Just south of Boise lies the Idaho Correctional Center, one of Idaho’s two private prisons. This prison is managed by the Corrections Corporation of America — the largest operator of private prisons in the U.S. CCA began managing prisons, usually under government contract, in 1983 and since then has amassed 67 different facilities nationwide. ICC opened in 2000, making it the first privately owned correctional facility in Idaho state history.
The management of this prison was shaky at best, prompting Idaho to drop its contract with CCA, which is set to expire on June 30. Even though the state has dropped CCA, someone has to take over one of the largest prisons in the state.
Sadly, private ownership has proven to be less than ideal. This leaves state officials in a bind, especially in a state that detests government involvement. In most situations, Idaho officials love the “business does better approach” and in most cases that is not a problem. However, it is time to stop overlooking glaring issues with the private prison system and let the state assume control of its most violent and understaffed correctional facility.
According to the Idaho Department of Corrections, incidents of violence at ICC are much higher than its state run counterparts. In 2008, an Idaho Department of Corrections study compared ICC with a state run institution of similar size and security level. The study showed ICC had almost three times as many violent incidents. The study also concluded the increased violence was primarily the cause of inadequate staffing and lack of funding. It makes sense considering that in April of this year, documents released by Idaho State Police showed CCA had been falsifying staff records. These records showed over 4,800 hours of non-existent work, just another factor which prompted state officials to seek new management.
State management has never been popular in Idaho. So naturally, Governor Butch Otter has been an outspoken supporter of the private prison system since its arrival to Idaho in the early 2000s. However, Otter has been recently open to other options and requested a broad discussion on the future of ICC. Broad discussion is imperative with every issue, but is most important when the well being of fellow citizens is at stake.
Throughout the country, private prisons have continually proven to be less effective. The American Civil Liberties Union states private prisons are on average more violent regardless of state or operator. According to the United States Department of Justice, Idaho has some of the least overcrowded prisons in the country. So why must the state turn over an effective system to private interests?
Private prisons have proven less effective, but that does not necessarily mean there isn’t hope. Increased oversight and more involvement from the state could fix many of the problems that plague ICC. The Idaho Department of Justice could also assume control outright, bringing ICC back to state standards.
These facts and questions cannot be ignored simply due to political convenience. It’s easy to ignore problems and cling to ideology, but that cannot happen any longer. ICC has been a problem for Idaho for years now, but we have a chance to solve it. Idahoans must be steadfast and conscious of what the facts and voice their concerns. Whichever method is chosen, it is up to the people of Idaho to ensure that this problem is solved.
Jusitn Ackerman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org