Mar 152010

Where should corrections priorities lie, rehabilitation of prisoners or corporate profit?

idaho The American Civil Liberties Union sued state prison officials and a private company Thursday, claiming violence is so rampant at the Idaho Correctional Center that it’s known as "gladiator school" among inmates.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit against Nashville, Tennessee-based Corrections Corp. of America in U.S. District Court in Boise.

The lawsuit says Idaho’s only private prison is extraordinarily violent, with guards deliberately exposing inmates to brutal beatings from other prisoners as a management tool.

The group contends the prison then denies injured inmates medical care to save money and hide the extent of injuries.

Steve Owen, the company’s director of public affairs, said it had not yet been served with the lawsuit and was reserving comment. Steven Conry, company vice president of facility operations, previously maintained the prison is a safe and well-run facility.

Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke also said he had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not immediately comment.

Stephen Pevar, senior attorney for the ACLU, said he has sued at least 100 jails and prisons, but none came close to the level of violence at Idaho Correctional Center.

"Our country should be ashamed to send human beings to that facility," he said.

The ACLU is asking for class-action status and $155 million in punitive damages — the entire net profit reported by the company in 2009.

The ACLU says the money should go to lead plaintiff Marlin Riggs, who sustained permanent facial deformities and other medical problems after he was savagely beaten in his cell.

Guards use violence to control prisoner behavior, forcing inmates to "snitch" on other inmates under the threat of moving them to the most violent sections of the prison, ACLU-Idaho executive director Monica Hopkins says.

Hopkins says inmates will be beaten by fellow inmates if they become known as a snitch. If they refuse to give up names, the guards will have them beaten anyway, she says.

"It doesn’t do us any good as a society to put people in there where they have to turn to other gangs and become gang members to protect themselves," she said. "The thing is, there’s a constitutional duty to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners."

The lawsuit also refers to an investigation by The Associated Press based on public records requests that found the level of violence at the prison was three times higher than other Idaho prisons, and that Idaho Department of Correction officials believed it was also dramatically underreported by Corrections Corp. of America and inmates…

Inserted from <Raw Story>

In my opinion, when the state takes a prisoners freedom in the interest of public safety, the state assumes responsibility for the prisoners safety, and the public has a right to expect that the state will take measures to help that prisoner become an asset, not a threat, to the community.  Corrections Corporation and other ‘for profit’ prisons have profit as their primary motive.  This is a conflict of interest with the state’s responsibilities to the prisoner and to the public.