The Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC) will eliminate 24 jobs as part of plan to save $3.1 million in next budget. The department has cut 102 positions in the past two years, according to a news release. Because the department has many empty positions, almost all of the employees whose jobs are being eliminated will have a chance to work elsewhere in the state prison system.
“We’ve had to make some very difficult choices since the budget crisis began,” IDOC Director Brent Reinke said in a news release. “This has been a difficult process, especially for the employees whose jobs have been impacted … While almost all of them still have jobs, many of them have had to take pay cuts and demotions.”
Public safety is the third biggest area of spending for state general fund tax dollars after education and health and human services. Idaho lawmakers approved a budget for IDOC of close to $145 million in state money, plus another $20 million in federal and dedicated funds. Corrections will get $2.7 million less of state tax dollars, but will see an overall reduction of $867,500 due to an increase in some dedicated funds.
At least $1 million in savings will come from changes to IDOC’s food service program for inmates. Eight food service jobs will be eliminated as part of those changes, which also include eliminating juice and switching to buffet-style service to reduce wasted food. The other 16 jobs that will be eliminated are supervisory positions and support staff spread across the department. Removing the 24 positions from the payroll will save $1.6 million. The rest of the new reductions announced Friday will be in operating expenses on programs including community corrections and work with some contractors on educational and technical support.
The department won’t lay off prison guards, parole officers, and other state workers who deal directly with Idaho’s offenders. “We’ve been very careful to make sure that none of those front-line staff have been eliminated,” said IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray.
IDOC will also continue its furlough program for another year to meet the budget reductions. Prison security staff will take four furlough days off, while all other IDOC employees will take 10 days of unpaid leave. Those furloughs will save the department $1.9 million.
IDOC expects its inmate population to increase by at least 4.3 percent during the next year during the budget decline. A drop in funding for social service programs like drug addiction treatment programs through the Department of Health and Welfare could lead more Idahoans to end up in jail.
“The fact is there are now a lot of people who won’t get the mental health or drug treatment they need in the community and run the risk of ending up in prison,” Reinke said. Idaho had 7,509 prisoners at the end of March and 13,794 people on probation and parole.
Close to half of the corrections budget is going to contracts with private companies that run prisons or prison services that the state can’t reduce during lean budget times. Contracts with the private Idaho Correctional Center (ICC) in Boise will see a 3 percent increase in the next budget year. That contract can’t change, but private facilities are cheaper than state prisons, according to IDOC. It costs the state $40 per day for an inmate in a private prison, and $57 per day in a state prison. The ACLU is suing the state and ICC’s parent company over what it says is a high amount of violence at ICC.