Crime Report on CCA Scandal

The Crime Report
 

 Three years ago, the new administration of Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and many legislators were talking up the idea of Idaho’s next major prison being a private-sector operation. Imagine the potential savings, proponents said then. Maybe eventually Idaho could get out of the bricks-and-mortar corrections business altogether, says the Twin Falls (Id.) Times-News in an editorial. That was before Idaho got to know the Corrections Corporation of America better. For nearly a decade, CCA has operated the 2,000-inmate Idaho Correctional Center — easily the most trouble-prone prison in the state’s history.
Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that the state is fining CCA more than $40,000 and ordering it to fix problems with drug and alcohol treatment and medical care at ICC. Ten of 13 drug and alcohol counselors at the lockup aren’t qualified to provide treatment under CCA’s contract with the state. In March, the American Civil Liberties Union sued CCA — and the state — claiming violence is so rampant at the ICC that it’s known as “gladiator school” among inmates. The lawsuit claimed Idaho’s only private prison is extraordinarily violent, with guards deliberately exposing inmates to brutal beatings from other prisoners as a management tool. The ACLU’s Stephen Pevar said he has sued at least 100 jails and prisons, but none came close to the level of violence at Idaho Correctional Center. “Our country should be ashamed to send human beings to that facility,” he said. Not many legislators have much appetite anymore for another ICC-style facility in the state. There’s much more enthusiasm for alternative sentencing and drug, alcohol and mental-health courts to keep Idaho’s inmate numbers as low as possible.
Link: http://www.magicvalley.com/news/opinion/article_af794e96-3578-5ae5-91e1-78340daff5ee.html

Filed under: Article, Private Prisons, State Prisons

Idaho Department of Correction Announces Cutbacks, Furloughs

April 16, 2010

In an effort to balance its budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the Idaho Department of Correction is eliminating 24 more staff positions. That brings the total number of positions cut over the past two years to 102.

“We’ve had to make some very difficult choices since the budget crisis began,” said IDOC Director Brent Reinke. “But at every stage our focus has always been on our core mission – protecting the people of the state of Idaho.”

The IDOC plans to cut $3.1 million from the FY 2011 budget. Officials tell us at least $1 million worth of savings will result from modifications to the department’s food service program. Eight of the 24 positions that are being eliminated are food service jobs.

From the start of the economic downturn, IDOC administrators have left many positions unfilled when an employee leaves the department. As a result, almost all of the employees whose jobs are being eliminated are being given an opportunity to transfer elsewhere in the department.

“This has been a difficult process especially for the employees whose jobs have been impacted,” Director Reinke said. “While almost all of them still have jobs, many of them have had to take pay cuts and demotions.”

Another way IDOC says it will balance its budget in FY 2011 is by continuing employee furloughs. All prison security staff will be required to take 32 hours of unpaid leave. All other IDOC employees must take 80 hours for an annual savings of $1.9 million.

While IDOC’s budget is going down, the size of the inmate population is expected to go up. IDOC’s annual offender forecast calls for a 4.3 percent increase in FY 2011. But the department is bracing for an even bigger population increase because of budget cuts to social service programs provided by the Department of Health and Welfare and the Office of Drug Policy.

“The fact is there are now a lot of people who won’t get the mental health or drug treatment they need in the community and run the risk of ending up in prison,” Director Reinke said.

IDOC employs about 1,500 people, incarcerates about 7,500 inmates and supervises about 13,800 probationers and parolees.

Link to article Here

Prison company asks court to toss Idaho lawsuit

April 16, 2010

BOISE, Idaho — A private prison company has asked a federal judge to bar a lawsuit brought by 24 inmates and the American Civil Liberties Union over violence at Idaho’s only private prison, saying the primary plaintiff should go it alone in court.

Corrections Corporation of America runs Idaho’s only private prison, the Idaho Correctional Center near Boise.

Inmate Marlin Riggs brought sued the Nashville, Tenn., company last year over violence at the prison.

The ACLU filed an amended complaint in March on behalf of Riggs and the other inmates, saying the facility is so violent that it’s known as “gladiator school” and that guards deliberately expose prisoners to brutal beatings from other inmates.

In its response filed with Boise’s U.S. District Court last week, Corrections Corporation of America says the amended lawsuit oversteps limits the court set when it agreed to appoint attorneys to help Riggs bring his case. The company also contends that the amended lawsuit is unduly prejudicial.

“This court should not allow the class to piggyback their class claims onto Riggs’s original complaint because Riggs lacks the standing to represent the class,” the CCA attorneys wrote in their motion. “It will also prejudice the CCA defendants at trial where the jury will not only decide liability on Riggs’s claims, but still hear evidence relating to the class allegations.”

If the ACLU and the other plaintiffs want to file a class-action lawsuit against CCA, they should do that separately, CCA’s attorneys contend.

The ACLU responded in a court document Thursday, contending that plaintiffs frequently file amended lawsuits expanding the scope of the case and adding new plaintiffs. Besides, the ACLU said, it’s Riggs’ decision — not CCAs — whether he wants to bring a case by himself or on behalf of a class. And while the ACLU agrees that the corrections company could suffer some prejudice because of the expanded claim, the attorneys say it’s in line with the prejudice suffered by any defendant in any expanded lawsuit, and it’s not unduly prejudicial.

Riggs and the ACLU are suing for $155 million in damages — the entire net profit of the Corrections Corporation of America for 2009. The inmates claim in part that guards force prisoners to turn each other in for violating prison rules, and those who refuse are moved to cell blocks where they are surrounded by enemy gang members and face certain beatings. The inmates also contend the prison denies injured inmates medical care to save money and hides the extent of injuries.

CCA officials have countered that the prison is under the constant supervision by the Idaho Department of Corrections and that it meets the highest professional standards in the country for correctional management.

Food Service Business Plan

March 2010

The department reviewed food service operations to determine if the cost of $1.63 per served meal could be lowered. The department completed the zero-based budgeting process in December and has developed a business plan to increase efficiency in food service operations. The three tiers of the plan include changing menus, revising operations and staff adjustments. When the new business plan is implemented, the state will reduce meal costs to approximately $1.47 per meal served. This cost includes staff and security.

Phase 1: Menu modifications were initiated on February 12th. These changes will occur incrementally.

There are five key menu changes.
• Replace juice with fortified fruit drinks.
• Replace individual milk with bulk milk.
• Bake food items instead of frying them.
• Make salad dressings and syrups.
• Include seasonings in meal preparation.

Inmates were notified of menu changes on March 1st. The menu changes will be phased in by April 1st. Staff menus were phased out effective February 28th

Phase 2: Operational changes are underway.
The department will move from the current standardized meals to a self-select option in several institutions.
This will reduce waste and save money. The South Idaho Correctional Institution tested the new serving method the first week of March with favorable results.
A staff member will oversee the implementation of recognized business practices including standardized accounting, centralized purchasing, inventory, portions, and regulating production levels. Food managers will provide guidance and oversight for day-to-day operations in the field.

Phase 3: Staffing adjustments
Food service staff schedules will change. When enacted, the three parts of the business plan will standardize and add efficiency to food service statewide. The department will use the cost reductions of $1 million dollars to help offset FY11 budget reductions.

The Board of Correction voted to delay a request for proposals for contracting food service for nine months.

The department has until September to cut food service costs.

ACLU Lawsuit Charges Idaho Prison Officials Promote Rampant Violence

March 11, 2010

Deliberate Indifference And Longstanding Culture Of Brutality Lead To Epidemic Violence At Privately-Run Idaho Correctional Center

BOISE, ID – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Idaho today filed a class action federal lawsuit charging that officials at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) promote and facilitate a culture of rampant violence that has led to carnage and suffering among prisoners at the state-owned facility operated by the for-profit company Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, the lawsuit charges that epidemic violence at the facility is the direct result of, among other things, ICC officials turning a blind eye to the brutality, a prison culture that relies on the degradation, humiliation and subjugation of prisoners, a failure to discipline guards who intentionally arrange assaults and a reliance on violence as a management tool.

“In my 39 years of suing prisons and jails, I have never confronted a more disgraceful, revolting and inexcusable case of mass abuse and federal rights violations than this one,” said Stephen Pevar, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU. “The level of unnecessary human suffering is appalling. Prison officials have utterly failed to uphold their constitutional obligation to protect prisoners from being violently harmed and we must seek court intervention.”

According to the lawsuit, a deeply entrenched culture of brutality has resulted in higher levels of violence at ICC than at Idaho’s eight other prisons combined. The lawsuit highlights 24 different cases of assault that have occurred at ICC since November 2006, all of which were entirely preventable and the direct result of failures by ICC officials to protect prisoners despite being placed on notice that these prisoners faced a substantial risk of serious harm. The cases highlighted in the lawsuit are not exhaustive, but instead are merely representative of the scores of additional assaults that have occurred at ICC during the past four years.

The cases of prisoner-on-prisoner violence highlighted in the lawsuit include a prisoner who was hit in his ear so hard that it partially detached from the side of his head, a prisoner who, in anticipation of being brutally assaulted, removed his eyeglasses to protect them prior to receiving a pummeling, a prisoner who was beaten so badly that his teeth were pushed through his lower lip causing effusive bleeding that took an officer more than two hours to clean up, a prisoner who required eight screws to put his jaw back into place after being savagely beaten in the face and a prisoner whose requests for X-rays on the heels of being beaten were met by laughter from a prison guard who callously informed him there was no need for x-rays since his nose was so obviously broken.

Marlin Riggs, one of six named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, entered ICC in May 2008 and was targeted by a group of prisoners he believed were associated with a gang that prison officials knew had a history of threatening and extorting money from other prisoners. Despite his pleas, prison officials refused to move Riggs to a safer living area and he was violently assaulted and left lying in a pool of his own blood with a broken nose and a crushed cheekbone.

“The levels of violence and gross indifference of staff are shameful,” said Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of the ACLU of Idaho. “People are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment. The administrators of ICC are ignoring their constitutional duty to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners.”

The lawsuit also claims that guards at ICC, in an effort to shield themselves from any complaints of misconduct for having set up many of the assaults, file disciplinary charges against victims. The Commission of Pardons and Parole then has used these fabricated charges as grounds to deny parole to a number of prisoners, including Riggs, creating additional unfair punishment.

Among other things, the lawsuit seeks a court order setting strict deadlines by which ICC must develop and implement adequate policies, as well as hire and train a sufficient number of guards, to safeguard prisoners from assault. The lawsuit argues that if ICC officials continue to ignore their constitutional obligation to protect the prisoners in their care, all prisoners should be removed from the facility.

CCA, which boasts of being the largest owner and operator of private correctional and detention facilities in the U.S. with 63 facilities in 20 states housing approximately 76,000 prisoners, has faced hundreds of lawsuits in recent years, including two ACLU lawsuits challenging overcrowding and unconstitutional medical care at the San Diego Correctional Facility, an immigration detention facility in San Diego.

A copy of today’s complaint is available online at: http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/riggs-et-al-v-valdez-et-al-second-amended-complaint

Prison as Punishment, Not for Punishment

Mar 26th, 2010

No one wants to go to prison, but there’s one particular prison in Idaho that’s especially feared. Why? According to the Associated Press, over the past two years, more prisoner-on-prisoner assaults have occurred at this specific prison — the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) — than at the other eight Idaho prisons combined.

During the past two months, ACLU lawyers interviewed over 30 prisoners who were viciously assaulted at ICC. The findings were so damning that a lawsuit was filed in federal court in Boise on March 11. The complaint, which exceeds 80 pages, chronicles more than 20 violent assaults that resulted in broken bones and bloodshed. The complaint does not include a number of victims who are so afraid of being assaulted again that they declined to have their stories included in the lawsuit. Since the lawsuit was filed, the ACLU has been contacted by more than 40 other persons who were assaulted while confined at ICC.

In what is a poorly kept secret, ICC is known throughout Idaho as “Gladiator School.” ICC staff not only condones violence amongst prisoners, it encourages and facilitates it as a management tool. In the United States, individuals are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment, but that is not the case at ICC. It is worth noting that of the nine prisons in Idaho, ICC is the only one not run by the state, but rather by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). CCA, which boasts of being the largest owner and operator of private correctional and detention facilities in the U.S., has faced hundreds of lawsuits in recent years, including several brought by the ACLU.

Although our class action lawsuit was filed just last week, it appears that officials at CCA know that changes are needed. Mere days after our complaint was filed, CCA replaced the warden and assistant warden, the top two officials at ICC.

The lawsuit seeks broad injunctive relief on behalf of all ICC prisoners. The injunctive relief would require ICC to make numerous improvements designed to ensure that prisoners are reasonably protected against assault.

Stephen Pevar, the lead attorney in the case, said: “I consider this case to be one of the most important cases I’ve litigated in my 39 years of practice, if not the most important. No other case of mine remotely approaches the level of profound human suffering that has occurred at ICC — nearly all of which could have easily been prevented by staff.”