Prisoners land in Corporate America 

The Idaho Department of Correction announced this week that it will transfer 302 Idaho prisoners from the Idaho State Correctional Institution to the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton, Minnesota, later this month. But what didn't get discussed by other local media is that the prison in question is part of the largest private prison network in the nation--a very different type of prison then those run by states. So as a service to our readers in the Pen--we understand that we have quite a few--here are a few tips on what to expect at your new home.

Diversity. Correction Corporation of America, the parent company of the Prairie Facility, is the granddaddy of all private prisons. It is the fifth-largest corrections system in the nation, trailing only the federal government and four states (none of them Idaho). It owns facilities in 19 states, swallowing over half of the private prison market. Prairie has taken in offenders of all levels from locations ranging from Honolulu to North Dakota, so expect plenty of culture shock upon arriving.

Faith. CCA makes no qualms about its commitment to providing faith services in all 63 of its private prisons. Sure, they call it "voluntary," but good luck avoiding it.

Newbies. CCA has faced criticism for hiring inexperienced correctional officers. Apropos, the company's Web site currently displays a large yellow star on the opening page reading "Katrina Evacuees: Click Here for Available Jobs" (it also contains a wealth of information for potential investors, but that's another story entirely...).

Controversy. While Prairie hasn't generated much bad press since opening in 1996, CCA is under the gun. The corporation's prisons in Tennessee, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Colorado have been plagued by riots and accusations of guard misconduct. After one particularly rough riot in Crowley, Colorado, in 2004, 86 inmates filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging excessive force and brutality on the part of correctional officers, even against prisoners who did not partake in the riots. The case has not yet gone to trial.

For links to stories about trouble at CCA prisons, visit www.boiseweekly.com.

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