Federal Court Holds Private Prison Firm In Contempt For Violating Staffing Agreement


(Credit: Creative Commons)

private prisonA federal judge held one of the world’s largest private prison firms in contempt Monday, after it repeatedly failed to staff key prison security positions at an Idaho facility and falsified staffing documents, in violation of a 2011 court settlement.

The initial lawsuit against Corrections Corporation of America alleged that violence at Idaho Correctional Center was so rampant it was known as “gladiator school” among inmates. The suit alleged deliberate indifference by CCA officials, inadequate staffing and supervision, and a failure to adequately investigate acts of violence.

As part of a 2011 settlement in which it admitted no wrongdoing, CCA agreed to make some improvements, including more carefully monitoring staffing to ensure that records were not falsified. Corrections Corporation of America later admitted that it had reported staffing for at least 4,800 hours during which mandatory security posts were actually vacant.

In his ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter found that CCA was continuing to leave key security posts unmanned, endangering public safety, and that “it is clear that non-compliance was far worse than the report of about 4,800 hours would lead one to believe.” Carter ordered an extension of the settlement, an independent monitor and a steep fine for any misreported hours in excess of 12 per month.

Another lawsuit focused on the same facility alleges that CCA partnered with gangs and used the threat of gang violence as an “inexpensive device to gain control over the inmate population.”

Idaho has already terminated its contract with CCA, but the contract is not set to expire until June 2014. What’s more, the state has committed to a private prison contractor, and CCA will be permitted to submit a new bid, according to the ACLU.

CCA and other major private prison firms have a reputation for abuse and abysmal conditions, with profit motives incentivizing the companies to prioritize profit over the safety and rehabilitation of the inmates, and to repeatedly cut corners to save money.