Justice Department releases damning audit of CoreCivic’s Leavenworth Detention Center

Understaffing, triple bunking, and overcharging are on the private prison’s laundry list of issues

Written by Beryl Lipton
Edited by JPat Brown

The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General yesterday released a revealing audit of operations at the Leavenworth Detention Center and its contract with the U.S. Marshals Service. It may be an indication of similar malfeasance throughout the USMS contracted correctional system, which currently includes 15 prisons in its sphere.

The audit of the current USMS contract with the Kansas private prison, which began in 2007, detailed a list of contract violations and risky cost-saving measures. It scolded the Marshals Service for failing to execute appropriate, pro-active oversight or take advantage of available punitive measures, claiming that attempts to rectify the situation actually resulted in worsening conditions. Understaffing, inappropriate billings, and creatively deceptive attempts to mislead inspectors were all included as facility failings.

Staff vacancies at the prison were as high as 23% of all positions at one point, according to the report.

In order to deal with the short staffing, LDC implemented mandatory overtime and diverted officers from other important duties, such as helping detainees with transitional services and legal casework. The result, says the IG, was lower staff morale and an overall more dangerous environment. Two-thirds of exit interview respondents noted understaffing as one of the biggest causes for dissatisfaction.

Additionally, overcrowding resulted in two particular unconventional and inappropriate remedies: triple-bunking and further outsourcing of prisoner care. The audit found that three inmates would be held in cells designed for only double occupancy and that, in order to conceal the practice from American Correctional Association inspectors, the third bunk would be removed from cells.

The IG also identified shortcomings in CoreCivic’s distribution of “sick leave” account funds and charges related to the administration of commissary positions. It proposed 24 recommendations to foster improvement, the majority of which USMS concurred with, including a revamped approach to contract prison oversight.

The contract for Leavenworth Detention Center has already cost the government about $250,000,000 and will ultimately end up totaling twice that through the end of the contract terms.

The Marshals Service holds its detainees primarily through agreements with private operators and about 1,800 local law enforcement agencies, which together provide housing to its 50,000-prisoner population. They’re one of CoreCivic’s biggest customers, accounting for 15% of their revenue last year.

The full report is embedded below:


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