As Idaho's inmate population swells, state officials are considering building a new state prison. The suggestion comes at a time when all of Idaho’s county jails and prisons are at or above capacity.
There are so many Idaho inmates, the state has had to pack some 250 of them off to a private prison in Texas. That’s in addition to housing over 500 state inmates in county facilities.
In an effort to relieve a prison system that’s stretched thin, state corrections director Henry Atencio floated a proposal to build a new, 1,500-bed prison. The price tag: $440 million.
According to the Idaho Press Tribune, Atencio’s proposal states the new prison should focus exclusively on prisoners with special needs – inmates who are infirm or dealing with issues like mental health or other conditions. The consolidation could free up around 900 beds at other facilities around the state.
As Atencio informed the leaders the prison population was skyrocketing, board member Cindy Wilson suggested the state not incarcerate so many people. A pair of state legislators attending the meeting told the board sentencing changes are part of a greater prison initiative they’re working on.
The Board of Correction will meet in two weeks to vote on the prison proposal. If they give it the green light, lawmakers could approve it as soon as January.
Forecasts predict Idaho will need 2,400 new prison beds by 2022.
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