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Prison budget set with 7.1 percent increase

On a series of unanimous votes, legislative budget writers have set a budget for the state Department of Correction that shows a 7.1 percent increase in state general funds, and 5.6 percent increase in total funds. The increases come almost entirely from required contract increases with private providers, for everything from prison medical services to operation of the privately run prison south of Boise that’s operated by the Corrections Corp. of America, the Idaho Correctional Center.

Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, proposed attaching intent language to the budget noting that the contract with CCA is due to expire on June 30, 2014. “Even though the contract may be extended twice more with two-year options, the Department of Correction is encouraged to solicit new proposals through the open competitive bid process,” the intent language says. “The department is further encouraged to submit its own bid, on behalf of the state, for the management and operations of this facility.”

Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, asked state Corrections Director Brent Reinke, “If this intent language passed, would there be additional work for the department?” Reinke responded, “That’s no small task to draft an RFP of this size. … There would be additional work, but there would be sufficient time.” Reinke said the contract is important enough that the work and time involved would be well worth it. “I think it’s very important that we do our due diligence,” he said.

Several years ago, Reinke proposed having the state submit its own bid to run the ICC to compare to the private firm’s bid, but the state Board of Correction rejected that idea.

Ringo said, “Privatization isn’t always the best way to go. We should always evaluate the relative advantages.” She said, I would certainly like to see some information about what the costs and benefits would be to having the state provide that service. We own that building.” That information, she said, is needed “so the state can make the right decision.”

The ICC has been plagued by problems including a series of lawsuits over prison violence and charges that the CCA scrimped on staffing and allowed prison gangs to help run the lockup.

The prison budget, including all divisions and the Commission for Pardons & Parole, was set at $180.8 million in state general funds for next year, and $202 million in total funds. The committee is still debating Ringo’s intent language…


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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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