State takeover of private prison on track

State takeover of private prison on track
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Eleven full days and a morning.

That's how long newly appointed warden Randy Blades said he has before Idaho takes over a private prison in Boise.

Starting July 1, the state will begin running 2,080-bed Idaho Correction Center following the expiration of the $29 million-a-year contract with the Corrections Corporations of America (CCA).

During Thursday's meeting of the Idaho Board of Correction, Blades said the transition will be seamless when CCA hands over the keys.

The move to end the contract was announced by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter in January a few months after an Associated Press report raised questions about the Nashville, Tennessee-based company's prison staffing arrangements and the effectiveness of prison privatization.

The most important part of the transition is making sure the takeover doesn't disrupt the staff and prisoners, Blades said.

"People have come together," he said. "We started with a blank sheet of paper when we first took this on. We didn't have a guide book."

Correctional officers and staff have been trained to start work immediately, and services such as the pharmaceutical vendors and educational programs have been prepped for the transition, Blades said.

"There is no finish line in this business. We just carry on the next day," Blades said.

For example, the prison has already taken steps to transition from CCA's pharmaceutical vendor to the one the state uses in the rest of its prisons.

"There will be no disconnect on what they're getting now and when they come to us," said Connie Smock, regional director of nursing for Corizon, the prison's health-management company.

So far, the prison has hired nearly 220 employees in light of the transition, said Sharla Means, human resources manager for the Idaho Department of Correction. Some of the employees are staffers who used to work for CCA while others are new hires, Means said.

"Every day the number is changing because we have some people accepting offers while others are turning them down," Means said. "But we are ready for July 1."