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PLN quoted in column re CCA-operated Idaho Correctional Center

Lewiston Tribune, Jan. 1, 2013.
PLN quoted in column re CCA-operated Idaho Correctional Center - Lewiston Tribune 2013

From the "Cheers and jeers" column:

One for the books

Posted: Friday, October 25, 2013 12:00 am

Marty Trillhaase | 0 comments


JEERS ... to Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke. On his watch, the state enabled Corrections Corporation of America's chronic understaffing of the Idaho Correctional Center outside Boise, transforming that prison into a violence-ridden "gladiator school."

Five years before CCA's history of scrimping on staffing - thereby enabling inmates to beat up each other - culminated in U.S. District Judge David O. Carter holding the contractor in contempt of court, an internal IDOC memo said ICC inmate violence "has steadily increased to the point that there are four incidents for every one that occurs in the rest of the Idaho state-operated facilities combined."

Although Reinke ramped up monitoring of the state's $29 million contract with CCA, his oversight lacked conviction. As the Associated Press' Rebecca Boone unveiled this week, Reinke's department knew CCA was violating its contractual obligation to adequately staff the prison for at least three years.

Even when a flurry of prisoner lawsuits showcased persistent understaffing, the department didn't scrutinize CCA's staffing reports.

Idaho officials knew enough to impose financial penalties for contract violations - the only thing the profits-driven CCA understands - but they never did. Instead, they put on the kid gloves and even allowed CCA to get by with fewer guards.

And then it's shocked - shocked! - to find out CCA filed falsified time cards and billed Idaho for shifts that weren't worked.

"Never in a million years did we think they were lying to us," IDOC quality assurance manger Natalie Warner told Boone.

How would Warner handle an empty cookie jar and a preschooler with crumbs on his face?

"In this case, it was a $29 million cookie jar," says Alex Friedmann, managing editor of Prison Legal News. "And when CCA is found with cookie crumbs all over their face but denies wrongdoing, the Idaho Department of Correction says, 'OK,' without fact-checking."