Locked Up In Kansas

CoreCivic Receives Condemning Audit for Leavenworth Prison

A recent audit of Leavenworth Detention Center (LCD) in Leavenworth, Kansas by the Justice Department’s Inspector General has revealed many violations such as under-staffing, security problems and attempts to hide illegal “triple bunking” in cells meant for two people. The audit also pointed out that the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) failed to adequately monitor the LDC, indicating that oversight of federal prisons might be a broader problem nation wide. Also found in the recent audit of LDC was a lack of evidence that the $697 million contract with private prison CoreCivic was awarded in a competitive manner.

Federal Control

In 2007 the private prison corporation CoreCivic was hired by the Office of the Federal Detention Trustee (OFDT) to run the Leavenworth prison. In 2012, the OFDT was merged into the USMS and responsibility for monitoring federal detention facilities was given to USMS.

There are currently three federal corrections agencies- The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), USMS, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). BOP maintains people in federal prisons, USMS is in charge of transportation and housing of people awaiting trials, and ICE houses people charged with violating border laws.

The federal audit said that the USMS only had one monitoring staff for each of its 15 privately run prisons, and the monitoring staff did not work on site. In contrast, BOP has 3 monitors onsite at all of its 13 privately run prisons.

The federal prison population increased by almost 800% between 1980 and 2013, “at a far faster rate than the Bureau of Prisons could accommodate in their own facilities,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) stated. In 2016 a federal audit concluded that private facilities have “more safety and security problems than government-run lockups”, which prompted Obama’s administration to announce the U.S. would begin phasing out the use of private prison contracts. However, today’s president Donald Trump endorses private prisons and the industry’s stocks have gone up as the industry prepares to expand.

Privately Owned Prisons

LDC is run by Corecivic, previously known as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), but has recently rebranded itself. Founded in 1983, CoreCivic privately contracts for design, construction, expansion and management of jails, prison, detention centers, inmate transportation and residential reentry services. CoreCivic partners with all federal corrections agencies BOP, USMS, and ICE as well as many states and local governments.

By 2015, Corecivic’s revenue was $1.79 billion and 51% of this came from contracts with federal correctional and detention authorities. By 2016, CoreCivic along with the largest private prison corporation, Geo Group, were running 170 prison and detention centers in America. CoreCivic and other private prison corporations have run into a number of controversies over the years including record of prisoner abuse, poor pay and benefits to employees, scandals, escapes, riots, and lawsuits throughout their history.


Leavenworth Detention Center

LDC is one of the largest prisons in the country with 1,033 beds for men and women and is accredited by the American Correctional Association (ACA). The recent audit of LCD focused on the time period of 2010 through 2015, with correctional officer vacancies hitting a high in 2015 and prompting mandatory overtime of workers and the closing of certain security posts. The audit said that during this time the USMS did not adequately monitor the staff, and LDC didn’t ask to borrow temporary staff from other prisons. The practice of holding three men in cells meant for two took place from at least 2005-2015, with attempts to hide the practice when ACA auditors would visit.

The federal audit said that the ACA declined to act in response to these practices “in part because the individuals involved were no longer” at LDC. The new LDC warden, Linda Thomas (previously a warden in South Carolina), took her current position in 2016- after the audit information had already been gathered. Both USMS and the CoreCivic said that they have since addressed issues raised by the audit, however questions about private prisons and federal oversight are still legitimate, and the discussion must be continued.

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