Like the Senate before it, the Idaho House has voted unanimously in favor of the justice reinvestment bill, SB 1357, sending it to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk. There wasn’t even any debate in the House on the measure, which would invest in reforms to the state’s probation and parole system and community treatment programs, while moving to prioritize prison space for more-violent offenders. The aim is to reduce Idaho’s overly high recidivism rate, promote public safety and save money. The hope is that investing $33 million into reforms over the next five years will head off the need to build a a $288 million new prison.
Ten months of research went into the bill, with the help of the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center and the Pew Trusts. Idaho has one of the nation’s lowest crime rates, the project found, but one of the fastest-growing prison populations – and non-violent offenders spend twice as long behind bars in Idaho as in the rest of the nation. Gov. Butch Otter has been an enthusiastic supporter of the justice reinvestment bill and is expected to pass it into law; it’s had backing and participation from all three branches of Idaho’s state government, including the courts.