BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The nation's largest private prison company is being held in contempt of court by a federal judge for chronic understaffing at an Idaho prison.
U.S. District Judge David Carter made the ruling against the Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America in a scathing 24-page ruling issued Monday. In it, Carter took the company to task for lying about staffing levels and warned that he would make the fines as big as needed to force CCA's compliance with a settlement agreement it reached two years ago with Idaho inmates and the American Civil Liberties Union.
"If a prospective fine leads to $2.4 million in penalties, CCA has no one to blame but itself," Carter wrote.
The contempt finding stems from a case that began in 2010 when the ACLU sued on behalf of inmates at the prison south of Boise, contending that the facility was so violent that prisoners called it "Gladiator School" and that understaffing and mismanagement contributed to the problem.
CCA denied the allegations, but reached a settlement agreement with the inmates, promising to increase staffing levels above what was then required under its $29 million contract with the Idaho Department of Correction. That settlement agreement was slated to expire this month, but the ACLU asked the judge to extend it and find CCA in contempt for failing to abide by the agreement.
CCA acknowledged earlier this year that its employees filed reports with the state that falsely showed 4,800 hours of vacant security posts as being staffed during 2012. But during the contempt of court hearing earlier this month, witnesses revealed that number only included the night shift during a seven-month span.
"It is clear that the non-compliance was far worse than the report of about 4,800 hours would lead one to believe," Carter wrote. "... There is also no reason to believe the problem only began in April 2012 and was solved after October 2012. Indeed, even in the weeks prior to the contempt hearings, mandatory posts were still going unfilled — thus there remains persistent staffing pressure that is the backdrop to prison employees fabricating records. The difference today is that CCA may finally be presenting an accurate picture of its inability to fully staff its prison."