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State takeover of troubled Idaho private prison now under way

As of this week, Idaho's largest prison is now under state control, as Idaho takes it over from the private prison firm Corrections Corp. of America, which built and operated the lockup south of Boise for the state throughout its troubled 14-year history. “To reflect the change in status from private to state operations, the name of the facility becomes the Idaho State Correctional Center (ISCC),” the state Department of Corrections announced. Click below for a report from AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi, who notes that the takeover marks the end of a big experiment with privatizing Idaho's public prisons despite multiple attempts from Gov. Butch Otter to push for more privatization. In 2008, Otter unsuccessfully pitched legislation that would allow private companies to build and operate prisons in Idaho and import out-of-state inmates. Then in 2009, Otter suggested privatizing the 500-bed, state-run Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino while also requesting to cut the state correctional department's budget by more than $11 million, or 12 percent.

The Department of Corrections announced that visitation at the ISCC will be canceled this week from Monday through Thursday, and will resume on Friday, “to facilitate a smooth transition.” 


State begins takeover of private prison in Boise 
By KIMBERLEE KRUESI, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The state takeover of a privately managed prison in Boise is now underway.

Idaho corrections staff have been preparing for months to take over the 2,080-bed prison — the state's largest — since Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter announced earlier this year he would not renew the $29 million-a-year contract with Corrections Corporations of America. That process officially began Tuesday.

Ever since the state entered into a contract with CCA, the prison has been sued and wracked by accusations of violence, gang activity and understaffing. The company operates the fifth-largest corrections system in the country, housing nearly 80,000 inmates at more than 60 facilities.

Warden Randy Blades will oversee the prison, which has a nearly $25 million-a-year operating budget and was given another $2 million during the legislative session to help cover the costs of the transition.

State officials repeatedly have said they expect a seamless transition. The only difference the inmates should notice is the different uniforms worn by the correctional officers. Food service and recreational schedules should also remain the same.

However, the state says it is canceling visitation at the Idaho Correctional Center until Thursday because of the transition.

The takeover marks the end of experimenting with privatizing Idaho's public prisons despite multiple attempts from Otter to push for more privatization of government.

In 2008, Otter attempted to pass legislation that would allow private companies to build and operate prisons in Idaho and import out-of-state inmates.

Then in 2009, Otter suggested privatizing the 500-bed, state-run Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino while also requesting to cut the state correctional department's budget by more than $11 million, or 12 percent.


  

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press


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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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