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February 12, 2008

Idaho joins states struggling with prison overcrowding

As TalkLeft spotlights here, the Idaho legislature is looking to ease the application of its mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws.  Here are excerpts from this AP report:

A bill that would give Idaho judges greater discretion to keep drug addicts out of prison even if they've been convicted of drug-dealing crimes will get a full hearing before the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee. It's a modest effort to loosen Idaho's mandatory sentences for drug offenses and ease overcrowding in the state's prisons....

Idaho now has 7,400 people behind bars. More than half of them are there due to drug-related offenses. The state has shipped about 500 people to other states because there's no more room in prisons in Idaho.  Under the bill, judges could opt for shorter, treatment-focused sentences for addicts convicted of drug-dealing crimes, on the presumption that if they get clean they're less likely to re-offend. 

Currently, Idaho has mandatory sentences for a range of drug-trafficking offenses that give judges little or no discretion. Many sentences entail at least three to five years in prison. The bill "ain't a bad idea," Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, told The Associated Press. "Our prisons are pumped full.  It would be nice to give judges discretion about whether to send somebody to prison or to some other treatment program. In reality, they're the ones that are sitting on the front lines, not the legislators who are making the laws."

Idaho lawmakers have been focusing more and more on trying to address drug problems among those entering the criminal justice system. In addition to LeFavour's bill this year, Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden, has introduced another sentencing reform measure that would expand misdemeanor drug courts to help stop minor offenders from sliding into more serious substance abuse-related crimes.

This story provides just another example of how states are having to consider sentencing reforms as they deal with the economic hangover from the tough-on-crime, war-on-drugs, lock-em-all-up mentality that has dominated the political landscape over the last two decades.  Only now are the bills coming due for this politically popular but very expensive approach to non-violent drug crimes.  And, as detailed in the links below, state legislatures from coast-to-coast can no longer afford to ignore these problems:

Recent coverage of other states' struggles with the various costs of large prison populations:

February 12, 2008 at 09:57 AM | Permalink

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Comments

I have a friend in IDOC's SBWCC Facility. She is already in FOUR MONTHS PAST HER MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCE. Why? Until she completes the "Therapeutic Community Program"; and right now they are at least 2 instructors short and are losing a very good Program Director, shortly. Why? Salaries. And stress. Job stress. As a result, the inmates have to stay far longer than the sentencing Judges ever contemplated. This Jail crisis is out of hand, but more so as a result of sloppy housework on the part of the highly secretive IDOC staff. They don't want to show how they are putting inmates into the TC Program late, late, later than should be done. My friend was put into the TCP many months later than she should've been, and why? No reason given. Just "Shut up, or go to the 'hole'". That's how it is, and we ALL pay that price, in tax incrreases to pay for more sloppy work by IDOC, and utterly outragoeus prices to support our families and friends with the 'little things" that the system does NOT supply,(soap, shampoo, toothpaste, phone calls, meds, etc) unless an inmate can PROVE INDIGENCY. And that's the ROOT of the problem. The lack of oversight due to the "let's Sweep This Under The Rug" attitude that WE allow them to get away with! I hate to say this, but it's all our own fault!

Posted by: Charles Dinegar | Jun 17, 2008 1:46:54 AM

Senator Schroeder said he wished to publically thank the school officials who helped to make the Idaho Education Forums a success, which were held last fall. These forums were held in Sandpoint, Coeur d'Alene, Moscow, Lewiston, Payette, Boise, Nampa, Twin Falls, and Salmon.
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williamgeorge
Mississippi Drug Addiction

Posted by: williamgeorge | Aug 23, 2008 8:17:43 AM

I have a pretty good understanding of how Idaho runs their prison system. They are trying to grow it and are trying to increase resources to do so. All they have to do is cry public safety. I will give you an example my brother was convicted in idaho for a felony he had nothing in his past for offenses. Because he didnt take a prosecutors deal they hammered him. He spent three years in prison anf was released. Since he paroled out of state and he has four parole officers ask idaho to grant an early discharge which he fully earned and was denied with no reason. Then after 8 years he was out on his birthday and was pulled over on the way home he wasnt driving but asked for id he obliged they found out he was on parole and arrested him for drinking. I know he was stupid but i know he does not drink normally he was celebrating his bday. He has a new wife and child who he will have to leave behind to fend for themselves he will spend four more years in prison now for drinking beer on his birthday. He had a great job and home his wife will loose. You see they had several opportunities to release him for good behavior and did not. He is just another number to them and was contributing to society not hurting anyone so you tell me they are acting in the best interest of public safety.

Posted by: Johnson | Apr 21, 2011 9:59:29 PM

I am the Chairman of Idaho CURE. I recently sent out a mailing which went to many inmates. One fellow wrote me that his parole depended on completing a Sex Offender Treatment Program, and he had not been able to access one. He therefore has been denied twice. I am wondering if this is because there just isn't room in the programs for all the inmates who are required to take them? Sentencing was on the top of all of the lists that I got back. Sue Coon

Posted by: Sue Coon | Apr 16, 2012 3:55:34 PM

wel they should earn good behiivor doing programs regardless of what crime they did except for the murnders they stay in rison for life ... murnders dont shoud nor earn any credits for getting out . like for example sex crime is out of haaaand the law is crazy.. u know how many men are in sex crimes they lead to beieve thease girls admit they ar 18 but they are not 18 and they go prison once the guys go the prisons and do these prpgrams.. is wrong because the girls do those things they think its ok so they will keep doing it so it not a guys faut if they never been in troble in the past and the sentencing and the regstery is out of hand .. some should be on there is only if they rape a girl that is to young to fegend her self like shes 5 to 10 years old i know alto of girl are 12 having sex with adults... if they are old enough to babyst they are old enought to have sex the prison is so full they flop them past there ped even they did the programs and what parole board wants them to do and they are straving not getting enough food for the day i get letters that inmates passed out beause he didnt get snough to eat.. is instante they should be out early and shorten parole some take 20 years for parole is off chart its to long to be good for amount of years .. i would say 1 to 5 yars is the longest they should be on parole...

Posted by: mandy | Aug 17, 2012 1:45:20 AM

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