Posts tagged: idaho prisons
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.
Ronald Lee Macik is inmate 12680, the lowest number among 8,700 felons in Idaho prisons, reports AP reporter John Miller. Nobody else locked up in 1969 when guards first escorted a 21-year-old Macik through the State Penitentiary's sally port remains behind bars. Now 65, he's still trying to get out. And last week, the Idaho Court of Appeals, at least temporarily, breathed new life into Macik's bid to undo his guilty plea in the murder of another inmate during a 1971 prison riot.
Regardless of whether Macik's longshot appeal succeeds, Miller writes, it dredges up a dark piece of Idaho prison history. The 1971 riot — and Macik's role in inmate William Henry Butler's slaying — was a turning point in galvanizing public opinion behind shuttering the Idaho Territory-era penitentiary in east Boise. The bloody melee also changed attitudes about running a modern prison system and motivated officials to speed work on a new prison complex in the desert south of Boise; click below for Miller's full report..
Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on study results released today showing that more than 40 percent of Idaho's prison beds are being taken up by returned probationers and parolees – helping explain why the state’s prison population has jumped by 10 percent in the past five years even as its crime rate, one of the lowest in the nation, has dropped. “Our state is at a crossroads,” Gov. Butch Otter declared, “and we need to choose a path that best protects the public and enables us to be better stewards of tax dollars.”
The study findings, from the Council of State Government’s Justice Center and the Pew Charitable Trusts, were presented to state lawmakers today as part of the criminal justice reinvestment project launched in June by all three branches of Idaho’s state government. A legislative interim committee also heard a presentation from South Dakota officials on their state’s justice reinvestment project; there, state leaders discovered, to their surprise, that 81 percent of their prison inmates were non-violent offenders, incarcerated at great cost. Major reforms followed.
After seven months of intensive study of Idaho’s criminal justice system, researchers from the Center for Justice and the Pew Charitable Trusts have found some surprising trends underlying Idaho’s high incarceration rate, though the state has one of the nation’s lowest crime rates: Fully 84 percent of Idaho’s felony offenders are initially sentenced to probation or a short-term prison program followed by release on probation. But within three years, nearly a third of those end up in prison serving full terms instead.
Now, 41 percent of Idaho’s prison beds are taken up by offenders who were released on probation or parole, but sent back to prison for various reasons – far above the rate in other states. In North Carolina, for example, that figure is 21 percent; in Kansas, it’s 33 percent.
The offenders who were sent back to Idaho prisons from either probation or parole in 2012 alone will stay in prison for an average of nearly two more years, and will cost the state $41 million, the researchers found. “There’s a real financial stake,” Mark Pelka, program director at the Justice Center, which is operated by the Council of State Governments, told Idaho lawmakers today.
Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, Idaho’s House Judiciary Committee chairman and a longtime Idaho State Police officer, said, “I had no idea it was that high. … That’s absolutely staggering when you think about it.”
The answer may include major reforms to Idaho’s supervision systems, so fewer offenders fail those programs and head back to prison, along with more targeted consequences for probationers or parolees who violate rules. “You could spend less on prisons and corrections if you received better outcomes from supervision,” Pelka told the Idaho Legislature’s Justice Reinvestment Interim Committee. “If you can do that right … you will see less cost, you will see less people coming to prison, and you will see less crime.” Still, such changes may require spending up-front, to “kick-start” new, more effective supervision programs, he said.
The researchers also are examining Idaho’s criminal sentencing laws and other factors. The state’s specialty courts, for groups from veterans to substance abusers, drew praise, as did its widespread use of assessment tools to identify offenders’ risk factors and needs.
Lawmakers on the bipartisan legislative committee were struck by the data, which is part of a project launched by all three branches of Idaho’s state government in June; tomorrow, the researchers will meet with a working group including state corrections, judicial and law enforcement officials.
“Given some of our budgeting challenges, it should be of great concern to all of us to find out that it is clear we could be more efficient and save a lot of money,” said Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow. “I’ve always thought that moving toward more community treatment is more cost-effective and more humane. I think this is something we’ve needed to do for a long time.”
Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, a former deputy Kootenai County prosecutor, said the “bleak” recidivism figures weren’t surprising to him. If policy changes can “make probation more successful, I’m extremely intrigued,” Malek said. He noted that the project thus far has been devoid of partisanship or “grandstanding,” and said everyone involved shares the same goals. “I’m very hopeful,” he said.
Pelka said, “The very good news is you have a declining crime rate. … Between 2007 and 2011, as your resident population grew, your crime rate decreased. … You’re enjoying one of the lowest crime rates in the country.” Yet, Idaho’s prison population grew 10 percent from 2008 to 2012, and it’s projected to grow another 7.5 percent in the next three years. “When you look at the reason why, you see a revolving door,” Pelka said. “You can begin to bend that curve down if you can improve outcomes for people on supervision.”
A joint legislative committee today is hearing detailed presentations on the right and wrong ways to prevent recidivism, or reoffending by criminals; Ed Latessa, a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati, shared the latest studies on what works and what doesn’t. Punishment alone doesn’t prevent reoffending, he said; if it did, there wouldn’t be so many people in prison who’d been there before. But treatment also doesn’t work unless it’s effective treatment, appropriately targeted and effectively delivered. “Now this doesn’t mean we can’t punish and treat,” Latessa told the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Interim Committee. “That’s what we do in the criminal justice system. But we can also change their behavior through that process.”
Effective programs are behavioral, he said. “They focus on current risk factors, not the past. … Offenders are actively learning new ways to behave, new skills.” He showed a video clip of a trained probation officer and a probationer, talking about how the offender could avoid a friend who was luring him back to the same criminal behavior that landed him behind bars. “We can change offender behavior, we just need to go about it the right way,” Latessa said.
The joint committee, which includes 11 senators and representatives and is co-chaired by House Judiciary Chairman Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, and Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, also is scheduled today to hear a detailed analysis of Idaho’s criminal justice system from the Council of State Governments criminal justice reinvestment program; and a presentation from South Dakota officials on what happened in that state’s justice reinvestment project.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Board of Correction has awarded Corizon another contract to provide medical care to the state's prison inmates. The Department of Correction and Corizon have had a rocky relationship in the past. The state has been under pressure from a decades-old lawsuit to improve medical care for prisoners, and a court-appointed expert concluded more than a year ago that Corizon's medical care at one prison was exceedingly poor. Corizon countered that it was meeting national prison standards. Four companies submitted bids, and the proposals were scored based on technical details and overall cost. Corizon had the highest overall score, though it was also the most expensive proposal at nearly $41 million a year. The other companies — Centurion, CHC, Corizon and Naphcare — have about a week to appeal.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Department of Correction and attorneys representing inmates at the Idaho State Correctional Institution have quietly reached an agreement that could permanently hide from public view records connected to the medical care provided at the prison. The protective order was approved by a federal judge Friday in a 32-year-old lawsuit over substandard care and other problems at ISCI. The order allows the state to designate any record confidential if officials think the designation is needed to protect trade secrets, medical privacy, the security of the prison or if the release would be “unduly detrimental” to the interests of third parties. IDOC attorney Mark Kubinski says the intent is to protect records that would already be protected under Idaho's public records law, not to shield the documents from public view.
Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Department of Correction officials say they're seeing an increase in attempted suicides and other mental health problems within the state's prisons and jails. Department Director Brent Reinke told Board of Correction members Thursday that in the last month guards found four inmates “hanging from sheets” at facilities around the state. One of those inmates — a man housed at the Nez Perce County Jail who was about to return to prison — died before guards found him. The remaining three were found and rescued. Reinke says the number of inmates showing signs of suicidal behavior or other mental health problems has also risen. He says that in June, the department tallied 78 reports of inmate problems or unusual behavior, compared to 56 in June of 2012.
Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.
Idaho's state Board of Correction has voted to extend its contract with Corizon, the troubled firm now providing medical care to the state's prison inmates, for another year, pushing back consideration of alternative providers until January of 2014, the AP reports. Corizon's troubles in Idaho have included fines of more than $200,000 from the Department of Correction for failure to meet basic contract requirements; an expert appointed by the federal courts found last year that Corizon's medical care was so poor that it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Attorneys for the nation's largest private prison company have asked a federal judge in Idaho to throw out a lawsuit from inmates who say the company uses gangs to run a Boise-area prison. Attorneys for Corrections Corporation of America said in the motion filed Monday that a lawsuit brought by eight inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center fails to meet legal standards and should be tossed out of court. The inmates sued in November, contending the company is working with a few powerful prison gangs to control the facility south of Boise. The inmates say that CCA is able to save money on staffing by essentially allowing the gangs to run the prison, and that as a result some inmates are forced to join gangs or risk being attacked.
Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.
A gang war that appears to have taken over parts of an Idaho private prison is spilling into the federal courts, reports Associated Press reporter Rebecca Boone, with some inmates contending prison officials are ceding control to gang leaders in an effort to save money. Eight inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center are suing the Corrections Corporation of America, Boone reports, contending the company is working with a few powerful prison gangs to control the facility south of Boise and spend less on staffing.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Boise's U.S. District Court, paints the prison as a place where correctional officers work in fear of angering inmate gang members and where housing supervisors ask permission from gang leaders before moving anyone new into an empty cell; click below for Boone's full report, and click here for a link to video and documents filed in the case.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: PASADENA, Calif. (AP) ― A federal appeals court has reinstated an Idaho prison inmate's claim that a female guard groped him after he tried to break off their romantic but nonsexual relationship. The Los Angeles Times (lat.ms/Q4JoAz) says Tuesday's decision comes after a lower court ruled the touching was consensual. Three 9th Circuit Court of Appeals justices say the imbalance of power between an inmate and guard make it hard to tell consent from coercion. The justices say sexual abuse in prisons is rampant and inmates sometimes trade sexual favors for things like gum, cigarettes, more phone time and longer visits with children. Inmate Lance Conway Wood said he tried to end a relationship with guard Sandra de Martin after he became suspicious that she was married because adultery violates his religious beliefs.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho prison officials say they have leveled a tribal sweat lodge and reconfigured a patch of ground that has served the religious needs of Native American inmates for more than 25 years at a prison south of Boise. Idaho Department of Correction Spokesman Jeff Ray says the work done Wednesday at the South Idaho Correctional Institution was intended to address health and security concerns. The prison's Native American inmates are frustrated by the department's actions. But Ray says officials intend to rebuild the sweat lodge and maintain the parcel for tribal worship. Ray also says the prison intends to carve out a separate space on the grounds for inmates of other earth-based faiths to worship. Prisons nationwide are required by federal law to make space available for religious worship.
Idaho's prison health care contractor, Correctional Medical Services of Creve Coeur, Mo., has been fined nearly $400,000 by the state for contract violations including leaving the South Boise Women's Correctional Center without an OB/GYN for two years, and leaving the Idaho Maximum Security Institution without a staff psychologist for at least eight months, when the contract with the state required vacancies to be filled within 60 days, the Associated Press reports. Furthermore, the state renewed its contract with CMS last year. The AP uncovered the fines through a series of public records requests; click below to read the full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill has agreed to step down from the lawsuit over conditions at a violence-ridding Idaho private prison at the request of the lockup's operator, Corrections Corp. of America, the Associated Press reports. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.
As the 2011 Legislature and a tough session of budget setting approach, Idaho Department of Correction director Brent Reinke is talking up his agency's successes, the AP reports. In an op-ed piece, Reinke touted his efforts to reduce recidivism. In Idaho, 62 percent of all released offenders stay out of prison for at least three years. In California, he says, 67.5 percent of all offenders are back in prison within three years. He also talked up efforts to reduce the prison population — the last two years, the number of offenders under his supervision has declined. Reinke says he fears this work could be compromised, if his workers are forced to take even more unpaid furloughs to save money. In fiscal year 2009, his general fund budget was $173.4 million. This year, it's been stripped down to $145.7 million. You can read his full article here.
Shoshone County Commissioner Jon Cantamessa was sharing his county’s moves to cope with declining revenue, from freezing employee salaries to turning off lights to re-bidding health insurance contracts to avoid big cost increases, when he added this: “I do have one thing I want to pitch to Brent Reinke as long as he’s here. … We have a jail that has probably 30 or 40 extra beds.” The state may not need them now for its prisoners, he said, but when it does, the county could use the $250,000 it could make by renting them out.
Cantamessa was one of two local officials tapped to tell the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho how local governments in the state cope with downturns.
Idaho’s state prison system, with its crimped budget, has continued to put employees on furlough this year, to the tune of 90,000 furlough hours for the fiscal year. That includes 15,000 fewer hours spent monitoring probationers and parolees in the community. State Corrections Director Brent Reinke said the department is saving $1.89 million this year because of furloughs – they’ve even helped push down the overall cost per inmate from $57.44 per day in fiscal 2009 to $52.22 per day in fiscal 2010 - but it doesn’t want to continue them next year. In fiscal year 2010, staff furloughs were equivalent to losing 35 staffers, Reinke told JFAC, at a time when the prison system also eliminated 71 permanent positions and 32 temporary ones.
Idaho’s corrections budget has dropped 19 percent since fiscal year 2009. Cost-saving moves have included everything from trimming food costs to 83 cents per meal to setting up a trio of options for short-term sentencing, with three, six- and nine-month options, and carefully shifting inmates among the lowest-cost beds that are appropriate for them. Meanwhile, Reinke said, other states are looking at releasing thousands of inmates due to budget crises, a move Idaho hasn’t considered. “Idaho’s path is different from other states,” Reinke said, focusing instead on moves to drive down the inmate population and control costs. “We want to be sure in the department that the short-term crises that we have do not lead to long-term consequences.”
But the cutbacks are taking a toll, he said, particularly on staff. Turnover has ballooned to 28 percent, which then bumps up training costs. “I need to be able to touch the minds and hearts of our staff, because I’ve already picked their pocket,” Reinke said. “It’s got to be about keeping Idaho safe.”
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press about the Idaho Correctional Center, the privately operated state prison south of Boise operated by Corrections Corp. of America that’s currently the target of a huge lawsuit over prison violence: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Traces of the E. coli bacteria have been found in the water supply at the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise. ICC says they’re boiling water that will be used for drinking and cooking. So far, there have been no reported illnesses among staff or inmates. No other businesses or homes are supplied with water from the same source.
Here’s a news item from The Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho leaders attended a ribbon-cutting to officially open a new $50-million drug treatment prison near Boise. Inmates will start moving into the 432-bed minimum security Correctional Alternative Placement Program in July. The prison is designed to provide offenders who would normally be sentenced to two or more years in prison with an intensive 90-day substance abuse treatment program in hopes of curbing future criminal behavior. The prison will be run by the Utah-based Management & Training Corporation, a private company based in Centerville, Utah. Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter joined Idaho Department of Correction and MTC officials for the event Tuesday.