Boise, ID—On Thursday, February 20th United States District Court Judge David Carter granted attorney fees and costs to plaintiffs in the Kelly v. Wengler contempt case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). In September of 2013 the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho found CCA in breach of the settlement agreement signed with the ACLU in 2011 and issued a memorandum decision and order finding CCA in contempt.
“We are grateful that Judge Carter has approved appropriate fees in this case and we remain committed to ensuring that CCA complies with the 2011 Court Agreement,” said Stephen Pevar, senior staff counsel with the ACLU Racial Justice Program and lead counsel in the case. “None of this would have been necessary had CCA kept its word.”
In early August of 2013, the Federal District Court held a two-day contempt hearing in Boise where the ACLU presented evidence showing that CCA violated the court order and CCA admitted to understaffing the Idaho Correctional Center by over 4,000 hours. A more recent independent audit conducted by KPMG concluded that more than 26,000 hours of mandatory posts were actually understaffed by CCA at the Idaho facility.
In the September contempt ruling the judge said that CCA “regularly fell short” of its duty to assign enough guards to ICC. The court pointed out that CCA was well aware that ICC had many more assaults than Idaho’s other prisons and had “ample reason” to make sure that ICC was fully staffed, and yet CCA “clearly violated the staffing requirements” of the order. The court also said that CCA, to this day, has yet to make “a detailed examination” of the number of hours it falsified and overcharged the state.
“CCA will now have to justly compensate for the time it took to help bring the extent of its violations to light,” said Richard Eppink, ACLU of Idaho’s Legal Director. “I bet all Idaho taxpayers hope that they will also be fully compensated, and that the overdue criminal investigation that has finally been launched will find out all those responsible.” In its decision awarding attorneys’ fees to the ACLU, the Court noted that the ACLU had proved that “Warden Wengler and CCA itself was responsible for the staffing shortages.”
Governor “Butch” Otter recently recommended a full criminal investigation be conducted into CCA practices at ICC.