Is CCA Guilty?

I believe it’s possible that a private, for-profit prison can be operated in a responsible manner.  Based on my experience, however, the chance of this occurring is small.  Time and time again, the incentive to cut corners in order to maximize profits seems to trump the desire to operate a responsible facility.

The Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) in Boise, Idaho, is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest for-profit operator of private prisons in the US, with revenue for the last quarter of $431.10 million. ICC represents the perfect storm of what can go wrong in the private prisons system. 

In 2000, the Governor of Idaho, C.L. “Butch” Otter, helped select CCA to operate ICC. 

Serious concerns about CCA’s administration of ICC began in 2008, when the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC), which oversees CCA’s administration of ICC, found that there were four times as many prisoner-on-prisoner assaults occurring at ICC as in Idaho’s seven other prisons combined. Inadequate staffing was identified as a primary cause of the bloodshed, with guards failing to take appropriate measures to halt rampant violence.  Stronger prisoners (and gangs) were allowed to prey on weaker prisoners with virtual impunity.

When violence at ICC persisted, the ACLU filed suit against CCA in federal court in March 2010, accusing the company of violating the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment in its operation of ICC. Plaintiffs’ complaint details more than 30 gruesome assaults that might have been prevented had CCA operated ICC in a responsible manner.

CCA avoided trial by settling the case in September 2011, agreeing to the entry of a court order that requires CCA to make a number of improvements in the way it operates ICC. The single most important provision in the order obligates CCA “to comply with the staffing pattern” set forth in its contract with IDOC.  Thus, in order to meet its federal duties, CCA need only provide the number of prison guards (and other staff) it agreed to provide in its state contract. Unfortunately, the lure of undeserved profits proved too attractive, and CCA flagrantly violated its staffing obligations.

In June 2013, the ACLU filed a motion seeking to hold CCA and ICC’s warden, Timothy Wengler, in civil contempt of court.  Among other things, the court found (1) that CCA failed to fill thousands of hours of guard posts required by the CCA-IDOC contract, (2) that CCA falsified staffing records to make it appear that ICC was fully staffed, which allowed CCA to collect money from IDOC for guards who were never assigned to work, (3) CCA may have short-staffed ICC every day since the order was entered on September 20, 2011, and (4)  fault rests with top administrators of CCA and Warden Wengler and not, as CCA argued, only lower echelon officers.

Recently, Gov. Otter asked the Idaho State Police to open a criminal investigation against CCA.  According to media reports, a group of Idaho legislators has asked the FBI to open a criminal investigation against CCA as well.

Whether CCA will be found guilty of criminal wrongdoing remains to be seen, but there is compelling evidence to support it.  Last month, an independent auditor found that CCA failed to fill at least 26,000 hours of required posts for 2012 alone, which averages 500 hours a week of missing security staff. It is highly unlikely that Warden Wengler and other top prison officials whose duty it is to ensure full staffing could be unaware of so many vacant posts. Either CCA instructed Warden Wengler to understaff ICC or CCA cannot be trusted to hire competent wardens.

Moreover, it’s reasonable to assume that CCA had to have noticed that it was spending tens of thousands of dollars less in salaries than its contract would require.  Also telling is the fact that, to this day, CCA has yet to fire top officials at ICC responsible for the understaffing, leading one to presume that they were instructed to behave the way they did. 

In any event, if CCA wants to convince the public it can run a prison responsibly, it will have to do a whole lot better than the lying, cheating, and gross incompetence that characterizes its operation of ICC, and which may result in criminal prosecutions.

Learn more about private prisons and other civil liberty issues: Sign up for breaking news alerts,follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

View comments (7)
Read the Terms of Use


What's needed is to tack down the CEO and board of directors of CCA and take a baseball bat to their kneecaps. I'll supply the baseball bat.
It's high time we really get tough with these greedy bastards!


I hope they lose absolutely EVERYthing, b/c Jan Brewer is one of the people who have stock in CCA. I can't think of a BETTER person to lose every last penny than HER.


I had tried to let Santa Fe, New Mexico back in 2000 upon my release from the county jail in a forum to commissioner's that privatization of prisons and jails is absolutely wrong the treatment of prisioners is like any other business. And what is their main goal? To make sure the customer comes back. This forum was covered by PBS and the Santa Fe, New Mexican paper. I could tell you horror story after horror story and that was only in treatment of the women! Segregation of women was discrimination in and of itself!


For the person who posted about taking a bat to kneecaps; I guess you see that as legal, and you should not be put in a jail/prison for assault. I do not endorse prison in any way. This site is blaming the prison companies for making profits, like tobacco companies, and alcohol companies. Those companies have gotten rich off of people too. 46 million American adults currently smoke cigarettes and annually cigarette smoking causes approximately 443,000 deaths. For every person who dies from tobacco use, another 20 suffer with at least one serious tobacco-related illness. In 2004, this addiction cost the nation more than $96 billion per year in direct medical expenses as well as more than $97 billion annually in lost productivity. Legislation is corrupt. Private prisons might be corrupt, but what about the state run facilities that have to close down entire sections of their prisons, pile up the inmates closer, because they cannot afford repair parts? Never is there a mention about the Government's hand in the pot. America and it's officials have turned this Country from the 'Home of the Brave' to the 'Home of the Greedy'. I am not an advocate for locking up individuals who have been falsely accused. I am an advocate of justice for the victims. What constitutes a non-violent crime? Should there be no punishment for all crimes? I have read this story about understaffing. It is a difficult place to work. Imagine getting spit on, urinated on, yelled at, hit, punched, stabbed, for a living. No one wants to work in a prison. They get treated like crap from the inmates. The understaffing did not cause the fights; it might be a contributing factor. The inmates that do not understand how to stop fighting are the ones responsible for the fights. Understaffing sucks. But no one wants to work in the prison. What is the answer? An inmate who has life decides to beat another inmate because the other inmate looked at him funny. The prisons take him out of there and place him in restriction. Adults getting 'time outs' as punishment doesn't work. There is no solution. Removing the prisons, either private or not, is a bad idea.


Canyon county is definitely corrupt and the only way to stop this war is to stand up against them and record them. They refused to give me my copies of videos and audios on six different occasions. They also beat me for months because I refused to work for them and I posted them on YouTube.


I used to work for CCA and I have to say it was one of the worst jobs I have ever had. Officers are seriously underpaid for the level of danger and responsibilities they experience. $11-13 an hour is too little for what is demanded of their officers. It is more at their other facilities where jobs aren't as scarce, but CCA makes sure they pay absolutely as little as possible. 12 hours shifts leave employees mentally and physically drained after dealing with the difficult incarcerated residents and standing/walking on concrete floors all shift long. Officers burn out often and call in sick in order to get some time away from the job stress. Frequent mandatory overtime is needed because they can't attract enough people to keep their prisons fully staffed. Despite the management pleas to to the staff to help find able bodied individuals to fill those vacancies, how can you recommend working under these conditions. Union is a very dirty word at the facilities. The warden actually said they will shut down the facility first if the employees try to bring one in. It is no wonder CCA can't meet contacted staffing levels.


Prison for profit is immoral.

Stay Informed