As state inmates fill county jails, Idaho considers paying counties more

Sergeant Troy Tolman does a security-walk through the cell block Friday, June 23, 2017, at the Jerome County Jail in Jerome. Jerome County is working to finalize a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to lease them 50 beds to house people arrested for immigration violations.

A bill introduced in the state legislature this week would raise the amount that the Idaho Department of Correction pays county jails to house state prisoners — an increasingly common practice as Idaho struggles to find bed space for those that won’t fit in crowded state prisons.

IDOC pays counties $45 per bed per day. Under the proposed legislation, the state would pay counties $55 per day for the first seven days, and $75 per day after that.

Capt. Doug Hughes of the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office described the bill as overdue.

“I think it’s been a long time coming,” he said. “We probably needed to address the issue sooner, but obviously it’s something that’s moving in the right direction.”

The Twin Falls Jail held 23 state prisoners Wednesday, a mix of parole violators and people sentenced out of Twin Falls County who had not yet been transferred to a state prison. Hughes said that while the number of state prisoners coming to the jail hadn’t necessarily increased, those inmates now tend to stay for longer periods of time.

“Prison inmates aren’t getting moved out of county jails as quickly as they were before, so it’s causing a backlog of state prisoners that are taking up space that could be used for county inmates,” Hughes said.

“Collecting $45 a day at the old rate, it just wasn’t meeting the needs of taking care of prisoners and keeping operations,” he said.

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