Humpday Hall of Shame: Idaho's Big Mistake

Last week, we announced that Corrections Corporation of America had lost four contracts in the last month -- two in Texas, one in Idaho, and one in Mississippi.  We just learned that Kentucky has decided to drop its contract with CCA to run the Marion Adjustment Center, bringing the total to 5 contracts lost in as many weeks.

However, despite the progress being made in the state and across the nation, Idaho has elected not to de-privatize the Idaho Correctional Center, run by CCA from 2000 until next January.  Instead, the Idaho Board of Correction announced that they have opened bids to run the facility to other for-profit prison companies -- but not to the Idaho Department of Corrections.

The Idaho Correctional Center earned a reputation for being one of the most violent prisons in the country and was given the nickname the "Gladiator School" after reports of dangerous conditions emerged in 2010, when the Associated Press found that the facility had more incidents of violence than all other Idaho prisons combined.  As we covered in our recently released report, "CCA's DIrty Thiry: Nothing to Celebrate about Thirty Years of Private Prisons," ICC has been the subject of multiple lawsuits: one from Hanni Elabed, who sustained brain damage from a beating while guards looked on; one filed by the ACLU on behalf of eight incarcerated men who were allegedly "jumped, beaten, stabbed and slashed by members of an inmate gang" due to chronic understaffing and mismanagement; and a recent suit by a man who claims he was beaten as a result of guard negligence Reporters are currently fighting for access to information about the ACLU suit, while CCA is characteristically trying to seal "whatever they want."

CCA came under fire again when the Associated Press learned that the facility had falsified staff records to cover for massive understaffing.  Guards were sometimes listed as working 24, 36, or even 48 hours shifts.  At times, only two guards would be on duty to manage a wing with 350 incarcerated people.  All in all, the state paid for 4,800 vacant staffing hours between the months of May and November 2012.

Despite ongoing problems with CCA, it seems that the Idaho Board of Corrections has not learned its lesson.  As Randy Stapilus points out in an article for the Idaho Press, CCA's competitors are no better, and potentially worse, options to run ICC.  The next largest for-profit prison company, GEO Group, has been accused in multiple facilities of poor conditions that have led to death, violence, and medical problems.  Management and Training Corporation's Williacy Detention Center was the largest detention center in the nation when a PBS documentary revealed incidents of sexual assault, physical abuse, and contraband smuggling.  And Community Education Centers is responsible for the Polk County Detention Center, named one of the ten worst immigrant detention centers in the nation and the site of an ongoing campaign by Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families.

The Idaho Board of Corrections could still change its mind to accept a proposal from its own Department of Corrections -- its time for Idaho to dump private prisons altogether!