The House lawmaker in charge of the overseeing prisons and courts said the plan to charge offenders found guilty of a crime $25 won’t completely cover the shortfall facing state courts.
“We’re not going to collect enough to equal how much we’re down,” Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, the chairman of the House Judiciary, Rules, and Administration Committee told budget writers on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) Thursday. He said the fees for offenders could raise $5.1 million, but budget reductions to the courts total more than $6 million. “Everybody else is having some pain, so why not the courts also? … They can absorb that.” Clark said that a tiered system of fees, with people convicted of felonies charged up to $100 was considered but rejected. “I don’t think it’s doable,” he said. Clark said he will hold a committee hearing on the new fees next week, after JFAC sets the budget for the Idaho Judicial Branch on Feb. 23.
Clark also told members on JFAC that they shouldn’t look to save costs to state prisons by releasing inmates. “I cannot … even think about releasing prisoners,” he said. “I don’t have a magic bullet for it. I’m just saying it’s extremely critical. Let’s try not to do that.” Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke told JFAC on Feb. 5 that the state could save $5 million by releasing 250 prisoners.