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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Idaho still contracts with CCA to house 208 Idaho inmates at private Colo. lockup

Idaho currently doesn’t have any legal issues with the Corrections Corp. of America, Deputy Attorney General Paul Panther told the Legislative Council today, though the state still has a contract with a CCA-operated private prison in Colorado that’s currently housing 208 Idaho inmates, a contract that allows up to 750 Idaho inmates to be housed there.

Idaho ended its contract with CCA last year to operate the state’s largest prison, the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise, after CCA agreed to pay a $1 million settlement to the state for understaffing the violence-ridden lockup. The state now operates that prison, whose name has been changed to the Idaho State Correctional Center.

“In 2014, the department ended that relationship,” Panther said. “As far as I know, there aren’t any outstanding legal issues about that. … Reports I have are that things seem to be going pretty well.”

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, questioned why Idaho still has a contract with CCA given the problems with the ICC. Tim Higgins, head of contracts for the Idaho Department of Correction, said the contract with CCA’s Kit Carson Correctional Center in Burlington, Colo. was issued in 2011 after a competitive bid process and inmates first were sent there in July of 2012, before Idaho discovered the problems at the ICC. “We couldn’t just change – we’d have to go out for a new contract,” he said.

Higgins said in 2011, Idaho’s prisons were overflowing, and so were county jails, which house overflow inmates for state prisons. “We had the need for the bed space,” he said. County jails that housed state inmates had people sleeping on the floor in booking areas; sheriffs were complaining to the state that it was headed toward a “catch and release” policy for lack of space. “That’s what basically forced us in 2011 to start looking at an additional contract out of state,” he said. That’s something we were very reluctant to do.”

Idaho pays $55.17 per day per inmate to CCA, including all medical care costs. Full costs for the fiscal year came to $4.6 million, Higgins said, plus about $20,000 in transportation costs for inmates who had to be returned to Idaho for court hearings. There have been some problems with medical care there, he said, and the state has collected $7,000 in liquidated damages for failure to meet standards. Both Idaho and Colorado prison officials are closely monitoring the facility, he said. “I myself will go there for a week a month, and then we have medical contract monitors as well, nurses,” he said. “We have some pretty extensive monitoring.”

The same private prison also houses more than 600 Colorado state prison inmates, but the Idaho inmates are required to be completely isolated from the Colorado ones. “There is no sight or sound between the two,” Higgins said.

Idaho also has a contract with the Bonneville County Jail to house 563 state offenders, 206 of them women. “They have an annex that was off of the main facility,” Higgins said. A counselor comes over from a nearby community work center to provide some programming for women imprisoned there.

Higgins said 14 percent of Idaho’s prison inmates are in overflow facilities in beds for which the state contracts, including the CAPP (Correctional Alternative Placement Program) facility near the state prison complex, which provides intensive, short-term programming for parole violators to help rehabilitate them and get them ready for release, and is operated by Management Training Corp., which also built the facility. It currently houses 320 inmates.

“About 14 percent of all of the Idaho Department of Correction offenders have to go into overflow facilities, because we are short about 14 percent of our beds,” Higgins said. A total of 1,091 prison beds currently are being contracted out, including the CCA contract, CAPP, and the Bonneville jail contract.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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