On April 11, 2013, the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) announced that Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest for-profit prison firm had acknowledged that employees at the CCA-operated Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) falsified staffing records from at least May through November 2012. As a result, the state paid the company for almost 4,800 staffing hours for vacant positions during that time period.
According to a review of ICC shift logs obtained by the Associated Press, some CCA employees were falsely listed as having worked 24, 36, and even 48 continuous hours.
In January 2013, attorneys for prisoners housed at the ICC filed an amended complaint in federal court that alleged CCA officials had falsified staffing records to conceal chronic understaffing. The prisoners claimed that fewer employees were on duty at the time of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults than the number reflected on shift logs. The lawsuit also contends that CCA staff collaborated with ICC gang members in order to maintain control at the facility. See: Castillon v. CCA, U. S. D. C. (D. Idaho), Case No. 1:12-cv-00559-EJL.
“[E]mployees were being placed on the shift schedule who were not present within the building or who were actually working in other areas and in some cases were no longer employees of CCA,” stated T. J. Angstman, one of the attorneys representing the prisoners. “This was being done to fraudulently show the State of Idaho that ICC was fully staffed when in fact it was not and to hide culpability for the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs.”
The following month, the IDOC announced that it had asked the Idaho State Police “to review whether a criminal investigation was warranted after discovering significant discrepancies in ICC’s staffing records.” Idaho’s contract with CCA requires “specific staffing levels to ensure the safe operation of the 2,060-bed prison,” according to IDOC Director Brent D. Reinke.
In fact, CCA has a well-documented track record of failing to ensure the safe operation of the Idaho Correctional Center. Video footage of prisoner Hanni Elabed being viciously assaulted by another prisoner while CCA guards watched from a control room but did not intervene made national headlines in November 2010. CCA had objected to the release of the videotape by the Associated Press, claiming that it posed “an unnecessary security risk to our staff, the inmates entrusted to our care, and ultimately to the public.”
Following the release of the video, U. S. Attorney Wendy Olson said the FBI was investigating whether CCA employees had violated the civil rights of ICC prisoners. Elabed filed a federal lawsuit against CCA, which settled under confidential terms. [See: PLN, Feb. 2012, p.30].
Separately, the ACLU of Idaho pursued a class-action suit against CCA seeking injunctive relief due to rampant violence at the ICC; the facility was known as a “gladiator school” due to the high number of violent incidents. The lawsuit was settled in September 2011 with CCA agreeing to a number of policy changes, including compliance with contractual staffing levels, increasing the number of employees at the facility, investigating claims of staff failing to protect prisoners from violence, and preparing a report on prisoner-on-prisoner assaults. See: Kelly v. CCA, U. S. D. C. (D. Idaho), Case No. 1:11-cv-00185-EJL.
According to an August 7, 2008 report by IDOC investigator Tim Higgins, known as the Higgins report, “Since the beginning of 2008, incidents of violence at the Idaho Correctional Center has [sic] steadily increased to the point that there are four incidents for everyone that occurs in the rest of the Idaho state-operated facilities combined” (emphasis added).
CCA designated the Higgins report “Confidential” and “Attorneys’ eyes only” in the Kelly litigation. After Prison Legal News obtained an unredacted copy of the Higgins report from the IDOC pursuant to a public records request, CCA complained to state officials. As a result, a Deputy Attorney General contacted PLN in November 2012 and requested that PLN “promptly remove the unredacted copies [of the report] from any websites that you have caused them to be posted….” Prison Legal News declined to remove the full Higgins report, which remains available on PLN’s website.
With respect to its admission that ICC employees had falsified staffing records, CCA issued a press release on April 11, 2013, saying it would compensate the state for the vacant staff positions and “take appropriate disciplinary action” against the ICC staff members involved. CCA downplayed the fraudulent records, merely stating “there were some inaccuracies.”
CCA further said “[t]he unverified hours represent a fraction of the total staffing requirements, and there was no apparent increase in violence or other security incidents during the period in question.” However, the company did not address the length of time that understaffing – concealed by falsified staff records – had occurred at the ICC, and whether such understaffing had contributed to the excessive violence at the facility that led to the class-action suit filed by the ACLU, the assault on Hanni Elabed and the levels of violence noted in the Higgins report.
“Based on the findings by the IDOC and CCA’s own admissions, every single jurisdiction that contracts with CCA should conduct an audit to ensure contractual compliance and adequate staffing at facilities operated by the company,” stated PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann, who also serves as president of the Private Corrections Institute – a non-profit watchdog organization that opposes prison privatization. “CCA has a lengthy track record of understaffing and high staff turnover, resulting in incidents such as riots, assaults, and hostage situations that threaten public safety.
This is likely the tip of a larger iceberg.”
The State of Idaho pays CCA almost $30 million per year to operate the ICC under a contract that expires on June 30, 2014. The contract provides for two two-year extensions.
Sources: Private Corrections Institute press release (April 12, 2013), CCA press release (April 11, 2013), www.spokesman.com, http://www.blogs.barrons.com/
(First published by Prison Legal News and used here by permission)
Published Aug 16, 2013 by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA | Last Updated by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA on Jun 12, 2022 at 10:55 pm