Canyon County in budget battle over inmate labor program

Canyon County in budget battle over inmate labor program »Play Video

CALDWELL, Idaho (KBOI) - Canyon County commissioners say to bring back the inmate labor detail program Sheriff Kieran Donahue suspended, they want to slash his budget and take a chunk out of his salary.

The commissioners want to take approximately $370,000 from the Sheriff's Office's budget and give it to the Misdemeanor Probation Department, which is run under the county commission, to allow it to set up and run a new labor detail program. Commissioners are also proposing reducing the sheriff's salary by $3,000 and giving the money to Misdemeanor Probation's director.

Donahue says he's concerned about the legality of the commissioners' new plan.

"They can start a labor program," the sheriff said. "But they can't supervise inmates. They're not statutorily authorized to supervise a defendant who's classified as an inmate."

Donahue says only his office is allowed by state law to handle inmates. He says Misdemeanor Probation can only oversee community service for crimes that don't require jail time.

But, he says everyone currently working in the Sheriff's Inmate Labor Detail, or SILD, is sentenced to jail time and working in lieu of it through the program.

Donahue says most of those who are placed in SILD are sentenced for crimes that don't have a lower penalty than jail time.

"The judge's hands will be tied by what the statute reads and what the penalty is," Donahue said. "If it's mandatory minimum jail time, that's what the judge is going to have to abide by. He can't or she can't, in most cases just say 'I'm going to give you community service in spite of what the statute says.'"

But commissioners say they believe they'll be able to go through with the new plan.

"Through our legal, we believe we can actually do this," said Canyon County Commissioner Craig Hanson. "That's what we've been told."