The fallout from the state's effort to privatize the state prison is turning into a hot potato for the governor's administration.
First, there were the lawsuits by some of the prisoners, contending the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) guards were, at best, lax in preventing assaults and other illegal activities by prisoners.
Then, there was the revelation that CCA billed the state for thousands of hours of guard time when there weren't guards actually on duty. CCA recently paid the state back a million dollars for the overbilling, but that may not cover everything (they originally offered to clear the books with the state for $177,000).
And now there is the discovery that the much-ballyhooed investigation into CCA's operations running the state prison never actually existed. The governor, the attorney general, the state corrections board, even judges spent the last year referring to an investigation by the Idaho State Police that apparently actually never got off the ground. This wasn't discovered until the Associated Press filed a request for information concerning some of the records of that "investigation."
The Idaho attorney general's office has called for a criminal investigation into the CCA staffing matter, saying it's the clearest path to resolving the confusion, but Gov. Otter declined, instead blaming the media for whipping up confusion about the issue.
But AG Wasden is right, and if it won't be launched by the administration then an independent counsel/investigator needs to be appointed by the legislature to unravel all this mess.
Besides taking a detailed look at CCA's investigation, that counsel also should have the added authority to analyze whether or not privatization of the prison (by someone other than CCA) is a good idea, or whether or not the state should return to running the prison.
Frankly, we can't see how you can run a prison and make a profit (without cutting corners) cheaper than the state could run a prison without adding in the costs of a profit. The state obviously thought that could be done in the past, and CCA may not be the best example of how to do it, but the taxpayers deserve some transparent accountability and solid data from the state regarding all the issues involved here.
-- Kelly Everitt