Idaho to bring back 318 out-of-state inmates

Idaho to bring back 318 out-of-state inmates
BOISE (AP) — The legislative budget-writing committee on Tuesday approved a plan to cut the Idaho Department of Correction 2010 budget by almost $30 million, in part by bringing home the last Idaho inmates housed in other states.

Idaho began shipping inmates out of state, most recently starting in 2005, after a federal judge ruled that overcrowded conditions here were dehumanizing.

Since then, the state has built 628 beds at the Idaho Correctional Center in Boise and bolstered drug court programs and treatment to try to slow prison growth.

By next spring, more than 1,000 new beds will be available in prisons across the state.

Over the last eight months, the state has transferred 380 inmates back to Idaho prisons. As of February, Idaho had more than 7,226 people incarcerated.

Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said Tuesday that with the overcrowding issues resolved, Idaho can bring the last 318 prisoners home by August. The inmates are currently at the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla.

Placing the inmates in Idaho prisons will save the state $7 million a year, part of the legislative Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee's plan to cut the agency's 2010 budget by almost $30 million. In 2009, the department received $196.7 million.

The House and Senate must still approve the budget.

Reinke said overcrowding isn't expected to become a problem again because the department does not expect the prison population to increase this year, which could save the state an additional $5 million.

The number of people housed in Idaho prisons has decreased in the last 16 months, Reinke said.

The department is researching the possibility of privatizing the state-run Idaho Correctional Institution at Orofino to save money if the budget picture in 2011 and 2012 doesn't improve. The three-member Board of Correction will have the final say over the privatization.

Beyond the savings from bringing inmates home and stabilizing the overall prison population, the budget cuts $4.45 million from personnel costs and reduces the amount the state pays for each inmate in private prisons to save almost $3 million.

The remaining $10 million comes from several smaller cuts such as moving the state's AmeriCorps program to the state Department of Labor.