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News >  Idaho

House Panel Oks Prison Contracts

From Staff And Wire Reports

Legislation allowing the state Corrections Department to contract with private prison companies cleared a House committee Thursday, despite a Boise attorney’s plea to hold off.

Bill Litster, a Boise personal injury attorney, hinted darkly that if the House Judiciary Committee knew what he knows about why Idaho has so many people in its prisons, it wouldn’t pass the bill. He asked the committee to delay until he can make a presentation.

Litster suggested prison officials are intentionally expanding the inmate population. But prison officials said they don’t control the population’s size; the courts, law enforcement and lawmakers do.

“All we do is manage the inmates we are sent,” said Eileen Tremblay, administrator of institutional services for the Corrections Department.

Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, moved to hold the bill until next week so the committee could hear more from Litster, but got only three votes. A motion to approve the bill and send it to the full House for a vote then passed unanimously.

Rep. John Tippets, R-Bennington, noted that if the bill passes the House, it still must go through a committee hearing in the Senate, so Litster still has time to provide information.

The bill authorizes the department to contract; requires the contractor’s employees to meet state requirements for training and background checks; gives the state, not the contractor, control over discipline and sentence computation; and makes anything that’s a crime in a state prison also a crime in a contractor’s facility.

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