The FBI is investigating a private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), for incidences of extreme violence in an Idaho prison. Inmates have reported the violence is due to serious under staffing, leading them to dub the prison “Gladiator School.”
The Idaho Correctional Center, the focus of the FBI investigation, has been under staffed for some time. The Idaho State Police was asked to investigate the shortage in staff there, but the police department did not get around to it. Idaho Governor C.L. Otter then asked the FBI in February to step in and take over the investigation of the state’s largest prison, including the Idaho Correctional Center, which is located south of Boise and houses more than 2,100 inmates.
The CCA has been in charge of the Idaho prison system for over a decade. A recent audit by the Department of Justice shows that 26,000 hours in 2012 were unaccounted for, but CCA spokesman Steve Owen claims this is an exaggeration. The CCA, he says, will dispute this audit.
Thus far in its investigation, the FBI has discovered falsified records showing prison officials working 48 hours straight to fill in the vacancies. The CCA has not denied this. In fact, this is not the first time the prison company has been hit with accusations. The prison company, dubbed “Gladiator School,” being investigated by the FBI has attracted negative attention for some time.
In 2010, the ACLU sued the CCA, saying the Idaho Correctional Center inmates were exposed to severe violence at the facility due to under staffing. In 2012, a law firm out of Boise sued the prison company for relinquishing the correctional center to prison gangs so under staffing could result and thereby decrease employee wages. Several inmates were severely injured after a brutal fight between prison gangs.
Teresa Baker, the spokeswoman for Idaho State Police, acknowledges the continuation of the Idaho prison investigation by the FBI. She says, “They (the FBI) have other cases that are tied to this one so it worked out better for them to handle it from here.”
The CCA will likely have to give up its contract as the state of Idaho has now taken over Idaho prison operations. The CCA had been paid $29 million a year for running the Idaho Correctional Center. When CCA contract expires June 30, the bidding process will likely put the Idaho prison into the hands of the public.
Corrections Corporation of America
The CCA was the first company to nab a private prison contract, in 1984, to take over a Tennessee prison. Thus, the private prison business was born. The rationale behind privatizing prisons was for reasons of cost effectiveness and smooth-running operations for local and state governments, but this has not been the case.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, private prisons can actually cost more than public prisons. Why? Because private prisons are less likely to accept inmates who are costly to house, thus leaving those inmates to the public prisons to take in. This gives a false picture of cost effectiveness, because private prisons evidently take in prisoners who are not serious offenders, thus costing them less money.
Another strike against private prisons is that staff lack adequate training and there is simply inadequate staffing. Because of these two important factors, private prisons suffer from heightened levels of violence. A 2001 study showed that private prison guards are 49 percent more likely to be assaulted by inmates compared with public prisons. Also, assaults against inmates occurred 65 percent more frequently than in government-run prisons.
The CCA prison company investigation by the FBI for its “Gladiator School” violence may uncover further wrongdoing. The prison company has forked over $1 million for the under staffing claims.
By Juana Poareo
The Seattle Times