governor. But Hanian said there is no impropriety in Otter's interest in private prisons. "There is no quid pro quo when it comes to any campaign contribution the governor has received and the establishment of state policy. None," Hanian said. "He bases every decision solely on its merits." Reinke said he doesn't feel there's any undue influence within the state government. "It's very important that we have the system in place so that it is competitive, and everything is done in the light of day. That's a challenge we're faced with," he said. The Texas Connection -- Idaho has already had experience with the industry. Some 750 of Idaho's roughly 7,300 inmates are housed in private prisons in Texas and Oklahoma, and plans call for another 240 to be moved by the end of the year, according to Reinke. Another 500 are being housed in county facilities. "Our needs are very significant," Reinke said. Idaho's prison population has been growing by roughly 6.5 percent annually, and Reinke estimates it will take an additional 2,000 to 3,000 beds to meet the state's short-term needs. "What I'm concerned with right now is bed capacity," Reinke said. "This is not a new need." If the prison population continues to increase at the same rate, Reinke said the state will need several new facilities within the next 10 years. "We need to do what we can to meet the need of Idahoans within the state of Idaho," he said. "The longer we wait on this, the longer the inmates are going to be out of state." Currently, Idaho has eight prisons, four community work centers and 22 probation and parole district satellite offices. The state corrections agency employs roughly 1,500 people. While moving inmates to out-of-state facilities with extra room seems to offer some relief for Idaho prison managers, the practice hasn't been without its problems. Idaho's troubles with private prisons began when they shipped 302 prisoners to a private prison in Minnesota in October 2005. After space ran out at the Minnesota prison in August 2006, the Idaho inmates were sent to two facilities in Texas, one of which was the Dickens County Correctional Facility in Spur, Texas, a private prison owned by GEO Group. In March, according to news reports, Idaho inmate Scot Noble Payne committed suicide. In letters to family, he placed the blame for his depression on the unsanitary conditions at the prison and the poor treatment by staff. While Idaho officials plan to move the 56 inmates remaining at the Dickens County facility by the end of the year, they will be transferred to another Texas facility owned by the same company. It's just the latest of the state's problems stemming from housing prisoners out of state—a list that includes riots and escapes at a private prison in Louisiana in 1997. Those who oppose private prisons say these sort of problems are indicative of the industry as a whole. "Why does your governor think having a private prison in Idaho is going to be any different than the mess they had in Texas?" Kopczynski said. Among his and Donner's chief concerns is the hiring of untrained correctional officers, who they say are paid wages below that of their public sector counterparts. This, coupled with poor training, leads to prisoner abuses, poor conditions, high employee turnover and an unwillingness to respond in the face of a dangerous situation, they believe. "The problems we have had in Colorado are around some of the tactics of private prisons use to make money: smaller staff, fewer programs, lower pay," said Donner. "If you want a riot, that's a great strategy." "There's no institutional knowledge," said Kopczynski. "You don't know your elbow from a hole in the ground when it comes to correctional work." Industry representatives vehemently disagree. "That's completely baseless," said Steven Owen, director of marketing for CCA. "It's absolutely, categorically false." Owen argues that all employees of CCA meet the training standards of the American Correctional Association, the largest correctional trade association in the world, and because of contractual agreements with the states they serve, must have as much training as correctional officers in public facilities. When it comes to wages, Owen said it's a philosophical difference. "Generally, in a state correctional system, it's a one-size-fits-all starting salary for a correctional officer," he said. "CCA prices salary and wages by the facility. We compete with the labor pool in the area around the facility. "Critics like to focus in on wages," Owen said. "We are competitive in the locations where we operate." He added that wages for mid-management positions are typically much higher than in the public sector. A 2003 report published by Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First and Prison Privatization Report International—both corporate watchdog groups—stated that CCA has managed to stem the tide of negative publicity. But the report didn't have a favorable overview of the company. "CCA has built a reputation marred by numerous instances of scandal, mismanagement, alleged mistreatment of prisoners and its own employees, attempted manipulation of public policy and a proliferation of questionable research. Its record is a clear example of how the pursuit of profit stands in the way of carrying out a core public function such as corrections. CCA has succeeded in staying in business for two decades, but it has not succeeded in demonstrating that prison privatization makes sense," the report reads. From CCA's perspective though, the advantages are clear and numerous. "We try to operate as well as, or better than, our public counterparts," Owen said. "We don't have some of the bureaucracy that can sometimes get in the way of government processes." It's the company's size that Owen said gives it an advantage, not only with purchasing power for goods, but with the ability to get a new facility up and running quickly. "It takes three to five years for the state to have to go through the legislative process," Owen said. "We can bring a new facility on line in 12 to 18 months." He said a privately owned prison also saves taxpayers the cost of the capital investment. Typically, the states pay CCA on a per-prisoner, per-day basis depending on the level of programs required by the state contract, as well as the level of security needed. "It's the capacity that we bring on line that relieves overcrowded systems," he said. "It helps existing systems to become safer and more efficient." Since the company typically hires much of its workforce from the local community, Owen said there's a strong economic impact. "We want to do business in places where we're wanted," he said. Apparently, Idaho ranks among those places. Owen said CCA has had a good partnership with the state since the Idaho Correctional Center opened in 2000. He said if the law should change, the company would be interested in building a facility in the state. Problems Behind the Bars -- One of the biggest issues for critics of the private prison system is the practice of moving prisoners out of state. For many, separating inmates from their families and familiar environments only leads to more problems and creates an unending cycle of prisoners returning to jail. "They're doomed to re-offend," said Frank Smith, national field coordinator for the Private Corrections Institute. "They're estranged from their families and support systems. It's a futile effort. It's life on the installment plan. It drains tax money, and they're never rehabilitated." If prisoners from other states are involved in conflicts, there are jurisdictional issues, Donner said. "If prisoners from other states have problems, it's in your jurisdiction," she said. "Now they have to be under your cost." Owen said CCA does extensive work assimilating prisoners brought from out of state. Including sending staff to their home state to learn about the habits and cultural practices of the inmates. "It's worked well for us," he said. But that doesn't always seem to be enough. In 2004, one of the largest prison riots in recent Colorado history took place at the Crowley County Correctional Facility, a prison owned by CCA. Apparently, the incident was touched off by tensions between a group of inmates from Washington state and prison staff. A general feeling of unrest spread through the prison, and more than 1,000 inmates rioted. In the end, 13 prisoners were injured. Following the incident, a state investigation placed the blame on staff shortages and inexperience. Additionally, the final report stated that the prison's emergency plan was not effective and that basic security measures weren't followed. CCA also took flak because the company's incident commander refused an order from state officials to use gas to quell the riot, until he had approval from the parent company. CCA was recently fined by the state of Colorado for continued understaffing. Fines totaled $23,000 for leaving 157 shifts unfilled at the Crowley facility, $103,743 for 701 unfilled shifts at the Kit Carson Correctional Center and $2,651 for 18 shifts at the Bent County Correctional Facility.

May 19, 2006 Capital Press
The two Democrats and four Republicans facing off in the May 23 gubernatorial primary list a wide variety of endorsers, financial contributions and expenses. C.L. “Butch” Otter, Republican, said his supporters include a wide base. His campaign chairmen are former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. As of May 17, the Secretary of State’s website indicated he had received campaign contributions of just over $1,120,282, and had expenses of about $365,573. Of those contributions, 46 individuals or companies contributed $5,000. Those contributors included Albertsons, Boise; American Ecology, Boise; Bass Ford and Barnsley, Seattle, Wash.; three members of the Bassford family in Washington state; Corrections Corporation of America, Nashville, Tenn.; Employers compensation Insurance Co., Glendale, Calif.; and the Idaho Committee for Hospitality and Sports, Boise.

January 21, 2006 AP
One way to judge which lobbyists wield the most influence is to look at their client lists. Some lobbyists have been hired by more than a dozen companies to bend lawmakers' ears and influence their votes on issues that will go before the Legislature this year. C.A. "Skip" Smyser, a Republican who has served in the state House and Senate, represents the Correction Corporation of America, a private-prison company. State Corrections Director Thomas Beauclair has asked the Legislature for more than $180 million to expand the state prison system to accommodate a growing inmate population.

February 12, 2002
Idaho lawmakers complained loudly about the role of out-of-state money in Idaho's term limits campaign, but most collected out-of-state money for their own campaigns last year. A review of newly filed campaign finance reports shows that of the $103,998 received by lawmakers in 2001, 30 percent of the money came from out of state. Forty of the 105 state lawmakers got more than half of their money from out of state. For 14 lawmakers, it was 100 percent. The top three out-of-state givers: Philip Morris Corp. of New York, $10,600; AT&T of Colorado, $9,000; and the Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, $7,750. CCA has the state contract to run a private prison south of Boise. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Boise, who also complained Friday about an out-of-state foundation grant received by a group that unsuccessfully proposed a campaign finance reform bill, said there's a difference between out-of-state contributions to lawmakers' campaigns and those to issue campaigns. "I know what CCA wants -- they want people that are friendly toward a private (prison) enterprise," he said. "I know what AT&T wants -- they want legislators that are friendly to an open market in telecommunications."  But when it comes to issues such as term limits and campaign finance reform, he said, "I am highly suspicious of the motive." Risch received 27 percent of his 2001 campaign contributions from out of state. Senate President Pro-tem Robert Geddes, R-Soda Springs, whose $500 in 2001 contributions came from CCA and Philip Morris, agreed with Risch.

Newton County Correctional Center
Newton, Texas
GEO Group (formerly Correctional Services Corporation)
July 25, 2009 AP
A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit against the state brought by an inmate who said his civil rights were violated when he was transferred to a Texas prison. Leslie Peter Bowcut was sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty in 2002 to 14 counts of lewd and lascivious conduct. Prosecutors said he took pornographic pictures of girls as young as 2 and traded them on the Internet. Four years later, the Idaho Department of Correction shipped hundreds of inmates out of state under a federal court order directing the state to ease overcrowding. Bowcut was among the inmates sent to the Newton County Correctional Center in Newton, Texas, which was run by private corrections company The GEO Group. Problems with guard abuse and prisoner unrest emerged immediately, and by August 2006 Idaho asked The GEO Group to transfer the inmates to other Texas prisons. Bowcut sued Idaho Department of Correction officials that year, including then-State Corrections director Thomas Beauclair, Deputy Chief of Evaluation Compliance Sharon Lamm and Contract Officer Ofelia Alvarado. In his lawsuit, Bowcut contended that his civil rights were violated because conditions at the Newton County Correctional Center were substandard compared to Idaho prisons, with limited recreation time, cramped 8-person cells, inadequate ventilation and prevalent black mold. But Idaho Department of Correction officials said the case should be thrown out because they were entitled to qualified immunity and because there was no evidence showing that they knew of poor conditions at NCCC before transferring the inmates there. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill agreed with the state, throwing out the lawsuit and barring Bowcut from filing it again. Because Bowcut was treated the same as other inmates at the Texas prison, there was no civil rights violation, Winmill said. "Uniformity within an institution is a legitimate correctional goal, and providing the same treatment and applying the same rules and programs to all prisoners within a given institution is rationally related to achieving that goal," Winmill wrote in his ruling. "Therefore, Plaintiff's equal protection rights were not violated by his receiving the same treatment as other NCCC inmates, even if that treatment was different from that received by inmates remaining in Idaho."

November 6, 2008 AP
The Idaho Department of Correction has terminated its contract with private prison company The GEO Group and will move the roughly 305 Idaho inmates currently housed at a GEO-run facility in Texas to a private prison in Oklahoma. Correction Director Brent Reinke notified GEO officials Thursday in a letter. Reinke said the company's chronic understaffing at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, put Idaho offenders' safety at risk. An Idaho Department of Correction audit found that guards routinely falsified reports to show they were checking on offenders regularly — even though they were sometimes away from their posts for hours at a time. "I hope you understand how seriously we're taking not only the report but the safety of our inmates," Reinke told The Associated Press on Thursday. "They have an ongoing staffing issue that doesn't appear to be able to be solved." The contract will end Jan. 5. Reinke said the department wanted to pull the inmates out immediately, but state attorneys found there wasn't enough cause to allow the state to break free of the contract without a 60-day warning period. In the meantime, Reinke said, Idaho correction officials have been sent to the Texas prison to help with staffing for the next two months. GEO will be responsible for transferring the inmates to the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayer, Okla., which is run by Corrections Corp. of America. GEO will cover the cost of the move, Reinke said, but Idaho will have to pay $58 per day per inmate in Oklahoma, compared to $51 per day at Bill Clayton. Amber Martin, vice president for The GEO Group, of Florida, said she couldn't comment on the audit or on Idaho's decision to end the contract. She referred calls to the company spokesman, Pablo Paez, who could not immediately be reached by the AP. As of Oct. 1, Idaho had nearly 7,300 total inmates. The Bill Clayton audit describes the latest in a series of problems that Idaho has had with shipping inmates out of state. Overcrowding at home forced the state to move hundreds of inmates to a prison in Minnesota in 2005, but space constraints soon uprooted them again, this time to a GEO-run facility in Newton, Texas. There, guard abuse and prisoner unrest forced another move to two new GEO facilities: 125 Idaho inmates went to the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, while 304 went to Bill Clayton in Littlefield. Conditions at Dickens were left largely unmonitored by Idaho, at least until inmate Scott Noble Payne committed suicide after complaining of the filthy conditions there. Idaho investigators looking into Payne's death detailed the poor conditions and a lack of inmate treatment programs, and the inmates were moved again. That's when the Idaho Department of Correction created the Virtual Prisons Program, designed to improve oversight of Idaho inmates housed in contract beds both in and out of state. The extent of the Bill Clayton facility understaffing was discovered after Idaho launched an investigation into the apparent suicide of inmate Randall McCullough in August. During that investigation, guards at the prison said they were often pulled away from their regular posts to handle other duties — including taking out the garbage, refueling vehicles or checking the perimeter fence — and that it was common practice to fill out the logs as if the required checks of inmates were being completed as scheduled, said Jim Loucks, chief investigator for the Idaho Department of Correction. For instance, Loucks said, correction officers were supposed to check on inmates in the administrative segregation unit every 30 minutes. But sometimes they were away from the unit for hours at a time, he said. The investigation into McCullough's death is not yet complete, department officials said. The audit also found several other problems at Bill Clayton. The auditor found that "the facility entrance is a very relaxed checkpoint," prompting concerns that cell phones, marijuana and other contraband could be smuggled past security. In addition, the prison averages a 30 percent vacancy rate in security staff jobs, according to the audit. Though it was still able to meet the one-staffer-for-every-48-prisoners ratio set out by Texas law, employees were regularly expected to work long hours of overtime and non-security staffers sometimes were used to provide security supervision, according to the audit. "Based on a review of payroll reports, there are significant concerns with security staff working excessive amounts of overtime for long periods of time," the auditors wrote. "This can lead to compromised facility security practices and increased safety issues." When the audit was done, there were 29 security staff vacancies, according to the report. That meant each security staff person who was eligible for overtime worked an average of 21 hours of overtime a week. That extra expense was borne by GEO, not by Idaho taxpayers, said Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray. The state's contract with GEO also required that at least half of the eligible inmates be given jobs with at least 50 hours of work a month. According to the facility's inmate payroll report, only 35 out of 371 offenders were without jobs. But closer inspection showed that the prison often had several inmates assigned to the same job. In one instance, nine inmates were assigned to clean showers in one unit of the prison — which only had nine shower stalls. So although each was responsible for cleaning just one shower stall, the nine inmates were all claiming 7- and 8-hour work days, five days a week. GEO is responsible for covering the cost of those wages, Ray said. "While the contract percentage requirement is met, the facility cannot demonstrate the actual hours claimed by offenders are spent in a meaningful, skill-learning job activity," the auditors wrote. Auditors also found that too few inmates were enrolled in high school diploma equivalency and work force readiness classes.

July 26, 2007 The Olympian
Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke next Thursday will visit a private Texas prison where he intends to shift 56 inmates in September, after problems including abuse by guards, deplorable conditions and a suicide emerged at previous facilities in that state. Reinke, who concedes lax oversight by Idaho contributed to problems, and three other Idaho officials will review the Val Verde Correctional Facility and Jail in Del Rio, Texas, run by Florida-based private prison firm The GEO Group. The prison area where Idaho inmates are due to be housed at Val Verde is part of a new 659-bed addition, Reinke said. Still, he wants to make sure the facility located near the Mexican border meets Idaho standards so the recurring problems at the two previous GEO-run prisons aren't repeated. "On contracts in general, we're going to be stepping that up," Reinke told The Associated Press this week. "We want to take a firsthand look." About 450 Idaho inmates were first moved beyond state borders in 2005 to relieve overcrowding at prisons here, where there are more than 7,000 inmates - but not enough room to house them all. They were incarcerated at the Newton County Correctional Center in Newton, Texas, until August 2006, when they were moved following allegations of abuse by guards to the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas. But Reinke, who took over in January, acknowledges his agency didn't do enough to scrutinize conditions at Dickens before Idaho inmates were shipped there. And from August 2006 to March 2007, Idaho prison officials only visited the Dickens County facility one time. The March 4 suicide by Scot Noble Payne, a convicted sex offender, and a subsequent investigation illuminated conditions that one Idaho prison official described as "beyond repair." One concern: There have been problems at Val Verde, too. Inmate LeTisha Tapia killed herself there in 2004 after alleging she was raped by another inmate and sexually humiliated by a guard. And a black guard accused his captain of keeping a hangman's noose in his office and a photo of himself in a Ku Klux Klan hood in his desk. Val Verde County has been forced to hire a full-time prison monitor to keep a watch on prison operations as part of a settlement with Tapia's family. Some family members of Idaho inmates now at Dickens told the AP they're pleased Reinke is scrutinizing Val Verde personally. Still, they said they're frustrated their relatives are being moved again - especially since many problems at Dickens have been remedied since Payne's suicide in March. "Things are OK now," said the wife of a sex offender who asked not to be identified by name. "They don't want to move." Reinke has pledged to improve oversight of conditions at Texas prisons through what he's calling a "virtual prison" that his agency adopted earlier this week. It's modeled after a similar system in Washington state, he said.

June 6, 2007 AP
Under terms of his contraband sentence, a Texas prison guard who provided illegal materials to Idaho inmates will only go to prison if he violates conditions of his release. Those conditions include staying out of “honky tonks” and “beer joints,” according to court documents. John Ratliffe, a former guard at the Dickens County Correctional Center where hundreds of Idaho inmates are housed, is also implicated in providing assistance to an inmate’s escape. But Ratliffe has denied knowing Payne planned to escape. Footprints matched to Payne, who later committed suicide, were found near Ratliffe’s home. Dickens County prosecutors couldn’t be reached for comment on whether Ratliffe faces additional charges related to the escape. Attempts to reach Ratliffe were unsuccessful. His telephone number in Paducah isn’t listed. The 43-year-old Payne was among inmates shipped to Dickens and another nearby facility in Littlefield, Texas, in August 2006 due to problems they experienced at another Texas facility, the Newton County Correctional Center. Those included incidents in which the inmates were punched and doused with pepper spray by guards. Both prisons are operated by The GEO Group of Florida. GEO officials said they took quick action upon learning in December about Ratliffe’s contraband operation. It included setting up a post office box where at least some prisoners’ families sent items or money to be transferred to inmates, according to documents. “When we have incidents of this kind, we conduct a full investigation, and if disciplinary action is required, we take that action properly, and that’s what we did in this case,” said Pablo Paez, a GEO spokesman. Ratliffe was placed on unpaid leave, then fired, Paez said. Records show a chaotic scene in Paducah before Payne was finally cornered by search dogs in a nearby riverbed. Ratliffe allegedly threatened to commit suicide shortly after searchers found Payne’s footprints near his backyard fence, prompting Texas Rangers to transfer Ratliffe to the local courthouse “where a mental health warrant was signed by the judge,” according to the GEO report. Idaho officials said they learned of Ratliffe’s activities after Payne’s capture. “We found out about it on Dec. 11 in a conversation between Warden Ron Alford and our contract compliance person Sharon Lamm,” said Jeff Ray, a spokesman for Idaho prisons. Alford was transferred in March to another GEO prison, after complaints from Idaho about conditions at Dickens.

August 3, 2006 The Enterprise
Two dangerous Newton County Correction Center inmates escaped earlier this year because a watchtower guard was too intimidated to shoot, according to a tape recording obtained by The Enterprise. The guard in the tape admitted he didn't fire his weapon June 12 despite seeing prisoners Rudolfo Garcia-Lopez and Orlando Gonzalez-Leon scale the outer fence covered in barbed razor wire. The recording was of the guard, who was then terminated, and Sheriff Joe Walker, Chief Deputy Ricky Hall and an unnamed Texas Ranger. On watch in the northwest tower near Texas 87, the guard had his firearm raised but didn't pull the trigger. Walker, who conducted the taped interview, asked the guard why he didn't shoot despite being less than 80 yards from the prisoners. "My timing was slow, and I felt highly-ass intimidated," the guard said in the conversation taped on a handheld digital recorder. Walker wouldn't identify the guard because he didn't "want his name pulled through the mud." However, Walker did say the guard could have stopped the prison break before it turned into a three-night search. Garcia-Lopez and Gonzalez-Leon, both from Idaho, escaped at 6:30 p.m. While law enforcement captured Gonzalez-Leon 90 minutes later, Garcia-Lopez was on the loose for 56 hours and crossed the county line before Jasper police detained him while he pedaled a stolen bicycle through the city. "There's 16,000 people in this county that elected him sheriff to protect them," Hall said to the guard on the tape. "... From the way I look at it, you turned them loose on my family." Prison guards and jailers can respond with deadly force to prevent an inmate's attempted escape, Walker said. According to a Texas Commission on Jail Standards official, the county sheriff and the jail administrators set a jail's policy and procedure. Newton County owns the facility, but the Geo Group, a private Florida-based company, manages it. In the tape, Walker said he held the former guard responsible for the prison break. He could have shot one time as a warning, at least, Walker said, and that would have been enough to knock Garcia-Lopez and Gonzalez-Leon off the fence. "That probably would have changed their mind about what they were doing," Walker said in the taped conversation. "... My job is to put them in jail. This Texas Ranger, his job is to put them in jail. It's them jailers out there at that penitentiary who keep their butts inside those fences. I'm telling you, I hold you responsible because you should have shot them." According to sheriff's department calculations, the prison break and resulting manhunt cost at least $3,000 in deputy overtime hours, fuel, food and water. Texas Department of Public Safety and state Parks and Wildlife Department personnel also put in overtime hours. During a recent interview in his office, Walker said another guard in the southwest prison tower saw the escaped prisoners but couldn't get a shot at them without endangering another guard who was circling the perimeter in a van. "She was right" for not shooting, the sheriff said of the other guard. Walker said he had a meeting with prison supervisors, instructing them to find "weak links" who are unwilling to perform the job's entire duties, including shooting a gun to prevent a prison break. "I hold their commissions, and I will dang sure sign off on them to F-5 them. F-5 means to terminate their commission," Walker said. "I'll do it." The prison break was part of a string of episodes involving inmates since the Idaho Department of Correction transferred 419 prisoners here in March to alleviate prison overcrowding in their state. On April 7, an excessive use-of-force incident ended with a supervisor's firing, an officer's demotion and another officer's weeklong suspension without pay. Prisoners later engineered a sit-down strike, insisting on butter for rolls and better television options. And on June 4, a deputy warden resigned after an excessive use-of-force incident May 30 in which he punched an Idaho inmate, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. Idaho prisoners are being transferred out to another Texas-located, Geo Group-managed facility. In their place, Newton County and the Geo Group have agreed to house 400 Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates.

August 2, 2006 Idaho Statesman
A deputy warden at a private prison in Texas resigned June 4 after punching an Idaho inmate in the jaw May 30. A state report on the incident at the prison, owned by The Geo Group Inc., corroborated claims made by an inmate and reported June 21 by the Idaho Statesman that he had been punched in the jaw and then pepper-sprayed after refusing an order from the deputy warden. "The Geo Group was very responsive after the incident," said Idaho Department of Correction spokeswoman Melinda Keckler. "We thought and they agreed that it was not an appropriate use of force and not how inmates should be treated." As first reported Tuesday on IdahoStatesman.com, the department released the report to the Statesman after a public records request. The report said the incident at the Newton County Correctional Center resulted from a lack of staff training and knowledge of company and department policy. "Basic security practices were not followed, and policy was violated in a number of areas," the report said. "The need for the reactive use of force is questionable, but it can be established that there was no need for the use of the pepper spray." The report said the deputy warden should not have directly involved himself in the disturbance but should have supervised his officers in defusing the situation. The deputy warden's and inmate's names were redacted from the report provided, but in a letter to the Idaho Statesman, inmate Randall Swink, 21, of Twin Falls, said he was punched and pepper-sprayed. He did not say when.

July 25, 2006 Idaho Statesman
More than 400 Idaho inmates currently housed at a prison in Newton, Texas, will be moved to two other prisons in the state, Idaho Department of Correction officials announced Tuesday. The prisoners are being housed in Texas because Idaho's prisons are overcrowded, and the move was prompted in part by a request from GEO Group, the company that oversees all three of the Texas prisons. GEO Group wanted the space at the Newton County Correctional Center for Texas inmates, correction department officials said. The Newton facility has also been the site of complaints from Idaho inmates and allegations of prisoner maltreatment. "This is a temporary move," Idaho Department of Correction Director Vaughn Killeen said. "We are currently in the process of developing a long-term solution which includes bringing all Idaho inmates back to Idaho." The inmates will move to the Bill Clayton Detention Center and to the Dickens County Correction Center, both near Lubbock. The cost of keeping the inmates at those centers will remain the same, at about $51 a day, officials said. Bringing all of the out-of-state inmates back to Idaho is a top priority, but no definitive timeline has been set, said department spokeswoman Melinda O'Malley Keckler. The move will take place in the next two weeks, but the exact date is being withheld because of security reasons, the department said.

July 14, 2006 The Enterprise
The Idaho Department of Correction didn't approve of certain staff behavior at the Newton County Correctional Center, but in no way did it lead to 419 inmates' planned transfer, an official said Thursday. With allegations of prisoner mistreatment swirling, coupled with inmate protests and a two-man prison break since the state placed the inmates in Newton, the Idaho Department of Correction agreed to transport 419 of their inmates out of the Southeast Texas prison and into another GEO Group-managed facility, said Pam Sonnen, Idaho Department of Correction administrator of operations. The GEO Group, a private prison management company overseeing operations in Newton, approached Idaho officials about the transfer after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice contacted Newton County to ask about housing 400 more Texas inmates. The state agency's prisons were at 97.4 percent occupancy as of July 11, according to a department spokeswoman, and by the end of 2007, an estimated 1,700 additional beds will be needed. When the transfer of the Idaho inmates initially was announced Tuesday, Idaho Department of Correction Director Tom Beauclair told The Associated Press he'd become dissatisfied with the prison's ability to hire qualified staff. Sonnen said the correctional center has holdover personnel from the prison's previous management group, and those employees don't always follow the GEO Group's practices. In 2005, the GEO Group bought out Correctional Services Corp., which previously managed the Newton prison. "What I got out of our investigations was they needed to do more training with their staff to understand policies and procedures," Sonnen said. Problems arose almost immediately after Idaho agreed March 14 to send its inmates to Newton, Sonnen said. On April 7, she said, an excessive-use-of-force incident led to a supervisor's firing, another employee's demotion and suspension of an officer for a week without pay. On May 30, an inmate was doused with pepper spray, and two other Idaho inmates escaped in June. Idaho prisoners also engineered a sit-down strike demanding butter for their rolls and better television choices, privileges they'd grown accustomed to, Sonnen said.

July 12, 2006 Statesman
Idaho inmates housed at a private Texas prison that has been criticized for prisoner abuse will be moved elsewhere because the prison canceled its contract with Idaho. And more Idaho prisoners will be headed out of state soon. It's unclear where the 419 Idaho prisoners currently housed at the Newton County Correctional Center will be sent, but the private prison in Newton, Texas, notified the Idaho Department of Correction that it needs to move the prisoners to make room for Texas inmates, department spokeswoman Melinda O'Malley Keckler said Tuesday. Keckler said the decision had nothing to do with recent reports that Newton prison employees abused Idaho prisoners, but said her department agreed to the move. "The department is pleased with this change," she said. Newton Warden Priscella Miles would not comment for this article, and no one answered Tuesday evening at the Florida headquarters for the prison's parent company, the Geo Group. One correctional officer was fired, one demoted and one disciplined this spring after six Idaho inmates were forcefully cuffed and maced at Newton in April.

June 25, 2006 Spokesman Review
Continuing problems with a private Texas prison that's housing hundreds of Idaho's overflow inmates have even the head of the Idaho ACLU calling for Idaho to build more prisons. "Bottom line, we probably have to immediately start thinking about building more prisons in Idaho – which is a terrible thing for an ACLU activist to say," said Jack Van Valkenburgh, head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho. "I want my money going to schools, I don't want it going for prisons. But you've got to provide minimally adequate care." Van Valkenburgh noted that he favors sentencing reform and more drug treatment as "the way to solve the prison problem," but said Idaho is risking more crime in the future by sending its inmates to facilities like the Newton County Correctional Center in Texas. "My sense is the mentality of … this facility … doesn't have rehabilitation and reintegration into society as a goal. Idaho now has more than 400 inmates at the Newton County center, a former county jail that's now a private prison run by GEO Group, formerly Wackenhut Corp. In less than three months, there have been two escapes; three prison employees disciplined after an incident in which they roughed up and sprayed pepper spray on six Idaho inmates; and a demonstration in which 85 Idaho inmates refused to return to their cells for hours in protest over conditions at the facility. A public records request to the Idaho Department of Corrections yielded a stack of complaints about the Texas lockup from inmates and their families. "We are locked in these windowless rooms for 20+ a day," one inmate wrote. "Many inmates are spending 22 hours a day on their bunks." Others complained of inattentive or abusive guards, cold food, lack of recreation and programs, and fivefold increases in the cost to families for phone calls to inmates. "This jail is so dirty and unsafe," one inmate wrote. Another wrote about the guards: "This (sic) people hate Mexicans. They made that clear to me right away. They don't like whites either."

June 21, 2006 Idaho Statesman
An Idaho inmate said he was punched in the jaw by the deputy warden of a private prison in Texas before being pepper-sprayed. Idaho Department of Correction officials said Tuesday a staff member is compiling a report about the May 30 incident and would release more information at the end of the week. The department reported the incident June 12 and sent a staff member to Texas after hearing from The Geo Group Inc., owner of the Newton County Correctional Center, that an Idaho inmate had been pepper-sprayed for refusing to leave his cell. In a letter to the Idaho Statesman received Monday, Randall Swink, 21, of Twin Falls, said he was punched and pepper-sprayed. He did not say when. The department would not say whether Swink was the inmate involved in the May 30 incident. Swink is serving two sentences for lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor under age 16. He said he was mouthing off to correctional officers about a dirty cup when a deputy warden asked him to leave his cell, and he refused. Swink said he was cuffed and made a sarcastic comment to the warden before the warden punched him in the jaw. Swink said he was pepper-sprayed and returned to his cell for struggling as officers tried to strip search him. The Geo Group did not return a call about the incident.

June 14, 2006 Idaho Statesman
A private prison in Texas is safe, Idaho's Department of Correction said Tuesday after a string of incidents involving Idaho prisoners. But the American Civil Liberties Union said security and living conditions at the Newton County Correctional Center are unacceptable. The ACLU wants the department to move prisoners elsewhere. One of two escaped Idaho inmates was still at large Tuesday night after a Monday night prison break. Meanwhile, 84 Idaho inmates remained in lockdown Tuesday after a Saturday protest of facility conditions, department spokeswoman Melinda Keckler said. The prison, operated by The Geo Group Inc., fired one security staff member and disciplined two others after an April incident when six Idaho prisoners were forcefully cuffed and maced. The department said staff inexperience and lack of training contributed to the excessive use of force. The prison houses 419 Idaho offenders who began arriving in March because of overcrowding in Idaho prisons. Idaho ACLU Executive Director Jack Van Valkenburgh said he is concerned with the prison's lack of security and met with Correction Department Director Tom Beauclair. Officers are poorly trained and the prison is understaffed, Van Valkenburgh said, referring to letters he has received from roughly two dozen inmates. The letters said corrections officers regularly complain of working more than 12 hours at a time, and inmates have reported up to nine hours passing without an officer in their tiers. "I have heard that there are times when inmates are having to shout and bang on the doors to get some attention," Van Valkenburgh said. "If these problems continue, I would hope the director would insist that money be spent on housing elsewhere." Other complaints received have ranged from beatings to severe overcrowding, Van Valkenburgh said. Some prisoners have been housed in 24-man, 33-by-37-foot cell tanks, he said.

June 13, 2006 Idaho Press-Tribune
A man convicted of aggravated assault and attempted kidnapping out of Canyon County escaped from a prison in Southeast Texas on Monday evening. Rudolfo Garcia-Lopez, 38, was serving a sentence of five to 20 years on the two felony charges. Prison officials said Garcia-Lopez and another inmate, 27-year-old Orlando Gonzalez-Leon, were seen going over a recreation yard fence while a disturbance took place in another area of the prison. The escape occurred about 6:30 p.m. Gonzalez-Leon was returned to custody about 90 minutes after a search of the area near the Newton County Correctional Center in Newton, Texas. Law enforcement officers in Newton County were using tracking dogs and helicopters to assist in locating Garcia-Lopez. Gonzalez-Leon is serving a 25- to 50-year sentence on a second-degree murder conviction out of Twin Falls County. The Texas facility is managed by the GEO Group Inc. At this time, 419 Idaho inmates are housed at the Newton County Correctional Center. Teresa Jones, an Idaho Correction Department spokeswoman, said the prison break occurred after guards were called to a separate wing of the prison, giving the Idaho inmates an opportunity to climb the fence. She was uncertain what caused the distraction. “There were 25 Idaho inmates outside in the recreation yard,” she said. The pair’s escape is just the latest in a string of incidents involving Idaho inmates at the prison run by Geo Group Inc., based in Boca Raton, Fla. Idaho officials have traveled repeatedly to the former county jail in Newton to scrutinize the operation. On April 7, six Idaho inmates complained of abuse, and one supervisor was fired while another guard was demoted after an investigation. On May 30, another inmate was doused with pepper spray. And last weekend, 85 Idaho inmates staged a strike, demanding butter for rolls, more TV channels and cheaper prices at the prison commissary. Before Monday’s prison break, Pam Sonnen, administrator of operations for the Department of Correction, had said that Idaho officials were again flying to Texas to review training procedures for guards. Geo is also sending a staff member to the facility, according to a news release. “We just want to be 100 percent sure about the training provided to staff in Texas,” Sonnen said. “Use of force should always be a last resort to gain inmate compliance.” Idaho corrections officials who have been to the Texas facility said it doesn’t have the amenities of prisons in Idaho. It meets Idaho requirements, but “it’s a very different cultural atmosphere than Idaho,” said Jones, adding that disgruntled inmates unhappy with the move to Texas are one cause of the incidents.

June 9, 2006 Idaho Statesman
One correctional officer was fired, one demoted and one disciplined after six Idaho inmates were forcefully cuffed and maced at a private Texas prison in April, the Idaho Correction Department said Thursday. A report by the prison's parent company to Idaho officials said six Idaho prisoners were acting up in their cells, throwing trays, and yelling and banging against their cells when correctional officers arrived to remove them, said Pam Sonnen, the department's operations administrator. The officers had a hard time cuffing the inmates, and the situation escalated, she said. "They were taken to the ground and handcuffed, inmates were struggling, staff were struggling," Sonnen said. "It seemed from the reports that nobody was in charge, that there was no one there to say, 'Let's stop and take a breath.'" The Statesman first reported the incident last Friday. Sonnen said the improper use of force was due to inexperience and poor training, and said staffers have since received training. The prison, the Newton County Correctional Center, is owned by The Geo Group Inc., formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corp. No medical reports showed that prisoners had been beaten or further abused, Sonnen said. But inmate Eddie Daniel said prisoners had been beaten. In a letter his sister, Fruitland resident Josie Daniel, received April 14, he said he and six other prisoners had been put in an isolation area without explanation for five days from April 3 to April 7. On the fifth day they were handcuffed, beaten and maced by 15 people, he wrote. "So these people came in ... and take turns beating us up," Daniel wrote. "And when I say beating us I mean beating us, kicking us in the face ... They went cell to cell during this." According to the letter, the beatings stopped when the warden intervened. Sonnen said Daniel had not been directly involved in the incident that got the correctional officer fired, though his sister's complaints drew the state's attention to the situation. An initial report sent by The Geo Group mentioned nothing about the use of force, nor did it say employees had been disciplined, Sonnen said. "We received a report that talked about our inmates having a disturbance," Sonnen said. "There was nothing in there to make us think anything was wrong."

June 8, 2006 Spokesman-Review
A private prison in Texas has fired a supervisor, demoted an officer from lieutenant to sergeant, suspended a prison guard and started new staff training after an April incident in which six Idaho inmates there were roughed up and sprayed with pepper spray. The state Department of Correction released that information this week only after The Spokesman-Review filed a request under the Idaho Public Records Law seeking documents about the incident. But state correction officials said they weren't trying to hide anything. "Nobody's trying to sweep anything under the carpet," said Jim Tibbs, chairman of the Idaho Board of Correction. Pam Sonnen, administrator of operations for Idaho's prison system, said, "We have no desire to hide any of this information." The incident points out one of the key disadvantages of housing state prison inmates out of state – a loss of control over the inmates by the state, corrections officials said. But with Idaho's prisons overflowing and new prisoners arriving every day, officials expect to send another 1,400 Idaho inmates out of state in the next four years. The six Idaho inmates in Texas – among 420 Idaho prisoners now at the Newton County Correctional Center – were angry over conditions at the facility, Sonnen said. On April 7, they began raising a ruckus, throwing their food trays out through slots in their cells, swearing at guards and "being disruptive." Staffers first sprayed the inmates with pepper spray and gave orders that were ignored, Sonnen said. "I think it kind of got out of hand a little bit," she said. "I don't think the staff there were ready for a group disruption." The guards then decided correctly to move the disruptive inmates elsewhere to prevent the problem from spreading, Sonnen said. "You remove them as quickly as possible from that unit … or the whole place goes up pretty quick." But the guards bungled their "use of force" in trying to subdue and move inmates, she said. "They were taking them to the ground, there was struggling going on … I don't believe that staff was properly trained," Sonnen said. The April 7 incident raised no eyebrows in the standard incident reports that arrived in Idaho from the GEO Group Inc., formerly Wackenhut Corp., which operates the Texas prison. But Sonnen said once she heard complaints from inmates' relatives, who received letters about the incident, she began looking into it. The GEO group sent Idaho Correction Director Tom Beauclair a report Friday detailing the results of its own investigation of the incident. "This review revealed use of force policy violations that stemmed from the supervisor on duty's failure to adequately supervise/direct the use of force," said the report, which was signed by Don Houston, senior vice president for GEO's central region.

June 2, 2006 Idaho Statesman
Correctional officers at a private Texas prison have been disciplined for abusing Idaho prisoners this spring, the state Correction Department said Thursday. At least half a dozen department employees, including department Director Tom Beauclair, flew to Texas after the department received complaints from inmates and family members, department spokeswoman Melinda Keckler said in response to an inquiry from the Idaho Statesman about allegations of abuse. The state team inspected the Newton County Correctional Center in Newton, operated by Geo Group Inc. The company disciplined security staff members in response to the team's findings, Keckler said. "We have received concerns from several parties, all in relation to one or two specific incidents in the Texas facility," Keckler said. "(Department) employees interviewed offenders and staff and observed the physical operations of the facility, and as a result of that, some corrective action was taken on some employees in Texas." Keckler said she could not describe the nature of the abuse or specify how prison employees were disciplined. The media contact for the Geo Group was on vacation and could not be reached, and the prison's warden would not comment. Keckler said the department is satisfied that the Newton prison is complying with its agreement with Idaho. The state has turned to out-of-state prisons to handle inmate overflow from Idaho's jam-packed prisons. In mid-March, 150 prisoners were moved to the Texas prison. Since then, 270 more Idaho prisoners have been transferred from the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn. after that private prison needed to make space for more Minnesota prisoners. All out-of-state Idaho prisoners are now housed at the 872-bed Newton prison, as are prisoners from Arizona and Texas and federal immigrations and customs detainees. Josie Daniel, a 32-year-old homemaker from Fruitland, said her brother, Eddie Daniel, an Idaho inmate transferred to Texas in April, was interviewed by Correction Department employees in response to abuses he and six other prisoners suffered in early April. In a letter Josie Daniel received from her brother April 14, he said he and six other prisoners had been put in an isolation area without explanation for five days from April 3 to April 7. On the fifth day they were handcuffed, beaten and maced by 15 people, the letter claimed. "So these people came in ... and take turns beating us up," Daniel wrote. "And when I say beating us I mean beating us, kicking us in the face ... They went cell to cell during this." According to the letter, the beatings of the prisoners stopped when the warden intervened. Eddie Daniel also said food, showers and recreation time were withheld, and beatings continued after the first incident. "Even though we're in Texas, Idaho is still responsible for us," he wrote. "You need to call IDOC and let them know what's going on. Now every day they come to our cells threatening to beat us again." Josie Daniel said she contacted at least five IDOC employees, including Keckler, to report the abuse. Eddie Daniel is serving a six-year sentence for drug trafficking and had already served six months of it in Idaho, according to Josie Daniel, who served a two-year sentence herself for grand theft that she committed when she was 19. Josie Daniel said her brother had served five years in Idaho prisons for earlier crimes and never complained of mistreatment or abuse. "My brother is the kind of person that he has a lot of pride, and he's not going to ask anyone for help," Josie Daniel said. "My heart sunk when I read this letter because he is pleading for help." Keckler said the department had not received any abuse complaints at the private Minnesota facility. Idaho staffers will continue with routine checks of the Texas prison and will investigate any future complaints, she said. "Of course whenever we have charges of abuse we take them very seriously," Keckler said.

North Fork Correctional Facility,
Sayre, Oklahoma
CCA

July 11, 2009 KLEW TV
The Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) announced that it has completed the transport of 188 inmates from an Oklahoma prison to Idaho, signaling an end to the department’s four-year practice of renting out-of-state beds to ease overcrowding. “This is a milestone for the department and something the people of Idaho can truly celebrate,” said IDOC Director Brent Reinke, in a news release from the department. “We’re saving taxpayer dollars, and in the long run, making our communities safer.” IDOC said the return of the inmates is made possible, in part, by the opening of 628 new beds at Idaho Correctional Center (ICC). It will cost $40.00 a day to house one inmate at ICC versus $61.53 at North Fork Correctional Facility (NFCF) in Sayre, Oklahoma. As a result, IDOC will save $1.4 million in Fiscal Year 2010.

June 22, 2009 AP
Another batch of Idaho prisoners has returned to the state after spending time in an Oklahoma prison. Officials with the Idaho Department of Corrections says another 68 inmates have been transferred back to Idaho from a private prison in Sayre, Okla. Two buses with the prisoners arrived in Boise Monday. The latest shipment leaves the department with just 120 inmates housed in out-of-state lockups. Those inmates are slated to return to Idaho by the end of the summer. Idaho has been relying on out-of-state prisons in Oklahoma and Texas to house inmates for several years. But the state has been able to bring many back in the last year due to a declining prison population and the creation of new prison beds at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise.

March 25, 2009 AP
The legislative budget-writing committee on Tuesday approved a plan to cut the Idaho Department of Correction 2010 budget by almost $30 million, in part by bringing home the last Idaho inmates housed in other states. Idaho began shipping inmates out of state, most recently starting in 2005, after a federal judge ruled that overcrowded conditions here were dehumanizing. Since then, the state has built 628 beds at the Idaho Correctional Center in Boise and bolstered drug court programs and treatment to try to slow prison growth. By next spring, more than 1,000 new beds will be available in prisons across the state. Over the last eight months, the state has transferred 380 inmates back to Idaho prisons. As of February, Idaho had more than 7,226 people incarcerated. Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said Tuesday that with the overcrowding issues resolved, Idaho can bring the last 318 prisoners home by August. The inmates are currently at the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla.

October 30, 2008 Magic Valley Times-News
An Idaho Department of Correction Virtual Prison Program inmate was charged a week ago with the second-degree murder of another Idaho inmate for an alleged attack at a private prison in Sayre, Okla. Inmate Aren Dean Wight, 31, allegedly struck or hit Idaho inmate David Drashner in Drashner's cell at Northfork Correctional Facility run by Corrections Corporation of America on June 25. He was charged Oct. 22 in Beckham County District Court in Oklahoma. Oklahoma law enforcement authorities allege Drashner's death resulted from a non-premeditated attack. He was pronounced dead later that night at a Sayre hospital. Drashner was found on the floor of his cell, according to the only June IDOC press release issued concerning him. Drashner was allegedly attacked twice after he told Wight and another inmate to "act like adults" and not yell at a female corrections officer, Oklahoma court records show. Wight's cellmate allegedly told police Wight was "thumping" on Drashner, and he heard a "thud" come from Drashner's cell, according to Oklahoma court records. Drashner died from a right subdural hematoma - intracranial bleeding caused from an injury to the right side of the skull - Oklahoma court records show. About an hour and a half elapsed between when Wight went into Drashner's cell and when officers found him on the ground. Video from the privately run facility shows Wight went into Drashner's cell at about 6:07 p.m. Drashner was found by authorities at 7:35 p.m., Oklahoma Court records show. Wight also allegedly gave Drashner a bloody nose earlier on the same day at 3:15 p.m., according to Oklahoma court records. DOC didn't issue a press release about the charges. "We rely on the local jurisdiction to announce that," said Jeff Ray, IDOC spokesman. IDOC also didn't tell Drashner's wife, Pam Drashner, of Nampa, that anyone was officially charged with killing her husband, she said. "They forgot about me," Drashner said about IDOC. "They haven't called me back." Ray said he doesn't know if IDOC routinely informs spouses of murdered inmates when other inmates have been charged. Wight is doing time for burglary, robbery, aggravated battery and grand theft crimes out of Bannock and Bingham counties, and is next eligible for parole in 2012, according to IDOC online offender information. IDOC put Drashner in Oklahoma in September 2007. He was doing 12 to 20 years for a fourth DUI conviction out of Canyon County. Pam Drashner, like other family members of out-of-state inmates, wants the state to stop shipping prisoners out of Idaho. "I honestly believe if Dave was still here in Idaho he'd still be alive," she said. "I think anytime you move someone it's going to cause a lot of anxiety and stress for everybody." An IDOC Virtual Prison Program official was in Oklahoma "performing assessments" when Drashner, died and also helped investigate.

October 1, 2008 AP
For a decade, Idaho has been shipping some of its prisoners to out-of-state prisons, dealing with its ever-burgeoning inmate population by renting beds in faraway facilities. But now some groups of prisoners are being brought back home. Idaho Department of Correction officials are crediting declining crime rates, improved oversight during probation, better community programs and increased communication between correction officials and the state's parole board. The number of Idaho inmates has more than doubled since 1996, reaching a high of 7,467 in May. But in the months since then, the population has declined to 7,293 -- opening up enough space that 80 inmates housed in the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla., and at Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas, could be bused back to the Idaho State Correctional Institution near Boise. The inmates arrived Monday night. Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke hailed their arrival as one of the benefits the system was reaping after years of work. "It's more about having the right inmates at the right place at the right time," Reinke said. "People are communicating better and we're working together better than we were in the past."

September 26, 2008 Magic Valley Times-News
An Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation official on Thursday confirmed that an Idaho inmate was murdered in the custody of a privately-run prison in Sayre, and they're eyeing a suspect. The suspect's name, however, isn't being released without an arrest or charges, said OSBI Spokeswoman Jessica Brown. Brown said she doesn't know when that may happen. Idaho Virtual Prison Inmate David Drashner, 51, of Nampa, was found lying on the floor of his cell in June at the Northfork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla. He was in prison for drunken driving and is one of three Idaho inmates who have died in the custody of private lockups in other states since March 2007. He was the first this year. On Aug. 18, Twin Falls native Randall McCullough, 37, apparently killed himself at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas. IDOC has said they're waiting on results from his autopsy. Sex-offender Scott Noble Payne, 43, killed himself in March 2007 at a Geo lockup in Dickens, Texas. The Littlefield lockup is run by Geo Group Inc., and the Sayre facility is run by Corrections Corporation of America. CCA also runs the state-owned Idaho Correctional Center in Boise. Almost 10 percent of Idaho's prisoner population is doing time at lockups outside Idaho under contracts with private prison operators, because there's not enough room for them here. Idaho Department of Correction developed the Virtual Prison Program last year to monitor out-of-state inmates and contracts. Its role in the investigation isn't clear. "IDOC is cooperating with the investigation, but I do not know precisely what the department is doing," said IDOC Spokesman Jeff Ray in an e-mail. Ray wouldn't say if a suspect has been identified in connection to Drashner's death. "That's best left to the authorities in Oklahoma who are conducting the criminal investigation," he said in an e-mail. Drashner's widow, Pam, said she's happy there's a suspect in her husband's death. "I'm really glad they found the person, but it still doesn't bring Dave back. I just want some sort of justice to happen," she said. "If he was here in Idaho he would have never been killed." Other family of Idaho Virtual Prison inmates have also said they think Idaho should stop sending prisoners to other states, because they can't visit as easily.

September 21, 2008 Times-News
Pam Drashner visited her husband every weekend in prison, until she was turned away one day because he wasn't there. He had been quietly transferred from Boise to a private prison in Sayre, Okla. She never saw him again. In July, she went to the Post Office to pick up his ashes, mailed home in a box. He died of a traumatic brain injury in Oklahoma, allegedly assaulted by another inmate. David Drashner was one of hundreds of male inmates Idaho authorities have sent to private prisons in other states. About 10 percent of Idaho's inmates are now out-of-state. The Department of Correction say they want to bring them all home, they simply have no place to put them. Drashner, who was convicted of repeat drunken driving, is one of three Idaho inmates who have died in the custody of private lockups in other states since March 2007, and was the first this year. On Aug. 18, Twin Falls native Randall McCullough, 37, apparently killed himself at the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas. McCullough, serving time for robbery, was found dead in his cell. IDOC officials say he left a note, though autopsy results are pending. His family says he shouldn't have been in Texas at all. "Idaho should step up to the plate and bring their prisoners home," said his sister, Laurie Williams. Out of Idaho -- Idaho has so many prisoners scattered around the country that the IDOC last year developed the Virtual Prison Program, assigning 12 officers to monitor the distant prisons. In 2007 Idaho sent 429 inmates to Texas and Oklahoma. This year; more than 700 - and by one estimate it could soon hit 1,000. But officials say they don't know exactly how many inmates may hit the road in coming months. The number may actually fall due to an unexpected drop in total prisoner head-count, a turnabout attributed to a drop in sentencings, increased paroles and better success rates for probationers. The state will also have about 1,300 more beds in Idaho, thanks to additions at existing prisons. State officials say bringing inmates back is a priority. "If there was any way to not have inmates out-of-state it would be far, far better," said IDOC Director Brent Reinke, a former Twin Falls County commissioner, noting higher costs to the state and inconvenience to inmate families. Still, there's no end in sight for virtual prisons, which have few fans in state government. "I do think sending inmates out-of-state is counter-productive," said Rep. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, a member of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee. LeFavour favors treatment facilities over prisons. "We try to make it (sending inmates out-of-state) a last resort, but I don't think we're doing enough." Even lawmakers who favor buying more cells would like to avoid virtual lockups. "It's more productive to be in-state," said Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, who said he would support a new Idaho prison modeled after the state-owned but privately run Idaho Correctional Center (ICC). "We don't want to stay out-of-state unless we have to
��- It's undesirable." A decade of movement -- Idaho has shipped inmates elsewhere for more than a decade, though in some years they were all brought home when beds became available at four of Idaho's state prisons. The 1,500-bed ICC - a state-owned lockup built and run by CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) - also opened in 2000. But that wasn't enough: "It will be years before a substantial increase in prison capacity will allow IDOC to bring inmates back," the agency said in April. In 2005, former IDOC director Tom Beauclair warned lawmakers that "if we delay building the next prison, we'll have to remain out-of-state longer with more inmates," according to an IDOC press release. That year inmates were taken to a Minnesota prison operated by CCA, where Idaho paid $5 per inmate, per day more than it costs to keep inmates in its own prisons. "This move creates burdens for our state fiscally, and can harden our prison system, but it's what we must do," IDOC said at the time. "Our ability to stretch the system is over." Attempts to add to that system have largely failed. Earlier this year Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter asked lawmakers for $191 million in bond authority to buy a new 1,500-bed lockup. The Legislature rejected his request, but did approve those 1,300 new beds at existing facilities. Reinke said IDOC won't ask for a new prison when the next Legislative session convenes in January. With a slow economy and a drop in inmate numbers, it's not the time to push for a new prison, he said. Still, recent projections for IDOC show that without more prison beds here, 43 percent of all Idaho inmates could be sent out-of-state in 2017. "It's a lot of money to go out-of-state," Darrington said. Different cultures -- One of eight prisons in Idaho is run by a private company, as are those housing Idaho inmates in Texas and Oklahoma. The Bill Clayton Detention Center in Texas is operated by the Geo Group Inc., which is managing or developing 64 lockups in the U.S., Australia and South Africa. The North-Fork Correctional Facility in Oklahoma is owned and operated by CCA, which also has the contract to run the Idaho Correction Center. CCA houses almost 75,000 inmates and detainees in 66 facilities under various state and federal contracts. Critics of private prisons say the operators boost profits by skimping on programs, staff, and services. Idaho authorities acknowledge the prisons make money, but consider them well-run. "Private prisons are just that - business run," Idaho Virtual Prison Program Warden Randy Blades told the Times-News. "It doesn't mean out-of-sight, or out-of-mind." Yet even Reinke added that "I think there's a difference. Do we want there to be? No." The Association of Private Correctional and Treatment Organizations (APCTO) says on its Web site that its members "deliver reduced costs, high quality, and enhanced accountability." Falling short? Thomas Aragon, a convicted thief from Nampa, was shipped to three different Texas prisons in two years. He said prisons there did little to rehabilitate him, though he's up for parole next year. "I'm a five-time felon, all grand theft and possession of stolen property," said Aragon, by telephone from the ICC. "Apparently I have a problem and need to find out why I steal. The judge said I needed counseling and that I'd get it, and I have yet to get any." State officials said virtual prisons have a different culture, but are adapting to Idaho standards. "We're taking the footprint of Idaho and putting it into facilities out-of-state," Blades said. Aragon, 39, says more programs are available in Idaho compared to the Texas facilities where he was. Like Aragon, almost 70 percent of Idaho inmates sent to prison in 2006 and 2007 were recidivists - repeat IDOC offenders - according agency annual reports. GEO and CCA referred questions about recidivism to APCTO, which says only that its members reduce the rate of growth of public spending. Aragon said there weren't enough case-workers, teachers, programs, recreational activities and jobs in Texas. Comparisons between public and private prisons are made difficult because private companies didn't readily offer numbers for profits, recidivism, salaries and inmate-officer ratios. During recent visits to the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas - where about 371 Idaho inmates are now held - state inspectors found there wasn't a legal aid staffer to give inmates access to courts, as required by the state contract. Virtual Prison monitors also agreed with Aragon's assessment: "No programs are offered at the facility," a state official wrote in a recently redacted Idaho Virtual Prison report obtained by the Times-News. "Most jobs have to do with keeping the facility clean and appear to be less meaningful. This creates a shortage of productive time with the inmates. "Overall, recreational activities are very sparse within the facility ��- Informal attempts have been made to encourage the facility to increase offender activities that would in the long run ease some of the boredom that IDOC inmates are experiencing," according to a Virtual Prison report. The prison has since made improvements, the state said. Only one inmate case manager worked at Bill Clayton during a recent state visit, but the facility did increase recreation time and implemented in-cell hobby craft programs, Virtual Prison reports show. Other inmate complaints have grown from the way they have been sent to the prisons. Inmates describe a horrific bus ride from Idaho to Oklahoma in April in complaints collected by the American Civil Liberties Union in Boise. The inmates say they endured painful and injurious wrist and ankle shackling, dangerous driving, infrequent access to an unsanitary restroom and dehydration during the almost 30-hour trip. "We're still receiving a lot of complaints, some of them are based on retaliatory transfers," said ACLU lawyer Lea Cooper. IDOC officials acknowledge that they have also received complaints about access to restrooms during the long bus rides, but they maintain that most of the inmates want to go out-of-state. Many are sex offenders who prefer the anonymity associated with being out-of-state, they said. Unanswered questions -- Three deaths of Idaho interstate inmates in 18 months have left families concerned that even more prisoners will come home in ashes. "We're very disturbed about...the rate of Idaho prisoner deaths for out-of-state inmates," Cooper said. It was the razor-blade suicide of sex-offender Scott Noble Payne, 43, in March 2007 at a Geo lockup in Dickens, Texas that caught the attention of state officials. Noble's death prompted Idaho to pull all its inmates from the Geo prison. State officials found the facility was in terrible condition, but they continue to work with Geo, which houses 371 Idaho inmates in Littlefield, Texas, where McCullough apparently killed himself. Noble allegedly escaped before he was caught and killed himself. Inmate Aragon said he as there, and that Noble was hog-tied and groaned in pain while guards warned other inmates they would face the same if they tried to escape. Private prison operators don't have to tell governments everything about the deaths at facilities they run. The state isn't allowed access to Geo's mortality and morbidity reports under terms of a contract. Idaho sent additional inmates to the Corrections Corporation of America-run Oklahoma prison after Drashner's husband died in June. IDOC officials said an Idaho official was inspecting the facility when he was found. IDOC has offered few details about the death. "The murder happened in Oklahoma," said IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray, adding it will be up to Oklahoma authorities to charge. Drashner said her husband had a pending civil case in Idaho and shouldn't have been shipped out-of-state. She says Idaho and Oklahoma authorities told her David was assaulted by another inmate after he verbally defended an officer at the Oklahoma prison. Officers realized something was wrong when he didn't stand up for a count, Drashner said. "He was healthy. He wouldn't have been killed over here," she said.

Pocatello Women's Correctional Center
Pocatello, Idaho
Prison Health Services

November 21, 2008 The Olympian
Idaho jurors have awarded $3.6 million to a former inmate and her young son after a harrowing birth at the Pocatello Women's Correctional Center. Jamie Lysager alleged in her lawsuit that she was denied proper prison medical care and ended up giving birth on a prison ramp. In a verdict late Friday night in Pocatello, 6th District Court jurors awarded $375,000 to the woman. The award for her now-4-year-old son Taylor was $3.25 million. The lawsuit alleged that Prison Health Services, which formerly oversaw and staffed the Idaho Department of Correction's medical services, failed to properly diagnose Lysager, and that she was denied proper health care leading up to the Feb. 14, 2004, premature birth of her son. The lawsuit contends the birth occurred while she was being moved in a wheelchair, and that the infant fell from the mother, struck his head on a concrete ramp and was then run over by the wheelchair. The little boy has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Prison Health Services no longer contracts for medical care in Idaho's prison system. It has contended that Taylor's injuries were not caused by its actions or inaction.

November 21, 2008 AP
A jury is considering a $23 million lawsuit filed by a former inmate of the Pocatello Women's Correctional Center who says she was denied proper health care and ended up giving birth on a concrete ramp after being left in a holding room for 10 hours. The lawsuit alleges that Prison Health Services Inc., which formerly oversaw and staffed the Idaho Department of Correction's medical services, failed to properly diagnose Jamie A. Lysager, and that she was denied proper health care leading up to the Feb. 14, 2004, birth of her son. The lawsuit contends the birth occurred while she was being moved in a wheelchair, and that her son, Taylor, "fell from her body and the wheelchair, landing on the back of his head on the concrete ramp." It alleges the wheelchair then ran over Taylor and "that the umbilical cord and a portion of the placenta were ripped from plaintiff." Taylor spent two months in a hospital. Now 4 years old, the complaint says that he has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The jury began deliberating Wednesday. Lysager is seeking $3 million for pain and suffering and for her son's future economic needs. She's seeking $20 million in punitive damages. Lysager entered the correctional facility on Dec. 11, 2003, after violating her probation. She had pleaded guilty earlier that year in 7th District Court to fraudulently possessing a financial transaction card, and was sentenced in June 2003 to up to five years in prison. Lysager was told to expect her child on April 4, 2004. On Feb. 3, she told medical staff she had flu-like symptoms and diarrhea. The lawsuit contends the medical staff failed to treat her for the next 10 days. Lysager's attorney, Richard Hearn, told the jury before it began deliberations that Prison Health Services violated its own policies by not transporting Lysager to the hospital when she began having medical problems. According to the lawsuit, Lysager, at 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 14, told medical staff she was suffering from dehydration, diarrhea and stomach cramps. She was given an ultrasound to monitor the baby's condition. Then, after 10 hours in a holding cell, the suit said, she began screaming and kicking the locked door to get the staff's attention, and at 5 p.m. began giving birth while on the toilet. Attorney Joseph McCollum Jr., representing Prison Health Services, said Lysager was likely suffering from an inflammatory condition of the uterus that can cause a premature delivery without labor, contributing to physical and cognitive problems in children. He said that even if Taylor had been born in a hospital, the physical challenges he faces might not have been different. He said the medical staff thought they were treating Lysager for flu symptoms, not a possible early delivery. Though he said the staff didn't follow proper procedures, they didn't act with malice or willful disregard.

Val Verde County Correctional Facility and Jail
Del Rio, Texas
GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections)

December 28, 2007 AP
Fifty-five Idaho inmates who were moved out of a troubled Texas prison on Thursday have been forced by a contract delay to make a temporary stop before going to their final destination, a lockup near the Mexican border. More than 500 Idaho prisoners are in Texas and Oklahoma due to overcrowding at home. The prisoners being moved are bound for the Val Verde Correctional Facility in Del Rio, Texas, after more than a year at the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, where one Idaho inmate killed himself in March. Because a Texas county official has yet to approve the contract to house Idaho prisoners at Val Verde, they have first been sent 100 miles away to the Bill Clayton Detention Center in Littlefield, Texas. There, they will sleep in groups of up to 10 men on makeshift cots in day rooms until resolution of the contract allows them to complete the final 250-mile leg of their journey to Val Verde sometime in early January. The inmates "were a bit dubious and questionable about that," said Randy Blades, the warden in Boise who oversees Idaho's out-of-state prisoners. That's one reason why his agency has sent two officers to make sure the move runs smoothly, Blades said. Both the Dickens and Val Verde prisons are run by private operator GEO Group Inc., based in Boca Raton, Florida. Pablo Paez, a spokesman for GEO, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. GEO no longer has the contract to manage the Dickens facility after Tuesday. Because Idaho recently rejected an offer from the new company that will run Dickens, GEO on Thursday had to move the Idaho inmates to temporary quarters in Littlefield. Though Idaho officials thought details of the move to Val Verde had been resolved, Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said he learned only last week that a Texas county judge wanted a lawyer to look at the contract one last time. "It was something we did not anticipate," Reinke said. "GEO is paying the transport costs." This is just the latest uprooting of Idaho inmates since they were first shipped out of state in 2005. Since then, they have bounced from prison to prison in Minnesota and Texas amid allegations of abusive treatment. There also has been the criminal conviction of at least one Texas guard for passing contraband to inmates; at least two escapes; and the death of Scot Noble Payne, a convicted sex offender who slashed his throat last March in a solitary cell at Dickens County. Idaho officials who investigated concluded the GEO-run prison was filthy and the worst they had seen. As a result, about 70 Idaho inmates were moved from Dickens to Littlefield, where about 300 Idaho inmates were already housed, while the state continued talks with GEO over sending the remaining 55 to a new 659-bed addition at Val Verde. Despite the stopover, GEO has a hefty incentive to make sure the move to Val Verde goes smoothly, Reinke said. The company hopes to win contracts with Idaho to build a large new prison here to help accommodate the state's 7,400 inmates. "They're really monitoring this closely, and doing a good job at this point," Reinke said. "It's not a lot different than triple bunking."

November 27, 2007 Idaho State Journal
A company that's due to take over a troubled privately run Texas prison in 2008 made a sales pitch Monday to Idaho Department of Correction officials, saying it hopes the management shake-up and $1.2 million in proposed renovations will overshadow past problems and persuade Idaho to ship more inmates to the lockup. Civigenics, a unit of New Jersey-based Community Education Centers, Inc., with prisons or treatment programs in 23 states, will manage Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, starting Jan. 1 after winning a competitive bid. Until now, The GEO Group Inc., based in Florida, ran the facility. In March, Idaho prison officials called Dickens under GEO's oversight ''the worst'' prison they'd seen, citing what they called an abusive warden, the lack of treatment programs and squalid conditions they said may have contributed to the suicide of inmate Scot Noble Payne, who was held for months in a solitary cell. Idaho is nearly ready to move 54 prisoners who remain at Dickens to a new GEO-run facility near the Mexican border, after shifting 69 inmates elsewhere this summer. Dickens County and Civigenics officials came to Boise to offer assurances they'll remedy concerns over their 15-year-old prison as they aim to stay in the running to house some of the hundreds of prisoners that Idaho plans to ship elsewhere in coming months to ease overcrowding. Some 550 of Idaho's 7,400 inmates have been sent out of state since 2005. GEO ''thought they were too good,'' Sheldon Parsons, a Dickens County commissioner, told Idaho officials. ''They're used to running bigger facilities. That just kind of didn't fit into our program. Civigenics will definitely fit.'' Idaho plans to send 120 additional prisoners to a private prison in Oklahoma in January. It's also looking for space in other states for groups of inmates in increments of about 100 starting in mid-2008. Bob Prince, a Civigenics salesman, said his company could house as many as 150 Idaho inmates at a revamped Dickens. The $1.2 million from Dickens County, which owns the prison, would cover new fencing, exterior lighting, security improvements, kitchen renovations and more rooms for education and treatment programs. Still, Idaho officials including Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke indicated the plan may not be enough to address complaints that have prompted him to vacate Dickens. Idaho, which earlier this year conceded it lost track of how its inmates in Texas were being treated before Payne's suicide, has outlined its concerns in several reports over the last nine months. Lingering shortcomings include a lack of cell windows and a drab, dingy atmosphere in an aging facility built as county jail, not for long-term prisoners. ''The cells inside that facility are pretty dark and dank,'' said Randy Blades, the Idaho warden who oversees out-of-state prisoners. ''What are you looking at to change the cells themselves?'' Texas officials conceded that wasn't considered. ''We haven't looked into any of that,'' Parsons said, before adding, ''We'll try and do anything we can to make people happy that are coming in. Nobody has ever brought that up before.'' Despite past problems with GEO, Blades said Idaho aims to soon finalize a contract with that company to move inmates still at Dickens to a new 659-bed addition at the Val Verde Correctional Facility, near the Mexican border. That contract also calls for roughly 40 inmates currently in Idaho to be sent to Val Verde. Val Verde has seen its own share of problems under GEO leadership. GEO settled a wrongful death case after a female Texas prisoner killed herself following allegations she was sexually humiliated by a guard and raped by an inmate. Earlier this year, the local government was forced to hire a monitor for the facility. Even so, Blades said a visit to the new cellblock slated for Idaho inmates earlier this year convinced him and other officials that the prison is appropriate and safe. ''It's a very good facility, very secure,'' Blades said of Val Verde. ''There's a good dayroom. The cells are well lighted.''