AP NEWS

Idaho budget writers OK 3.8 percent corrections budget boost

February 21, 2019

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Department of Corrections is on track to receive a 3.8 percent budget increase next year under a spending plan approved by legislative budget writers on Thursday.

The corrections budget still needs approval from both the Idaho House and Senate and the governor’s signature to become law. But budget bills rarely change once they are set by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

The corrections budget will include $246.4 million in state funds, including money to cover 17 new probation and parole staffers, 10 new officers and seven administrative staffers, The Idaho Press reported . The budget writing committee also approved a $2.3 million boost to correctional officer pay — an increase officials said was needed to enable the department to be able to recruit and retain workers in the high-stress field.

Correctional officer pay currently starts at $15 an hour. The department had 66 correctional officer vacancies two weeks ago and has been seeing 23 percent turnover.

The budget doesn’t include money for a new prison. The department floated the idea of a roughly $500 million new prison several months ago but later dropped the plan.

“I think it’s on target,” said Rep. Rick Youngblood, a Republican from Nampa and the co-chair of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “We don’t believe the idea is more beds. It’s keeping them from going back into the system.”

That means roughly 700 prisoners currently being housed at private prisons in Texas will remain out-of-state for now. Idaho’s overcrowded prison system is expected to get new beds — including a new $12.2 million 120-bed community re-entry center in northern Idaho and the addition of 100 beds at the St. Anthony Work Camp — but they will take time before they are online. Those proposals are part of the state’s Permanent Building Fund budget, which will be set next month.

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Information from: Idaho Press, http://www.idahopress.com