In a positive sign of declining prison populations, on February 10, 2016, Idaho Department of Correction Director Kevin H. Kempf announced that all 173 state prisoners remaining at the Kit Carson Correctional Center, a Colorado facility operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), would be returned to Idaho and housed in government-run prisons.
The reduction in the state’s prison population has been surprising. In June 2015, Idaho had a total prison and jail population of 8,200 prisoners. Eight months later the state had 7,800 – an almost 5% decrease. The reduction was due to several factors, including changes in prison policies concerning parole and access to recidivism reduction programs.
According to Kempf, “Inmates are coming before the parole board prepared for parole.” This has enabled the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole to increase its rate of granting parole, according to the Commission’s executive director, Sandy Jones.
“[O]ur releases to parole in the last year literally have doubled,” she said.
Such factors have had a profound impact on the IDOC and the state, enabling the IDOC to return $1.2 million to the state’s general fund and leading Governor Butch Otter to reduce the IDOC’s proposed budget by $2.9 million for 2016.
Idaho had previously canceled its $29 million-per-year contract with CCA to operate the Idaho Correctional Center in 2014, following high levels of violence and a scandal involving CCA employees who fraudulently reported staffing hours. [See: PLN, Dec. 2015, p.56; Oct. 2013, p.28; May 2013, p.22]. The state no longer contracts with for-profit prison companies, joining other states such as Kentucky, which also previously contracted with CCA to house state prisoners but has since canceled all of its private prison contracts.
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