Groups tell Idaho state officials: Cut ties with Corrections Corp. of America, bring prisoners home!

March 20, 2014

We the undersigned faith, human and civil rights, social justice, labor, and criminal justice reform organizations organizations, write you to express our opposition to the continued incarceration of Idaho prisoners in a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for­profit prison in Colorado — Kit Carson Correctional Center. We believe there are common­sense alternatives to shipping prisoners out­of­state that represent a better use of taxpayer money and do not make things more difficult for incarcerated Idahoans and their families.

We support Idaho State Representatives John Gannon and Mat Erpelding in their call to the Board of Corrections to immediately end the contract with CCA and bring Idaho prisoners back to their home state [1].

As evidenced by CCA’s acknowledgement of falsifying staffing records at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC), which left taxpayers on the hook for more than 4,800 hours of unstaffed guard posts [2], CCA is untrustworthy and Idaho prisoners’ safety and wellbeing are at risk under CCA’s management. Additionally, a forensic audit done for the Idaho Dept. of Correction showed that CCA understaffed the ICC by as much as 26,000 hours in 2012 alone. And, just days ago it was reported that the FBI has launched a criminal investigation into CCA’s management of the Idaho prison [3]. To be certain, corruption and violence at the ICC are not isolated incidents — CCA has a long history of mismanagement and abuse at many of its other facilities around the country [4].

A national report released in November demonstrated sending prisoners out­of­state impedes prisoner rehabilitation and hurts families. Shipping people across state lines hundreds of miles from home diminishes supportive ties to family, community, and loved ones, which research has shown to contribute to better behavior and reduce recidivism [5]. Prisoners’ family and loved ones also suffer the consequences when the high costs of phone calls and traveling long distances make communication and visitation extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Furthermore, Idaho’s sordid history of out­of­state prisoner transfers, dating back 17 years, has gone on for far too long. In that time, according to the report, Idaho prisoner deaths revealed squalid conditions and chronic understaffing at out­of­state private prisons in Texas. Additionally, the ACLU of Idaho has received multiple letters from Idaho prisoners housed at Kit Carson Correctional in Colorado regarding concerns about conditions, medical care, and staffing. This policy is dangerous, costly, and unsustainable.

There are alternatives. According to the January 2014 report, Justice Reinvestment in Idaho: Analyses and Policy Framework, Idaho prison space is currently being used inefficiently — with people convicted of nonviolent crime and eligible for parole occupying prison beds rather than being released [6]. Releasing these low­risk individuals would free up the much needed in­state capacity to bring prisoners home.

The state’s 2­year contract with CCA, for up to $14.4 million to house prisoners out­of­state, expires this July 2014. We strongly urge you to bring Idaho prisoners home, save Idaho tax dollars, and cut ties with CCA —proven to be corrupt and untrustworthy — once and for all.

Signed,

ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)
ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Idaho
Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition
Grassroots Leadership
Human Rights Defense Center
Idaho Public Employees Association
In the Public Interest
Justice Policy Institute
Justice Strategies
NASW (National Association of Social Workers) Idaho Chapter Private Corrections Institute
Private Corrections Working Group
The Sentencing Project
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

[1] Karen Zatkulak, “Lawmakers want out­of­state prisoners brought home,” KTVB.com, February 26, 2013. Available online at http://www.ktvb.com/news/Lawmakers­want­out­of­state­prisoners­brought­home­247357731.html.

[2] The Associated Press, “CCA to pay Idaho $1 million after staffing fraud,” Idaho On Your Side, February 4, 2013. Available online at http://www.jrn.com/kivitv/news/CCA­to­pay­Idaho­1­million­after­staffing­fraud­243598151.html.

[3] Rebecca Boone, “FBI investigating CCA, Nashville­based private prison operator,” The Tennessean, March 7, 2014. Available online at http://www.tennessean.com/viewart/20140307/BUSINESS/303070090/FBI­investigating­CCA­Nashville­base d­private­prison­operator.

[4] Grassroots Leadership, “The Dirty Thirty: Nothing to Celebrate About 30 Years of Corrections Corporation of America,” June 2013. Available online at http://grassrootsleadership.org/cca­dirty­30.

[5] Grassroots Leadership, “Locked Up & Shipped Away: Interstate Prisoner Transfers and the Private Prison Industry,” November 2013. Available online at http://grassrootsleadership.org/locked­up­and­shipped­away.

[6] The Council of State Governments Justice Center, “Justice Reinvestment in Idaho: Analyses and Policy Framework,” January 2014. Available online at http://legislature.idaho.gov/sessioninfo/2013/interim/criminaljustice011514_report.pdf.