Private Prison Lawsuit to Proceed

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A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of inmates at the privately-run Idaho Correctional Center will proceed, a federal judge ruled recently, and a hearing has been set for 3 p.m., May 26, in federal court in Boise.

The ACLU lawsuit builds on another case, filed last year by plaintiff and former-ICC inmate Marlin Riggs, who alleged, while representing himself, that "prison gang members at the Idaho Correctional Center had threatened and assaulted him, that prison officials failed to protect him, and that he was denied medical treatment for 15 days after his injury," according to the judge. Riggs' case was consolidated with a handful of others brought by fellow inmates alleging "failure to protect." The bulk of those were dismissed, with a finding that the inmates had not sought redress through the prison administrative process first.

Idaho Correctional Center
  • Nathaniel Hoffman
  • Idaho Correctional Center

That's when the ACLU picked up Riggs' case and refiled, seeking class action status.

Corrections Corporation of America, which runs ICC, Idaho's largest prison, argued that the amended complaint should be thrown out, in part because Riggs is no longer at ICC and cannot represent the "class" of plaintiffs. Also, CCA claimed, expanding Riggs' specific case into a larger class action was never authorized by the court. CCA (represented locally by Naylor and Hales, PC), wrote:

"This Court should not allow the class to piggyback their class claims onto Riggs’s original complaint because Riggs lacks standing to represent the class. Allowing Riggs’s complaint to proceed as a class action will cause further problems because it will arguably expand the scope of relevant discovery on the class’s claims. It will also prejudice the CCA Defendants at trial where the jury will only decide liability on Riggs’s claims, but still hear evidence relating to the class allegations."

The Idaho Department of Correction agreed with the company and signed onto CCA's brief. But Judge B. Lynn Winmill rejected the arguments, writing: "Because neither the CCA nor the IDOC Defendants have shown current or imminent prejudice from going forward with the Amended Complaint, the Motion to Strike will be denied. The Motion to Strike [Motion] to Certify Class will likewise be denied."

The hearing at the end of the month will consider certification of class action status.

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