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Non-violent offenders serve twice the time in Idaho, vs. rest of nation

Nonviolent offenders are staying behind bars in Idaho twice as long as they do in the rest of the nation. That’s among the major findings of a nine-month study into how Idaho could spend its money better and get better outcomes from its criminal justice system. Researchers for the Council of State Governments and the Pew Charitable Trusts found that the state has one of the nation’s highest and fastest-growing incarceration rates, despite its low rates of crime. Idaho House Judiciary Chairman Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, a retired state trooper, called the data a “wake-up call.”

The study also showed that Idaho suffers from a “revolving door of recidivism,” driven in part by a system that sends probationers and parolees back to prison – filling 41 percent of the state’s prison beds - without tailoring the penalties to their violations, and pointed to other problems, including delays in parole releases. If the state were to enact a package of reforms, the researchers estimated it could save $255 million on prison costs in five years, while investing just $33 million into better supervision and tracking programs.

“It just doesn’t even make sense that we would not want to go that direction if we possibly can,” Wills said today, urging a joint legislative committee to come together around legislation to be crafted by January to kick off the reforms. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.


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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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