- Associated Press - Friday, February 7, 2014

State officials appear to remember different versions of events regarding whether or not the Idaho State Police had launched a criminal investigation into understaffing and falsified reports at a prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America. Here’s some of what they’ve said over the past 12 months:


Feb. 4, 2013:

Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke gives Idaho State Police Lt. Col. Ralph Powell a letter requesting ISP’s help. “This letter seeks an independent party to investigate and audit these records to determine the extent of the problem and any potential violation of state law,” Reinke wrote in the letter.


Feb. 5, 2013:

Reinke informs the Board of Correction that he’s asked the Idaho State Police to launch an investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing at the Idaho Correctional Center: “I’ve had two visits, actually, three visits now, with Col. Powell … He considers this an issue now under investigation,” Reinke said. “We are working through our staff with his staff to be able to transfer documents off. The Idaho State Police will take it to the next level as far as that’s concerned.”

The Idaho Department of Correction issues a news release, which reads, “IDOC has asked ISP to conduct an independent investigation and audit of these records to determine the extent of the problem and any potential violation of state law.”

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said his company is also investigating. “It is premature and speculative to draw conclusions before all of the facts have been gathered, and to do so at this point would undermine the investigation that is taking place. If our efforts uncover inconsistencies, we will take swift action to rectify any issues,” Owen said.

Mark Warbis, spokesman for Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, tells a reporter after a meeting of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee that Otter remains a supporter of private prisons, and the news of the police investigation “hasn’t changed that.”


Feb. 12, 2013:

In response to a public records request for CCA’s payroll records made before the ISP investigation was announced, Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray responded via email: “I know that is what you’re most interested in, but we can’t release them yet because they are critical to the investigation. As you know records related to an investigation are exempt from disclosure. We don’t want to be accused of ignoring that portion of the statute and somehow tainting the investigation.”


May 9, 2013:

At the Board of Correction meeting, Reinke tells board members that in 14 months, CCA’s contract will go into an automatic extension unless the board chooses to take action. “There’s a couple of things that we have not talked about yet, on how best to proceed with this contract and the Idaho Correctional Center. We have not had any discussion as a department with you,” Reinke said. “Part of that is because of the investigation, which we will not go into today because it’s still under investigation.”


Aug. 7, 2013:

IDOC Deputy Warden Tim Higgins, while testifying under oath, is asked by U.S. District Judge David Carter about the investigation. “For one thing, in the last sentence of this news release, it mentions an IDOC investigation into the same issues. Do you see what I’m talking about?” the judge asks Higgins. Higgins says he does, and says his agency has done an initial audit. “Based off that initial audit by our own people, the determination was made that this could possibly be a criminal matter. So, as such, we have referred it to the state police for criminal investigation,” Higgins says. “We are providing support.” The judge interrupts, “And the reason for that is, of course, not to be … .” ”Not to interfere with the ongoing criminal process,” Higgins responds.

In response to a reporter’s question about whether CCA made an offer of $177,000 to settle the understaffing issue, Ray says: “Yes, CCA did make an offer. We declined it because we are waiting for the results of the ISP investigation.”


Sept. 16, 2013:

In an email responding to a request for information from The Associated Press, Ray writes: “The Idaho State Police has an active criminal investigation underway into CCA’s staffing patterns at the Idaho Correctional Center. As part of that investigation, the Idaho Department of Correction has hired the internationally respected accounting firm KPMG to conduct a forensic audit of CCA’s records. We want to get to the truth of what’s been going on at ICC, so we’re not going to do or say anything that might make the investigators’ jobs more difficult.”

Judge Carter finds CCA in contempt of court and orders civil penalties. But the judge writes in his ruling that he won’t order CCA to discipline more employees because of the ongoing criminal investigation. “The Court does not find it appropriate to order CCA to discipline more staff in response to the falsified records. As discussed above, the fact that supervisors who signed falsified rosters remain at ICC is a concern for compliance going forward. But the Court will not intrude on CCA staffing decisions when a state criminal investigation is ongoing,” Carter wrote.


Jan 31, 2014:

The AP makes a public records request for the Idaho State Police final investigation report and any documents related to the ISP investigation of CCA. The Idaho State Police says no such records exist.


Feb. 6, 2014:

Idaho State Police Col. Ralph Powell says the agency never launched a criminal investigation because he determined that the matter was a civil issue. He said he made the decision in early 2013 after reviewing Idaho Department of Correction documents and consulting with state and county attorneys. The attorney general’s office and the Ada County prosecutor’s office deny any involvement with the decision. Powell also says he advised the governor’s office regularly on the status of his agency’s involvement.


Feb. 7, 2014:

The Idaho attorney general’s office calls for a criminal investigation into the staffing matter, saying it’s the clearest path to resolving the confusion. Gov. Otter declines the attorney general’s recommendation, writing a letter blaming media reports for whipping up confusion. “There does seem to be some public confusion, fomented by media reports, about the degree to which the Idaho State Police (ISP) was involved in assessing potential criminal wrongdoing in Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) operations at the Idaho Correctional Center,” Otter wrote, noting that the ISP was involved with multiple agencies in making its decision and remained engaged with IDOC for the forensic audit.

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