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Eye On Boise

Prison budget hearing: More executions, rising costs, diaper full of marijuana

After Idaho's first execution in 17 years in December, the state could see another one this spring and more next year, state Corrections Director Brent Reinke told legislative budget writers this morning as he made his budget presentation. He said the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades cost the state $53,311in direct expenses, plus $156, 317 on a renovation project that replaced the state's old execution trailer with a new execution chamber. "It's done, and we're ready for whatever the court may send our way later this year and into next year," Reinke said.

Among increased costs at the state prisons next year: The per diem rate charged by Corrections Corp. of America to house inmates in the state's privately-run Idaho Correctional Center will rise 3 percent, from $41.49 to $42.73 per inmate per day for the first 1,894 offenders; the state gets a price break on the next 146, which go from $4.07 a day to $4.19. The cost of medical care for inmates in state prisons, which is contracted out, will rise 4.5 percent or $1.3 million. Plus, inmate numbers are rising.

After some discussion of contraband problems and the security risks of inmates getting cell phones, Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, asked Reinke why the prison system allows cell phones. "We don't," he responded. Yet, last year, 18 were confiscated. "We found one in a brassiere of a woman coming to visit her husband," he said. "On the weekend of Father's Day, we actually had a mother bring in a baby in a carrier and the diaper was filled with marijuana." That's why the department is pushing legislation this year to crack down on contraband with additional penalties, he said.

The governor's recommended budget for Corrections for next year calls for a 5.1 percent increase in state general funds and a 1.5 percent increase in total funds. "We recognize this is a tough area of the budget," JFAC Co-Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, told Reinke. "We'd prefer not to spend money with your budget, but we know we have to."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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