APNewsBreak: Idaho inmates claim gangs run prison

Associated Press Modified: November 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm •  Published: November 13, 2012
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Just one guard appears to be nearby at the time, and that guard tries to pull away one inmate who is repeatedly stabbing another. Other guards soon arrive and jump in to separate the offenders, deploying pepper spray and ordering the inmates to the ground.

After the attack the state Department of Correction completed a series of investigative reports, which showed CCA staffers weren't following basic safety and security policies at the prison.

The reports said prison staff failed to take such basic steps as making sure other inmates didn't go near the weapons used in the fight. As a result, the chain of evidence wasn't preserved, according to the reports, and it's unclear if any of the inmates were ever criminally charged.

The reports also include details from an interview with CCA's unit manager at the prison, Norma Rodriguez, who told department investigators that the gang members essentially were running some of the cellblocks.

Rodriguez said sex offenders can't be housed in those units because they're at risk of attacks by gang members, and inmates without gang affiliation can't be moved into the pods because it would force them to join the gangs or be targeted themselves.

Rodriguez told the corrections investigators that as a result, she had to negotiate new inmate placements with gang leaders. She also said prison guards were afraid to enforce basic safety rules, such as keeping inmates from covering over the small windows on their cell doors. Rodriguez said that when she tries to enforce the rules, gang members warn her that she's only making it "hard on" the other guards, implying her staffers will be attacked in retaliation.

The corrections department documents also imply that guards may have helped the inmates plan for the attack shown in the security footage, or they at the least looked the other way.

A similar incident, with a group of gang members hiding in a closet to attack rivals, happened less than a year ago, according to the reports, so CCA guards knew such an attack was a possibility.

In the May attack, only one guard was on hand because the other had gone to get candy bars and sodas for the inmates in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, according to the reports, and cell searches were sometimes skipped or shoddily done, allowing the inmates to build and store weapons.

Guards apparently also failed to take the basic security measure of doing a head count as offenders moved from the cellblock to the dining and recreation areas, so it wasn't immediately clear that the six inmates were hiding in the janitor's closet.

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Online:

Security video and investigation records obtained by Angstman, Johnson & Associates: http://http://www.angstman.com/cca/

Idaho Department of Correction: http://www.idoc.idaho.gov/

Corrections Corporation of America: http://www.cca.com

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