Eye On Boise

Prisons shooting for 'no growth'

Idaho State Corrections Director Brent Reinke makes his budget presentation to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. Prison populations are now falling slightly, he said, reversing a multi-year trend. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
Idaho State Corrections Director Brent Reinke makes his budget presentation to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. Prison populations are now falling slightly, he said, reversing a multi-year trend. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

The biggest news from Idaho's state prison system is the fall-off in inmate growth, which lawmakers heard about earlier in the session when they discussed funding for the state's substance abuse services. To meet proposed budget cuts next year, Corrections Director Brent Reinke said, "Instead of traditional cuts of 100 to 150 layoffs, we committed to a 'no-growth' initiative." That means moving inmates into the right beds at the right times, including lower-cost beds; closely monitoring treatment so inmates who are eligible for parole can be ready to qualify for it; and more work with parole violators to hand out appropriate punishments rather than send all of them immediately back to prison. Public safety will remain the top goal, Reinke said. "The violent offender who can't toe the line is back to prison." Among the efforts to move inmates into lower-cost beds is bringing inmates back from out of state. "Every inmate returned from out of state saves $20 per day," he said. He's now estimating that all Idaho inmates will be returned from out-of-state prison placements by next fall.

Under questioning from lawmakers, Reinke acknowledged that there are still inmates who are eligible for parole but can't be released because they haven't gotten required treatment programs. He said that's being reduced, however, "Things have gotten much, much better."  




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