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Idaho Is Looking For A New Prison Operator


Idaho will soon be looking for a new manager for its largest prison. Corrections Corporation of America, a private company, has operated the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise for a decade.

Now, after years of legal trouble over issues like violence and falsifying records, the Tennessee-based company says it will leave Idaho.

Idaho’s Department of Correction will say little about the impacts of CCA leaving the state. The department plans to issue a request for proposals from private contractors in the next few months. A spokesman declined to answer if the state might start running the prison. At least one Idaho lawmaker supports that idea.

Democrat John Gannon of Boise told the Spokesman Review last month he has a bill to allow the state to enter the bidding process. He says he's not convinced CCA ran the prison any cheaper than the state could have on its own. An Associated Press investigation last year suggested the same thing.

Charlene Taylor, who teachers Criminal Justice at Boise State, says that’s common. “One of the continual criticisms with some of the private facilities is that ultimately the cost savings that they tout as part of the reason that they should be used are never realized,” Taylor says.    

She adds not only does the private prison industry often not save states money, they tend to have more problems than state facilities with issues like training, supervision and use of force. She says when private prison operators do work cheaper than states it can cost in other ways.

“The way that a business saves money is to cut costs and increase the money that’s coming in,” Taylor says. “The way you cut costs in a correctional institution has to do with reducing training, reducing pay, reducing services that are offered to the inmates. And to me that seems completely counter to what we’re trying to do in terms of changing inmate behavior.”

In the past, the Idaho Board of Corrections has rejected the idea that the state’s Department of Correction might be able to run the Idaho Correctional Center cheaper than a private company.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio

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