September 27, 1997 in Nation/World

Idaho Chooses Firm To Build Private Prison Job Goes To Firm Housing Inmates In Minnesota

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The same company that’s housing 200 Idaho inmates in Minnesota has won the bid to build Idaho’s first private prison.

Corrections Corporation of America, based in Nashville, Tenn., beat out seven other companies from across the country for the chance at the $100 million-plus contract - the biggest state contract in Idaho history.

“We … are hopeful to have a contract signed within the next month,” said state Corrections Director Jim Spalding. “They could have the private prison done by mid-1999.”

Idaho’s inmate population has been soaring in recent years, as the state has enacted increasingly tough sentencing laws. Idaho now has 254 backed up in county jails and 748 housed out of state for lack of prison space. The out-of-state placements have led to problems, including a riot and escapes from a Louisiana prison.

Idaho House Judiciary Committee Chairman Celia Gould said the best thing about the private prison is that it can be built more quickly than a regular state prison.

“At this point I’m not sure that we’ll save money,” she said, “but the one thing we do know is that we can get it on-line faster and get these folks back into the state of Idaho.”

The CCA bid calls for the state to pay the company an average of $39 per day per inmate for three years, or about $17.8 million a year for the 1,250-bed prison. The facility is expected to be full when it opens, just from inmates now housed out of state and expected growth.

The bid promises that the new prison will be completed on July 1, 1999. It also sets construction costs at $49 million.

Mark Carnopis, Corrections Department spokesman, said the it would cost the state $65 million to build the same prison, without operating costs at $45 per day for every inmate.

“On the surface, it looks like it’s a good deal,” he said.

Susan Hart, vice president for communications at CCA, said, “We’re more than delighted.” “At this point, we have been selected to negotiate a contract, so there’s nothing signed on the dotted line yet.”

But, she said, “We’re looking forward to discussing the details.”

Gould, R-Buhl, was among a group of top state legislators who toured private prisons in Texas and Florida over the summer. She noted that some seem to achieve cost savings by housing medium-security inmates in large rooms with bunk beds, rather than in cells. That’s the case at the Basile Detention Center in Louisiana, where Idaho inmates have complained about lack of privacy and about 100 of them rioted last month.

Hart said, “That is not at all what CCA considers to be medium security.”

The CCA proposal names Boise-based Morrison-Knudsen Corp. as the general contractor. Eight of nine subcontractors listed are from Idaho. The only exception is an architectural firm from Omaha, Neb.

Idaho has been “very happy” with the CCA’s Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minn., Carnopis said. But it’s also the most expensive of the three out-of-state prisons now housing Idaho inmates, costing nearly $50 a day per inmate.

Prairie features a full array of classes and counseling for inmates and a job program that puts nearly all of them to work. Unlike those sent to the private prison in Louisiana and a county jail at Pearsall, Texas, Idaho inmates who went to Minnesota were nearly all volunteers.

The bid was selected based on seven criteria: development cost, development plan, management plan, per-inmate cost, architects’ and engineers’ qualifications, general contractor qualifications and company qualifications.

Out of 900 possible points, CCA scored 759, well above Wackenhut Corp., which came in second with 726. The numbers dropped sharply from there.

Unsuccessful bidders have one week to appeal the decision.

One Idaho firm, Wilderness Mountain of Mackay, Idaho, submitted a bid but was disqualified. Jan Cox, administrator of the state Division of Purchasing, said the firm’s bid lacked such basic information as the cost, staffing levels, and information about educational programs.

CCA’s bid called for 305 employees, the highest number of any bid. That is comparable to staffing patterns at the Idaho State Correctional Institution, a state-operated medium-security prison in Boise.

Staffing proposals in the eight bids varied from 199 to 312, and construction costs went from $40 million to $74 million. The prison is to be built on state-owned land at the existing state prison complex south of Boise. It will house 750 medium-security inmates in single and double cells, and 500 minimum-security inmates in cells or dorms.

Hart said CCA expects to be in Idaho long-term. “Our rate of success for contract renewals is 100 percent.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: THE CONTRACTOR Corrections Corporations of America has contracts to operate 62 jails and prisons in the United States, Puerto Rico, Australia and the United Kingdom. A publicly traded company, it had 1996 revenues of $293 million. The company has 11,000 employees, oversees 46,000 prison beds and was founded in 1983. Its closest project to Idaho is a women’s prison in Nevada.

This sidebar appeared with the story: THE CONTRACTOR Corrections Corporations of America has contracts to operate 62 jails and prisons in the United States, Puerto Rico, Australia and the United Kingdom. A publicly traded company, it had 1996 revenues of $293 million. The company has 11,000 employees, oversees 46,000 prison beds and was founded in 1983. Its closest project to Idaho is a women’s prison in Nevada.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email