BOISE, Idaho (AP) – A private company that operates Idaho’s largest prison acknowledged Thursday that its employees falsified nearly 4,800 hours of staffing records over seven months last year in violation of its contract with the state.
The admission by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America is the latest in a string of staffing problems alleged or being investigated at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise.
Earlier this year, the Idaho Department of Correction asked state police to investigate staffing discrepancies at the lockup.
Corrections Corporation of America confirmed an internal review concluded some employees at the prison falsified the number of hours worked last year, starting in May and running through November.
The records show hours when prison staff and guards were supposedly staffing security posts, but those positions were actually vacant. Workers involved will be reprimanded, and the company told the Department of Correction it will reimburse the state.
Department spokesman Jeff Ray said the agency intends to do a separate review of the Corrections Corporation of America’s findings. He said it’s too soon to determine how the state will proceed or act on the contract violation.
The company’s annual $29 million contract expires in June 2014, but could be renewed another two years.
“I think the focus right now has been figuring out how many hours were lost and who was involved,” Ray said. “Later we’ll certainly explore how to go forward from there.”
Ray and company spokesman Steve Owen said the unstaffed hours account for a fraction of total staffing time during the seven-month stretch. The prison didn’t experience any significant increase in inmate violence during the period, they said.
Even so, Owen said the company is taking the staffing vacancies and the falsified reports seriously.
“We will take appropriate disciplinary action with the involved personnel, and we will work to enhance the staffing, training and record keeping processes at the facility,” he said.
The company, which operates prisons across the nation, has contracted with the state to run the Idaho Correctional Center for more than a decade.
The contract details how the company must run the prison. It includes minimum staffing requirements that also have been spelled out in a legal settlement the company reached with the American Civil Liberties Union-Idaho after inmates sued in federal court.
In a separate lawsuit filed against Correction Corporation in November, inmates alleged the company falsified staff logs to hide chronic understaffing.
An amended complaint filed in January described a staffing scheme that makes it appear as if more correctional officers are on duty than the number who actually worked a certain shift. The inmates contend fewer guards were on duty than were listed in the staff logs when some of them were attacked and stabbed by gang members in a brutal assault caught on the prison’s security cameras.
Idaho corrections officials asked state police to begin investigating the company’s records earlier this year after finding some staffing discrepancies through an audit. Around that time, The Associated Press filed public records requests for shift logs at the prison that showed guards listed as working 24, 36 and 48 hours consecutively without time off.
Ray said state police will decide whether to probe the company’s staffing and payroll records prior to May 2012.
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