The Pew Center on the States just released a report on the state of corrections. It reveals that 1 out of every 31 adults in the U.S. is under some form of correctional supervision. In Idaho, 1 out of every 18 adults is under some form of correctional supervision. In 1982, the ratio was 1 out of 128. That rate makes us number 2 in the nation.
Read New York Times article
Most of the growth has come in the area of probation. The proportion of adults under correctional control in Idaho far exceeds the number for surrounding states.
Spending on corrections threatens the other categories of state expenditures. Only spending on Medicaid has increased at a faster rate. As I've noted elsewhere, the prison population in Idaho has grown far faster than the general population.
Another noteworthy item in this report is the connection between the crime rate and the correctional population rate. In short, the more people incarcerated, the less the impact on the crime rate. Criminals don't offend at the same rates. We've managed to incarcerate a fair number of high rate offenders, but in the past few decades we have managed to capture and punish far too many "light-weight" offenders. Thus we have reached a point of diminishing return on our correctional dollars.
Now that state revenues have declined, what will states like Idaho do? Stop building roads, taking care of the elderly, educating the young or build more prisons and hire more probation and parole officers?
Other states have begun to address the overspending in the correctional area - will Idaho now step up and make wise investments?