Idaho's Inmate Population

Inmates at the Idaho State Correctional Institution are shown in this file photo. Content Exchange

BOISE — The Idaho Department of Correction will see its smallest budget increase in over a decade in the 2022 fiscal year, according to a budget update presented at a Tuesday Board of Correction meeting.

The coming fiscal year’s budget includes a 10.3% reduction in funds allocated to house convicted inmates in county jails and out-of-state prisons.

“The exciting piece about what this budget represents is that it foreshadows how we should be allocating resources in corrections,” Department of Correction Director Josh Tewalt told the board. That includes making investments “designed to reduce crime and reduce the incarcerated population,” though he did not mention specific planned initiatives.

Tewalt said the agency expects a 0.12% total budget increase starting in October, for a total budget request of about $309.4 million, 90% of which is from the state’s general fund.

Because of crowding in state prisons, the Department of Correction pays at least $3.2 million annually to house some state inmates in county jails and at two Arizona prisons run by private company CoreCivic.

That portion of the budget will drop 10.3% next year, while the alternative placement program and medical services budgets will increase 3.3% and 4.6%, respectively.

The department not asking Idaho’s legislature for any additional supplements to the current year’s budget. Roughly $19.2 million in unused funding from the current budget has been returned to the state’s general fund.

COVID-19 resulted in a temporary decrease in the prison population, as court cases were put on hold, which resulted in a drop of corrections revenue based on inmate population.

“COVID certainly influenced a lot of the population changes, but not all of them,” Tewalt told the board. “Not only are we seeing a reduction in population you can attribute to COVID, we’re also seeing a reduction in population because of some of the investments we’ve made on the community side.”

The department is expecting a gradual increase in inmate population beginning next month when jury trials resume.

“We’re still having a sizeable number of new commitments that are being sent to us every month,” Tewalt said.

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