Idaho prison staffing problems were no secret to state

THURSDAY, OCT. 24, 2013

BOISE – 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 Correction 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 made 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.

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