Private prison contractor, Corrections Corp. of America, has attempted to have an Idaho state audit of prison staffing changed to an inconclusive result. CCA currently runs Idaho’s largest prison and the corporation had understaffed the prison by at least 26,000 hours, resulting in a $1 million settlement payable to the state of Idaho.
CCA admitted that its employees had lied on staffing documents to create the illusion that “thousands of hours of mandatory guard posts were filled when they were actually vacant for months,” according to an ABC News report. This admission prompted the Idaho Department of Corrections to hire professional auditing firm KPMG to deeply examine the private company’s understaffing.
On the falsified documents, CCA claimed that some employees worked 48-hour shifts to maintain staffing requirements, which ultimately resulted in the CCA violating the $29 million contract held with the Idaho Department of Corrections. The documents also violated a settlement agreement made on behalf of inmates who claimed understaffing caused rampant prison violence.
CCA officials said the KPMG audit is flawed with errors and overestimates of the staffing shortage. CCA spokesman Steve Owens said the audit doesn’t take into account guard posts filled by “highly qualified, experienced and trained personnel.”
“It is characterized by a number of errors, faulty assumptions, misunderstandings of the contract, and other flaws,” read a CCA statement. “We provided all the information that KPMG requested freely, but in the end, the report simply does not provide an accurate assessment of the situation”
However, the audit wasn’t investigating the amount of spots that were filled, it was investigating the spots that weren’t.
KPMG’s report indicated that 4,500 hours were double-logged by staff, 8,700 hours were filled by employees who are not even correctional officers, and 9,800 hours were lost because of late starts and early ends of guard shifts. KPMG noted that it was “conservative” in its estimates, and said “it is possible that our analysis understates the number of hours that could potentially be identified as unstaffed.”
Understaffed prisons create an increasingly dangerous environment for both guards and inmates. As of 2013, the national inmate-to-guard ratio stood at 5 to 1. There is an obvious disadvantage for the guards because they are outnumbered by inmates, which leaves the open to attacks without other guard support.
Inmates also assume an increased risk of violence because there are less guards to monitor inmates and patrol centralized inmate populations within our correctional facilities. Because of risk of life endangerment and shrinking pay for prison guards, the number of prison guard applicants is decreasing, creating a dangerous population disparity between guard and inmate.
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.