Trending Topics

Private prison firm to fight staffing audit result

CCA is pushing to get a forensic audit declared inconclusive after the auditors found the private prison company understaffed an Idaho prison by more than 26,000 hours

By Rebecca Boone
Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — Corrections Corp. of America is pushing to get a forensic audit declared inconclusive after the auditors found the private prison company understaffed an Idaho prison by more than 26,000 hours.

The Idaho Department of Correction hired KPMG to conduct the audit last year after an investigation by The Associated Press showed CCA sometimes claimed its guards worked as much as 48 hours straight in order to fulfill staffing requirements.

CCA spokesman Steve Owen says the audit is rife with errors and overestimates the staffing shortfalls by more than a third. Owen says the company has hired an attorney to deal with KPMG directly in hopes of reaching an agreement that the report was inconclusive.

Still, CCA and the Idaho Board of Correction have announced that the prison company will pay the state $1 million to settle the understaffing issue.

The report could impact the Tennessee-based company’s other government relationships. Idaho corrections officials say prison leaders in several states and the U.S. Department of Justice have asked for copies of the audit. CCA is one of the largest private prison companies in the world, reporting $1.7 billion in revenue in 2012.

Owen contends the report includes several flaws, and that auditors failed to count guard posts that were filled by “highly qualified, experienced and trained personnel” because they had job titles other than correctional officer.

“It is characterized by a number of errors, faulty assumptions, misunderstandings of the contract, and other flaws,” CCA officials wrote in a five-page statement responding to the report. “We provided all the information that KPMG requested freely, but in the end, the report simply does not provide an accurate assessment of the situation.”

Guido van Drunen, a Seattle-based partner with KMPG, on Tuesday referred all questions about the matter to the Idaho Department of Correction.

The report and underlying documents, obtained by the AP through a public records request, shows that KPMG noted whether staffing positions were filled by correctional officers or other CCA workers after discussing the matter with state officials.

The Department of Correction’s own contract monitors have noted repeatedly in the past that CCA sometimes relied on case managers and correctional counselors to fill guard posts. Agency officials have said that practice is a problem because if counselors and case managers are working guard posts, they likely aren’t left with enough time to fulfill their own job duties, making it harder for inmates to complete the programs needed for parole.

CCA contends that in many cases, the case managers and correctional counselors worked overtime in the guard posts, and that since they have security training those hours should have been counted as fully staffed.

KPMG’s report also says the auditing firm took a conservative approach when deciding whether to include some discrepancies in the overall totals. In cases where auditors couldn’t determine with a level of certainty that a post was unmanned, double booked or had other issues, those hours were left out of the total, according to the report.

“As a result of our conservative approach it is possible that our analysis understates the number of hours that could potentially be identified as unstaffed using the criteria provided to us by the Idaho DOC,” the KPMG report states.

The KPMG auditors found that nearly 4,500 hours were double-booked, where one CCA guard was listed as filling two posts simultaneously, according to the report. It also said about 8,700 hours were filled by workers who aren’t correctional officers, and more than 9,800 hours were unstaffed because a correctional officer started a shift late or left early. Another 3,100 hours had other problems, according to the report, such as not being identified on the staff roster at all.

CCA’s response contends that KPMG also failed to account for lower levels of staff needed on national holidays when inmates generally aren’t transported in or out of the prison, and that in some cases the auditors failed to account for employees who had the same last name.