Judge will Not Halt Investigation into Private Idaho Prison
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge says he won’t put a lawsuit against a major private prison company on hold while the FBI investigates the company for possible criminal fraud charges. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge made the ruling this week in a lawsuit brought by a group of Idaho inmates against the Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America. The company had asked the judge to put the lawsuit on hold, contending that if its employees had to testify in the lawsuit, they could be at risk of incriminating themselves in the FBI investigation. The FBI launched an investigation into CCA earlier this year, looking at whether the company violated federal fraud laws by falsifying reports to the state about staffing levels at the prison. If the employees pleaded the Fifth Amendment during the civil case, CCA’s attorneys feared it would cause a jury to unfairly infer that the company broke the law. Eight inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center sued the prison company in 2012, contending they were attacked by a prison gang because there weren’t enough guards on duty. The inmates also contend that CCA understaffed the prison by thousands of hours and then falsified reports to the state to cover up the understaffing. The prison company has acknowledged understaffing the prison by thousands of hours in 2012, but denies the claims in the lawsuit and contends that the housing unit the inmates lived in was not understaffed at the time of the gang attack. In the Wednesday ruling, Lodge said that CCA’s concerns were entirely speculative. The judge said prison company hasn’t offered any evidence that its employees would likely assert their Fifth Amendment rights.