Idaho officials: Private prison takeover had 'challenges' such as missing meds, records
Idaho prison officials say they had to have thousands of dollars' worth of medications shipped overnight to the state's largest prison after the former operator, Corrections Corporation of America, left the facility without a promised eight-day supply of inmate drugs.
The Idaho Department of Correction officials also say they discovered some chronically ill inmates went without needed medical care, and some medical records were missing when they assumed control of the facility.
But CCA officials say those claims are without merit and that no one from the department has contacted the Nashville, Tennessee-based company to communicate any concerns.
Department officials told the Idaho Board of Correction about the alleged medical and operational problems during a meeting last week. The board will meet again Wednesday to discuss whether the state will try to recoup any losses associated with its claims.
The state took over the 2,080-bed prison after CCA acknowledged understaffing the facility by thousands of hours in violation of its $29 million contract with the state. The company's admission came after a report by The Associated Press raised questions about the facility's staffing.
On Monday, CCA spokesman Steve Owen said his company offered to conduct a medication inventory with the Department of Correction before the transition, but the agency opted against it.
Owen said CCA also met with the state's prison health care contractor and its pharmacy supplier to determine the adequate supply of medications needed.
"If in fact the Department has made these claims, we believe they are without merit and don't match up with the condition of the facility we handed over or the reality of the sincere efforts we've made to be responsive to IDOC during the transition process and subsequent to the transition," Owen wrote in an email.
Jeff Zmuda, head of the department's Prisons Division, told the board last week that the logistics involved in switching the prison to state control were substantial. But for the most part, he said, the process went smoothly.
For instance, Correction Department staffers had to inventory more than 3,000 items at the prison, and the state had to hire hundreds of new workers to staff the facility. Many of those correctional officers had worked for CCA at the prison, he said.
Still, the takeover was "not without a few glitches," Zmuda said.
Pat Donaldson, chief of the department's management services division, said CCA was obligated to provide an operational phone system at the facility. The company did provide the system, but state workers spent about three days fixing it to make it work, he said.
Regarding the phones, Owen wrote that "directly prior to these concerns being raised," CCA reached out to the department to see if there were any problems and received no response.
Shane Evans, chief of the department's education, treatment and re-entry division, told the board about the alleged medication problems.
"We had some challenges with some of the conversions: availability of medication, some chronic care that wasn't occurring," Evans said. The state's health care contractor, Corizon, arranged with its pharmaceutical provider to have the medications brought in.
"They were Johnny-on-the-spot, and overnighted about $100,000 worth just to get us to the minimum amount we were supposed to have on hand," Evans said.
Another problem was missing medical records and evidence that some inmates with chronic illnesses weren't getting the regular medical care they needed, Evans said. The department has asked Corizon to go through the inmates' records to determine what needs to be done to treat them, he said.
Owen said CCA officials met with Corizon and Corizon's pharmaceutical provider about the amount of medications needed.
"CCA conducted an inventory with Corizon and determined that there was an adequate supply of medication available at the time of transition," Owen wrote. "What's more, CCA's average monthly cost for medication at the facility was below $100,000, so IDOC's figure for what we assume are identical medications is far in excess of what an eight-day supply would cost."
Correction Department spokesman Jeff Ray said the agency is still conducting its assessment of the issues, and will reach out to CCA once that assessment is over.