Humpday Repeat Offender: Idaho

Something is rotten in the state of Idaho.

We have two troubling developments to report on: first, that the state is once again sending people to prison beds in other states; secondly, that Corrections Corporation of America's Idaho Correctional Center continues to put thousands of incarcerated people in danger every day due to negligence.

We talked last year about the state's plan to rent more beds in Colorado prisons; recently, we learned that that deal has come to fruition and some 800 inmates will be transfered out of state.  Idaho’s previous attempts at out-sourcing prison beds had disasterous results.  From 1998 to 2008, the state contracts with a CCA-run prison in Oklahoma and two GEO Group-run prisons in Colorado and Texas.  While reports of poor conditions emerged, it took three tragic deaths for Idaho to finally bring their people home: the suicides of Randy McCullough and Scott Noble-Payne in Texas, and the murder of David Drashner in Oklahoma.

The state of private prisons in Idaho is just as bad.  In 2010, CCA-run Idaho Correctional Center gained such a reputation for violence that it was dubbed the “Gladiator School”.  The facility was chronically understaffed and prison gangs were used to pick up the slack.  Incarcerated people were denied medical care; and footage from a surveillance camera shows a man being beaten into a coma while guards stand by.  In 2008 and 2010, ICC had more assaults than all other Idaho prisons combined.  A lawsuit filed by the ACLU led to a settlement outlining proper staffing levels, among other things.   

Recently, however, CCA admitted to falsified staffing records at Idaho Correctional Center in violation of its contract and the settlement.  A Public Information Request by AP reporter Rebecca Boone revealed guards were being listed in shifts up to 48 hours, sometimes in multiple posts at once.  In a press release, CCA stated that there were indeed “some inaccuracies” and that they “deeply regret the decisions made by some ICC staff members”.  Another lawsuit from men imprisoned at ICC has been filed, calling on an investigative report by the Idaho DOC.

Despite Idaho's troubled past (and present) with private prisons, Governor Butch Otter has a friendly relationship with the industry -- he received $5,000 from GEO Group and $20,000 from CCA between 2006 and 2012.  Hopefully Governor Otter and Idaho will learn from past mistakes and dump private prisons for good.