JFAC corrections

After more than two and a half hours, JFAC has wrapped up its hearing on the Idaho Department of Correction budget. Director Josh Tewalt, who was on the hot seat the whole time, thanked the lawmakers “for your time and your thoughtful questions and your attention.”

As he left the hearing, Tewalt said, “Nobody in there wants to continue to spend more and more and more on incarceration costs, without any end in sight.” The idea this year, he said, on the part of the governor, the department and the state Board of Correction, was, “Let’s show them a different way.”

“The reality is investing in helping people be successful costs a fraction of the cost when they fail,” he said.

Overall, the budget that Gov. Brad Little is proposing for Corrections next year calls for a 12.1% increase in state general fund spending, including funding for 806 new prison beds, 500 of which would be additional out-of-state placements under a new contract. Also included is a new re-entry center in Twin Falls and remodeling of an existing building at the state prison complex south of Boise to add more beds quickly. There’s also a major new initiative to launch a new intervention program, at $5.9 million, to provide additional services to 2,000 of the parolees at most risk to reoffend, to try to help them transition back into society. I’ll have a full story later today.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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