The FBI is stepping in to take over a long delayed state of Idaho investigation of C.C.A. (Corrections Corporation of America the largest private prison operator in the U.S.) for its shoddy and fraudulent operation of the Idaho State Penitentiary.
FBI Investigates Prison Company
By REBECCA BOONE
The FBI has launched a criminal investigation into private prison company Corrections Corporation of America which ran what Idaho inmates called "Gladiator School" because of a violent reputation they say understaffing helped create.
The Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA has operated Idaho's largest prison for more than a decade, but last year, CCA officials acknowledged it had understaffed the Idaho Correctional Center by thousands of hours in violation of the state contract. CCA also said employees falsified reports to cover up the vacancies. The announcement came after an Associated Press investigation showed CCA sometimes listed guards as working 48 hours straight to meet minimum staffing requirements.
The Idaho State Police was asked to investigate the company last year but didn't, until amid increasing political pressure, the governor ordered the agency to do so last month. Democratic state lawmakers asked the FBI to take up the case last month.
The Department of Justice requested a copy of a forensic audit done for the Idaho Department of Correction earlier this year. That audit showed that CCA understaffed the prison by as much as 26,000 hours in 2012 alone; CCA is strongly contesting those findings. CCA’s Owen has said the company believes the audit overestimates the staffing issues by more than a third.
CCA’s contract with Idaho was worth about $29 million a year. In February the company agreed to pay Idaho $1 million to settle the understaffing claims.
Alarming reports of under-staffing and violence have been documented since 2011, but Republican Governor Butch Otter and his administration did their best to ignore the problem hoping it would go away as public pressure to take action continued to mount, until just last month when they finally launched a state investigation of CCA.
Last year CCA was given a heavy fine for the under-staffing and falsifying its employment records to try and cover up the understaffing.
Private prison nicknamed 'gladiator school' by inmates due to extreme violence facing $2.4m fines for chronic understaffing
U.S. District Judge David Carter made the ruling against the Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America in a scathing 24-page ruling issued on Monday.
In it, Carter took the company to task for lying about staffing levels and warned that he would make the fines as big as needed to force CCA's compliance with a settlement agreement it reached two years ago with Idaho inmates and the American Civil Liberties Union.
'If a prospective fine leads to $2.4 million in penalties, CCA has no one to blame but itself,' Carter wrote.
The Otter Administration's lax oversight enabled and invited CCA's abuse.
Governor Butch Otter
If this is how the largest private prison operator in the country conducts its business and fulfills its contracts, it casts a pall over the whole concept of paying private for profit corporations to operate state correctional institutions, or care for inmate populations the courts have placed under the states' custody.