The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announced today the release of a report examining a Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) contract with CoreCivic, Inc., formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, to operate the Adams County Correctional Center, a private contract prison in Natchez, Mississippi. In May 2012, an inmate riot at that facility resulted in a correctional officer’s death and injuries to approximately 20 staff and inmates. A BOP after-action report cited “systemic” staffing deficiencies and a lack of Spanish-speaking staff as contributing factors to the riot.
The OIG’s audit found that the facility was still plagued by significant staffing deficiencies in correctional services, health services, and Spanish-speaking staff. We also found significant weaknesses in CoreCivic’s reports to the BOP about its staffing levels, and we found that the BOP’s control and oversight of the contract performance was inadequate in several areas.
The specific findings in today’s report include:
In 19 of the 38 months following the 2012 riot, CoreCivic staffed correctional services at a lower level than at the time of the riot. Yet CoreCivic’s monthly reports to the BOP, which were based on simple headcounts, showed that correctional staffing levels had improved in 36 of those 38 months. This was based on an interpretation of the contract by both BOP and CoreCivic that allowed the calculation of staffing levels based on headcounts rather than full-time equivalents (FTE), regardless of the hours each employee actually worked. Had the contract more clearly specified that staffing levels should be measured using FTEs, the BOP would have either received additional services from CoreCivic or could have assessed nearly $2 million in additional invoice deductions as a result of inadequate staffing levels.
There were periods after the riot during which health services staffing levels failed to meet minimum contractual thresholds. Moreover, between December 2012 and September 2015, the approximately 2,300-inmate Adams County facility was staffed with only a single physician for 434 days (43 percent of the time) and a single dentist for 689 days (69 percent of the time). This resulted in inmate-to- provider ratios that were about double those specified in BOP program statements.
The BOP’s post-riot after-action report recommended minimum requirements for bilingual staff, but we found that the BOP did not modify the contract to include this requirement until June 2015, and that contract modification did not define the required level of speaking proficiency or set a target date for compliance. As of July 2015, the facility’s inmate population consisted of approximately 2,300 aliens, predominately Mexican nationals, yet only 4 of 367 staff spoke fluent Spanish.
CoreCivic employs correctional officers with qualifications that would be insufficient for employment at BOP-managed institutions, and pays them less than BOP correctional officers. The OIG found significantly higher rates of staff turnover at the facility than at comparable BOP institutions.
The OIG also found that the BOP did not implement appropriate performance standards to measure and evaluate CoreCivic’s performance. For example, the BOP contract did not specify the dietary guideline standards that CoreCivic should have followed to ensure that food service offerings at the facility were nutritionally adequate. Additionally, inmate grievance procedures caused inmates at Adams County to have fewer levels of appeal and more stringent deadlines than inmates assigned to BOP-managed facilities, and the BOP’s oversight of billings was inadequate in several ways.
As of June 2016, the amount expended by the BOP on the contract was $468 million, making this the DOJ’s third largest contract in terms of dollars since 2009. If the final option period is exercised, the contract will extend through July 2019 and reach an estimated value of $580 million.
Today’s report makes 9 recommendations to assist the BOP in improving operations under the Adams County Contract. The BOP agreed with all of the recommendations. CoreCivic did not explicitly agree or disagree with the recommendations, and as described in the report, it objected to several aspects of our staffing levels analysis.
Report: Today’s report is available on the OIG’s website at the following link: https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2016/a1708.pdf.
Video: To accompany today’s report, the OIG has released a 3-minute video featuring the Inspector General summarizing the report’s findings. The video and a downloadable transcript are available at the following link: https://oig.justice.gov/multimedia/.
Related OIG Reports: The report released today is one of several completed or ongoing audits and reviews that the OIG is conducting of DOJ contract prisons. These include:
- Our April 2015 report on the Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, Texas, which identified similar concerns about post-riot staffing levels at that BOP contract prison. That report is available here, and a recent update describing repayments and cost-savings that resulted from the audit is available here.
- Our August 2016 report examining the BOP’s efforts to monitor the safety and security of contract prisons generally is available here.
- Our ongoing audit of the Leavenworth Detention Center, a U.S. Marshal’s Service contract facility, which is described here.