Law Drafted for Public Operation of Idaho Prisons

BOISE, Idaho — Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, drafted a proposal that would allow state agencies to bid on government work normally reserved for private companies. Specifically, this plan would allow the Idaho Department of Corrections to enter the running to take over operation of the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC). The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is currently in charge of running the prison.

Idaho is currently paying the CCA about $30 million each year to maintain the correctional center. Gannon believes that continuing with this contract isn’t saving the state any money. “There is a view that private contractors can perform functions less expensively, but I think sometimes they can’t,” he said in a recent statement.

Gannon claimed that his strive to make the correctional center a public prison stems from his research into the average wages of correctional officers at public and private companies. While many states can operate prisons more cheaply with private companies, Gannon believes that Idaho is better off relying on state agencies instead.

One fear linked to the idea of allowing state agencies to submit bids is that it would grow Idaho’s government too much. By extending a contract to a state agency such as the Idaho Department of Corrections, the number of workers employed by the state would increase by several hundreds.

Yet other board members hold taxpayers’ interests at heart, and are willing to hear the proposal to figure out the best course of action for the state and its residents.

Trouble at the ICC is also likely spurring Gannon’s decision to draft the proposal. The CCA has been under scrutiny lately for falsifying records about the level of staffing at the prison and increasing violence among the inmates.

The CCA’s contract expires in 2014, and the state is opening the bidding process for the new contract this December. The proposal has been rejected twice already: once five years ago when Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter deferred the plan to the board, and again this past June. Although the board has consistently rejected the notion of opening bids to state agencies, the Idaho Board of Correction is willing to revisit the idea as the CCA’s contract nears its end.