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Study finds Idaho has one of higher incarceration rates in the country

October 4, 2018

Idaho has the 13th highest incarceration rate in the nation, outpacing all six of its neighboring states in that respect, a new study finds.

The study, conducted by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, found 490 of every 100,000 Idahoans are in prison — a rate five times what it was in 1978. In 2017, spending on corrections accounted for about 7.8 percent of the state’s budget, up from 4.9 percent in 1992.

Idaho’s incarceration rate is higher than neighboring states including Nevada, which, historically, has incarcerated more people than other states in the region.

The increased incarceration rate comes as violent crime in Idaho shows an overall downward trend since 1996, while property crime plummeted during the same period, according to the study. That downward trend, however, is not attributable to the state’s higher incarceration rate, according to the study.

“Placing more people in prison ... has had diminishing benefits as a crime deterrent,” the report’s authors write.

They note Idaho’s crime decrease is part of a 25-year national trend, and they estimate only a 2 percent decrease in the state’s crime is due to placing more people in prison.

What’s more, the center’s report hints at the possibility that prison time might actually contribute to crime in the community.Officials from the Idaho Department of Correction declined to comment on the study.

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