Idaho Minority Leaders want FBI to investigate CCA prison

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - Some Idaho Democratic leaders are asking the FBI to join in the investigation into the Idaho Correctional Center, which is operated by the Tennessee-based company, Corrections Corporation of America.

Earlier this month, Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter asked Idaho State Police to launch an investigation into the company, but some lawmakers feel a more thorough, conclusive investigation needs to be done.

Minority leaders signed a letter asking the FBI to investigate CCA's operations at the ICC in south Boise.

"We believe this is a big deal, and that there's a real question of whether crimes have been perpetrated on the citizens of Idaho," House Minority Leader John Rusche said.

A forensic audit conducted last year found that CCA falsified time card information to hide understaffing issues at the Idaho Correctional Center. While Idaho State Police is currently working on a criminal investigation into the prison, some legislators said they don't have the manpower to carry on the investigation alone.

"They have already said they're undermanned, understaffed, they don't have enough resources," Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett said. "We haven't given them enough of a budget to really handle the level of something like that."

Lawmakers said bringing in the FBI would help them get a closer look into the case. Rep. Ruschie said the FBI would likely work in conjunction with Idaho State Police on the investigation to see whether any criminal activity took place at ICC.

"We're looking at bunches of money," Rep. Rusche said. "There are 26,000 hours of fraudulent time cards in one year, and we've had the contract for several years. To me, signing off on a fraudulent bill to be sent to...the government you have a contract with, it's fraud. It's a crime."

Democrats said they also want to make sure your tax dollars don't get mismanaged again when the state takes ownership of the prison this year.

"The people have given us their tax dollars to work with them as efficiently and transparently as possible," Sen. Stennett said. "We shouldn't not pay attention when something hasn't operated appropriately. You're talking about a level of funds that have been mismanaged and that's a distrust piece."

Stennett said she also hopes this investigation will help the prison ownership transition to be more transparent and smooth.

"I'm hoping that we get very clear as to what the facility was and wasn't doing, so that when we take it over this year, it's going to be in the middle of this year, we know how we need to bring the staffing up, what those expectations are," Sen. Stennett said. "We think the public deserves to have that information and understand the process."

KBOI asked Idaho State Police and the Idaho Department of Correction to share their take on the possible investigation, but neither would comment. CCA did provide KBOI with a statement in response.

It reads, in full: "We discovered this issue at ICC, reported it immediately to IDOC, conducted an internal investigation, and have cooperated fully with the state from day one. Throughout this process, we've operated under the same understanding as legislators and the public that a state criminal investigation had been conducted. Our own internal investigation concluded that this was not a criminal matter, and we remain confident in those findings. We'll of course continue to cooperate with investigators, as we have all along."