April 1, 2009 in City

Idaho disputes crime ranking

Rebecca Boone Associated Press
 

BOISE – Idaho criminal justice officials say a national report ranking the state as second in the nation when it comes to the number of adults under correctional control is misleading.

The report, by the Pew Center on the States, found that one in 18 Idaho adults was under correctional control in 2007 – placing the state’s per capita rate second only to Georgia.

But Gregory Sali, research analyst supervisor for the Idaho Department of Correction, said the report skews Idaho’s numbers by counting the state’s population of unsupervised probationers. Officials with the Idaho Supreme Court and the Idaho Association of Counties have joined the criticism.

Not all states have a low-level classification for offenders who commit minor crimes and are considered at low risk to re-offend. In Idaho, unsupervised probationers are not required to check in with probation officers, but the Idaho Department of Correction still monitors all the state’s parolees, Sali said.

But Pew officials stand by their numbers, noting that they gathered them from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics and that the bureau has several methods of verifying the data.

“For all the numbers in the report, in terms of population, we use the Bureau of Justice Statistics and they send out a survey that has real strict definitions,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center on the States.

According to the report, Idaho has more than 48,000 people on probation and more than 3,000 on parole – in other words, one in every 21 residents is on probation or parole, ranking Idaho second in the nation. Just over 11,000 people are in prison or jail in Idaho, according to the report. That’s 1 in 100 residents, and it puts the state at a national rank of 21.

The Pew report combined those two numbers to come up with the 1 in 18 figure.

“Everyone is concerned that that number is an error,” said Idaho Courts Administrator Patti Tobias.

Roughly 33,000 of the more than 48,000 probationers are on unsupervised probation, said William Sabol, chief of the Corrections Statistics Program at the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The remaining probationers are on supervised misdemeanor and felony probation.The Pew report recommended that although violent criminals need to be locked up, the nation could save money by overseeing nonviolent offenders in their communities.

But because the bulk of Idaho’s offenders under correctional control are probationers who are already being handled in their own community – most without any supervision at all – it’s difficult to say what the report actually means for Idaho, Gelb said.

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