An exhibit set to open soon at the Idaho History Center will display more than 1,500 pieces of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia. But as you head to the Old Penitentiary to view an exhibit dedicated to the man whose legacy is so inexorably linked with slavery, you might ponder the fact that the exhibit was almost completely constructed by offenders with the Idaho Corrections Industries.
Marty Thomas, general manager of the Idaho Corrections Industries, said that at least 50 offenders were involved in the project.
According to statistics from Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Idaho is the 10th-highest state for incarceration (as a percentage of the population) despite the fact that it is the sixth-lowest state for violent crime. Not only that, Idaho has the lowest robbery rate in the country and the fourth-lowest property crime rate. Despite the lack of crime, the incarceration rate is actually increasing.
More than 8,000 Idahoans are currently incarcerated and another 18,000-plus are on probation or parole. The Idaho Department of Corrections projects that these numbers will continue to increase much faster than the overall population.
Why are an increasing number of Idahoans finding themselves behind bars or otherwise at odds with the criminal justice system?
I would suggest that it's because an ever-increasing number of activities have been criminalized! Idaho needs to recognize that incarceration is not the answer for nonviolent offenders and that criminalizing victimless acts as a means of central planning and social engineering only serves to destroy families and turn free individuals into wards of the state. It's high time for Idaho to decriminalize freedom.
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