Grassroots Leadership and our friends in the fight against prison profiteering are celebrating after Idaho Governor Butch Otter announced on Jan.3 he is ordering the state to take over the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) — a private prison operated by industry giant Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) with a long and sordid history of scandal and abuse. The state’s $29 million-a-year contract with CCA expires June 30 this year.
Idaho has been the subject of our Humpday Hall of Shame time and again, especially for the atrocities at the ICC, commonly referred to as the “Gladiator School” for its reputation of violence. Additionally, as we reported last April, CCA admitted to falsified staffing records at the ICC with guards being listed in shifts up to 48 hours, sometimes in multiple posts at once. Last September, a federal judge ruled that CCA was in contempt of court for persistently understaffing the ICC in direct violation of a legal settlement.
Speaking to reporters about his decision to turn control of the 2,080-bed prison over to the state, Governor Otter said, “It’s disappointing, but I think it also recognizes what has been happening, what has happened - it’s necessary. I think it’s the right thing to do. Is it the desirable thing to do for me? Not necessarily, because we had better hopes for outcomes in privatization.”
It was the right thing to do, and we are happy to see that the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board agrees, reporting that Otter’s plan is a “good step”. The board went on to say, “Taking back control of the prison might lead the Legislature to much-needed prison reforms. We hope it does.”
We hope so, too, and we believe one of those much-needed prison reforms is putting an end to the shameful practice of shipping prisoners across state lines into private prisons. The state may have learned from the mistake of trusting CCA to operate the ICC, but shockingly, the state continues to contract with CCA to house up to 800 Idaho prisoners in a private prison in Colorado.
Our new report, Locked Up and Shipped Away: Interstate Prisoner Transfer and the Private Prison Industry, exposes the way the interstate transfer of prisoners to for-profit private prisons across the U.S. impedes prisoner rehabilitation, diminishes prisoners’ ties to family and community, serves the interests of an industry that views prisoners as commodities, and perpetuates our nation’s mass incarceration crisis. As one of the four states that currently has prisoners in private prisons across state lines, the report chronicles Idaho’s horrific history of shipping prisoners away to alleviate prison overcrowding rather than prioritizing sustainable reforms.
Idaho should keep moving in the right direction, invest in much-needed prison reforms, and bring incarcerated people home to their families and communities. We’ll keep you posted in the coming months on new developments in Idaho.