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Idaho to take over privately-run state prison

11:01 AM, Jan 4, 2014   |    comments
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BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho's governor says the corrections department will take over operation of the largest privately-run prison in the state after more than a decade of mismanagement and other problems at the facility.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America has contracted with the state to run the prison since it was built in 1997. Taxpayers currently pay CCA $29 million per year to operate the 2080-bed prison south of Boise.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter made the announcement Friday at a preview of the upcoming legislative session.

For years, Otter has been a champion of privatizing certain sectors of government, including prisons.

In 2008, he floated legislation to change state laws to allow private companies to build and operate prisons in Idaho and import out-of-state inmates. In 2008, he suggested privatizing the 500-bed state-run Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino.

The CCA prison has been the subject of multiple lawsuits alleging rampant violence, understaffing, gang activity and contract fraud by CCA.

CCA acknowledged last year that falsified staffing reports were given to the state showing thousands of hours were staffed by CCA workers when the positions were actually vacant. And the Idaho State Police is investigating the operation of the facility for possible criminal activity.

A federal judge also has held CCA in contempt of court for failing to abide by the terms of a settlement agreement reached with inmates in a lawsuit claiming high rates of violence and chronic understaffing at the prison.

Meanwhile, Idaho prison officials, led by IDOC Director Brent Reinke, have lobbied to allow the agency to put together its own proposal and cost analysis for running the prison. Each time, however, Reinke and his staff have been rebuffed by the state Board of Correction.

Recently, Board Chairwoman Robin Sandy said she opposed the idea because she didn't want to grow state government.

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