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Statehouse inmates visit big house

Twenty-eight Idaho legislators went on a tour of three state prisons this week, entering a stark, cramped, empty two-person cell, visiting with some of the inmates, and getting baleful glares from those on Death Row through the small windows in their cell doors.

(In photo, from left to right, Rep. Mike Mitchell, D-Lewiston; Rep. Lawerence-CQ
Denney, R-Midvale; Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell; and Rep. Larry Bradford,
R-Franklin.)

“There’s some scary guys here,” noted Rep. Gary Collins, R-Nampa, looking at a board advising guards which inmates should be moved alone, which are “high risk” and which require chain restraints.

Rep. Bonnie Douglas, D-Coeur d’Alene, said, “I think some people think that that they have it easy, but I can tell that it’s not a country club atmosphere, by any means.”

Said Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, “This is kind of a depressing place. … It personalizes this whole program. You put a human face on things, and you get a whole different perspective.”

Sayler, a high school teacher, said he was glad he didn’t see any former students.

The group rode to the prisons and back on an inmate-transport bus, complete with steel-mesh gates separating seating areas and covering all windows, and a big box of shining metal handcuffs sitting ready. There was lots of animated talk among the legislators on the bus ride back to the capitol.

“You’re more fun than 40 inmates,” the bus driver told the lawmakers as they departed. “We’re no quieter,” responded Rep. Janet Miller, R-Boise.

The driver smiled. “I had to bite my tongue, because usually when the inmates are that loud, I yell at them.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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