Idaho inmates transferred to Texas due to overcrowding issues

BOISE, ID - Overcrowding issues at state prisons and jails means some inmates will have to serve their sentences out of state. 

More than 200 inmates are being transferred to a correctional facility in Texas, but lawmakers say the move is a band-aid approach to a larger issue.

Idaho’s growing prison population is proving problematic for existing facilities.

“When we don’t have beds in our own system, or if there’s not enough beds in the county jails here in Idaho, we have to move them someplace,” said Henry Atencio, Director of the Idaho Department of Corrections. 

And that place is Karnes County Correctional Center in Karnes City, Texas. The IDOC will send up to 250 inmates there this year. 

The male inmates selected for out-of-state incarceration are classified as “medium custody,” or those serving longer sentences and are further away from their parole eligibility dates.

Atencio says sending inmates out of the state isn’t ideal for anyone.

“The impact to the inmates, their friends, their family is a big concern for us,” Atencio said. “We know this is difficult.”

And some lawmakers agree, calling the transfer a band-aid approach to a larger issue needing to be addressed.

“It’s more expensive to send them out of state and we haven’t been planning for the growth that we’ve been having, and we need to do that,” said Rep. John Gannon (D-District 17). 

Atencio says he has requested funding from lawmakers to add beds to existing IDOC facilities.

“We’re asking for funding to add another 95 beds to those facilities as well, and we also have a request for a community re-entry center, which would be around 125 beds if approved, as well,” Atencio said. 

The inmates will remain in Texas until IDOC finalizes a long-term contract for the incarceration of up to 1,000 inmates at an out-of-state facility, and the facility’s beds become available.

The department’s contract request is for up to 1,000 beds for up to six years. They hope to finalize the contract in March of 2018.

To assure the secure transport of the inmates from Idaho to Texas, the date and time of their travel will not be announced. IDOC says the inmates will be able to call their families immediately upon their arrival.

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