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Mon Mar 5, 2012, 10:57 AM

Private prisons may be costing Idaho more; state hasn’t checked [View all]

I would comment on this story, but I can't stop banging my head against the wall.

...privatization could be costing the state more money than if the Idaho Department of Correction ran the lockups.

Idaho officials will tell you that the state's largest private prison, the Idaho Correctional Center, saves $12 per inmate, per day compared to a similar state prison. But adjusting for known system-wide expenses and the cost of overseeing the contract for the private lockup bring the per diems to just $5 apart.

The comparable state prison also houses all of the sick and geriatric inmates, is the oldest facility in the state and spans multiple buildings on a 65-acre campus, requiring a high guard-to-inmate ratio to patrol. The private prison, meanwhile, is relatively new and compact and only accepts inmates without chronic medical or mental health needs, factors that allow it to operate with a lower staff-to-inmate ratio. Those factors make it likely that the state could operate the facility for no more than it pays the private company.

State leaders have refused to examine the issue. About four years ago, Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke asked the Board of Correction and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter's office if his department could bid for the contract to run the Idaho Correctional Center — a move that would have given Idaho a firm idea of how much it would cost to make the facility public. The board responded with a firm “no,” and the governor's office simply deflected the matter back to the board.

“We just decided we'd stay with what we're doing,” said board member Jay L. Nielsen...


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