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State gears up for takeover of private prison, looks to hire 72 guards

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.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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