Legislation to take the first step in Idaho’s justice reinvestment project was introduced this afternoon in the Senate Judiciary Committee; it could be up for a hearing next week. The bill, co-sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chair Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, and House Judiciary Chair Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, would spend $2 million in state general funds next year, plus transfer some other funds, to begin reforming Idaho’s probation and parole system.
The project is aimed at saving the state money by going after the root causes for why Idaho has such a high incarceration rate but such a low crime rate; intensive study by the Council for State Governments and the Pew Trusts over the past nine months concluded that Idaho is keeping non-violent offenders behind bars for twice as long as the rest of the nation. Part of the problem is probation and parole violators who are being returned to prison for long stretches, without efforts to target ways to keep them from reoffending. The study concluded that if Idaho invested $33 million into reforms over the next five years, it could save $288 million in prison costs.