Trevor Booth

1986 By Trevor Booth

 
The year that forever changed the Idaho system for the worse. Since 1986 Idaho has built multiple institutions and at the same time has had to send inmates out of state at least nine times due to being overcrowded. Thirty-two years of digression has created a system that ranks amongst the highest in our nation (per capita) of incarcerated people.
The lawmakers (legislation) in 1986 forever disrupted the Idaho system and since then, our lawmakers have failed to connect the dots. In 1986 good time stopped. In 1986 came the “unified sentencing act.” The wording of the “unified sentencing act” has been used by the system to change the meaning of a life sentence. So many things have been misunderstood in the system since it was set back in 1986.
 
Per an Idaho contract monitor; the problem is that Idaho ranks in the top 5 harshest sentences. He makes a good point. It all begins there, and that most definitely is a slow start. But how about Idaho being one of six states with no form of good time in our country? From the logical side of things, both steps are flawed. Harsh sentences send the message that Idaho is hard on crime; no reduction of sentence sends the message that there is no advantage to being “good” or doing what’s right. In 1986 sentences weren’t near as harsh, AND inmates received sentence reductions for good behavior (which 44 states in our country currently use as a huge tool of rehabilitation). The funny thing is that Idaho fails in rehabilitation in every form of the word.
 
The point is that clearly 1986 was where the seed was planted for Idaho’s system to fail. Since then it has been watered by “the powers that be”  and rather than look at the obvious solutions, I notice that “the powers that be” look in the direction of building more facilities and more out of state moves. For the last 13 years, I’ve been in this system. I have watched, analyzed, and picked apart this system. I find it sad that I have solutions that would lower our prison population, help the incarcerated to grow/rehabilitate and succeed as productive members of society, as well as save tax payers from millions in cost and actually make millions for the state; yet our lawmakers and decision makers continue to fail society at such things. If things don’t change, the future is more of the same (logically).
 
I wonder if  people (tax payers) realize that Idaho currently wants to build another prison? That’s hundreds of millions to build, and millions per year to operate. It is just another outlet to warehouse more inmates without having to rehabilitate them or fix the broken system. In 1986 lawmakers changed everything. They also hold the power to fix it, yet haven’t a clue as to the true issues within this struggling system. How far do we have to sink before lawmakers step up and change things?
In 2009 Colorado had many of their inmates in an Oklahoma facility with Idaho inmates. In 2012 Idaho inmates were sent to Colorado.—- Did you catch that? In 2009 Colorado was so overcrowded in their system to the point of sending them out of state to Oklahoma; then, 3 years later (after major changes to their system by lawmakers) they not only had room for their own, but had room in their state for Idaho’s overflow as well. They even had to shut down 3 private prisons (that were clearly full in 2009) and closed a fourth when we left the facility we were at for 31/2 years (in Burlington, CO).
 
How about that? Imagine a 2,000 inmate facility that warehouses inmates in a dangerous environment that breeds stress, anxiety, friction, helplessness, hopelessness and no source of rehabilitation, (which costs tax payers over 50 million dollars per year). Or to think that we could have work camp/work center style facilities that breed responsibility, normality, hope, and better programming opportunities that could actually pay for facility costs!?
For example, last year one facility actually made one million dollars profit (per an Idaho contract monitor).
More logic at its finest, So, the man that proposed the money to build a 1,500 inmate facility is the same man telling me of the money a work camp/work center can (and did) make? This will be a conversation for another time.
In fact, if legislators want a conversation with logic, I’ll be it for the betterment of a state that is heading down a path that is one of regret and failure. Idaho doesn’t have to learn from its own failures, though, plenty of other states already failed in such a manner, just ask Colorado.
 
Trevor Booth
DOC #78409

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