November 28, 2014

Idaho Prison Director Brent Reinke steps down from post; resignation effective immediately

11-28-2014 Idaho:

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke announced that he was stepping down from his post Tuesday after leading the department since 2007 through a highly public scandal involving a private prison, overseeing two executions and enhancing the department's oversight of contracts.

Reinke submitted his resignation letter during a special meeting of the Idaho Board of Correction.

"It's been an incredible run, but it's time for me to serve in a different way," Reinke wrote in his resignation letter. "I'm grateful to the Board of Correction, lawmakers, and the Governor for supporting corrections. We have truly made a difference for public safety in Idaho these past eight years. The work is not done, but we have a great start."

The news was announced shortly after the three board members met in executive session via teleconference for nearly an hour. The executive session agenda item was added Monday after the members sent out the original meeting alert late Friday afternoon.

The board adjourned immediately after reconvening from executive session and almost everyone from the room —including Reinke— left, which was unusual compared to most board meetings where correctional staffers usually linger in the room talking and answering questions.

Instead, department spokesman Jeff Ray remained in the room to inform reporters that the board did not accept Reinke's resignation and declined to take any official action. He added that the board's members will meet sometime next week to finalize the details surrounding Reinke's departure. Even though the board still needs to accept the resignation, Kevin Kempf —the department's deputy director— will become the interim director starting Wednesday.

Reinke and Kempf declined to comment to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Reinke's resignation comes after a 2013 Associated Press report revealed a private-prison scandal involving the Corrections Corporation of America wrongly telling the state that guards were working shifts that were actually left vacant. The company has since pulled out of Idaho, but the FBI is currently investigating the situation for possible criminal fraud charges.

The scandal became the main talking point of the midterm election during the gubernatorial race. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's Democratic opponent criticized the governor's administration's handling of the scandal and the $1 million settlement Otter's top staff made with CCA.

Meanwhile, Reinke has lobbied over the years to allow the agency to put together its own proposal and cost analysis for running the prison. However, he went against Otter's preference of championing privatizing certain sections of government, including prisons, and was rebuffed by the governor-appointed Board of Correction.

Board Chairwoman Robin Sandy has said that, like Otter, she was against the state takeover of prisons and wants to limit government growth. But the state was forced to take back the formerly CCA-managed prison this year after CCA declined to renew its contract and the state couldn't find any other company to take its place.

Otter issued a statement Tuesday saying: "I have appreciated Director Reinke's effort, enthusiasm and empathy throughout my tenure as Governor. It's a tough job, and nobody in Idaho history has done it longer. Brent has my thanks for his hard work and commitment. I wish him the best in all his future endeavors."

Reinke became the correction director after Idaho had been contracting with CCA, one of the nation's biggest for-profit prison companies, since 1997. The company was contracted to manage the state's largest prison for $29 million each year.

In 2007, only one part-time Idaho Department of Correction employee was responsible for monitoring the private prison. Reinke bumped that number to 24 staffers to help increase oversight of multimillion-dollar contracts.

Along with increasing contract monitoring, Reinke was the head of the department while the state executed two prisoners by lethal injection for the first time since 1994. ..Source.. by KIMBERLEE KRUESI

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