Idaho’s maximum security prison marked its 20th anniversary on Thursday, with two of its units sitting vacant. It’s not that Idaho doesn’t have enough prisoners — it’s short on money. Inmates have been shifted to the cheapest beds available, like those down the road at the privately operated Idaho Correctional Center, where many of the inmates are housed dorm-style in huge rooms with rows of bunk beds and open toilets. Idaho’s state Department of Correction was able to eliminate 16 positions because it closed 72 beds at the Maximum Security Institution, called the Max, and a similar number of beds at the state-run Southern Idaho Correctional Institution. The private ICC opened a 628-bed addition. But the state is now managing 500 more offenders than it did a year ago, with $28 million less in funding.
At the Max, prisoners today are more violent, and more likely to be involved with gangs - and that’s driven a move toward more segregation cells, which, of course, are more costly to operate. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and click here to see a slide show from the Max today.