Lawsuit- gangs in charge of lockup E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

It doesn’t matter if you’re manufacturing sneakers or running a prison. The key to maximizing profits is reducing if not eliminating labor costs. That’s why cops aren’t being hired and security guards are. In the world of private prisons, the fact that security guards will take the place of expensive and unnecessary corrections officers is usually a big selling point when executives are pitching financially desperate elected officials.

But you’ve really got to hand to the Corrections Corporation of America. According to a recent lawsuit, CCA has figured out a way to reduce labor costs even further —just let the gangs run the facility and call it a day.

According to recent reporting from the Associated Press and others, a gang war that appears to have taken over parts of an Idaho private prison is spilling into the federal courts. The inmates who have filed the lawsuit allege that prison officials are ceding control to gang leaders in an effort to save money.

Eight inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center are suing the Corrections Corporation of America, contending the company is working with a few powerful prison gangs to control the facility south of Boise in order to spend less on staffing.

The lawsuit is a fascinating read. Filed recently in Boise's U.S. District Court, the action describes the prison as a place where correctional officers are terrified of angering inmate gang members and where housing supervisors actually get permission from gang leaders before moving anyone new into an empty cell.

"The complaint alleges that CCA fosters and develops criminal gangs," said attorney Wyatt Johnson, who along with T.J. Angstman represents the inmates, said in a statement. "Ideally, the lawsuit should force this to come to an end."

The inmates point to investigative reports from the Idaho Department of Correction that suggest gangs like the Aryan Knights and the Severely Violent Criminals were able to take over shortly after prison officials began housing members of the same gangs together.

The power shift meant a prison security guard had to negotiate the placement of new inmates with gang leaders, according to the department reports, and that prison guards were afraid to ask inmates to follow the rules.

Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison company, says it will get to the bottom of this.

"We take all allegations seriously and act swiftly if our standards have not been met," spokesman Steve Owen said in a statement. “At all times, we are held to the highest standards of accountability and transparency by our government partners, and expect to be."

When the state Department of Correction completed a series of investigative reports, they included details from an interview with CCA's unit manager at the prison, Norma Rodriguez, who told department investigators that the gang members essentially were running the joint.

But as long as costs are down and profits are up it’s likely that no one at CCA is getting too worked up about some bad press.

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