BOISE -- The clock is ticking for the state to take over operations of the largest prison in Idaho, which is currently operated by a private company.
The official switch-over of the Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) to the state will happen on July 1, and there is still work to be done. The Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) says it is on track for a clean transition at that time.
The current private manager, Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, has come under fire with lawsuits, and investigations into allegations of mismanagement, understaffing and violence amongst inmates.
KTVB asked incoming Warden Randy Blades (who's been warding in other Idaho prisons) about changes that can be expected, particularly knowing the "gladiator school" reputation of violence and other problems at ICC.
"I'm a forward-looking person as opposed to looking at the past or even being judgmental, but some things for sure are that staff are communicating with offenders, that the offenders are having their questions answered. Operationally... in that type of world, routine is our friend," Blades said. "With the people on the ground, the boots on the ground, we're hiring some good people. The supervisors out there are doing a good job, so they're going to help us to go forward."
Blades has been working on planning, hiring, posting orders and learning the current ICC operations. He says he's looking forward to taking over, and says from an inmate perspective he hopes the first IDOC-managed day feels like the last CCA-managed day in terms of routine.
"Noticeable changes? My hope, my objective is not many," Blades said. "Because it's a large facility. You have 2,100 inmates. You have 350 staff. You don't want to bring a lot of change to that type of situation without a lot of forethought, planning, communication."
Logistically, leadership is in place and IDOC is currently working out other hiring.
"We've hired our warden there, Randy Blades. He's now hired both his deputy wardens and most of his command staff. And all of those key personnel we want to have in place now that can start working on that transition from now until July 1 has all been accomplished," Kevin Kempf, IDOC Deputy Director, said.
IDOC is working through a number of physical property negotiations with CCA now.
"Everything from the stun fence that they have all the way to a computer they may have in the bowels of that institution, and everything in between. Those things need to be negotiated between Corrections Corporation of America and the state of Idaho," Kempf said. "I'm happy to say those negotiations are going very, very well. We're about to close the books on those and continue in to focus on that July 1st transition."
The state has approved nearly $2 million to make this transition, with operations to cost the state just over $25 million a year, which is $4 million less than the current contract for operations with CCA. IDOC says it's currently on track budget-wise for this switch.