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Behind the Bars: Kentucky had gaps in monitoring troubled Otter Creek prison

Kentucky Courier-Journal

Monday, July 5, 2010

Kentucky's oversight of a privately run prison in Floyd County was so lax and uncoordinated during the time it housed female inmates that state monitors often failed to promptly recognize and report serious problems, including more than a dozen cases of inmates who complained they were sexually abused by male staff members.


And when the monitors did identify deficiencies at the Otter Creek Correctional Center, including substandard health care, state corrections officials never imposed financial penalties.

These and other problems regarding the management of Otter Creek emerged from hundreds of pages of documents, including copies of monitors' monthly reports and e-mail correspondence, that The Courier-Journal obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act from the state Department of Corrections and the Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America, the prison's operator.

CCA, the nation's largest private prison provider, housed more than 400 female inmates at Otter Creek until January, when the state decided to transfer them to a state-run prison in Western Kentucky. That came after eight substantiated incidents in which female inmates were sexually abused, resulting in charges against at least six staff members.

The state of Hawaii, which also had female inmates at Otter Creek, removed them last year, and the prison now houses 650 men.

In all, the Kentucky Department of Corrections and the state of Hawaii investigated sexual-abuse allegations involving at least 19 inmates. Yet Kentucky's monitoring reports had cited just one incident involving an inmate since September 2005.

In addition, a Department of Corrections investigation concluded last September that prison authorities had failed to investigate seven alleged incidents of sexual contact between staff and inmates since 2007 -- despite a federal law requiring that such investigations be conducted. In four of the seven incidents, the accused staff members later were fired.

Kentucky paid CCA $21 million during the past fiscal year to operate Otter Creek; the Marion Adjustment Center, which has roughly 800 Kentucky inmates; and the Lee Adjustment Center. The state recently moved its inmates out of Lee Adjustment in an effort to cut costs.



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