May 12, 1997 in Nation/World

Warden Touts Education To Keep Kids Out Of Jail But State Budget Takes Money From Schools To Provide More For Corrections

Associated Press

In what may seem an ironic twist regarding the Idaho state budget, the new warden of North Idaho Correctional Institution says one of the best ways to ensure that young people won’t end up in prison is to give them a good education.

“It all goes back to education,” warden William Pardini said from his office overlooking Cottonwood Butte. “Education - and also the family.

“It’s kind of hard to raise kids nowadays in what is viewed as a ‘normal’ home life. But we need to pay more attention to our children. I think when you do that, they will learn a basis for knowing the difference between right and wrong.”

Drug- and alcohol-abuse programs, Pardini says, are a key to helping youngsters avoid prison later in life. “We really need to push the education that using drugs is not the way to go and it leads to other things.”

But the irony is that Idaho Gov. Phil Batt’s 1998 state budget plan squeezes education funding to provide more money for coping with prison crowding. Batt has said he will seek sentencing alternatives to slow Idaho’s prison population growth.

The Cottonwood prison is one of the beneficiaries of the funding action. This year, the Legislature appropriated $378,200 to remodel the prison, add 84 beds and increase the staff.

Pardini says he can sympathize with Idahoans’ frustrations over the prison situation, but dealing with prison overcrowding has become a national issue and there are no easy answers. “As the population in Idaho is growing, the rate of crime is going to grow. And the public wants the crooks thrown in prison.”

But Pardini says he is optimistic that programs at his facility can help turn around people’s lives.

“These people are going to be released sooner or later, and how would you like them to be productive members of society?” The prison seeks to help inmates gain skills they need to be released on probation and to become successful.

Drug- and alcohol-abuse programs, sex offender treatment, high school equivalency programs and a nationally acclaimed boot camp program are offered.

Pardini, 44, holds associate degrees in criminal justice and business administration and started as a police officer in Reno, Nev. He began working for the Nevada Department of Prisons in 1983 as a corrections officer and worked his way to manager of a 152-bed conservation camp in Carlin, Nev.

He worked there for seven years before being hired at Cottonwood. He was attracted to the boot camp program and the 180-day rider program. It allows sentencing judges to retain jurisdiction over inmates before deciding to release them on probation or send them to prison.

It’s not a common practice. Pardini said he knows of no other such program in the country. The fact that an average 87 percent of the inmates of the Cottonwood prison are released on probation after their rider term indicates the success of the program, Pardini said.

His long-range goals include refining what this minimum-to medium-security prison already has in place. “I’d like to make this program a real diamond - something the folks of the state of Idaho can be proud of, because I know it’s something I’m going to be proud of,” he said.

In addition to the 84-bed expansion, which is hoped to be completed by July 1998, Pardini said other security measures will be added “so the folks of Cottonwood can feel real secure. There’s not a real security problem here per se, but it doesn’t hurt to embellish it when you can,” he said.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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