The FBI has opened an investigation into one of the largest private-prison operators over its management of an Idaho prison with a reputation for violence, which inmates call “gladiator school," according the Associated Press.
Corrections Corporation of America, based in Nashville, Tenn., which has operated Idaho's largest private prison for more than a decade, has acknowledged that it understaffed the Idaho Correctional Center by thousands of hours in violation of the state contract, the AP reports.
The company also acknowledged that employees filed fake reports to hide the vacancies. The announcement of the FBI probe comes after an Associated Press investigation found that the facility sometimes listed guards as working 48 hours straight to meet minimum staffing requirements.
Last month, the governor, under mounting pressure, ordered the Idaho State Police to investigate the facility. And Democratic state lawmakers asked the FBI to take up the case last month, the AP says.
Rampant and unchecked violence at the prison has been the subject of federal lawsuits and a contempt of court action against CCA. In 2010, the ACLU filed a suit on behalf of inmates at the Idaho prison, charging that it was so violent that inmates called it "gladiator school" because of its kill-or-be-killed attitude among guards and prisoners, according to The Root.
A law firm in Boise, Idaho, sued the company in 2012 on behalf of inmates, charging that CCA had given control of the prison to gangs so officials could save money on employee wages. Further, the firm charged that understaffing led to an attack by one prison gang on another group of inmates that left some of them badly injured, the AP reports.
Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray told the AP Friday that the FBI met with department Director Brent Reinke on Thursday to inform him about the investigation.
The company’s contract with Idaho is worth about $29 million a year. In February the company agreed to pay Idaho $1 million to settle the understaffing claims.
Read more at the Associated Press.