The state is ordering private prison company Correction Corporation of America to pay thousands of dollars and fix problems with drug and alcohol treatment and medical care at the Idaho Correctional Center.
Ten of 13 drug and alcohol counselors at the prison near Boise aren’t qualified to provide treatment under CCA’s contract with the state, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.
Additionally, a medical audit by Idaho Department of Correction officials earlier this year shows the private prison has extensive problems administering medical care, including inadequate records; delays in providing medications, immunizations and mental health care; and a lack of follow-up or oversight when inmates are returned to the lockup after being hospitalized.
The state ordered CCA to provide it with a plan to fix the medical care problems by May 25, but the company has already missed that deadline.
Idaho is also imposing liquidated damages against CCA for violating its state contract by failing to have qualified drug and alcohol counselors. The damages rack up at a rate of more than $2,600 a day; so far, CCA owes the state more than $40,000 for the violations.
“We’re very concerned,” said Rona Siegert, director of Idaho Department of Correction Health Services. “That’s the whole purpose of the audit, to find these things before they get to a level where they’re critical.”
Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA responded to questions about the problems through a prepared statement.
“Regarding the findings of recent medical audits completed by the Idaho Department of Corrections at Idaho Correctional Center, we acknowledge and share the concerns of our government partner and take them seriously. While the identified issues are not at a critical stage, we are working actively and deliberately to quickly and effectively resolve them,” the company said.
CCA also said it is trying to hire qualified staffers for its drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.
“Our efforts to recruit qualified and credentialed addiction, alcohol and drug professionals from the available pool of local candidates continue. We are confident that these efforts will result in our company being in compliance in the near term with a fully credentialed Therapeutic Community staff, as local qualified professionals seek employment opportunities.”
Company officials also said several staff members are set to undergo certification testing in the coming months. But Natalie Warner, the Idaho Department of Correction’s contract administrator and quality assurance manager, said that under the schedule CCA provided for its current employees, the last of the certifications won’t be completed until June 2011. Meanwhile, CCA will have racked up more than $100,000 in liquidated damages.
In an April letter informing the private prison company of the issues, Idaho Department of Administration purchasing officer Jason Urquhart said the Correction Department feared that the drug and alcohol program violations could increase costs for the state.
Offenders often are required to complete the Therapeutic Community program to be released, so if the program’s integrity is compromised, offenders may have to stay in prison longer, increasing costs to the state, Urquhart wrote. He went on to say that the parole commission could require offenders to take part in drug and alcohol programs at other prisons — also increasing costs.
The medical audits, completed between February and April, suggest that in many cases, inmates are going without adequate care, Siegert said. Still, Siegert said the Correction Department didn’t know of any inmates who had suffered injury or harm because of the violations.
Among other problems found in the audits, inmates in the prison’s infirmary were sometimes left alone, without any working pager or call-light system to call a nurse or doctor in an emergency. They also were going too long between medical checks by nursing staff, according to the records.
“Our requirement is that a provider makes the rounds every day to see if they’re getting better or getting worse, what their vital signs are,” Siegert said.
Medical test results also languished unread for too long, raising the possibility that serious medical problems weren’t being addressed right away, Siegert said.
If the company doesn’t repair or adequately explain the audit findings, Idaho can impose liquidated damages for those violations as well.
“It’s going to stay on our radar and we’re going to continue watching it very closely,” Warner said.