Inmates

Madelyn Beck / Boise State Public Radio

Support for our series Private Prison: Locking Down The Facts came from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a nonprofit news organization that partners with journalists and newsrooms to support in-depth reporting and education around the globe.

It was the early 2000s, and the largest prison in Idaho was run by the private company Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA. The state had also started sending prisoners to a private facility in Texas run by GEO Group.


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FLICK/NPS CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSE

The Idaho Department of Corrections facilitates a program allowing inmates to be trained as firefighters and deployed on the lines of some of the most intense wildfires in the West. This is a voluntary program and participants are eager to break up the monotony of prison life by making a difference in a community by battling wildfires. We'll meet with the warden of the South Idaho Correctional Institute, in Kuna, and an inmate who puts his life at risk with his crew to protect wildlands and property in the West.

A federal judge has ordered that several documents be unsealed in a lawsuit between Idaho inmates and private prison company Corrections Corporation of America just days before a hearing is set over whether CCA should be held in contempt of court. 

Inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center, represented by the ACLU of Idaho, brought the lawsuit in 2010 because they contend the CCA-run prison was so violent that prisoners called it "Gladiator School."

CCA denied the allegations, but the two sides reached a deal requiring widespread staffing and safety changes.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

Even if you've never visited a jail, you probably have a pretty clear image of what inmate visitation is like – a shatterproof glass barrier, two people sitting on either side, speaking into telephones. But that's changing in some parts of the Northwest. More and more county jails are switching to privately operated video conferencing systems. Sort of like Skype, for inmates. But these systems have technical difficulties and come with costs for the inmates’ families.