Workers at Idaho’s largest private prison are suing Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) over what they claim is an unnecessarily unsafe work environment.
Mandi Bravo, Mark Eixenberger, Leonard King and Mario Vasquez contend that they suffered severe emotional stress because they were placed in a work environment at the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) with inadequate training and broken equipment. They are each seeking $1 million in damages.
According to the lawsuit filed in Boise’s 4th District Court last Thursday, the four employees were outfitted with broken radios, empty pepper spray canisters and frequently had to work without rudimentary prison equipment. “For example,” the suit reads, “the Plaintiffs and their fellow employees were forced to patrol the prison for months with radios whose call buttons were not functional and that were nothing more than spring-loaded `placebo’ buttons that would issue no signal for help when pressed, leaving them without means to call for assistance in the all-too-likely event of an assault by inmates.”
CCA spokesman Steve Owen told the Associated Press that “[w]e have yet to be served with this complaint, so we haven’t had the opportunity to review any specific allegations. However, contrary to the generalizations made in the document, CCA takes the safety of its facilities and our employees very seriously. We also provide significant and ongoing opportunities for employee training that meet or exceed industry standards.”
An attorney for the workers, Andrew Schoppe, told the AP that CCA has already been held in contempt on multiple occasions. For example, CCA has acknowledged that it falsified reports indicating that positions that were not currently filled had, in fact, been staffed.
“In addition to falsifying those records,” Schoppe said, “the Plaintiffs are also informed that at least one other instance occurred in which records relating to ongoing investigations into crimes and other incidents at the prison were knowingly destroyed by CCA administrators.”
The private prison company has been a defendant in 379 lawsuits in the past 5 years, according to Courthouse News.
“CCA has been sued for allowing inmates to be forced to participate in ‘fight clubs’ for the sadistic pleasure of CCA employees, and CCA was accused of chronically understaffing the Lake Erie Correctional Institution in Ohio, where the facility allegedly lacked appropriate video surveillance equipment to permit employees to monitor inmates,” the lawsuit notes.
According to the ACLU’s 2010 lawsuit against CCA and the Idaho Correctional Center, “ICC is an extraordinarily violent prison. It is known in Idaho as ‘Gladiator School’ for a reason. More violence occurs at ICC than at Idaho’s eight other prisons combined, and the unnecessary carnage and suffering that has resulted is shameful and inexcusable. ICC not only condones prisoner violence, the entrenched culture of ICC promotes, facilitates, and encourages it. Indeed, ICC staff cruelly use prisoner violence as a management tool.”
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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