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Legislators tour jails, hear concerns

Legislators tour jails, hear concerns

Dustin Hurst
January 13, 2010
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January 13, 2010

Lawmakers had the opportunity to tour some of Idaho’s correctional facilities on the Idaho Department of Correction’s (IDOC) annual  “Black Hat Tour” on Tuesday.

Officials from IDOC transported legislators out to the prison corridor near the intersection of Pleasant Valley and Kuna-Mora roads in south Boise to show off their existing and new facilities.  Though they weren’t able to tour it because of ongoing construction, legislators were able to see the progress of the new Correctional Alternative Placement Program (CAPP) building.

According to IDOC officials, the building will allow the department to reduce overall costs by placing those offenders with substance abuse problems and who “appear to be headed to prison or are about to be released back into society” in a 90-day intensive treatment program.  In the past when offenders had violated their parole due to drug or alcohol abuse, they spent, on average, 780 days in prison.   With the average cost of incarcerating offenders at about $57 per day, officials expect the building and program will greatly reduce financial burdens on their budget.

Lawmakers also heard from officials how IDOC is managing to deal with the multiple budgetary holdbacks and cuts ordered by Gov. Butch Otter. Brent Reinke, director of IDOC, said the agency has been forced to cut about 14 percent from its budget, equal to about $28 million.  He said IDOC has done much “belt-tightening” at all levels, including ancillary expenses, such as cell phones and out-of-state travel budgets.  The director also said the department has laid-off 44 positions, kept certain positions open longer than usual, and accepted 90,000 furlough hours.  He and other officials noted furlough hours were equally spread across all levels of the department.

Though his department continues to face tough times, Reinke said his department is doing its job.

“Everything we are constitutionally required to provide, we provide,” said Reinke.

Though IDOC has managed to get through the cuts and holdbacks, Reinke warns the condition of the agency should be of concern to lawmakers.

“We are in need of some serious repair,” said Reinke.  “We are putting off as many purchases as we possibly can, and that will come home to roost.”

Rep. Rich Jarvis, a Republican from Meridian, said, in an email to IdahoReporter.com, he is excited about the new CAPP program and that he realizes the effect IDOC is having on Idaho.

“The education and treatment is changing people's lives,” said Jarvis.  “Anytime we can have that kind of affect on people's lives for the better, it is worth every nickel it costs.”

When asked if legislators give corrections enough financial support, Jarvis responded “As much as is possible with our other priorities.”

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