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Posts tagged: ICC

Judge: Prison understaffing lawsuit can proceed, even during FBI investigation

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, the AP reports. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge made the ruling this week in a lawsuit brought by a group of Idaho inmates against the Nashville, Tenn.-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. “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.” Click below for a full report from Associated Press reporter Rebecca Boone.

FBI takes over CCA investigation

The FBI has launched a criminal investigation into private prison company Corrections Corporation of America and how it ran an Idaho state prison plagued by inmate violence, the AP reports. 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. 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; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

After meeting with Wasden, Otter orders criminal investigation of CCA for understaffing Idaho prison

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — 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 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. 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 company acknowledged last year that CCA employees falsified documents to hide understaffing at the prison in violation of a $29 million state contract.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

CCA trying to get audit of understaffing declared ‘inconclusive’

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 AP reports. This comes after the prison company agreed to pay the state more than $1 million to settle the understaffing issue; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

ISP: We never investigated CCA understaffing at prison

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, the AP reports, and instead relied on a report from a forensic auditing firm. 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; click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.
  

CCA to pay Idaho $1 million for understaffing privately run Idaho prison

Corrections Corporation of America will pay Idaho $1 million for understaffing the state's largest prison in violation of its contract, the AP reports, according to a settlement agreement announced late Tuesday. The 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. 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.

“While the $1 million payment does not reflect a specific number of hours, due to the complexity of the issue it was determined by IDOC officials to reasonably cover the State's costs related to the staffing matter,” IDOC and CCA wrote in a joint statement. “The agreement also fulfills CCA's commitment to make taxpayers whole on the issue.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Private prison workers sue CCA over safety issues

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Three current workers and one former worker at Idaho's largest private prison are suing their employer, 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 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 had broken radio sets, empty pepper spray canisters and were often left to work without basic equipment like handcuffs. CCA has not yet responded to the lawsuit.

Shift away from private prison a dramatic turnaround for Otter, state

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone on Gov. Butch Otter's announcement today that he's ordering the state Department of Correction to take over the troubled Idaho Correctional Center, the privately run state prison south of Boise; it's a dramatic turnaround both for Otter and for the state. Taxpayers currently pay CCA $29 million per year to operate the 2,080-bed prison south of Boise, which has been the subject of multiple lawsuits alleging rampant violence, understaffing, gang activity and contract fraud. CCA acknowledged last year that falsified staffing reports were given to the state showing thousands of hours were staffed by CCA workers when the positions were actually vacant.

An AP analysis of the costs to run the prison 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 the facility. That allows it to have a higher staff-to-inmate ratio than state lockups that take all prisoners.

Otter long has been an advocate of privatization. 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. Later, he suggested privatizing the 500-bed state-run Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino.

Otter: State can operate ICC for ‘very, very close’ to same amount CCA charged

Click below for Gov. Butch Otter's full announcement that he's ordering the state to take over operation of the Idaho Correctional Center, the troubled privately operated state prison south of Boise that's been the target of numerous lawsuits and scandals. Otter said he's been advised that it looks like the state can operate the prison for “very, very close to the $25 million” a year that the state has been paying the Corrections Corp. of America to operate the lockup.

Otter orders state to take over operation of troubled private prison

Gov. Butch Otter just announced that he’s ordering the state Board of Correction to halt its ongoing effort to get new bids from private firms to run the privately operated state prison, the Idaho Correctional Center, south of Boise, and instead move to have the state take over operating the scandal-plagued lockup. “It’s disappointing, and it’s disappointing because I am a champion of privatization,” Otter told reporters at the AP Legislative Preview. “It’s disappointing, but I think it also recognizes what has been happening, what has happened - it’s necessary. I think it’s the right thing to do. Is it the desirable thing to do for me? Not necessarily, because we had better hopes for outcomes in privatization.”

Otter said the state will move to take over operations at the ICC by June 30.

The Corrections Corp. of America, the nation’s largest private prison operator, already had announced that it would leave Idaho and not bid on another contract to run the ICC; the second-largest firm, GEO Group, also said it wasn’t interested. The ICC has had multiple lawsuits over inmate violence and was nicknamed the “Gladiator School;” CCA also was found to be understaffing the prison.

Nation’s two largest private prison firms both say ‘no thanks’ to bidding on ICC contract

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: 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.

No fed charges against ICC guards, after three-year investigation

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — 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.

You can read the Justice Department's full announcement here. It says the investigation included an assault, captured on videotape, of inmate Hanni Elabed on January 18, 2010, in which Elabed was severely beaten by another inmate while guards watched but didn't intervene. U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson said in the statement that various civil lawsuits brought by inmates against the CCA are “a more appropriate vehicle for addressing the assaults that the investigation examined.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

State prison agency knew for years about CCA staffing deficiencies

Administrators and staff at Idaho's state Department of Corrections have known since at least 2010 about staffing deficiencies by private prison contractor Corrections Corporation of America at an Idaho state prison, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press - and that the deficiencies violated CCA's contract with the state. 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. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Sixteen Dem lawmakers urge prisons board to let state run ICC, guv’s aide delivers message

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — 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. Corrections Corporation of America operates the prison for $29 million a year. The Idaho State Police is investigating CCA for possible contract fraud, and CCA has admitted understaffing ICC in violation of a federal court order.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Otter now says he’s open to considering possible state takeover of troubled private prison

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; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Private prison firm CCA leaving Idaho

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Private prison giant Corrections Corp. of America says it will leave Idaho after more than a decade. The decision comes after the company wrestled with scandal and lawsuits surrounding its operation of the state's largest prison. CCA Vice President Brad Regens notified state officials on Wednesday that the Nashville, Tenn.-based company won't bid on the next contract to run the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. The Idaho State Police, aided by a forensic auditing firm, is currently investigating the company's operations in Idaho over allegations of possible contract fraud and falsified staffing reports. CCA spokesman Steven Owen says the company is taking appropriate steps to remedy staffing problems, and the company is committed to making up for any unverified work hours.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Judge says CCA persistently understaffed privately run Idaho prison

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge says private prison company Corrections Corporation of America is in contempt of court for persistently understaffing an Idaho prison in direct violation of a legal settlement. U.S. District Judge David Carter made the ruling Monday in a lawsuit between inmates at the CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center and the Nashville, Tenn.-based company. Carter wrote that CCA had ample reason to make sure it was meeting the staffing requirements at the prison, yet the level of understaffing was apparently far worse than the company originally acknowledged. He is appointing an independent monitor to oversee operations at the prison, and says steep fines will follow if the company violates the agreement again. The fines will start at $100 an hour if more than 12 hours are understaffed in a single month.

“It is clear that there was a persistent failure to fill required mandatory positions, along with a pattern of CCA staff falsifying rosters to make it appear that all posts were filled,” the judge wrote. Those deficiencies continued even in the weeks leading up to hearings in August on whether the company should be found in contempt for violating a court settlement agreement, he wrote; you can read his decision here.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Judge scolds attorneys in prison lawsuit

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge is scolding attorneys in a lawsuit alleging understaffing and mismanagement at a private Idaho prison, warning both sides that they need to play nice or risk losing their case. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge wrote in an order Wednesday that attorneys for private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America and attorneys representing a group of inmates at the CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center have refused to interact with each other reasonably and civilly. Lodge says he considered lots of ways to make them get along, but decided against ordering the attorneys to play a game of “rock, paper, scissors.” Instead, Lodge is sending them to mediation, where they must try to resolve all their pending disputes over what evidence they must share and other pretrial issues.

Bill would require Idaho to compare state, private prison costs

After Idaho’s state Board of Correction refused to consider state operation as it seeks a new operator for a troubled privately run prison south of Boise, a state lawmaker has drafted legislation requiring all state agencies to consider that option when they solicit bids. Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said he’s not convinced the state is saving any money by paying Corrections Corp. of America $30 million a year to operate the Idaho Correctional Center. “There is a view that private contractors can perform functions less expensively, but I think sometimes they can’t,” he said. Gannon is now circulating his proposed bill, trying to get discussion going among lawmakers.

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 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 deferred to the board.

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 wages for prison guards far below those in most states; he said that shows that private prison companies can operate more cheaply in some states – but not in Idaho. House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, was non-committal 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.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Newly unsealed CCA documents say staffing logs falsified for years

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Several documents have been unsealed in a contempt of court case against private prison company Corrections Corporation of America that provide some detail to inmate allegations that CCA understaffed an Idaho prison in violation of a court order and a state contract. CCA has acknowledged that its employees filed reports with the state that falsely showed 4,800 hours of vacant security posts as being staffed during 2012. The company says it has taken steps to fix the problems and it will reimburse taxpayers. But inmates at the facility and the American Civil Liberties Union say that number grossly underestimates the understaffing, and that problems continue today. In one of the affidavits, CCA employee Susan Fry says it's been the practice to falsify staffing logs at the Idaho prison for years.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

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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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